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Sebastian Kirsch: Blog » Back to vinyl

Sebastian Kirsch: Blog

Saturday, 11 December 2004

Back to vinyl

Filed under: — Sebastian Kirsch @ 13:10

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Two days ago, I got completely fed up with the contents of my iTunes playlist.

It had been playing on shuffle for a couple of days. I guess 1000 songs don’t last that long in the end – yes, I have that many CDs. At the last count, I have about 170 original CDs, not counting the ones that I (legally, fair use, Privatkopie) copied from friends. I haven’t ripped them all yet.

Since then, I’ve been playing my vinyl records exclusively.

I don’t do that very often, since iTunes or CDs are more convenient: longer playtime (practically infinite with iTunes), no need to clean them, no need to turn the record over, and you can operate a CD player or iTunes with one hand if you’re busy.

I rediscovered so many treasures in my vinyl collection, so many records that I don’t have on CD, or that never came out on CD. I started with a virtual sweep through the collection:

  • Pavlov’s Dog: Pampered Menial
    An experimental rock group from the 70s, formed around the frontman David Surkamp. It’s best known for the frontman’s strange voice that sounds “like a choirboy on speed". They split up after only four albums.
  • Sonny Rollins: Nucleus
    The first track, “Lucille", is one perfect piece of music. I could listen to Rollins’ sax play on this track over and over again.
  • U2: Under a Blood Red Sky
    An album that makes me want to see U2 live. The band members seem to have enormous fun playing before a live audience.
  • Thelonious Monk: Monk Alone in San Francisco
    I’m not a big fan of Monk, but this solo album is one I can enjoy.
  • Jamiroquai: Synkronized
    One of two Jamiroquai albums I have on vinyl. For me, JK rates as one of the best male voices in pop music.
  • Frank Zappa: Sheik Yerbouti
    I like Zappa’s cynicism-laden lyrics, like “Flakes", “Broken Hearts are for Assholes", “Jewish Princess", and the eternal “Bobby Brown". In this instance however it proved to hectic for me; I changed the record after the first of four sides.
  • Pink Floyd: Relics
    A compilation of the oldest Pink Floyd recordings, dating back to the time of their first album, “Piper at the Gates of Dawn".
  • Pink Floyd: Delicate Sound of Thunder
    A live recording, made just after Roger Waters left the band.
  • Lou Reed: Berlin
    A wonderfully laconic record, less “glitzy” than the classic “Transformer". Lou Reed later became the frontman of Andy Warhol’s Velvet Underground.
  • Kula Shaker: Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts
    Second Album by the band of 1996s surprise hit “Tattva". Inspired by 70s rock and Indian instruments, they were heralded as the successors to the Beatles, but with ironic touches – one track is called “Jerry was there/Grateful when you’re dead", for instance. They split up after the second album.

It’s a cleansing experience, ridding your system of the accumulated debris and artefacts of digital music and going back to the comforting hiss and crackle of analog recordings ;)

I also went through an online Pink Floyd discography on this occasion, in order to match up with my own collection. I have 9 of the thirteen Pink Floyd releases on vinyl. (Not counting compilations, and the ones after Roger Waters left don’t count either, in my opinion. Pink Floyd was not Pink Floyd afterwards.)

It was an interesting journey through the history of the band, from the slightly anarchist rock group of the late 60s to the giants of psychodelic rock that we know them as. I learned a lot of trivia about the band (for example, the first album, “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” was recorded at Abbey Road Studios at the same time as the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band", and Paul, George and Ringo used to drop by Pink Floyd.)

My reading also broadened my understanding for the evolution of the band. I’d always been intrigued by the b-sides on “Meddle” and “Atom Heart Mother” – whereas the a-side of each record was an elaborately crafted rock “symphony", the b-sides always contained shorter, more conventional songs. It turns out that Pink Floyd were never happy with the b-sides either, but couldn’t finish anything more elaborate between tours.

Another interesting study is a comparison between the very first Pink Floyd tracks ("Astronomy Domine", “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun", “A Saucerful of Secrets", etc.) as they are performed on the first albums, and on “Ummagumma", after the departure of Syd Barrett.

I don’t know how long my abstinence from digital music will last; at the moment, I’m quite happy to explore my vinyl collection. But I guess that Jobim, Nascimento, Suba and UFO will lure me back sooner or later.


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