Quite Continental Charm School: Day 7 – Listen to Records

07/02/2013 § 2 Comments

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life

QC Charm School: Listen to RecordsHeavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis listening to a Victrola, 1940.
Taken by William C. Shrout for Life Magazine.

Day 7: Listen to Records
Growing up, I can distinctly remember my parents’ fancy stereo system.  It seems funny to think of its individual units and its cabinet with the glass door where it resided, especially when I consider the way we generally experience music today: increasingly smaller and usually on the go.  It’s somewhat akin to the difference between an iPad and those old computers that used to take up an entire room.  The turntable had a place of honor, atop a special sliding shelf so you could pull out the unit, lift the glass lid and play a record.  It also had its own special accessories, my favorite item being the little wooden handled record brush that looked like a chalkboard eraser.  Records were special.  We kids weren’t allowed to touch the stereo, but we were especially not allowed to take the records out of their protective cardboard sleeves.  Even the records that were bought for us!

I may be dating myself here, but my very first “real” stereo also had a turntable, accessible through a lid on the top, along with a double tape deck and a radio.  At the time, I had plenty of cassettes, but I didn’t have a record collection.  I regarded it as something of a non-essential additional feature until my father discovered an old cache of his records and my mother’s 45s in the garage.  From my mother I got Motown, from my father I got the Beatles, Simon & Garfunkel and the Doors.  The 12 year-old me was in heaven.

While music recording has no doubt become cleaner and amplification systems have become more refined, there is something irresistible about the sound of a needle being placed on a record — that crackling white noise is almost like a drum roll for whatever aural delight is about to come next.  For today’s lesson, I’d like to suggest that you to round up a few albums and spend some time like Joe in the picture above.  Today I still have a small collection, consisting mostly of classic jazz singers and a bit of Maria Callas.  Spending an evening with them instantly transports me to another time.  Nothing else really compares, not even mp3 recordings of records.  You have to enjoy that unmistakeable sound of the turntable live — just don’t forget your record brush.

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
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