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Digga Please! The Quietus <3 Record Store Day
John Doran , April 14th, 2011 07:28

Old man John Doran explains his love for vinyl and Quietus staff pick their top ten must have items on sale on Saturday

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Recently, shiny apple-cheeked youngster Rick Martin posted a blog on NME about how he doesn't spend his pocket money on records anymore, preferring to splash out on drugs and clothes instead. Then when half the internet called him a bellend he issued another blog which blamed CDs for the Pitcairn Island affair.

Although certainly younger, shinier and higher pitched than me, Mr Martin is most certainly wrong about vinyl. He is wrong to presume that music exists in a vacuum. The notion of songs stripped from their physical format is, in some ways, like the idea of food with no smell or sex with no foreplay - essentially the same in terms of functionality but missing something that anyone with real understanding would deem essential. While there are those who buy vinyl for terrible reasons - to keep without playing in mint condition or for financial gain - a bunch of records that you like gathers meaning and history in a way that a bunch of MP3s simply won't. I can tell you the album I bought on my first holiday with my girlfriend (Motown Chartbusters Vol. 3) and when I see its mirrorball sleeve I immediately undergo a warm rush of Proustian recall. I can tell you the song we fell in love to (‘Stabbed In The Face’ by Wolf Eyes) which I’m reminded of every time I catch the sleeve on my shelves in the corner of my vision. No doubt I'll come to associate a record with my young son when he arrives in the next few days.

My 7” copy of ‘Ace Of Spades’ by Motorhead is battered and torn and is a bit scratched but there again my MP3 of the same song doesn’t say: “To John, stay lucky, from Lemmy” on the front. I’ve got a signed copy of ‘Reign In Blood’ by Slayer and I still feel slightly embarrassed to this day when I remember Kerry King shaking his head in disbelief at me and saying: “I ain’t signing a copy of this album with a fucking fountain pen, someone get me a sharpie.”

I used to be a fan of a band called One More Grain and they had a great song called ‘Tropical Mother In Law’. I felt slightly proud of myself for spotting that this was a reference to the rhythm it half-inched from Ernie K Doe’s ‘Mother In Law’ - a favourite vinyl platter of mine. Dan Quinn, the singer heard it on a jukebox in a pub in the East End where he lived when he was formulating the band. Ernie was a New Orleans soul singer who achieved modest fame in the 1960s (he released that ‘Here Come The Girls’ track that Boots The Chemists ruined a few years ago). I finally went on a pilgrimage to the "Nawlins" in 2007 to visit my good friend Andy who’d made his home there. His job, post hurricane, was helping to reopen local schools and persuade new teachers to move to the stricken city. On his day off we went to visit The Mother In Law Lounge, which was a tiny but brightly painted bar under Claiborne Avenue. This flyover you will know from the televised pictures transmitted round the globe in the immediate aftermath of Katrina, covered in bodies, surrounded by water glinting in the sunshine.

When we arrived the waters had retreated but the damage was still evident. I wanted to go and look next door at the St Louis graveyard, the scene of the acid trip in Easy Rider but several people had been murdered there within the previous few weeks so we went straight inside. As we entered a lot of people who were now homeless were rolling up their sleeping bags, stowing them under tables and heading out for work.

Inside, I drank with Ernie’s widow, who had done the bar up as a memorial to her late husband. He was there in spirit, or at least that’s how it felt after six shots of bourbon, surrounded by waxworks wearing his gold and purple stage suits. She was pleased that we’d come to the city to buy albums and watch bands. Music was, she said, the thing that would bring people back to the city. To restore its pride. Another patron that night was Guitar Slim Jr whose dad had played with Dr John, Lee Dorsey and Professor Longhair. He gave me the card of a record dealer who had a lock up full of vinyl out in Baton Rouge. We went there the next day and I bought an armful of albums; one blues compilation in particular would blow your balls clean off were you to hear it. Of course, you’ll just have to take my word for it as one, I’m not going to tell you what it’s called or who’s on it (this is the kind of album that only gets brought out when you're round my house and we're playing tunes into the small hours) and two, even if I did, you’d never find it as it doesn’t exist in MP3 form. (Believe me, I’ve spent long enough looking as I’d like it on my iPod - and please don’t mention those fucking horrific MP3 turntables that make all records sound either like a wasp farting in a margarine tub or as if they're being played out of a phone on the top deck of a bus.)

Every time I play that album and, yes, sniff its dusty cover, I’m taken back momentarily to a lock up in Louisiana.

That trip - taking in a hip hop store in Houston; the extreme metal specialists Aquarius and the gargantuan Amoeba in San Francisco and too many places to name in NYC as well as Louisiana - cost me $100 in excess baggage fees alone just to get all the booty back in to the UK. It was a once in life time kind of deal and took several years to plan and save up for. It did, I'll admit, put a serious dent in my drug and clothes budget for quite a while but then, I know where my priorities lie. Generally speaking however, buying vinyl is one of the few pleasures that’s pretty much cheap enough for anyone to indulge in - as long as they don’t like rare Beatles records or SunnO))). Believe it or not, before the advent of the MP3, people didn’t have to choose between clothes and records - as I’m pretty sure they don’t have to now. A crueler person than myself would suggest that someone who earns their living writing about music and is happy for exactly 0% of their wages to go back to the artists has a parasitical relationship to the art form and needs to readdress their priorities or whether they should be doing it full stop. Anyone who finds record shops off putting places can buy merch from gigs or from the loads of brilliant online stores there are out there like Norman’s, Boomkat or Bleep... although it sounds like they’ve probably based their prejudices on a really shit film starring John Cusack and Jack Black rather than actually visiting any record shops I’ve been to.

Ultimately though, sticking to MP3s sounds like denying oneself of the true pleasures of being a bona fide music fan for penny pinching, mean spirited and mealy mouthed reasons. For me vinyl is the medium for a trans-Atlantic conversation that has been going on between England and America (and Jamaica and Germany and Japan and Brazil and Norway etc) for the last half a century. It’s conversation that I'm excited to be a tiny part of.

But no doubt those shitty 112 k/bit rips of some album that you got from a torrent site on a hipster’s recommendation with no effort or forethought and downloaded at the click of a finger without having to leave your bedroom or invest any emotion, time or money in have just as important a place in your heart.

Barring the pieces of vinyl mentioned above, my favourite records include

  1. Pixies Doolittle. Signed by Frank Black. He drew a mad looking alien on it for me.
  2. The Rolling Stones ‘Miss You’ 12” in bubblegum pink vinyl. It's gayer than waking up with a cock in either ear and almost as pleasurable.
  3. Allen Ginsberg The Howl. A red vinyl album pressed up in 1957 to celebrate his famous poem being declared not obscene or pornographic by the courts of San Francisco.
  4. Original Cast Recording of Let My People Come - A Sexual Musical. Once heard, it’s hard to forget such songs as ‘I’m Gay’, ‘Come In My Mouth’ and ‘The Cunnilingus Champion Of Company C’.
  5. Radiohead The Bends. Signed by Chuckles and friends.
  6. Kraftwerk ‘Neon Lights’ 12”. In glow in the dark vinyl.
  7. ‘Kenny Everett’s The World’s Worst Record Show’. While there are some admittedly shit songs on this it does include The Trashmen’s 'Surfin’ Bird' and 'Transfusion' by Nervous Norvus which would be covered by The Fall. Comes on vomit coloured vinyl.
  8. Tubeway Army ‘Are “Friends” Electric?’ 7”. When I was 14 I had to spend a summer indoors after eye surgery and I played this pretty much constantly. This record achieved a sort of spiritual significance for me. It’s not worth anything financially but I couldn’t put a price on my copy of it nonetheless.
  9. Joy Division Unknown Pleasures. You can’t move for seeing this Peter Saville designed sleeve these days but it’s still worth remarking that the full impact of it (my favourite album art period) can only be got from the original vinyl. With the radiowave image faint and almost lost in an endless expanse of black - not even the CD does it justice, let alone a Jpeg.
  10. The Jesus And Mary Chain ‘Upside Down’ 7”. This is the record that ruined everything for me. I was a quiet, bookish 13-year-old and then I heard this on John Peel. I went out and bought it the next day and was a surly drunk speed freak dressed in tight fitting black clothes with spiky hair who didn’t talk to his parents by the time I got back from the shop. Still, top tune.

And Our Picks For Record Store Day

  1. Fela Kuti and the Africa 70 ‘Monday Morning In Lagos I & II’ Knitting Factory/MRI 7”
  2. Tracey Thorn You Are A Lover Strange Feeling green vinyl
  3. British Sea Power ‘Who’s In Control’ Rough Trade 7” double pack
  4. Various Artists Vorwärts MUTE vinyl and CD album
  5. Husband ‘Love Song’ Robot Elephant 12” marbled green vinyl
  6. Oval/Liturgy Kreak Thrill Jockey split LP
  7. Mastodon/ZZ Top ‘Just Been Paid’ WBR 7” yellow vinyl
  8. Of Montreal ‘The Past Is A Grotesque Animal’ Polyvinyl 12” vinyl
  9. Wild Beasts ‘Albatross’ Domino 7” vinyl
  10. The Flaming Lips Heady Nuggs: The First Five Warner Bros Records 1992 – 2002 Warner Bros Box set vinyl

Rob
Apr 14, 2011 12:05pm

I agree that the NME article was a pile of shit, and obviously buying physical music is still great and important (seriously excited for my Johnny Foreigner frisbeep). Record Store Day is amazing and I will hopefully be picking some stuff up. If I don't have the chance, I'll do my record shopping another day. It is also a terrible shame that record stores are suffering as of late.

But I also hate vinyl elitism like this. It is possible to enjoy music and attach memories to it regardless of format. You don't need vinyl to appreciate music and I'm sick of people bashing mp3s as though listening to music in a certain way can make your appreciation of it, or your status as a music fan, superior or inferior. Is it better to listen to good music on mp3s or shit music on vinyl?

The last paragraph especially is the worst part of this article. Some of my favourite records have been ones I downloaded and some of those are because, well, maybe they don't exist in any other way? Not every band can release music on vinyl.

My ipod means that music has travelled further with me and been a bigger part of my life than ever before and I love it as much, if not more, than my records and cds just because of where it allows me to take the music I love. I have similar memories and emotions attached to music as you do, they're just there regardless of the format I hear it on. What's more important, the music or the way you listen to it?

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John Doran
Apr 14, 2011 12:27pm

In reply to Rob:

You've barely paid any attention to a word I've written. You've just raced through determined to get in a bad mood. Well, congratulations.

I have an iPhone full of MP3s. I DJ with MP3s. I own and edit a site that gives away MP3s and digital mixes.

I'm quite clearly talking about the idea of ditching all physical formats in favour of a purely digital collection.

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Luke Turner
Apr 14, 2011 12:28pm

In reply to Rob:

A fair point Rob. I'd say the advantage of mp3s is they can be listened to when you're out and about travelling (something that can have a massive impact in fixing music in time and place) and at work (most offices don't have room for a record player at every desk). But that's more functional than bringing you something physical to cherish and keep for a long time. Mp3s eventually get replaced on your portable device, or some crackhead'll nick it.

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Cian
Apr 14, 2011 12:52pm

Well said.

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John Doran
Apr 14, 2011 12:59pm

No disrespect meant Rob... I know we can come across as a bit strident sometimes but the bottom line for us is that a world with both MP3s for functionality and vinyl for the real high end keepers, is the ideal one.

I don't know what I'm going to do with my CD collection. The weight of it might make the Pitcairn Islands sink beneath the waves.

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Pete Paphides
Apr 14, 2011 1:51pm

"But no doubt those shitty 112 k/bit rips of some album that you got from a torrent site on a hipster’s recommendation with no effort or forethought and downloaded at the click of a finger without having to leave your bedroom or invest any emotion, time or money in have just as important a place in your heart."

That might just be the greatest sentence I've read all year.

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Sam
Apr 14, 2011 2:20pm

Nice work with the Wolf Eyes romance. That mirrors when my girlfriend visited for a romantic Valentines in Paris only to spend it watching Wolf Eyes. Maybe they possess Cupid qualities...Whatever, Stabbed In The Face is a righteous tune.

Other great stuff happening this Saturday

Owiny Sigoma Band - Wires feat. Theo Parrish Remix

Unannounced 100 press Electric Soul 45 from Numero Group from their pop up shop (Chicago)

Steve Gunn // Ilyas Ahmed split 7" (Immune)

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Rob
Apr 14, 2011 2:31pm

In reply to John Doran:

John, to be fair, I have paid attention to the words you've written and it was stuff like 'sticking to MP3s sounds like denying oneself of the true pleasures of being a bona fide music fan for penny pinching, mean spirited and mealy mouthed reasons' or 'those shitty 112 k/bit rips of some album that you got from a torrent site on a hipster’s recommendation with no effort or forethought and downloaded at the click of a finger without having to leave your bedroom or invest any emotion, time or money in have just as important a place in your heart' or 'essentially the same in terms of functionality but missing something that anyone with real understanding would deem essential' that I found really elitist, and about as snobby as the guy in the NME, it's just that your opinion happens to not be as moronic. I just feel you expressed it in a very heavy handed and elitist way.

You may have been talking about the idea of ditching all physical formats in favour of a purely digital collection, but there was probably a way to do it without the air of elitist superiority.

Yes, I am well aware of how any times I've said elitist, by the way! There's just really no other way to describe it.

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John Doran
Apr 14, 2011 2:45pm

In reply to Rob:

I've actually bought a ton of MP3s online (damn you Boomkat and Bleep!) and these/and or WAV files I have no problem with. This is totally different to 'those shitty 112 k/bit rips of some album that you got from a torrent site' and I've got no problem with being elitist about this. Going with shit quality sound goes directly against what you said here: "What's more important, the music or the way you listen to it?" The music is more important, which is why I don't want some thin, compressed piece of shit.

"What's more important, the music or the way you listen to it?

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Apr 14, 2011 3:02pm

In reply to Rob:

In case you missed the debate 10 years ago, everyone who gives more than the slightest shit about music decided that vinyl wins. John has every right to be elitist because the sorry record companies advertising in NME, paying that arrogant shit's wages are being killed under the weight of worthless MP3's.

If you see the 'bottom half of the internet' kicking a critic for a review of a record they have heard, love but isn't on official release yet (basically they have basically nicked/streamed/downloaded/torrent'd it), you need to ask if these shits are real fans, or just pretentious scenesters so desperate to be in the loop that they can't a) wait or b) dedicate the time or money to own the record.

If you don't like these people being treated as sad scavengers, you are not the egalitarian you think you are, you are myopic.

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flex
Apr 14, 2011 5:25pm

nice to see a mention of One More Grain. Still missed.

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Rory Gibb
Apr 14, 2011 6:25pm

Hear hear. Vinyl4life, etc etc.

A great pleasure to read as well, it's those little memories attached to the physical object (in the same way as you might a trinket from a holiday or some stupid mirror you bought in a charity shop but stayed in your flat for a few years during a particularly important point in your life) that make music worth owning on vinyl. That, and it's a wonder to experience artwork in full. But then I also buy heaps of dance music vinyl, and there's a whole other side to that experience (DJing and the physicality of playing a record at parties rather than whacking on iTunes/YouTube) that's just as fulfilling.

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Maximillion
Apr 14, 2011 6:36pm

Sigh, another boring object fetish article by another old person nostalgic for their youth and what it was like in the "good old days". Your favourite records are the ones where people signed them? Well done, I'm sure they'll fetch a mint one day. The food analogy is daft: the music is the sound I hear in my ears, and believe me it sounds identical whether I've clicked on a digital file or pressed play on the stereo. Rather than food without smell, I'd suggest that vinyl/CDs are more like food with excess layers of packaging, like a banana in a plastic sleeve with a cardboard label. Marketing drivel masquerading as music.

File this one under 'Old people are old, and the times change'.

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Humperdink
Apr 14, 2011 9:11pm

I actually prefer 4 track cartridges myself.

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John Doran
Apr 14, 2011 11:00pm

In reply to Maximillion:

I'm not nostalgic for my youth. My youth was fucking terrible.

I like buying new albums on vinyl. (As my wishlist for RSD points out.)

And seriously if I'd got things signed for monetary gain 1, I would have sold them by now and 2, I wouldn't have gotten them signed to myself as this slashes their value.

Your argument seems to be that the more we get ripped off for new formats that we don't need that see less and less money going to the artist and the quality drastically reduced, the more you think we're getting to the actual soul of the music - as if the quality of it is something we don't need at all.

There's one advantage to getting older you know, which is it becomes easier and easier to spot a person talking out of their hoop.

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Maximillion
Apr 15, 2011 8:50am

In reply to John Doran:

"Your argument seems to be that the more we get ripped off for new formats that we don't need that see less and less money going to the artist and the quality drastically reduced, the more you think we're getting to the actual soul of the music - as if the quality of it is something we don't need at all."

I didn't say anything about money for the artist, or 'soul', or quality - I'm not even sure which quality you're talking about it, since apart from your strawman argument about 112k bitrate files (which barely exist in my experience - most people want 320) there is literally no difference in audio quality between MP3s and hard formats that can be distinguished by any listener. Hence the rest becomes extraneous packaging, or in your case, placeholders for memories which you've misallocated to the packaging it comes in rather than the music itself.

"There's one advantage to getting older you know, which is it becomes easier and easier to spot a person talking out of their hoop."

I'm finding it pretty easy right now to be honest.

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Luke Turner
Apr 15, 2011 10:09am

In reply to flex:

here here!

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John Doran
Apr 15, 2011 10:13am

In reply to Maximillion:

You don't need to say it. It is what's happening. And people may want 320 quality but one quick look on the internet reveals that's not what they're trading in.

Look if you're happy to settle for shit, that's your problem. You'll have to forgive me for having higher standards than you.

(Please let me state again for the record that I own tens of thousands of high rate MP3s and WAV files of tunes that I DJ with and that I think we now live in the best of worlds being able to choose between buying - rather than downloading - digital music and physical format. The argument, as I've clearly stated, is that a world with only digital music - one which will end in the complete collapse in the production of new recorded music except that made by middle class hobbyists - instead of a mix of digital and physical is the kind of world that only a bellend - the kind of bellend who was probably evangelical for the mini disc, LazerDisc and Betamax and magic fucking beans - would want.)

Or perhaps your lack of standards applies to you not being able to read and follow a simple argument as well.

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flex
Apr 15, 2011 11:41am

In reply to Luke Turner:

Can you make daniel come back from indonesia or whatever god-forsaken sunshine-filled Pacific island he's on? Needs that northern drawl in my life.

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No, you're the bell-end John
Apr 15, 2011 12:22pm

"Old man John Doran" ... "Old man"? You're not even 40, stop taking the piss, what a laugh - you're no right to call yourself "old" at all.

First you tell "Rob" that "You've barely paid any attention to a word I've written" - meanwhile you're the one that said "[Rick Martin] doesn't spend his pocket money on records anymore, preferring to splash out on drugs and clothes instead." when if YOU had actually paid attention to Rick's article it says "The less time and effort is spent on flogging them, the more money labels might have to blow on signing new bands – the ones formed by kids buying guitars, clothes and drugs rather than records. Where in that sentence does it say HE prefers to splash out? Do you have a reading comprehension problem John?

This discussion has f*ck all to do with age mate - it's personal opinion and that's it. I'm at least 12 years older than you are, have an Ikea 5x5 shelf full of 2000+ records (and another rack of 600+ CDs at least) - and if I never see the inside of another record store again, I couldn't be arsed.

The convenience of having all my music neatly contained in a little RAID box and playable in my computer room, living room and car blows away whatever nostalgia I have for the Good Old Daze of rolling joints of seeded Mexican weed on an album cover during my "Dazed And Confused" youth.

I say that as someone who owns 4 of your 10 favorite records - and a couple of the ones you mentioned in the piece as well. Do I treasure my bought-new-in-'79 copy of "FAC 2 - A Factory Sampler", signed by Hooky? Hell yes. Nobody makes singles constructed like that anymore. But technology's moved on - do you see anybody waxing nostalgic about the disappearance of 78's these days?

While I certainly have no quarrel with some of your points about the pleasant associations with physical objects, in the end I'm siding with Rick (who I see just posted a very reasonable comment in the FB Comments above). I hate to come across as such a cnut but if you'd just written a nice paen to the pleasures of record objects it would be one thing, but instead you predicated it on being an attack on someone who has a perfectly legitimate opinion - it's just different than yours. That ticks me off.

Oh, and the totally unnecessary dis of "High Fidelity" makes you the bell-end, sorry.

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Maximillion
Apr 15, 2011 12:34pm

In reply to John Doran:

Little touchy there John - I'm baffled by the standards you speak of. Maybe some (other) people are happy with lower quality - in which case if they're happy with it, they aren't really losing are they? Conversely, I like 320, and I get 320 files when I fileshare, as do almost all of the online boards that I use. Basically if I played my copy of Pixies - Doolittle against your vinyl copy, nobody would able to tell the difference. So, absent your fallacy about having 'higher' standards, it sounds like you're just trying to justify your interest/hobby/expenditure in objective terms by claiming it's somehow superior rather than just fessing up that it's just your own personal preference that makes no more sense than liking green more than blue. It's okay John, there's nothing wrong with that.

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John Doran
Apr 15, 2011 12:42pm

Re: 78rpm vinyl. Of course people care about this format - there's a massive trade in 78s, you mad man. And if you like anything to do with Nick Hornby your opinion is worthless to me.

Max: Of course it's down to opinion. The big clue here is that my piece is an Opinion Column with my name on it written in response to an opinion column written by someone else.

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Jessica
Apr 15, 2011 6:44pm

Hi John, could you clarify the term "real understanding" used in the context of aesthetic experience? We'll certainly be due a sea change in the philosophy of aesthetics once you've fully articulated your discovery!

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John Doran
Apr 16, 2011 7:41am

In reply to Jessica:

Ha ha ha! Fair enough, I was acting like a bit of a prick but then I do genuinely believe in what I'm saying. Mr Martin was trolling. However, I acted a little bit childishly. I have every faith that Rick is probably a cool guy, challops aside.

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Angus Finlayson
Apr 16, 2011 6:17pm

In reply to Maximillion:

MP3s, even 320s, sound like pap to these ears. Play them on a decent soundsystem and you will notice the difference right away. Obviously this only has major implications for certain kinds of music (namely music played in clubs), but within that world, the sound quality argument isn't a straw man.
Obviously everybody COULD buy and play exclusively WAVs/FLACs, but the fact that Beatport doesn't sell anything bigger than 320s is indicative of people's buying habits. And even WAVs are, in the right circumstances, audibly inferior to vinyl...stop me before I start using the word "Nyquist" like I know what it means.
(Nice piece John, thanks.)

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Tomas Hachard
Apr 17, 2011 2:47pm

I completely agree with the idea that having the physical object often means the album can be tied to very specific memories and that his gives a certain uniqueness to vinyl or cd.

Your article seems to suggest, though, that vinyl is somehow better at storing these wonderful memories than CD's (or tapes I guess). This may just be your personal preference, or just due to the fact that it is vinyl that you own that primarily has this extra meaning. But an object is an object is an object. And given that my music collection is made mostly of CD's, those are what have special value for me.

This is I think something weird about Record Store Day too. If we are trying to support independent stores (presumably that's the point of the endeavour, right?) shouldn't the focus be on interesting content available in different formats, but only able to be bought at independent stores? It seems like the emphasis on vinyl might be counter-productive.

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Alex Canning
Apr 18, 2011 1:11pm

Record stores are bloody marvellous places and should be celebrated with their own special day, true enough. And yes, it'll always be worth spending money on physical formats. I never understood those who reckoned £10-£15 was too much for an album (when it only costs a couple of pence to press) - you're buying a piece of art! But 7 inch singles, pressed for RSD, puposefully limited and priced in excess of £6 smack of opportunism, no?

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John Doran
Apr 18, 2011 1:23pm

In reply to Alex Canning:

I'd imagine that short run singles of about 200 copies actually cost a lot to produce.

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Steve
Apr 19, 2011 2:32pm

In reply to Maximillion:

You can keep repeating it all you like Max but as Angus says there is a discernible difference in sound quality between mp3's and vinyl/cd's. I have both. So when you say nobody could tell the difference perhaps you should just say that you can't.

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Johnny Nothing
Apr 20, 2011 11:54am

I love vinyl. I own lots of it. Vinyl is nice to DJ with. But it's bloody heavy to cart up to London and none of the places I play are properly set up for it so it sounds terrible. Result: after four or five years of struggle I gave up and now it's CDs and MP3s all night. The bonus being I can bring so much more material with me.

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Karlyn King
Apr 24, 2011 4:02pm

Great post, Ive written something similar including your views/comments at http://bit.ly/eDU7Ff

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Nik Moore
Apr 21, 2013 5:15am

Ace piece, John...have around 10,000 vinyl, but am slowly reassessing and (gasp!) getting rid of less interesting items...!

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