Groove Is in the Heart
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Record Store Day 2019: How Records Have Changed My Life
WE are coming to a close on this year’s…
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Record Store Day and I have been keeping abreast of all the happenings and news. There are those who ask what all the fuss is: Should we dedicate a special day to record shops or do so the entire year. Others say that vinyl is a thing of the past or it is a bit stupid having one day of the year where we all go nuts over records. Today is much more than that: tribes of record lovers around the country are connecting, finding new discoveries and showing their passion for music of all genres. Every year sees limited edition records and gems for those with the desire. Whether it is a picture disc or a n older record being released; a long-forgotten single being given new shine and release or something classic for new fans, how can one refute the pleasure and allure of Record Store Day? Some people have been queuing outside their local shops since yesterday afternoon and it is amazing to think how dedicated you have to be. I was going to approach this article from a different standpoint but I was led to a great article from Caitlin Moran. I have been a fan of her work for a while and love what she does for The Times and The Sunday Times. I have been looking at my future in journalism and wondering whether I am ambitious enough. For years, I have been reviewing and interviewing small acts and not really getting pleasure out of it.
IN THIS PHOTO: Kate Bush (in a promotional shot for her 2011 album, Director’s Cut) - she is the artist I want to interview more than anyone/PHOTO CREDIT: John Carder Bush
I want to approach the big acts but feel I need to do all this groundwork to get their attention – to the point where it is exhausting and a lot of the pleasure has escaped. I know I need more followers on social media but, to get those, I keep having to review a lot of smaller artists so I can build the numbers. It is like being trapped under ice in a sense: I can see a way through to somewhere I need to be but, at the moment, things are a bit bad. Music, outside of what I do, has provided some guidance and, when listening to classic artists, I realise why I am doing all of this. Next year, to me, is when I need to start getting realistic regarding my talents and the type of folks I should be featuring. I am listening to Fleetwood Mac (Hold Me) whilst typing this and, aside from them, there is a wish-list of artists I want to approach. My dream interviewee would be – as always has been – Kate Bush and I think, unless I start getting more ambitious then that possibility is never going to be fulfilled. I digress but, over the past couple of weeks, the stress of ambition and a sense of dissatisfaction has led me back to my roots; my love of the artists who have guided me and played such a role in my life.
IMAGE CREDIT: John Patrick Salisbury
Moran’s piece concerned the notion of our younger selves. We might have had embarrassing tastes in music and T.V. or been hard on ourselves; perceived as a little dork-like or foolish. It is an article worth reading but there were some passages – maybe more pertinent to Moran herself – that caught my eye:
“We all were, of course, more foolish when we were younger. A human being is just a collection of actions and emotions, and we tend to refine, and improve upon them, as we age. If you haven’t tweaked yourself over a couple of decades as you come across new information, then you are, presumably, made of wood.
Having, then, been suitably emotionally primed to be embarrassed to listen to Jagged Little Pill, the writer put the needle on the record. And even though she had a Proustian rush over what the album had meant to her when she was 12 – “I remember the shock of recognition at her long-ass tangly hair. She was a weird, dirty, uncontainable girl just like me … Holy f***, did [the lyrics] speak to my sense of not being nearly good enough” – she ends up texting a mea culpa to her husband: “This [album] is actually Very Bad.”
If, in a fit of fortysomething aesthetic spring-cleaning, you trash everything you were before – if you deny your heroes, your songs, your history – you’re selling out the only person who has believed in you, and gunned for you, since day one: you. Don’t. Play her song, and send her all your love”.
Huge thanks to the extremely talented Liz Wakefield for this stunning Resident hat to celebrate our favourite day of the year!— resident (@residentmusic) April 13, 2019
We’ll be parading this along the queue and around the shop throughout the day...don’t be shy to try it on and grab a photo!#RSD19 #RSDResident pic.twitter.com/EwXkUtZyvr
I have been looking at the Twitter feeds of all the record shops celebrating today and the effect Record Store Day is having. People are bustling and clambering for their favourite records; seeking those rare diamonds and, as much as anything, bonding with like-minded souls. The reason I have cited a Caitlin Moran article is (because) music played such a pivotal role in my early life. I often think of my pre-teen and teenage years as embarrassing and wasted. I think we all get into that headspace where we feel we were a bit nerdy or unsure; liable to making bad decisions and mistakes. We should be proud of our younger selves and who we were. Whether we were lonely or had a taste in music that clashed with our peers, that has made us who were are now. Moran explained how important that younger self is to who we are today –“For the weird backwardness of time means that your teenage self was the mother of who you are now” – and why we should embrace them. My Fleetwood Mac playlist has taken me to Stevie Nicks’ Dreams and, appropriately, it casts my mind back to the 1990s and a time that started my musical quest. I turned thirteen in 1996 (9th May) but my love of vinyl began sooner than that. My mum had (and still does) a vinyl cupboard where she had the likes of The Beatles and The Small Faces rubbing shoulders. The young me was filled with curiosity holding these larger-than-life records in my hand; marvelling at the colourful artwork and the physical sensation.
IN THIS PHOTO: Fleetwood Mac being interviewed in the U.S. in 1975/PHOTO CREDIT: Polaris
I was subjected to countless days where an array of great records were being played. Whether experiencing the sweet sounds of Fleetwood Mac being played as the needle lovingly kissed between the grooves or discovering the best new sounds around, records were a huge part of my early life. As I grew into my teen years, C.D.s became more of a focal point but I never abandoned that love of vinyl. Right from my earliest experiences of music – including playing cassettes from a red, portable tape player on a go-kart as me and my friends pedalled around the block; delirious and propelled by artists like The Beach Boys and T. Rex – I have gained this sort of connection and understanding. I graduated to C.D.s and went through the MP3 phase (what the hell was THAT all about?!); I have embraced social media and streaming services but, above all, I have records to thank for my love of music. I look back to my childhood and teenage discoveries and vinyl always comes to mind. I recall hearing The Beatles for the first time as a child at home; listening to these huge artists via this rather quaint and magical record player. Me and my friends would discuss music and there was this real sense of community, bonding and understanding. I am not sure music is shared in the same way and has the power it did back in the 1980s and 1990s.
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The 1990s was a formative period for me and, from the early blossom at the turn of the decade – when the likes of Soul II Soul and Deee-Lite were putting out these life-affirming records – to the rebirth of British Dance and Electronic music at the end vinyl, again, was at the heart. I do not think my love of records has ever faded and, even today, nothing gives me more joy than buying a cool record. My favourite record shop, Brighton’s Resident, has been inundated with hungry punters today…and I take great joy in going there and snapping up records I should have bought years ago – Joni Mitchell’s Blue was the last I bought there, but there are some rare singles and great Hip-Hop records I still need to own. One need not have an agenda when it comes to records: sidle in, browse the genre sections and you’ll find some albums that you never knew you needed – but you definitely do need them! I think it was the way I was raised and (the fact) vinyl was part of my earliest days means that I still seek out records in a very obsessive and primeval manner. I have been doubting my abilities and purpose when it comes to journalism; wondering if the younger me would be proud. If the article I quoted thinks about how we as adults look at our teenage selves, I wonder what the thirteen-year-old me would say to the thirty-five-year-old now?!
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Back then, I was listening to some cool music but there were some records that were a bit square; maybe some cheesy ones and I was never one to follow general trends. Back then, you get it into your heads that you are not being understood and that you are the only one who has this taste in music. It was, at times, alienating and lonely; the teenage version of me listening to records wondering if something was wrong or I was a bit silly! It was only later in life that other people felt the same way. I think it takes until adulthood and days like Record Store Day when you know there are so many others who grew up listening to the same stuff you did and, when you see them sharing their love and records, you feel less alone and like you are part of the family. Of course, I was not to know that back in the 1990s but I realise that there were so many people out there like me as teenagers. So many feeling a little strange and outsider-like; listening to a wide array of music and wondering if we were cool. Those who were listening to the charts and what was ‘trendy’ might have been more popular and happier…but those of us who dug deeper and really appreciated music in all its possible iterations were really the cool ones.
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Teenage years and childhood is hard for us all and I realise that records were a way of coping and feeling less alone. I can look back and be proud of the younger me because, even if it felt like I was a bit dorky and too obsessed with music (rather than people), I would not be as far along as I am now if I was different back then! It is a shame we cannot travel back in time and get how important records are and how they will shape our lives. Most of my happiest memories of my younger days revolve around music and I cannot explain how important records were to me; how vital they are not and how ingrained they are into everything I do. They got me through deaths in the family and the blackest days. They scored those carefree days when nothing mattered and they were my introduction to new horizons. I am proud of all the silly records and stuff that others might consider a little crap. Everything has shaped me and made my life much more interesting than it would otherwise have been. Record Store Day is a chance to unite with people now and support your local record shop but it is also an opportunity to look back and understand how records have shaped us. A lot of bad days greeted me growing up and, at times, it felt as though nobody understood me or was on my side.
IMAGE CREDIT: Spotify
Music was always there and who knows what would have been was it not for the great albums that kept me focused and lifted – from the vinyl my parents played to the new treasures I bought and squirrel away. I was, as I explained earlier, going to write about Record Store Day in more general and academic terms – regarding the biggest new releases and those rare records you want to get – but I have, instead, taken the chance to look back and try to explain how important records are to me. It is days like today where I get the chance to think back to my childhood and understand how important music was. I think we all get into the mindset where we think our young selves were a bit clumsy and we have, since, grown to become something more respectable and sensible. In many ways, we were far more interesting back then than we ever knew. I feel music is such a big part of a person’s identity and we cannot judge anyone based on their tastes. Whether a record seems a bit lame or not, it means something to someone and, for that reason, it is very special. Everyone gravitates towards various albums for different reasons and they speak to us all differently. There will be many children and teenagers today who feel the same way I did back then – whether they are listening to vinyl records or streaming them – and wonder whether they belong or are alone.
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It might take a while but you will grow to realise who you are now is a lot stronger and cooler than you think. Embrace everything you listen to because, when you grow to adulthood, you’ll not lose that love of records and discovering every sub-genre, strange aside and absolute banger. It is our unpredictable tastes and personal loves that make us what we are and make us such strong and compassionate adults – whether we know the fact or not! Between the grooves of beloved records, so many people have unique memories, happy days and visions that are hard to put into words. There is something magical about records, vinyl and the way it gets into the soul. Record Store Day is a perfect chance for us to underline the importance of record shops: sanctuaries and temples eager and pocket money-wielding children like me used to frequent and go nuts-bananas over these intoxicating and beautiful objects. Maybe we felt a bit misunderstood back then and felt our tastes were a bit weird. I definitely felt that way but, looking back after all this time, I know me and so many others like me were, actually, much more special than we gave ourselves credit for and, because of that, records will always have a huge place…
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IN my heart.