Vital Vinyl

It is that time of year when the good folks in France clear out their attics, cupboards or spare bedrooms and get out into the street and sell their unwanted junk to free up storage space and, hopefully make a few Euros into the bargain.

Garage sales, yard sales, car boot sales … In France we call them “Brocantes” – Every town, village or neighbourhood has its own annual “Brocante” – for a few Euros, anyone can hire a few metres of space, set up a table and just sell (or not)

So, the same principle the world over, just a different name, depending on time and place. When I was a kid growing up in south east London, we had “Jumble Sales” or “Bring and Buy” – however at these particular occasions there was (as I remember) no personal profit. All sales were held for good causes – you’d donate your crap and then the organisers would sell it with all proceeds going to their good cause, organization or charity; the local church, the local Scout troop, the local school.

A couple of weeks back, I rented a space at a local “brocante” and set up stall with my better half and a few friends, selling our old crap – of course this was of course for personal profit, so you try to sell those half-decent, unwanted possessions that you hope someone else might want, whilst giving all your other real rubbish to the local charity shop, so they can sell it or (as is often the case) – feed it to a dumpster or a recycling bin).

No matter the name, or the cause – potential clients remind you quite vociferously that what you are selling is second hand and as such you should be almost giving it away – and so it is the case with clothes, crockery and such like. There are however two classes of “goods” in the second hand market, where people are quite willing to pay the price you are charging – kids’ toys and vinyl records (both 33 and 45 rpm)

I sold off around a quarter of my album collection and made some good money, considering that I had originally bought most of the albums second hand when I was a teenager. I warned all buyers of this fact and … well I learned that you never actually own a vinyl record, you are merely the custodian of a slice of musical history. I was not actually selling my record collection, I was symbolically passing on a small part of musical heritage to another custodian (though obviously not free of charge) though, the exchange of money (as one customer told me) was a necessary part of this exchange. “I am not buying this record from you, I am paying you by way of thanks for taking such good care of it.” In this frame of mind, I knew that my pampered records were going to a good home.

Pampered!!! Yes. New, or second hand – most of my vinyl LPs were put on cassette immediately after purchase, so I could listen to them on that nifty little, new-fangled invention of the time – The Walkman – the first real music on the go – the precursor of all our modern pods and players. I have of course kept a great part of my vital vinyl, which I listen to regularly on a record player that I purchased a couple of years ago – not a cranky old 70s or 80s record deck from a second hand store, but a brand new one that will (if I download the correct software) transform my discs into MP3 format.

Sure I was surprised at the comeback of vinyl and was absolutely stupefied when I saw that the humble record deck had once again become a desirable consumer durable. Just a few weeks back, I saw teenagers down our local record store (yes we still have one of those where I live) actually buying LPs – good old slices of vital vinyl in their wonderful gatefold sleeves.

Purists will of course tell you that today’s vinyl is not as good as it used to be, way back when vinyl records were platters almost as thick as Frisbees and all recordings were analog.

“I’m glad vinyl is back” said one of my customers/custodians of musical heritage, however he did t rather disparagingly remark that modern music on modern vinyl was not the same. “It’s all digital” he remarked. “You can’t have digital vinyl. Vinyl’s for analog.”

My speakers are not of that quality that I can tell the difference between an analog and a digital recording reproduced on vinyl – neither do I have an expensive set of “cans” (as us oldies used to call headphones) of the Bose variety that allow me to distinguish analog from digital on my vinyl, but the analog Vs digital debate doesn’t actually apply in my case; since the last time I bought an album, we were pretty much at the dawn of the digital age.

Digital of course means CD, which by all accounts is in it death throes. Who buys CDs nowadays? Who buys albums nowadays? Consummers will download the “hit” and perhaps a couple of tunes from the album, but not ten or eleven songs by the same artist. It was the CD download that killed the CD single, however the good old 45”single” is making a comeback. And what about the good old EP??? Same size as a 45rpm single but with three or four songs. At my “Brocante” I sold quite a few singles. I sold all my LPs, but I sold hardly any CDs.

I am wondering, in 20 year’s time if those teenagers of today’s download generation will be buying CDs in some kind of nostalgia-driven CD revival?

Just as it pays to pamper your vinyls, so must you be kind to your CDs. Who knows, in a few years, they might just be worth a fortune at a car boot sale.