Taking some old tunes out for a spin

A turntable and some classic vinyl can still bring joy to an aging heart.

Material World

March 10, 2002|By Rob Hiaasen | Rob Hiaasen,Sun Staff

"What is a stylus?" asked the store clerk at Best Buy in Timonium.

The words cut like a diamond. But he knew no better and meant no harm. To his credit, though, the young clerk did direct me to a lonely shelf, where my betrothed did wait for me. Turntables don't rate a whole aisle. It's just a shelf, stocked with two boxes of Sony turntables. I bought me one. Pathetic, perfect.

In 2002, this is what happens when you buy a turntable:

Clerks don't help you carry it out, and they don't even want to chitchat about it. They seem robbed of any sense of a conquest -- as if buying a turntable doesn't really count as a sale. I sensed a similar reception when I came into the store last month looking for typewriter ribbon. A hospice should have been my next stop.

My 150 or so albums have been holed up in my basement for too many years. Nothing against Pink or Train or Linkin Park, but I'm past due listening to my old records of Prince, Traffic and The Pretenders. The radio makes strange, unfamiliar sounds these days.

Once home with my new turntable, I did a little dance in the basement -- a dance last seen on my honeymoon and requested nevermore. Now I can walk into the Musical Exchange on Charles Street and commit commerce; I suspect the folks there were tired of me ogling their albums and then leaving without buying a single record or a single. (Are there "singles" anymore? Don't answer.)

In the spirit of 2000's great, album-oriented movie High Fidelity, I offer a list of newly discovered old songs and albums:

1. Talking Heads' cover of "Take Me to the River."

2. Ray Charles and Betty Carter's duet on "Baby, It's Cold Outside" (my dad's album).

3. Donald Fagen's "New Frontier." Introduce me to that big blonde, she's got a touch of Tuesday Weld ...

4. Bob Dylan. Blood on the Tracks.

5. The Stones' Sticky Fingers, featuring Andy Warhol's working zipper on the cover. Try zippering a CD.

6. Traffic: "Low Spark of High-

Heeled Boys."

7. Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up."

8. George Jones' "I Always Get Lucky With You."

9. The Allman Brothers' The Road Goes on Forever.

10. Al Jarreau's double-live album from Europe, which includes "Take Five."

11. Joni Mitchell's Blue. Genius stuff.

12. Steely Dan's Pretzel Logic.

13. Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing."

14. Elvis! Costello! "Get Happy!!"

15. The Beatles' Yesterday ... and Today.

16. Revolver.

17. The White Album. (Some idiot in The Sun wrote that this record was "nearly unlistenable." In fact, the album is not half-bad.)

18. The Drifters' Golden Hits.

19. Joan Armatrading. "Down to Zero."

20. Mel Torme and Friends. "At Marty's."

21. Al Green's "Love and Happiness." Make you do wrong.

22. "Moondance" -- Van Morrison.

23. Bob Seger's "Night Moves." Working and practicing. ... One listen and you're back in high school wishing you were out of high school.

24. Stones' Let it Bleed. Their best album?

25. Linda Ronstadt's cover of "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me." (On a sad note, I'm missing most of my Ronstadt albums; I suspect an infestation of '70s-pop boll weevils, which eat through vinyl and cardboard at locust speed.)

26. Who's Next. The greatest rock album. Period. Except for maybe a few other albums.

27. Sweet Baby James.

28. Stevie Wonder's "Tuesday Heartbreak."

29. Jimmy Buffett's "A Pirate Looks at Forty."

30. Sly and the Family Stone's Greatest Hits.

I could go on.

My reunification project revealed that my wife still owns Partridge Family albums, plural. Yet, I married the woman; she did bring some great albums into the marriage.

I'm not saying old music is better than new music. I'm not saying albums are better than compact discs.

I'm just saying ... man, I'm getting old. But it feels all right, it feels good to get your hands on something like an album. It feels good to get a grip on something again.

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