Sunday, July 26, 2009

Turntables, Needles and Belts - Oh My!

written by Robert Benson

Ahhh, the sweet sound of a vinyl record spinning on a turntable playing the music that you love. No matter what kind of music that you listen to, it just sounds better via this format. And if the vinyl revival is any indication, these treasures of sound are not fading away anytime soon.

In fact, new sales figures from SoundScan indicate the renewed interest in this historic audio format. In 2009, the sale of records has already topped the one million mark (through May). SoundScan is predicting that the sale of vinyl will reach 2.8 million units sold in 2009; up from 2008’s figure of 1.9 million units sold; a record high since the counting giant has been tabulating music formats sales.

Electronic companies also are seeing a renewed interest and a jump in sales of turntables or, as they used to be called, record players. People of all ages are resurrecting old turntables that have been stored away in attics and closets as the music industry has reveled in the digital age.

However, a couple decades of turntable storage will necessitate a couple of new parts to play those old and new records. Luckily, for the vinyl record consumer, there are a handful of places where one can still find the parts to get a turntable spinning again. Whether you seek a new cartridge, belt, preamp or needle (aka stylus) or are not sure what you need, one thing is certain; your local music shop stands almost no chance of easing your search. We found just one place online that not only had these items but had a posted warranty, toll-free number, live chat and electronics technician on staff.

Speaking with Steve Winokur from, we can understand why the site has become a Mecca for all who wish to restore their equipment. In this Q&A session, let’s explore more about what they do and how they help people with their turntable needs:

Tell us more about your company, why you started it:

“We used to be a consumer electronics repair facility in the 1990's,” details Steve. “TV, camcorder, VCR, CD, stereo, and even a few turntables can in for repair. We started operations in 1992. For the 1st several years I don't remember anyone coming in for a turntable belt save a few turntables a year that needed repair. Then, in the late 1990's, local walk-ins started coming in about once a month. They wanted a belt for their turntable! My VCR belt sources also had turntable belts so I ordered some in.”

“Back then internet was getting big so I bought the name After several months, I launched the site. After several more months I grossed enough to pay my rent on the repair facility and this made things very exciting to say the least. It was only natural to try my hand at selling needles. Over the past decade, countless 1000's of hours have been poured into making the difficult task of finding the right needle as easy as possible for the consumer. The result is the website you see today. “

What do you think of the vinyl revival and what has it done for your business?

“We can now declare..."The analog resurgence is on!” Orders are strong despite the economy. People all over the planet are pulling out the old turntable, installing a new needle and belt and spinning vinyl again. Why? Well how else can you listen to all your favorite tunes from yesteryear at such a low cost? Not only are people transferring their vinyl to digital to save the expense of buying titles in digital if they can even be found, but they are also playing records again just for the nostalgia or pure enjoyment.”

“As we all know, music is good for the soul. At this time in history, millions of people still have the music of their youth just sitting around. Many are realizing that for the price of a CD or two or three, they can get their turntable back up and running with a new belt and needle and be able to listen to dozens of albums that they likely already love. There's no risk of paying $18.99 and only getting one good song on a CD. What a great way to forget the troubles of life for an hour. Real music once again. No podphones, and no seek button, an album is an event, not a scan.”

Tell me some of the common problems that customers have:

“There is really only one that stands out....."How'd I get the WRONG needle?" Well, about 25% of the time, someone has changed the cartridge from what was originally installed on a turntable. So, when a customer looks up their needle by the model number of the turntable and pays no attention to the currently installed cartridge or does not match the photo result to their needle they may experience a 25% chance of getting it wrong, thus resulting in an exchange. Always check the cartridge number.”

“In ALL cases, the foolproof way to get the right needle the 1st time is to focus completely on the number of the cartridge or needle that is currently installed, not necessarily the model number (though that still may help). But beware the two stumbling blocks:

A) Often there is no part number on the needle or cartridge (or it may be hidden under the headshell on top of the cartridge).

B) The part number in the owner's manual is still valid ONLY if the cartridge has never been changed!”

Tell me more about your search feature; is this a database that you wrote?

“Yes. We've gleaned info from numerous old out of print books. Scanned the info into optical recognition software and then proofread every single result of which there are well over 100,000 cross references. At, "Find My Player" is our flagship search tool and is an innovative search window that takes you straight to the parts you seek. It includes over 80,000 individual models showing the most common parts required. Often the old info is not clear visually or the intent is not clear. Since the info from say the 50's and 60's is intended for human consumption not computers, then a range of models might be listed that all use the same needle. So, it might say that for models 1300 thru 1350 use needle number 123. Wow, talk about tricky. The maker might have only made 5 models within the range of 1300 to 1350. What to do? We had to go thru and extrapolate data using deductive reasoning and internet research. Such that the resulting data is somewhat different as we try to individually list each model or part number so that search engines can pick up a match.”

“We constantly work behind the scenes to improve our site. We just added several hundred more ceramic cartridges and idler wheels to our site. We specialize more in obsolete, impossible to find needles and ceramic cartridges, more so than say current production DJ needles,” said Steve.

What is the best way to listen to music (not a trick question) and why?

“Wasn't there a Star Trek next generation episode where everyone got addicted to a new video game and the ship almost crashed as a result?”

“In my town it seems that about 75% of the pedestrians have these little white things with wires stuck in there ears. I hope society doesn't crash from so many people becoming addicted to some little white pod, unable to socialize or have a quiet walk. With exceptions, music listening, I believe should be an event, not a crutch for a mind afraid to be by itself or a brain that is addicted to constant noise.”

Do you have an interesting story that you remember about a certain order?

“Sure, the order "that never was". It was a cold dark night.......oops wrong order. We have one comment a potential customer left over at:”

Customer Comments

“I think it was a few years ago but the customer was able to get their unit back up and running with NO parts required. We told them what to do to solve the problem on their own. At the above link you will find dozens of stories written by verified customers.”

So, bring out those old turntables and join in with the vinyl revival. The sound of your music will be better and your listening experience much more enjoyable. While you’re at it, share the great sound with someone caught up in the digital age, they will find a sound that their ears have been missing all along.

Copyright 2009 Robert Benson

New Riders of the Purple Sage Founder John Dawson Dies

John "Marmaduke" Dawson, singer and songwriter of the seminal country-rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage, died on Tuesday, July 21, 2009. The sixty-four year old died from complications due to stomach cancer.

In the summer of 1969, John Dawson was looking to showcase his songs while Jerry Garcia was looking to practice his brand new pedal steel guitar. They hooked up and began to play coffeehouses and small clubs and the music that they created became the nucleus sound for the country-rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage. Dawson loved the sounds of Bakersfield-style country music, and he would turn his older friends on to the work of Merle Haggard and Buck Owens, all the while providing a vital link between the East Coast, Timothy Leary-dominated psychedelic scene and the West.

The band took its name from a 1912 Western novel by Zane Grey, “Riders of the Purple Sage” and the New Riders became one of the Grateful Dead’s regular opening acts, its country-leaning sound complementing the older band’s psychedelic folk-rock.

Filling out the rhythm section in those early days were Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart and engineer Bob Matthews on bass, who was later replaced by Phil Lesh. In 1970, Dave Torbert took over on bass and the group began to tour extensively with the Dead, and in December of 1970, Spencer Dryden from Jefferson Airplane stepped in on drums.

The band was signed to Columbia Records in 1971 by Clive Davis and their self-titled album was released in September of that year to widespread acclaim. In 1972 the pattern of their success continued to grow, with their first European tour followed in June by the release of their second album, “Powerglide.” They toured the United States extensively in response to increasing demand, and in November, 1972 released their third album “Gypsy Cowboy.” The next LP "The Adventures of Panama Red," was released in September of 1973 and the title track "Panama Red," became an FM radio staple and the first gold record for the band. The record is considered by many critics as being one of the best country-rock albums that emerged from the 1970s and the sound continues to influence the alternative country movement of today. The group continued to release their signature sound of sweet country harmonies mixed with pulsing rock rhythms throughout the 70's.

The original New Riders of the Purple Sage disbanded in 1982, however Dawson continued to use the name, bringing in new musicians, for 15 years to play and record. He retired to Mexico in the late 1990s and by the 2000s was too ill to take part in reunion tours, said Buddy Cage, who replaced Mr. Garcia on pedal steel. The band carries on today with numerous personnel changes throughout the years, still hammering out alternative country rockers.

Michael Jackson Art

"Michael Jackson" by Andy Warhol.

It was created in 1984 as a cover for Time magazine. This is classic Warhol capturing MJ in his prime before things turned goofy and wierd.

Andy Warhol's name is synonymous with the Pop Art movement in America. Like other Pop artists, he often chose to use objects appropriated from popular culture as imagery for fine art. These were often photographs, which were then reproduced onto a canvas through a silkscreen process by assistants. Warhol then retouched them. As he put it, "I sort of half paint them just to give it a style." The choice of Warhol as Jackson's portraitist for the cover of Time was appropriate, given the artist's fascination with heroes of popular culture.

Oil on silkscreen on canvas, 1984
Time cover, March 19, 1984


Image posted in 2007 on Deviant Art by yoma82. He's a 24 year old digital artist from Poland and uses color brilliantly to expose MJ in all his glory.


This is a fascinating painting by Thomas Cale of the infamous Michael Jackson mug shot taken by police following his November 2003 arrest for child molestation. Part human-part alien, Jackson's appearance had made the transformation by this time.

Classic Rock Videos

The Ramones: Sheena Is A Punk Rocker

Top 5 eBay Vinyl Record Sales

Week Ending 07/18/2009

1. LP - John Hartman and Circles "Music Of My Heart" Private Press - $5,205.00

2. 10" - Kurt Cobain William Burroughs "The Priest They Call Him" Test Press - $3,999.99

3. 45 - The Crystals "The Screw Part 1" / "The Screw Part 2" Phillies - $3,799.99

4. LP - Dave Bixby "Ode To Quetzalcoatl" Private Press - $3,199.99

5. 45 - King Of Soul "Is Your Love For Me" / "Girl What Have You Done" Down To Earth - $2,693.13

As always, a special thank you to Norm at for this great data. Stop by and listen to Accidental Nostalgia with Norm & Jane On Radio Dentata Thursdays 4PM PDT/7PM EDT

Music News & Notes


Escapist Records is pleased to announce the vinyl release of This Time Next Year’s debut EP, “A Place for You.” The Walnut Creek, CA pop-punk outfit originally released the seven-song EP through the independent label in mid-2007 to critical acclaim. called it “the most addicting thing I’ve heard so far this year.” The success of “A Place for You” lead to the band’s signing to Run for Cover Records and the release of a brand new EP last year. Since then, Alternative Press named the band one of the “100 Bands You Need to Know in 2009” and This Time Next Year has gone on to sign with Equal Vision Records with the release of their debut full-length due this Fall. “A Place for You” will see its official vinyl release (with free digital download) in the coming months - details are currently being finalized.


P Diddy holds off release of new album

Hip-hop mogul Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs is holding off the release of his new album ‘Last Train To Paris’ so he doesn't have to compete with other big upcoming releases. With albums from rappers like Jay-Z and newcomer Drake on the way, Combs faces stiff competition in terms of sales - so he's playing the safer option.

‘Last Train To Paris’ should have been available in September, but there is now no definite release date. Speaking on the delay, P. Diddy told "We just vibing and making music, having a good time. The Train is coming... It's coming, it's coming."

"Right now, it's like Jay-Z time and Drake time. Enjoy those guys. But the Train is coming," he added.

In other words, he doesn't want to compete with them for the almighty music dollar.


Narnia Releases New Album "Course Of A Generation" In Europe

Christian power metallers Narnia have issued the following update about the release of their new album "Course of a Generation:"

"Course of a generation has been released in Europe! We hope each and every one of You will grab a copy as soon as You can, and we almost promise that You won't be dissapointed ;)

"For our more distant friends living in other parts of the world, there will be news about releases in more territories soon - hang in there! Take care!"


SUBSIGNAL: 'Beautiful & Monstrous' Release Date Confirmed

SUBSIGNAL, the new German band featuring former SIEGES EVEN members Arno Menses (vocals) and Markus Steffen (guitar), will release its debut album, entitled "Beautiful & Monstrous", on September 25 via GoldenCore Records/ZYX Music. The CD was helmed by co-producer Kristian Kohlmannslehner, who worked on SIEGES EVEN's 2007 release, "Paramount". The special edition of the album, which will have an approximate running time of 60 minutes, will come with a stylish digipack cover and one bonus track. The LP will also be released as a normal jewelcase version with rounded corners, and it will be made available on double vinyl.


NC-based Merge Records celebrates 20th anniversary

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. The finale show of the 20th anniversary celebration of Durham-based Merge Records will feature three bands under that label.

The show is set for 7 p.m. Sunday in Memorial Hall on the University of North Carolina campus. It will feature She & Him, American Music Club and Wye Oak.

Laura Ballance and Mac McCaughan started Merge Records in 1989, the same year they formed the band Superchunk in Chapel Hill. They started the company with $500 borrowed from McCaughan's father. For the first three years, the label's music went out on 7-inch vinyl.

In 1992, Merge began a relationship with Touch and Go Records of Chicago, which handles most of Merge's full-length releases.

The Vinyl Process