There was a time not so long ago when I could speak to my students about the good old days when I had my direct-drive turntable spinning albums from the classic rock era and they would look at me like I had come from another planet. Only old people had record players, knew that a vinyl disc made thirty-three and a third revolutions per minute (RPMs) and gazed glassy-eyed at gatefold album covers with surreal artwork.
So I joined the modern world and went totally CD. The old stereo made its way out the door and literally hundreds of albums sat forgotten in boxes as if they were inhabitants of the Land of Misfit Toys. For years they just sat in the basement along the wall waiting for someone with bell-bottom jeans to pick them up and love them again.
Well, that time has come, and again I am out of step with the modern (post-modern?) world. It appears that all of the hip and with-it youth are turn, turn, turning back to turntables, and those of us who now depend on our disc players or even our mp3 players are again behind the times.
Rather than go out and buy new equipment I have chosen (with a healthy dose of support from my wife Ann who, despite her love of the nostalgia of vinyl, loves an uncluttered house even more) to give away my entire record collection. I started in early December by offering albums to my brilliant young colleague Joe Betz ’01. Joe was in the marching band’s drum corps as a Wildcat and knows his music (having once auditioned for and performed as a member of the Blue Man Group), so I offered him the works of Soft Machine, Bill Bruford and others of a jazzier bent.
Then I got word from my daughter that she was buying her then-boyfriend-now-fiancé a record player for Christmas and all of my Beatles, Genesis, and Todd Rundgren albums among others, including the incomparable “Frampton Comes Alive,” were set aside for her to wrap when she got home from Pittsburgh. If I had been a little more slick in my thinking I could have given him my entire collection knowing that all I needed to do was visit them after they were married and I could listen to all of my old music. Rats!
The next person to come to mind was our fearless leader Dan Bradesca ’88 and it just so happened that his daughter was also going to receive a record player for Christmas. I was thrilled to pass on some of my most prized possessions – albums by Yes, Pink Floyd and U2 – to an SJA Jaguar, and over the moon that these gems would be appreciated by one so young.
Finally, I put the list on our non-business email group at school and all of the prog heads and classic rock aficionados came out of the woodwork. It was great fun to see people not only requesting that I bring them albums, but also reminiscing about what this music meant and means to them. I never knew that Health and Phys Ed Chair Holly Woytek has a purse made from a real Journey album, nor could I have guessed that there would be a bidding war for a Christmas album by the rather obscure Irish band Horslips.
One of those folk, History’s Dan Hess ’88, a grateful recipient of the full Emerson, Lake and Palmer catalog, pointed out that it was generous of me to be giving these away since vinyl is hot these days. There was a time a few years back when I took a stack to Half-Price Books and Records and came away with almost enough for a venti latte at Starbucks. What I wouldn’t give to have those David Bowie and Neil Young albums back. I learned my lesson that day – do not sell to The Man what you can give to a friend.
With such a flurry of activity the collection is now almost all gone, yet, even as I type, my superb editor Connor Walters ’09 is checking to see if the wonderfully obscure Jade Warrior albums are still available (which they are!).
So I’m assuming that I will find a new home for each of these treasures from my youth. All of them, except one.
My favorite album is my favorite not because of the music on it, although I do love the music. It is my favorite album because of the circumstances of my reception of it. At Christmas of 1975 I received the first Yes album, titled simply “Yes,” from my girlfriend whom I had been dating for all of two months. That gift sealed the deal (“OMG! A really pretty girl who actually gets me!”), and in June of 1982 she turned that “Yes” into “I do” and became my wife.
Music has a way of helping to define us, of telling the world who we are, and what we think is important. It has been a great joy to be able to be a part of that process, in relation to both those who are looking back to their defining moments as well as those who are presently in the process. And on top of all that, I had the added gift of recalling that life-changing and magical Christmas of ’75.