common_thread_a_love_affair_with_vinyl_the80smanI assure you, there’s nothing salacious about the title of this post..

Or is there…? :)

There’s something insanely sexy about the allure of the vinyl record, particularly for those of us who were first introduced to them as children, our first meeting with music if you will. In this modern era of low-fidelity audio, the appreciation and consumption of the vinyl record (the true music man’s medium) has been reduced to just the collector, the connoisseur, the truly sophisticated listener. While we are all guilty in one way or another due to the convenience factor (hell, if you listen to music on this blog you’re guilty!) .. I’d like to take a moment to conjure your memories, or for those of you who never got to truly experience the pleasure of the vinyl revolution, maybe give you some kind of a sense of it. Who knows you may even take up collecting records as a hobby…

The setting is a Saturday afternoon, at a local shopping mall in the suburbs of any old where. Youth is on your side, and the money in your pockets represents that of an allowance from chores you might have had, or that first after school job where the money you made wasn’t all that great but you weren’t burdened by the adult life to require it’s use on anything but what you  truly wanted. On this day, it’s the latest album from that band you just really started to dig!

You stroll up to the Sam Goody, or Record Town, or maybe even that semi-cool music section of the popular department store.  As you enter, you know you’re on a mission. Scaling the bins is an obstacle in itself as there’s temptation from all letters of the alphabet. But you know why you are there and you’re in control. Finally you find the object of your desires, that one album from the group you’ve been thinking about for days with anticipation of this first glimpse.

You bask in this giant square of wonder as the seduction begins. The way it feels in your hands sends messages to your brain; This is mine-I shall own it. The colorful cover graphics that resides just underneath the shrink wrap captivates you, and you look at it as though you are some kind of an art expert, as clearly a lot of thought and preparation had gone into it’s appeal. You read over the track listings carefully, both sides! Your curiosity ignites for the songs that you don’t recognize, these currently unknown treasures of possibility, but the real reason you are there is for those one or two tracks that are familiar thanks to radio or that music video you now eagerly await to see. The powers that be did their job correctly, after all, here you are the consumer ready to plop down your hard earned bread for this disc that simply goes round and round.

Depending on the date, geography, popularity of the piece.. the album may command a whopping 6 bucks! Quite the stretch, and you may only have 1 or 2 dollars left in the end to grab a bite at the food court. No matter, this is why you left the house today. And your afternoon just got better with the anticipation of your latest vinyl addiction (I mean addition!) to your collection spinning into the night. (Sad but true).

Returning to the present for a moment, these days the concept of “unboxing” as per any number of youtube videos for whatever product appeals to you, is the ultimate arousal for those who are tempted. The fact that consumers are promoting merchandise for big business companies (not only free of charge – but at their own expense!) is a travesty in my opinion, yet I understand it in this context… for we are about to “unbox” our latest vinyl treasure…

So you’re home now, in your room, standing right in front of your stereo system. You know, the one that’s a hodge podge of miscellaneous hand-me-down components! The garage sale variety of crap yet you love it more than anything. Or if you were lucky, that Christmas present you were absolutely thrilled to see under the tree. You proceed to slide that album out of the brown paper bag (yup paper bag!) as the tiny receipt with purple numbers falls to the floor where it will stay for months. One last look at her in her virginal state before you tear the cellophane to shreds. Though I’ll admit to a more steady undressing.. a razor blade right along the edge! Oooow!

With your endorphins swirling, you slide the inner sleeve out. The under garment if you will of the outer cover. It’s equally as enticing with it’s song lyrics, credits, additional photos and.. oh my gosh, it comes with a poster!

You’ve already caught a whiff of that smell. Yes.. there’s a smell.. it’s a perfect smell too. A cross between new plastic and photograph developing chemicals. You first smelt it when you pulled the inner sleeve out, but now when you take the actual record out of this inner sleeve it’s going to smack you in the face like a first girlfriends perfume, and in a matter of seconds become a memory just as quick..

Aaaah, there it is… mmm.. I wish they made this in an air freshener (but no, not really :)

The other fun, yet kind of annoying factor is the static. The fact that it’s there and snap crackle and pops a bit as you slide this gem out of the inner sleeve represents it’s newness. The electricity of the moment between you and the disc. Yet it’s a blessing and a curse as it will inevitably attract every particle of dust that’s in the air and on you! Not to mention stray paper shards from the manufacturing process. A wise individual would know how to deal with such conditions, the proper tools for the job. Therefore an anti-static, preferably a soft carbon fiber or felt brush, is required arsenal for the true vinyl junkie. Otherwise it’ll all be noise! And not in  a good way.

So you’ve given this beauty a once over in terms of cleaning, and you enjoyed it too, now you’re ready to bed her. Umm, I mean place her on your turntable! You gently lay her on top of the platform. All the controls have been fired up, and that amber light which shines on the side of the spinning platform lets you know that the proper speed is in check. One more swipe of the brush as she spins to discard any final debris between the playing surface and the needle. (The playing surface and the needle! :)

The volume is up and it’s the moment you’ve been waiting for. Like a watchmaker, you get in real close and eyeball the edge, the phantom groove at the start of your new LP. You’ve got the tonearm, the stylist in your hand, and you are ready to make the penetration.. can you get it right the first time? Or is it going to bounce all over the place and louse up the mood?? Calm down now, your hand is shaking, this doesn’t need to be that complicated. Just let it flow. Ease it on in. Boom! There you go, you did it.

Finally it’s happening, the first few notes are here, the analog glory in stereo sound is now emanating though the air to your ears. Every sound wave is ever present; the treble, the bass, the balance.. all elements that are completely watered down to the point of elimination in the current digital spectrum are alive and thriving! This exhilarating musical experience cannot be matched. It’s textural nature cannot be duplicated by a bunch of 1′s and 0′s in the binary bullshit of digital.

For this is organic, it’s natural, it’s pure. It’s FUN!

So you lay on the floor listening ever intently, yet you’re relaxed. Looking over the album cover, you follow along with the lyrics of the songs. You sing along to the ones you know. You appreciate all the little details of this piece of art, this complete package that was put together with people like you in mind. Simply put.. in these moments.. you are happy.

Albums are a slice of life in a way, for an artist and a career. But they are also a slice of life for you during a time a special era if you were lucky enough to experience them in their hey-day. Consider digging those former loves from the back of your closet, or dare I say musky basement. Give them a chance to spin again and relive their magic. You’ll not only hear the difference, but you’ll feel it too.

For those new to this, this can be a reality for you if you want it enough. Granted the days I’ve spoke of are long gone sadly, and finding a new sealed LP in a store is a little harder to come by (though I’m pleased to say that a number of artists still release records of their latest albums, often with a complimentary digital download coupon, so you get the best of both worlds that way).

But there’s no shortage of possibilities. From record shows and conventions, to the thrift stores or maybe even collectibles shops. Online options are abound. So the next time you are thinking about an artist or title of theirs that interests you, maybe consider going the vinyl route if you have the means & equipment, etc. One thing is for certain, it will be pleasurable!


PLAY: Whitney Houston – Love Will Save The Day (Extended Remix)

whitney_houston_love_will_save_the_day_extended_remix_1987_the80smanOf all the many highlights from Whitney Houston’s second album from 1987 (and yes, there were many) “Love Will Save The Day” is the most under-rated single release in popularity.

I mean sure, it doesn’t pack quite the commercial appeal of “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and doesn’t come anywhere close to a smooth groove, popular ballad such as “Didn’t We Almost Have It All”… but for a great up-tempo dance number with a positive message; “When you’re feeling down and out and you’ve got troubles on your mind, love will save the day”. It’s a great little track.

This is the extended remix by John “Jellybean” Benitez that was released on the 12″ single.  A very well done mix of this song I say.

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PLAY: The Who – You Better You Bet (Video Mix)

the_who_you_better_you_bet_1981_the80smanA classic rock radio staple from The Who off their 1981 album Face Dances.

It’s funny, I can remember a summer, working on cars with my buddies and there was some new radio station at the time that we would always listen to.. and for whatever reason this song was always in the playlist. Depending on the mood, the song would either cause a laugh of “it’s on again”, or an “aww, come on, damn it, again!” :)

Now this is the mix that was used in the music video. It actually omits a verse and plays at a faster pace than the album version, which is oddly unique, as the single doesn’t feature this sped up mix either. I think it adds a breezy feel to the song myself, somehow making it a little more “poppy” if that makes any sense. I think most may prefer the album version for it’s overall length (and better sound quality – so yeah, watch your volume on this one! :), but as I said I kind of dig this mix and figure it’s something a little different to enjoy!


Key Album Cut Alert!!

PLAY: Paul Davis – You Came To Me

paul_davis_you_came_to_me_1981_the80smanTrack number two off of Paul Davis’ awesome Cool Night LP from 1981.

This is one of those tracks that to me clearly had single potential but was never realized as such. At least not to my knowledge here in the States. It has excellent construction in the soft rock, mid tempo range and I think would have done fairly well in the lower tiers of the pop Top 40. Especially considering the high volume of crap on the charts in 1981, it was really hit or miss. This tune to my ears is far better than a lot of tracks.

For all I know Davis might have put a halt to it as I remember reading somewhere that, with he being a good old country boy and all that, with musical leanings more towards the country side, he wasn’t particularly thrilled with the “pop” direction his music was taking. I can respect someone’s musical integrity in that regard, but for a pop kid such as myself, obviously I dig this album and would have like to have heard more in the similar mainstream style from this artist.

Sadly this day marks the anniversary of his passing (2008), so thanks for the good tunes you did give us Paul.


Key Album Cut Alert!!

PLAY: The Power Station – Harvest For The World

power_station_harvest_for_the_world_1985_the80smanMuch like “Get It On (Bang A Gong)” this track from Power Station’s self-titled LP from 1985 is also a cover.. and it far surpasses it’s original recording. Well that’s not really true, I’m just a little biased as I grew up with this one.

The song was first recorded by The Isley Brothers in 1976. Their version, while obviously the credible template, is worlds apart from The Power Station recording. The Isley’s is more of a soul song, while the Power Station’s version is pure electric energy! Andy Taylor’s snotty guitar the ultimate hook, and Bernard Edwards sleek production is supreme.

Interesting though is that singer Robert Palmer takes a back seat on this song, unlike the rest of the album where he’s on lead. This song trades vocals like a duet, for the first time, with Andy Taylor. For all we know this might have given good old Andy the courage he needed to say to himself “Hey, I can get out there in the front on my own” which would eventually lead to his departure from Duran Duran the next year and go solo.

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Smooth Groove Alert!!

PLAY: Billy Ocean – There’ll Be Sad Songs (To Make You Cry)

billy_ocean_there'll_be_sad_songs_to_make_you_cry_the80smanI’ve seen a lot of concerts in my day, and I’ve got a short list of artists I’d still like to see live.. Billy Ocean is on that list. Billy has an engaging timbre to his voice that’s distinctive and unique. And with an impressive batch of “greatest hits” that if he’d play them faithful to the way they were originally intended, I think it would be a joyful show to endure. “There’ll Be Say Songs (To Make You Cry)” is one such hit I’d expect to hear in the set list..

Released in 1986 as a single from his Love Zone album, Billy scored a number one hit with this smooth groove, on both Billboard’s Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary charts.. where I think it does manage to turn up on radio ever now and then today.

A very gentle and delicate melody if provided for us here and the message is honest and true. There certainly are songs that touch us in such a way it really gets to our emotions. I’ve written in-depth about the downside to this in a post I am very proud of; Common Thread # 19 titled “Music, Memories, & The Bitter-Sweet” but also as an uplifting remedy in # 30 titled “Music As Medicine: A Prescription To Peace Of Mind”.. I strongly urge you to check these out.

If you’ve enjoyed this post, and I sure hope you did, please share it with someone special for me today. I appreciate it oh so much :)

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PLAY: Talking Heads – Burning Down The House

talking_heads_burning_down_the_house_1983_the80smanA classic track from new wavers the Talking Heads and their biggest hit surprisingly, this one cracking the Top 10. Odd as I can think of a few other songs of theirs that I like better than this one, but it’s great all the same.

Released off their Speaking In Tongues record from 1983, this song was said to have been inspired from seeing the band Parliament-Funkadelic live, who would often get the audience chanting “Burn down the house!!”. This aside, as most songs from the Talking Heads, the lyrics are incredibly weird and I don’t know what the hell he’s talking about half the time, but that’s alright because it’s a good groove and that’s what it’s about here.

Unfortunately there is no official extended release for this one. There’s been a bootleg promo circulating on vinyl for some time under the moniker of “Unreleased Extended Version” which was really just some DJ playing record producer! I’ve heard it and it’s absolutely nothing  to rave about. Therefore we go with the hit version here we all know and love!

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Frank Stallone – Far From Over (Club Mix) (1983)

April 16, 2015

Soundtrack Selection!! PLAY: Frank Stallone – Far From Over (Club Mix) Sylvester Stallone was always throwing his brother Frank a bone when it came to his films.. he had his tunes and cameo appearances in the Rocky movies, and when it came to Sly’s directorial attempt to a sequel to the iconic John Travolta vehicle […]

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Jimmy Hall – I’m Happy That Love Has Found You (1980)

April 15, 2015

Lost Gem Alert!! PLAY: Jimmy Hall – I’m Happy That Love Has Found You Here’s a quality lost gem from the start of the decade with just the hint of left over, bleed over from 70′s soft rock which makes it oh so awesome in this 80′s man’s opinion :) Jimmy Hall (no relation to […]

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Eric Clapton – Forever Man (1985)

April 14, 2015

PLAY: Eric Clapton – Forever Man With a little help from his friend Phil Collins, who took on the role of producer (actually Phil was a pretty in-demand producer during this time, the peak of his powers in ’85) Eric gave us the Behind The Sun album, and “Forever Man” would be a great success […]

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