I have many memories of purchasing music as a child, and all of them involved the cassette tape format. This is not to say that other formats were not available for purchase — rather, this was the only format that was both affordable to me and easy to take with me. It might seem hard to believe now in a day where you can get a digital music player with no moving parts with a twenty dollar bill and get change, but portable music players were really expensive in the 1980’s — especially to me, a child with no actual income.


Every cassette tape I got was simultaneously treasured and abused. I knew that it didn’t matter if my tapes fell to the ground because they had a hard outer shell that would protect it. I knew better than to try to wash the tapes in water as it just seemed logical to me that it would damage them. It was therefore not until I was a teenager that I was first introduced to vinyl records on an up close level — my parents played records but I never would dare touch them for fear of breaking them.

My family started going to The Princeton Record Exchange in the 1980’s. As a child, I was really not that much of a fan of most popular music and so to me it wasn’t an exciting excursion. I would wander around the aisles and flip through the records and rearrange them. Since a lot of the music in the store was pre-owned, it was mostly unsorted other than by genre. I took it upon myself to put together albums by the same artist. I have no idea why that was so much fun to young me because current me would find that to be a complete waste of time.

When I really started to listen to music more regularly, compact discs were more affordable and that was the format to which I thought I would forevermore listen to music. It wasn’t too long before I realized that there was no point in buying a new CD when I could wait a few months and get it used for significantly less money. This was not the case with all of the musicians that I liked, of course.

After I graduated from college, I began a rather turbulent period of moving around a lot. I made rather distant moves and each move brought with it the need to transport music — box after box of CDs was always unpleasant to break down and then set back up.

I was rather pleased when I finally made the investment in an iPod and transferred all of my music to portable digital format at last. I did not realize that this was going to be the very thing to take me back to buying a format in which I never really invested, save for a short period of time in the late 1990s when I was overall unhappy with life and was doing anything to take control over my own brain including trying to be a DJ.

The last move — hopefully for a very long time — took place last summer and took me from nearly a year of going from uncertain couch to uncertain couch wondering where my next bed would be to having my name on a certificate as owner of shares in a co-op in Kew Gardens, New York. At a certain point I realized that I had no idea where most of my compact discs were, and I didn’t care. I hadn’t really seen most of them since I had imported the music onto my computer and I was pretty sure that most of the physical discs themselves could be replaced for a few pennies if I really wanted them.

I noticed one of my coworkers purchased records online on vinyl format. It was such an event every time a package came for him. Everyone would pass around the record and have a good look at it, especially if it were colored vinyl or the packaging in which the vinyl came was particularly impressive — such as the sort displayed in this passionate Flickr discussion. This led me to the purchases documented in Seven Inches of Awesome. Much has happened since then. On average, I buy one or two records per month.

The other thing that has happened is that ever since I have entirely stopped purchasing music on CD (other than when it is used and under five dollars) is that I have the most fascinating conversations with people. People are really intrigued when I tell them that I no longer purchase music on CD and that I almost entirely buy music on vinyl. They are even more intrigued when I tell them this fact coupled with the fact that I do not own a record player and probably will never own one unless the price of a laser record player comes down — I believe that this will eventually happen.

They ask me why I bother buying a record in a format in which it will never be played. I tell them that the records always come with a slip of paper that allows me to put the music onto my iPod. Therefore it is more advantageous to me as a consumer to purchase the music in a format that is more aesthetically pleasing.

If I buy an album on CD I will put it into the computer once, import all the tracks, and never look at it again. If I buy it on vinyl, on the other hand, I invariably will spend much more time enjoying not only the sound of the music itself but the beautiful art and even the disc itself, if it is a picture disc or a lovely color vinyl. I may have Lady Gaga’s album “The Fame Monster” on my computer but it doesn’t stop me from picking up the beautiful picture disc and admiring how awesome it is.

6 Comments

  1. Well done, Gordon! I love seeing the Devo album and the WHITE Beatles White Album vinyl. I think Lady Gaga is great. Everyone thought Britney was the new Madonna — but it’s really Lady G.

  2. Thanks, David. I thought Britney had some hope but then she dashed it all in her own dramatic manner. She tried and tried to bring it back but it kept on crashing down.

  3. Gordon, the moment I saw the title of the article in the side bar I knew it was written by you… 🙂
    This hobby of yours reminds me of my childhood…my grandpa had a huge collection of records…I remember listening to Western Classical music without understanding much…thanks for bringing back my memory!

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