Sound Central covered in vinyl records at 4486 Coloniale. It was closed at the time, but as I looked through the front window, I noticed that it had a type of coffee counter with vintage stools at the back. From the street, it looked like every inch of wall space was covered with rock posters, stickers, album covers and records. The store immediately reminded me of John Cusack and Jack Black in High Infidelity, and I wondered if I would be thrown out if I asked for a Barbara Streisand record.
I dropped by yesterday, but I only made it a few steps past the door when I felt overwhelmed. As everyone knows, music is intimately tied to memories, and in my field of vision, I saw posters, album covers and fonts that all transported me back to different decades simultaneously. Adding to this stimulus overload was loud music, which I erroneously assumed to be speed metal. I later learned from owner Shawn that this was post-rock sludge metal. Playing every bit the deaf auntie, I had to ask him if he'd said "sledge or sludge." A slight musty smell hung in the air, reminiscent of unfinished basements everywhere.
Elton John's greatest hits from the 70s and laughed at his hideous white shades. This was back in the day when we still thought he was straight. Then I spotted a few of my parents' records on the wall--Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris with just a few strands of grey hair and Henry Mancini with one undignified comb-over.
As I've said in a previous post, music still seems to be dominated by men in terms of producers, agents, promoters, managers and performers. Although there are a lot more women in music today, men still predominate and make the most money. This store definitely had a hip urban male feel to it, but the owner assured me that he had a lot of women customers too.
I continued walking to the back of the store where I saw some old turntables, stereo equipment, 8-tracks and of course, CDs and DVDs. All the store was missing was a reel-to-reel. I was happily strolling down memory lane, looking at Hot Wheels still in their packages, books and other rock collectibles when it dawned on me. Other than collectors, who would still be buying vinyl?
A lot of people apparently. In fact, according to the New York Times, today's stars Norah Jones, Lady Gaga, Diddy and 50 Cent have all issued vinyl versions of their latest releases, and rock classics have all been reissued in vinyl. In addition, more than 2.1 million vinyl records were sold in 2009, up 35% from the previous year.
So why the resurgence in vinyl records?
It was simple according to Shawn's coworker Kostas, "Vinyl sounds better."
Albums were also nicer than CDs with their liner notes, and besides, albums provided greater advertising space. Some of you may also recall that falsehood that CDs never scratched and, thus, were superior to records.
But I still had one pressing question. If vinyl had been phased out in 1988, wouldn't it be hard to find turntables, I asked, momentarily forgetting that a record store was still in the realm of cool, while my question was anything but.
Turntables, I learned, were relatively easy to find, and Sound Central actually refurbishes them and can even outfit them with a USB port.
As I sat at the counter enjoying an ice coffee, I looked up at the ceiling papered in album covers from days of yore. I saw the Bay City Rollers, Doris Day, a darn slim Ginette Reno and Tom Jones with a perfectly round afro. I'd caught my second wind and was ready to look around some more. I wanted to buy some 45s and send them to friends. On my way back, I picked up a vintage book about Vietnam in Vietnamese with an Australian High Commission stamp on it. I had just pulled out Bonnie Tyler's single "Total Eclipse of the Heart" when Kostas came over and told me that "I would have to pay for my coffee."
Somewhat flummoxed, I made my way to the counter to pay for my coffee and four singles. In the end, I hadn't been thrown out of the store for an uncool request, but I had been profiled as a potential Dine and Dash culprit.
PS: Vinyl collectors, you can find the Sound Central Record Store online at www.soundcentralstore.com
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