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The Vinyl We Grew Up Listening to is Back, Baby!

Culture | December 11, 2017

People are obviously diverse in countless ways. We all come from different cultures and ways of life, but there is a common thread that unites us. That being music. Music plays a significant and key role in most of our lives. It is present in our lives in everything from religion and entertainment to commemorating special occasions and being a hobby. Music is an important part of our being and resonates with just about everyone. Music, also, is no different than anything else, in that what is old, eventually becomes new!

Years ago, before any of us were born, music was being recorded. Capturing sound on a recording medium began in the 1800s. The brilliant mind of Thomas Edison first recorded sound in 1877 with the invention of the phonograph. From there, the rest is history!

Originally, when sound was recorded, a circular product made of lacquer was placed on a record-cutting machine that rotated. Electronic signals from the “master recording” traveled to a “cutting head,” which had a needle that etched spiral grooves in the circular disc. The lacquer was coated with a silver or nickel metal to produce a master copy, which was also called a “mother”. The “mother” was then used to make a “stamper”. The “stamper” was nothing more than a negative version of the original product. Much like the film for a camera. Steam from a hydraulic press was used to soften the disc, make an impression of the master recording; then ultimately hardened with cold water.

After a record, or vinyl, as we know it, is made, it is worthless without a machine to play it on. That machine would be known as a turntable or record player. Back in the 1970s, nearly every household had one. The needle of the record player is the smallest and most important component of the machine. It rests on the “arm” and is made from a diamond or some other hard material, shaped like a cone and suspended by a flexible strip of metal, called an arm.  The pointed end is the only piece that touches the record and follows the spiraling grooves of the disk. It is designed to pick up the vibrations of the record, which are then turned back into sound. WA-LA!

Records were made in different sizes which were distinguished by numbers. The numbers they were known by were called RPMs, or revolutions per minute.

A “78” record would record and play approximately 5 minutes of music. They were actually made with shellac and were extremely fragile.

“LPs” (short for long play) or “33s” played about 25 minutes per side. They were made of polyvinyl chloride and became known as, “vinyl”.  That is the name that eventually stuck when referring to records!

A “45” record was only 17.5 centimeters in diameter. It was and is commonly referred to as a “single”.  Each side had one song.

Until the 1980s that is how our generation listened to the music, we wanted to hear. After the vinyl record, came 8 track and cassette tapes which are currently obsolete.


In this day and age, CDs and online streaming are very common and easily accessible. I will note, however, that even though technology has come such a long way, many people prefer to enjoy their favorite music on the turntable.

Without revealing my age, I will say that my oldest son is in his 30s and has come to appreciate the beauty of the vinyl record as have many, both young and old. He has an entire room in his home dedicated to the theme. I had no influence in his love for vinyl but am happy and proud that he appreciates it. It really takes me back to the 1970’s in more ways than one!

At times, vinyl has been known for static and other distortions that compromise the clarity of the music. When a record is played on a turntable, the needle is carefully released onto the edge of the vinyl disc, a brief pause ensues, and imperfect sounds begin to play. Some people actually embrace and prefer the imperfections of the vinyl record. I find it to be both soothing and reminiscent of my youth!

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.