Vinyl

At a recent meeting of The Imagemakers of Monterey, President of the Center for Photographic Art Board of Trustees, Richard Cannon showed one of his favorite images, “Groovin”. As I listened to his story, his tribute to the days of vinyl,  I was touched by his passion and my memories. The following morning I penned this letter to Richard:

Richard,

I was touched by your tribute to vinyl last night as it was portrayed in your image, “Groovin”. I got it…I got what you were saying.

Back many years ago, and seemingly in another lifetime, I was a nightclub disc jockey. With over 3000 records in my collection (and credit card collectors often trying to collect on said purchases), I spent five years spinning vinyl. The tactile experience of moving from one platter to the next, looking at the record grooves to see where the break was, where I needed to place the needle to queue up the next song, spinning the record with my index finger to find the exact measure and beat and finally pushing the record to start the mix into the next song…beat for beat, measure for measure. It was all about being able to feel and see the grooves, it was all about the smell and sounds of vinyl.

My last year as a DJ found me in Palm Springs working a club called Zelda’s. CD’s were the rage and the club owners pulled my Techniques T1200 turntables and replaced them with CD players. Pretty sophisticated for the time, these players would mix, beat for beat…kind of. I could not see the grooves to find my breaks, could not spin the platter with my fingers to move forward or backwards in the grooves and within the songs to find the exact beat to start the mix on. I was frustrated, lost interest quickly and got out of the business as the mix became cerebral rather than tactile.

I made some pretty serious life changes at that time, part of which was to get out of the very unhealthy lifestyle that surrounded the profession. I went to L.A. to try and sell my albums and 12″ extended mixes and could not sell a single one. I had loved my vinyl to death and rendered them unwanted by anyone wanting to make a profit.

After lugging around 3000 albums for my years as a DJ, I could not do it anymore. One day in a fit of life frustration I threw all my vinyl into a dumpster under the hot summer Palm Springs sun…every last one. To this day I remember the feeling of moving up and down my apartment steps, arms full of records. I would check the dumpster from hot day to hot day to see the sun’s effect.

Next to being a commercial river guide in New Mexico and Northern California, being a DJ was the best job I every had because it did not feel like a job. Music has always resided within my deepest of passions and DJing was a way to connect and express that passion…even more than photography…because you can feel music in every cell.

To this day I can remember the smell of my albums as they set deeply stacked in rows on my apartment floor(s). The smell of smoke and use—album covers frayed from my fingers flipping through them every night, often in a rush to get the next song queued up…index finger spinning the vinyl…looking for the exact beat from which to start the mix.

If I were to ever to earn such abundance that I could afford to rebuild my record collection I would. I would spend the countless hours necessary visiting dingy old record stores replacing every last album or 12″ extended mix (European and US versions). I would by some 1200’s again, some old school speakers and start mixing…I can hear the ‘bump’ of the needle landing on the vinyl, the ‘pop’ and ‘crackle’ and the luscious sound that only vinyl can provide.

Thanks for the memory Richard!

Roger