Anyone who knows me is well aware of my mildly ridiculous love for music and my collection of vinyl records that started decades ago. The reason I love records is because the sound is pure. There is hardly any translation between the artist and the listener. With discs and especially with digital formats (although the lossless formats are getting considerably better) somewhere between the artist and the listener exists a string of ones and zeros that translates the digital signal back into sound and I’m still not convinced that I’m getting exactly what the artist wants me to hear.
I often buy new records and I spend time cleaning my records to keep them in the best shape possible. But my favorite records are the ones with the scratches and pops. I don’t intentionally scratch my records, that would be crazy. But every little scratch that does appear on a records comes from an experience. One time I was playing an Erykah Badu album at a night club and the stage beat so hard at one point the needle skidded all the way across two tracks causing an occasional, light pop. Some of my much older records were handed down to me by my father. As a child in the late eighties and early nineties I was listening to the popular music of the time: DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, Run DMC, House of Pain, Beastie Boys, amongst others. The radio was pumping out the new sound of DJs scratching records. So naturally I tried to do this with my dads records. I never really learned the art but it did have an effect on the way the records sound. I have an old Sonny Boy Williamson album that had probably been around for more decades than I know. The cracks and pops on that album almost lend themselves to the antiquity of the music and the worn sound of his voice. I’m not even sure I would like that record without that old, abused sound.
I love the way a new record sounds. But as I keep listening to my records each new scratch comes with a memory, and fondness of a moment that those scratches remind me of. I thought about this the other day as a few friends of mine have taken a couple major scratches as of late. And what I realized was that those scratches are what make things unique, they add character and personality. The risks we take create the chance of those scratches happening and when they do, we have yet another story to tell. So my friends, go out and get your scratches. You’re more likely to end up on my turntable if you do.