I’ve been listening to a lot of vinyl this weekend – but not the usual 70’s & 80’s classics.
I went to a book sale at the Iowa fairgrounds, and they had a fairly large collection of records. Even more interesting, though, they had a lot of 78’s. And I happen to have a Victrola VV-XIa that I’ve never really used much, because all the 78’s that came with it were pretty awful.
Digging through the crates of 30 cent 78’s, though, I found some great finds, including a 78 of Nat King Cole doing the Christmas Song; lots of great big band numbers; some early Raymond Scott releases; and the Ink Spots doing If I Didn’t Care. If anyone can guess why I’d be into the last one, let me know in the comments.
Amazingly enough, the records are in great shape and sounded fairly good. I’m betting that the Victrola doesn’t sound like it once did, though, just because of aging of materials. The thing is built like a tank, though, and sounded impressive for a device that’s nearly 100 years old.
While most people aren’t into records this old, vinyl is making a big comeback, because it’s cheap, it’s tangible and it’s fun.
Here are a few vinyl facts for you:
- Vinyl album sales are up by 36% since 2006;
- Vinyl sales are estimated at 5 million/year new and 20 million/year used;
- LA’s Amoeba Records sells 2,000 LPs a day, up 15% since last year;
- Best Buy stores are starting to sell vinyl;
- Turntable sales are up to 500,000 last year;
- There are reports of production delays, because demand has grown so much for vinyl;
- All sorts of new releases are coming out on vinyl, including LPs from Metallica, Bob Dylan, David Gilmour and hordes of electronic and dance artists, while labels are reissuing landmark releases by the likes of Miles Davis and Jimi Hendrix.
Listening to my 78 finds, I realized that there’s not just a world of mostly-forgotten music out there, but that the technology is mostly-forgotten.
Did you know that you’re only supposed to use a needle once with an old Victrola? The discs are so abrasive that it quickly ruins the needles, which can in turn ruin your records.
Later 78’s are apparently made of softer material and aren’t designed for old Victrolas. I’m not sure how to distinguish the difference yet – so if you know anything about this, let me know in the comments.
Also – after playing around with the old Victrola, it made me think how awesome it would be to get some new 78’s made up of electronic music. It would be a startling clash of new and old, and there might only be an audience of a dozen people to buy them, but it would be very cool.
I wonder if anyone can even make old-school style 78s. If you have any ideas on this, let me know!