My imperfect journey back to LP vinyl records...
When my best friend was suddenly interested in turntables and vinyl records, I was a bit taken back by the idea.. Afterall, we grew up with old vinyl records and I hated the moldy smell and cleaning the fungus off the surface. When CD came along, it was good riddance when my dad decided to sell them all to the Garang Guni man for next to nothing. My mum was extremely happy to free some space for our books (some precious encyclopedia) as we are all growing up in a small HDB rented flat.
Why go back to vinyl records.. Music is now almost free, and MP3 is from iTunes (if not free) and CD is also going into the bin now (the closure of Gammaphone, HMV and other CD shops) with the entry of digital music which is killing the whole industry. Soon it will not be worthwhile to produce an album only to be copied by China, or free download from internet. YouTube is a source of advertisement and a self-destruction of the music industry, with new application to digitize and copy music directly, being invented every day.
I grew up with my music. My dad will save up his hard-earned money after feeding 3 hungry kids, he could only buy a new album every month. We did not have much, but when he played his LP, all of us sit by the turntable and hummed the tune, and with lyrics, I could almost memorize all the songs in a one-month period. A happy day is walking to Balestier Boys' School, singing a tune from the new record, and forgetting some of the lyrics with a giggle. Of course, the way home is holding a 5-cent for 2 sticks of pineapples drowned in cut chili dark soya sauce. That was my happiest moments in my childhood memories. Life became more complicated as I entered Victoria School with endless load of homework, plastic footballs and throwing chalks. That’s a different story then.
Back to music, my brother would play his guitar and I was made to sing, and “take me home, country road” became my favorite song. When Hong Kong series came, I immediately fell in love with songs of Adam Cheng, Roman Tam, and so many songs written by James Wong and Joseph Khoo. I followed these music through from LP vinly and even bought cassettes (in 70’s, both the thick and the thin), Mini Disks (in 80’s, only Sony for a short period), DAC (Philips version of the perfect song) and CDs (in 90’s, lots n lots of it) and now many hard disk full of MP3.
So I did not think I need to go back to Vinyl, the first generation of home music after Redifussion, as we all went through the heart ache of throwing them away when they go moldy. My friend insisted, and after a few trips to many stores, invested in an Audio Technica AT-LP 120 with USB attachment for future conversion for an offer of S$399.00. Not bad, new (no need to hunt for 2nd hand) and even comes with full servicing and one year warranty. The next weekend was going around at old rags and bones shops hunting for old LP. New LP vinyl are still released but they are expensive (more than $100) and are collectors album. What was junk at one time is a treasure to others.
The first LP we played was Shirley Bassey on one weekend before Good Friday (2004). The sound from the vinyl is not fantastic, but warm, a strange feeling that you do not get from CD and definitely not from MP3 in iPod and iPhone. Suddenly, I sat on the sofa, looking at the turntable turning round and round… despite the bumps and continuous surface noise (hiss) of the LP, the memories of my childhood music came back. A warm feeling of no only sound, but sights of the turntable turning and producing music, and the feel of the LP covers and old prints. The joy of nostalgia and the memories which I have forgotten after layers of endless pursuit of happiness, suddenly came back to me. I remember my love for music and my happy times singing a tune or two. We are so busy now, and hardly anyone will walk and sing along the journey.
The music for LP vinyl record is imperfect compared to digital music, but in the pursue of the clarity in music and noise reduction, we forgot about the warm feeling and the visual sight of music being played. My subsequent visit to old LP shops end up with more treasures of the past for a very reasonable price (probably we can all afford more now) and I am determined to find most of my dad’s collection in no time. I may still continue my dad's habit of spending some money on LP after all.
Life after all is about imperfection, and in the pursue of happiness, we forgotten a lot of happy memories, a lot of happy moments of sitting next to the turntable to hum a tune. Don’t go too far in the pursuit of excellence that we forgot our happy times.
* The LP (Long Play), or 33⅓ rpm microgroove vinyl record, is a format for phonograph (gramophone) records, an analog sound storage medium. Introduced by Columbia Records in 1948, it was soon adopted as a new standard by the entire record industry. Apart from relatively minor refinements and the important later addition of stereophonic sound capability, it has remained the standard format for vinyl albums.