Outdated tech or ritual artform?
Last year, vinyl sales hit a 25-year high in the UK. Both young and old people ditched digital and snapped up the physical format of their favourite albums. But why? A new book, by cratedigger extraordinaire Jennifer Otter Bickerdike hopes to answer that very question. She’s spent the past 12 months or so chatting to a load of famous vinyl heads – including Lars Ulrich, Fatboy Slim and Tim Burgess – to get their opinion on the matter. Here’s what they said.
‘Why Vinyl Matters’, by Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, is available now on ACC Editions
"It’s the ritual element of it. It’s running your finger down the side to try to open the plastic wrap, and usually cutting that part under your nail. Then pulling it out, and seeing if there’s an inner sleeve, and hoping for a gatefold. Nowadays, you just walk over to your computer, you click three times, and you have 140,000 songs at your fingertips. It was just a different kind of thing – and it still is."
First vinyl record I ever bought: Deep Purple – Fireball
"Vinyl is important to me because what’s on it is real. It is what the musicians wanted you to hear. There is no such thing as ‘digital music’. Digital technology can emulate music and that technology is getting better, but there is no Led Zeppelin on a Led Zeppelin CD. There isn’t a nanosecond of music on any music streaming service."
First vinyl record I ever bought: Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti
"The vinyl resurgence means that music retail, labels and artists are making money again, like they were in the pre- digital age. When we hit the road in some areas fans go mental over buying our vinyl at the merch stand. That’s our main earner on some tours! It’s saving a lot of smaller bands financially when they’re on the road."
First vinyl record I ever bought: Metallica – Ride The Lightning
"It’s not a transient format like MiniDisc or Betamax. It was the format that rock ’n’ roll was born on and grew up with. Vinyl is pretty much the only recorded format that seems to give back, that is more than recordings just being in their most convenient format."
First vinyl record I ever bought: Little Jimmy Osmond – Long Haired Lover From Liverpool
"Music has pretty much become disposable, which is a shame because vinyl was never disposable. Even if you got bored with your records, you put them in a charity shop and someone else would buy them. Digital music doesn’t have that iconic status; it’s not the central object of desire, translated from the people who make the music to the people who listen to it."
First vinyl record I ever bought: Suzi Quatro – Devil Gate Drive
"I’ve always been a fan of what it does sonically for records, for guitar bands especially. It brings out the mid-range guitar. When I look at stuff during mixing, I can tell which tracks will have an edge or come into their own on vinyl. It’s very sensitive to certain things. Nothing else has quite matched it."
First vinyl record I ever bought: Madonna – Into The Groove
"It’s a physical representation of you as a person. I took my daughter to the David Bowie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London when she was nine. We came home, and she put on my old copy of Hunky Dory. She sat there with the cover in her hands, like I used to. It was an incredible moment."
First vinyl record I ever bought: Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks
"Vinyl records are the product of analogue recording, a microphone attached to a tape recorder that records every sound in the room, including the subsonic and ultrasonic ones that you normally can’t hear. Digital recording removes those sounds. All that good stuff is gone."
First vinyl record I ever bought: Derek and the Dominoes – Layla
"The nicest part is getting the record out, putting it on, showing the kids where the stylus goes, dropping the needle into the groove and watching it play. It’s the whole ceremony of it; it’s still a beautiful thing. It’s like the difference between visiting your grandmother, sitting with her and having a cup of tea, or just phoning her up or sending a postcard."
First vinyl record I ever bought: Elvis Presley – You'll Never Walk Alone
"When you buy stuff online; you never see it, you never touch it, you never handle anything, you can’t smell it. When you buy a vinyl album, it comes in the mail in a big package and you open it up. There’s art. If it’s a gatefold you can open it and look at it. It’s a different experience, and I think that’s what gives it some its oomph today."
First vinyl record I ever bought: Frankie Goes To Hollywood – Welcome To The Pleasuredome