If you know, you know

Published 2:00 pm Wednesday, November 9, 2022

I don’t know what it is about listening to music on vinyl records that sounds so comforting.

My dad had a stereo console that he purchased in the 1970s. I remember my awe as the gigantic piece of walnut-stained furniture was carried into our home through the front door. It was somewhere between the size of a casket and a Cadillac.

It had several features — an AM/FM radio, an 8-Track player, a record turntable, dual cabinet speakers, storage areas for vinyl records and 8-Track cassettes, and an apparent written-in-stone agreement with the manufacturer that a 7-year-old was never allowed to touch it on penalty of death.

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It “lived” in our house in Corinth and then Chunky for more than two decades, until Dad and Mom moved to another house and decided they could have space for two bookcases, a couple of recliners, a couch and a garage if they left it in storage.

As an adult I realized that it was no where near as large as I thought it was as a child. The stereo ship Titanic was now more of a stereo skiff for a single fisherman and an ice chest. Nevertheless, it still held an aura of stereophonic sound to rival anything else I knew.

Mom and Dad gave me my first turntable for Christmas when I was about 14 or 15, and my brother got one just like it. The table-top models came from Sears, I think, and had a dual cassette deck, radio and headphones. I loved buying 45 RPM singles from the Sound Shop music store in Meridian and listening to them, along with any 12-inch discs, over and over.

Something about the slight buzz and hiss between songs kept one track from really ending and helped segue into the next track. I’ve had about four other turntables since then, and the speakers on my current model are terrible. I need to invest in some better, external speakers, but just haven’t convinced myself to pull the trigger on that investment.

I don’t listen to vinyl all the time. I’m mainly listening to online music videos or a streaming service throughout the workday and in the car as I travel. But sometimes I’ll go into my home office, close the door, select a Johnny Cash or Black Sabbath vinyl, and put it on the turntable. I’ll get comfortable on the futon and close my eyes, enjoying the nostalgic sound.

As I write this, I’m listening to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” on vinyl — though it’s via an online video since I’m away from my home. It’s great music, but a video conveys only some of the warmth from a needle scratching in the black grooves of a pressed platter.

I enjoy vinyl in part because it reminds me of sitting cross-legged on the floor with my dad’s brown headphones over my ears, reading the album cover or liner, and feeling like I was part of something bigger than me somehow. It took me to another place then, and it still does.

It’s like butter melting on warm cornbread that tastes like my grandmother’s, or my dog pressing his face into my hand to be petted, or a glass of ice water when I’m just thirsty enough to really appreciate it. It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain, but if you know, you know.