Who’d have thought it, eh? When CDs came on the scene three decades ago, it was with a fanfare that not only heralded the emergence of new technology, but one that people believed would spell the death knell for vinyl. It was old, cumbersome and simply did not fit into an age when music could be wrapped up in smaller packages.
And so it was seen as the end of an era. We had left behind all the difficulties and problems associated with playing vinyl, and now had something simpler, easier and less prone to the ravages of time.
Since then, we have moved on yet again, as downloads have seemingly dispensed with the need to carry about even CDs. Now, you can access music on your phone, and so many are seen regularly on the bus, train and in public with literally thousands of songs at their fingertips, on a piece of hardware that fits comfortably into your pocket. Gone are the far away times when you had to take a batch of albums under your aching and sagging arms to a party. Now, it’s so much more convenient. And less stress is put our your body when you want to move music from one location to another. And yet…
Against all the odds, in recent years vinyl has enjoyed a resurgence. While sales of CDs have slumped, and controversy rages about how people expect to download music for free, out on the fringes but moving inexorably forward towards the centre, vinyl sales are on the increase. An ever growing list of bands are putting out music in this physical format, as their preferred method of getting fans’ attention. Moreover, while the price of CDs has plummeted, the opposite is the case with vinyl. Rock devotees are happy to pay high prices to acquire an album when it’s pressed onto this precious commodity.
Talk about a reversal of trends. While we are constantly seeing today’s technology being made obsolete within hours of being declared cutting edge, when it comes to music this is not the case any more. What people are appreciating once again is what a vinyl copy of any record offers to the listener. There’s a warmth and immediacy to way in which you enjoy performances in this context that simply cannot be replicated either on CD or through downloads.
Moreover, there’s a ritual in the way we all settle down to devour a vinyl LP that’s part of its huge attraction. The whole way in which you lovingly brush away dust and any detritus, then put the album onto the turntable, before pressing the button and seeing the needle nestle into the groove… that should never be underestimated. Nor should getting up and turning over the record for the second side. Yes, it all seems archaic when you consider how simple it is to slip a CD into a player, or press ‘play’ to coax a download into action. The vinyl exercise takes minutes as opposed to the mere seconds for more modern contraptions. But that is the whole point. What you have to go through before settling down to listen to vinyl builds the anticipation of things to come. And, of course, I haven’t even mentioned that vinyl is not just about the disc but also the artwork. How many hours have been spent over the years poring over every nuance and detail to be found on the cover. And reading the lyrics was always a delight. This was a crucial part of why we all fell in love with music. And that is arguably the most emotive word here – LOVE!
The reality is that millions of people genuinely fell in love with music through playing vinyl. That does not happen with any other way in which we listen to recorded songs. But with vinyl, it was the norm. Embracing LPs reinforced the connection we had with the bands involved. There was just something special and remarkable about the whole vinyl philosophy that hit home emotionally. You can probably come up with a scientific reason as to why this happened, and happens. However, none of that matters. What’s important is that it was through vinyl many bands were able to create careers, and thereby their legendary status. It may be something of a generalisation, but would the likes of ZZ Top and Saxon have gained their stature if vinyl hadn’t existed when they first made their impact? Now, there’s something worth discussing! Because it was through vinyl these bands, and others you’ll see at Ramblin’ Man this year, were able to establish their reputations.
But it goes beyond merely discussing the return of an old school form of disseminating music. This is not about a gimmick, or anything of that nature. What we are seeing is something that could be vital for the future of rock, and that is because people are being ‘educated’ again to feel music is an invaluable part of their lives.
There are so many other recreational activities which try to entice people these days. All of which has inevitably led to many taking music for granted. It’s no longer a massive part of lifestyles the way it once was. Yet, what vinyl’s comparative commercial explosion has done is force people to rethink their attitude. You just cannot put a record on a turntable without indifference being turned on its head. Without realising it, people are being induced to fall back in love with music. And this is a huge boost for the future of everything Ramblin’ Man represents. Because if we now have new generations learning what it’s like to have a deep and abiding affection for albums and, by extension, bands, then we could be entering a new, enlightened era for rock. And all because of a return to old ways!
Rock will always move forward, but what vinyl has taught us is that sometimes you should hold on to the past, because it is a way of bolstering the future.