Saturday, September 6, 2008

More New Artists Are Kicking It Old School

By Ani Vrabel

Even as recently as five years ago, there were only two places where turntables were commonly found: in attics, buried under dusty boxes of other family relics or else in clubs under the fingers of DJs. Long-playing albums, most commonly known as LPs, were often little more than pieces of nostalgia for the baby boomer generation.

But today, vinyl is making a comeback — and it’s a big one.

It’s not a secret or a surprise that CD sales have dropped steadily in the era of iTunes, file-sharing and music piracy. A little more surprising, however, is that sales of the old-fashioned standby, the LP, are increasing simultaneously.

Last year, CD sales dropped 19 percent from 2006 and the first quarter of 2008 showed similar results. But in the meantime, LP sales have gone up 10 percent.

This national trend has hit hard in Atlanta. Mel Pinson, manager of Criminal Records, a nationally recognized independent music store in Little Five Points, says that vinyl sales have increased 20 percent at his store in the past year, and that there are no signs of vinyl’s popularity peaking anytime soon.

“There have been significant increases over the past two to four months,” he said in an interview with the Wheel. He said that CD sales at the store have been decreasing slightly, but not as rapidly as LP sales have been increasing.

Eliot Johnson, who is in charge of the vinyl department at the Decatur CD Store, says that LP sales have increased since the store started carrying vinyl a year and a half ago.

Pinson and Johnson both said that with the exception of an occasional re-issue release like a recent Radiohead compilation, the majority of the vinyl they sell is newly released by modern artists, such as this summer’s Modern Guilt by Beck, rather than classic rock staples.

As for the reason behind the increase in sales, Johnson and Pinson both just offer speculation.

In large part, vinyl’s popularity boils down to what should be most important in music: the sound. No matter what, digital music is going to have a compressed sound that music on LPs doesn’t. LPs, Pinson says, have a sound that is “bigger, warmer, fuller” than anything digital could ever provide.

“Sure, there’s the little pops and crackles, but for some that adds to the audio experience,” Rich Friedman from the marketing department of EMI Music wrote in an e-mail to the Wheel.

Pinson also sees the production and consumption of LPs as an act of rebellion. Usually, anything from our parents’ era isn’t considered essential to teens who want to act out. But real audiophiles — especially those in what Johnson calls the younger, “kind of indie, kind of hipster” crowd — can view buying LPs as a way of striking out against the era of mass-produced digital music that people rip from illegal Web sites.

This rebellion doesn’t simply last as long as it takes to purchase an LP rather than navigating over to iTunes. Friedman also mentioned that listening to an LP is an experience that puts emphasis on the entire album, including album art, song order and composition, rather than on a popular single.

“Vinyl consumers usually don’t put a record on for a single song; the record gets played through,” he wrote. “You just put the LP on the table and let it play through until it’s time to flip sides.”

Some artists have taken to including CDs or codes for digital downloads with their LPs.

“You get the best of both worlds,” Pinson reasoned. “You get the sound quality of vinyl, but if you want to throw something in the car” you can.

And ironically enough, the CD is being viewed as a dead art form by many, headed in the direction of the cassette and VHS tapes. LPs, on the other hand, have the reputation of being more timeless.

Pinson credits DJs with keeping the vinyl alive and for re-introducing — and in many cases introducing — a new generation to LPs.

The argument of whether vinyl is any better than digital sound is not going to wrap up anytime soon, and there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. But in the meantime, there’s no way to ignore the cold, hard facts: vinyl records, once considered the dinosaurs of the music world, are still relevant in today’s pop culture world.


Off the back shelf

I love stories about finding vinyl records and wanted to share one that I found. I hope you enjoy it:

Alleyway display provides Syracuse with an extensive collection of classic vinyl

By Kelly Outram


A white poster with a picture of a record and the words "Funk 'n Waffles Records" leans against the side of Hair Trends on South Crouse Avenue. The names of various music genres are written on it in black block letters, along with an arrow pointing into an alley. No flashy colors or gimmicks adorn the board, just simple words.

Further down the alleyway, a lone cart sits holding five cardboard boxes. In the boxes lie original vinyl records of some of music's greatest artists: The Beatles, The Doors, Stevie Wonder and Frank Sinatra - all for less than $10.

Reading the sign, it might be easy to assume that Funk 'n Waffles, a local coffee shop known for its music performers, might be selling records. But even though its name is on the sign, the restaurant has nothing to do with record sales. Rather, a local man sells them himself.

The man, known simply as Jim, has been buying and selling records for years, according to Adam Gold, co-owner of Funk 'n Waffles. As a Syracuse University alumus, Gold remembers buying records from the very same alley when he was a student.

"We've been buying records from him since we were freshman," said Gold. "He finds them at garage sales and travels to boutique record stores, unique fairs, markets, anywhere he can find records."

Gold and the restaurant's other owner, Kyle Corea, got their business' name on the sign after they helped Jim out of a dilemma.

"He used to sell them outside of Syracuse Taxi during the day, and they would let him keep the records in their store at night," Gold said. "But then they lost their lease."

Gold and Corea estimate that Jim has sold records for about 15 years. They know that he has been selling them in the alley for at least six.

At one point, the business was moved outside, toward ZJ's Pizza, but Jim apparently missed the feel of the alley. Gold and Corea offered him a new location to sell his records, and while Funk 'n Waffles receives no monetary profit from the record sales, the duo does get a few perks.

"He gives Adam and I good record deals, helps around the shops and keeps a general eye on the alley in general," Corea said.

The money gained from record sales gets towards buying more records to sell and also supports Jim. Corea said that although Jim uses the money to support himself, that isn't his main motive in selling the records.

"He knows everything about records," Gold said. "He's got a very good memory when it comes to dates and times and stuff. He can hear something and know the band, the year - everything. He even knows if a sticker label has been changed on an album."

Gold feels Jim doesn't want to see the art of vinyl records die.

"Records are beautiful," Gold said. "They are almost like a form of art."

Sophomore international relations and communications and rhetorical studies major Chloe Van Hoose has seen the cart, but never noticed that the records were actually on sale. Rather, she thought it was a showcase of some sort.

"I thought it was weird that they were outside," Van Hoose said.

As it seems, vinyl records seem to be doing the exact opposite from becoming extinct. A new trend seems to be starting. As CD stores carry more records and stores like Urban Outfitters sell record players, the once-defunct medium seems to be shaking off the cobwebs and creeping out from the back of the closet.

Some bands have even released their new albums on vinyl as well as on CDs. Coldplay, Slipknot and Portishead are among the highest-profile artists to release albums this year in both formats.

"One of my friends only buys music on vinyl," Van Hoose said. "The sound is more authentic because you get that scratchy sound."

Van Hoose said that if she owned her own record player she would listen to original records more often. However while the old format resurrects itself, not everyone is ready to turn back the clock.

"I listened to a vinyl before, and I didn't like it that much," said freshman business major Bruna Barreto. "I'd rather listen to an iPod. It's more practical because you can just plug it in your computer and take it everywhere."

Burned Hendrix Guitar Sells for $495,236

The Fame Bureau, a London auction house, held its "It's More Than Rock 'n' Roll Auction" on Thursday, Septemeber 4. A 1965 Fender Stratocaster that Jimi Hendrix set ablaze during in 1967 show at the Astoria in London fetched $495,236 (using current exchange rate) while the contract between the Beatles and manager Brian Epstein, which was signed by all four members, brought in $454,555. Other major lots included the 1,850 tape master tape collection of Joe Meek and items associated with John Lennon, Elvis Presley, Tom Jones and Ron Wood.

Top sellers for the auction:

Jimi Hendrix' burnt guitar from 1967 show - $495,236
Beatles' contract with Brian Epstein signed by all four members - $454,555

Trident Studios Bechstein grand piano used for the recording of the Beatles' Hey Jude - $353,740

Joe Meek's personal master tape archive of 1850 tapes - $300,679

Jim Morrison's last notebook from 1971 with unfinished poems and musings - $102,584
Elvis Presley's fingerprints from concealed gun permit application - $81,360

Tom Jones' owned billiard table originally made in 1880 - $70,748

John Lennon's lyrics for Sexy Sadie that he carved into a piece of wood - $56,598

Elvis Presley's mid-1960's Cherry Sunburst acoustic guitar - $47,755

Four original drawings by Jimi Hendrix - $42,449

Elvis Presley's Harley Davidson golf cart - $40,680

John Bonham owned and played drum set - $35,374

Original standee of Tom Mix used for the cover shoot of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper - $35,374

Ron Wood's original painting of Jimi Hendrix - $30,068

Complete set of Ron Wood's Decades signed lithographs - $16,803

John Lennon's curdoroy coat from 1960's - $12,381

John Lennon's jeans c.1978-79 - $12,027

John Lennon's bathrobe c.1965 - $11,496

Elvis Presley's original acetate for Good Rocking Tonight with invoice - $11,320

Elvis Presley's St. Christopher medal worn while making Jailhouse Rock - $11,320

Elvis Presley's hand signed portrait - $10,966

Elvis Presley's framed acetate for I Love You Because on Sun Records - $10,966

Elvis Presley's hand drawn design for his security crew's deputy cards - $10,612

Elvis Presley's '68 Comeback Special signed conductor's sheet music - $9,197

Ike Turner's guitar - Fender Mustang - $7,605

We Are the World songsheet signed by Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Willie Nelson, Bruce Springsteen and more - $6,721

Elvis Presley's x-ray of broken wrist from karate injury - $6,190

Chris Squire's bass - 1970 Fender Telecaster - $5,660

Limited edition Gered Mankoitch guitar depicting Jimi Hendrix - $5,660

Cliff Richard owned & played guitar - $5,306

Jimi Hendrix owned & worn stage belt - $5,306

John Lennon's dinner jacket from May 1975 - $5,306


This Date In Music History- September 6


Born on this day in 1969, Marc Anthony, US singer, songwriter.

Roger Waters of Pink Floyd was born in 1944.

David Allan Coe was born in Akron, Ohio in 1939.

The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan was born in 1971.


Ritchie Blackmore's new group Rainbow, made its chart debut with their self-titled LP in 1975.

'Born to Run' by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band was released in 1975. The album garners critical raves, and Springsteen appears on the covers of both 'Time' and 'Newsweek' at the end of October.

Also in 1975, the song "Rhinestone Cowboy" by Glen Campbell topped the charts and stayed there for 2 weeks.

Producer Tom Wilson died in Los Angeles in 1978. He helmed seminal records by Bob Dylan (Highway 61 Revisited), the Velvet Underground (Velvet Underground & Nico), and Frank Zappa (Freak Out!).

Tom Fogerty, who played rhythm guitar with his brother John in Creedence Clearwater Revival, died of AIDS in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1990.

Pianist Nicky Hopkins died at age 50 in London in 1994. Following his performance on the Rolling Stones' "Their Satanic Majesties Request," he became an in-demand session player, making appearances on albums by the Beatles, the Kinks, John Lennon, Rod Stewart, and even Spinal Tap.

Bob Dylan debuted at the Gaslight Cafe in New York City in 1961.

"The Biggest Show of Stars for 1957" launched in Pittsburgh in 1957. The bill included Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers and Frankie Lyman & the Teenagers. Due to Southern segregation laws, white performers were forbidden from playing on the same stage as African-Americans, so they missed several dates.

After a show in the Memphis Mid-Southern Coliseum in 1969, James Brown announced his retirement from live performing, effective July 4, 1970. The Godfather of Soul says he's tired. At the same time, he's fighting a paternity suit filed by a one-time president of the local James Brown fan club.

Jimi Hendrix made his last major concert appearance at the Love and Peace Festival in Puttgarden, Germany in 1970.

The late Bluesman Jimmy Reed was born in 1925.

Neil Young's "This Note's For You" was named Best Video of the Year at the sixth annual MTV Rock Video Awards in 1989. The video had been initially banned by the music video station because it mentioned corporate sponsors by name.

Elton John sings a re-worked version of "Candle In The Wind" at the September 6th funeral of England's Princess Diana. A record 31.5 million across the UK watched Elton play the special tribute to Diana. After the song is re-recorded and released as a single, it would become the largest selling record in history.

Working at Abbey Road studio’s in London in 1968, the Beatles recorded overdubs onto the new George Harrison song ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’. Eric Clapton added the guitar solo and became the first outside musician to play on a Beatles recording and George recorded his lead vocal.

In 1957, the first flexi-disc record was produced and used in a promotion for a Nestle chocolate bar.