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The forgotten beauty of vinyl records

Last Updated: October 28, 2020

Written by Felicia Koh

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Credit – Unsplash

My first memory of a vinyl record dates back to those innocent days when I was in primary school. Every time after picking me up from school, my late grandfather would put on a record with his favourite tunes as he sat closed eyes on an old rocking chair.

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Whenever the music went off, he would signal to me, and like minion under control, I would happily head to his wooden record player, flip the vinyl, and place the arm right at the end of the it. 

As a 10-year-old, I had no idea what vinyl records were. To me, they were just black plastic circles wrapped in colourful sleeves which grandpa cherished so much he would take them out on a weekly basis to carefully clean them. It wasn’t until recently when my grandmother took out these old records and rekindled my childhood memories and piqued my interest. These records are more than just recollections of a family member, they are the touch of music transcending generations in my hands.

History of vinyl records

While the origin of vinyl records spans back to the early 19th century with the introduction of the gramophone, its heyday was in fact dated in the sixties and seventies—a period where rock, disco and funk fueled the scene. 

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Back then, the 12-inch 33 ⅓ RPM long-playing (LP) record was a format major record companies adopted for full-fledged albums, while the 7-inch record was the standard analog storage medium for singles.   

It wasn’t until the early eighties when Compact Discs (CDs) made their appearance, slowly taking over the place of vinyl records causing them to fade off from the music industry. Rapid advancement of technology soon led music into the age of digital distribution, resulting in today’s Apple Music and Spotify.

The beauty of vinyl records

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Credit – Unsplash

As a newbie to the world of vinyl records (yes, I just got an Audio-Technica AT-LP60X a few months back), I’ve come to realise that this medium of music has been enjoying a resurgence (aka the Vinyl Revival) since its near-death in the twenties. And right here in our little island alone, there lies more than 15 shops where you can get your dose of analog fixes.

But what exactly makes these polyvinyl chloride discs so popular? 

In my case, it is the sense of nostalgia. To me, the physical touch of a record brings me back the time when I was a kid. A little girl fumbling to help my grandpa switch records based on his afternoon mood. 

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Being an eighties baby, CDs and cassette tapes filled my childhood. Till this day, I still reminisce on the romance of saving up for a tape by Aaron Kwok or a Spice Girls CD. Unlike digital music today, these mediums provide a tangible connection and a physical touch to music. These are works of art that not only sits beautifully on a rack but they are also able to be passed on from one generation to another; a collection that will not disappear with time. 

The experience of shopping for a vinyl record alone excites me. I remember stepping into the record store feeling like a kid in the candy shop. Rows of vinyl records welcomed me as I plunged heads into the stacks, rummaging through English and Chinese records ranging from ballads to R&B, rock to disco. 

Imagine spending three hours shopping for confectionaries as a child. Yes, every visit to a record store makes me feel exactly the same way, with the added advantage that I’m the one paying for my hauls and mummy ain’t have any control over me.

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Delving into the world of vinyl records also made me relook the way which I have been listening to music. Streaming platforms have certainly made music more accessible, but at the same time, they have also drastically changed a consumer’s listening experience

With the ability to create playlists, seldom do most of us now listen to an entire album all the way through. Look into a teenager’s playlist today and more often than not, you will see a mix of genres—BTS, Ariana Grande and Harry Styles all together in one.

This is exactly why I’m attracted to a vinyl record. It intrigues you to listen to an album with intent, the way the artist envisioned it to be heard. Often when I put on a vinyl record, I find myself appreciating the sound and music more; lyrics, beats and rhythm seemed to be amplified for maximum enjoyment.

Credit – Unsplash

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Then of course there is the sound quality. Despite that soft crackle and little imperfections especially in older records, old-school analog is presented without the compression that occurs in modern-day digital audio. 

This results in a fuller, more robust sounding tunes with little to no tone loss. Listening to a vinyl record is like sipping on a shot of espresso—filled with warmth and an undiluted depth.

Final thoughts

Vinyl records made me realise that not everything in life is about speed and convenience. There will surely be times where we just want to slow down and take things in our stride especially if it evokes a memory or satisfies an emotional gap. 

My Spotify premium account will certainly stay for the ease of listening to music on the commute but I’m glad that vinyl records have once again re-entered my life. This is the kind of music I would want to share with my kids in the future and make sure that they pass down generations after.

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