It shone, the cover calling to me. The shadowed image of a guitarist, surrounded by a faint, golden aura. It was a sudden enrapturing, that feeling I can only compare to finding one’s soulmate in a world full of fantasy candidates. The sticker price: $1. It was the greatest dollar my mom ever spent. And it brought my love for music to an entirely different atmosphere.
At the start of the 9th grade, I began to put in endless hours of volunteer work. “If you want to get into a good college, you need community service,” my mom would remind me. So from September to December, I spent weekend mornings sorting books at my public library. It isn’t the most exciting memory I have, and at the time I would have much rather been listening to music from the comfort of my own home, either from my computer speakers or the earbuds connected to my iPod, but it was a temporary burden – the volunteer stint was short-lived. It ended when I made a certain discovery, which I would soon believe was the greatest discovery humanly possible.
It was only natural that happening upon the T. Rex Electric Warrior record could have such an effect on my mind. As an aspiring guitarist, I was drawn to guitar-associated imagery. It was the curiosity stemming from the album cover that attracted me to the vinyl, when vinyl records never really had a place in my life before. The cover is what made me bring that record home and drool over it, even though I did not own a record player. And the following week, on Christmas morning, I was awarded with a record player, and I was finally mesmerized by the opening track and its odd mixture of blues, pop, and the crunch of an electric guitar. There was a shift between the initial captivation from the cover artwork to the physical playing of the vinyl. It was unlike anything I had heard or experienced, profoundly different from listening to tunes through dime-sized, plastic earbuds. The record began with a rolling scratch, ending the same way. I had to flip the record midway through, rather than having it play continuously. There were a few scratched bits, causing a mini jolt or skip in the track. Yes, it was far from perfect, unlike the studio mastery that is heard on albums today, but its uniqueness and crackling sound made it pure.
I now own a collection of 50-plus vinyl records, all of them tied to specific memories and periods of my life. Discovering that T. Rex vinyl has ultimately heightened my musical experience, but most of all, I have been connected to a bygone time, when care and enchantment was dedicated to crafting musical products as a whole, from their musical narrative to the cover art and entire design. I find it interesting, that there was once a time when record shops flourished, when music was not portable but was listened to in the comfort of one’s own residence, the songs replaying in their head throughout the day until they returned home. I like to think of a vinyl as a legendary object, holding the power of music higher than any other mode of listening. Yet, I bought my first vinyl in a library bookstore for $1, less than the usual price of one song on iTunes.