put the needle on the record.

Record PlayerI’ve had this record player for nearly two years. It was generous payment for spending five days in Boise, Idaho, helping a friend settle a family estate. That record player rumbled around the back of a Ryder rental truck from Boise to Indiana. Shortly thereafter, I relocated to Vegas. In January 2014, the record player was loaded onto a Mayflower truck and spent another five days making its way from the Midwest to my front door in Vegas.

It was one of the first items I unpacked and plugged in after the movers departed. Unfortunately, all the moving about damaged the player. The platter was scraping on something when it played, creating an annoying noise that I couldn’t fix. I determined it was “broken” and stashed it out f sight. I didn’t throw it away; too much sentimental value, I figured. I just didn’t feel right about trashing it.

Fast forward to this week. I decided now is the time to not only reestablish a relationship with what little of my vinyl collection I retained, but to start rebuilding the beat. Monday night, I popped into a record store for the first time in decades. Not a CD store; a record store!

Let's Go Trippin'! When my brother and I were little kids, we got our first record player. Too bad we didn't have any of our own records, so we played all our parents' records from the 60s. This one was in heavy rotation for a long time.

Let’s Go Trippin’! When my brother and I were little kids, we got our first record player. Too bad we didn’t have any of our own records, so we played all our parents’ records from the 60s. This one was in heavy rotation for a long time.

While thumbing through the stacks of new and used records, I was transported back in time to my high school days in Bay City, Michigan. Hours of my misspent youth were wiled away at Camelot Records inside Hampton Square Mall. I’d always gravitate to the ‘Q’ section to see if anything new or different from Queen showed up. Eventually, I’d wander over to the dollar cut-out bins, because you never know what sort of forgotten gem might turn up. It was in those cut-out bins where I found four early-80s Alice Cooper albums.

Meanwhile, back in 2015, I was waxing nostalgic over the new pressings of Bruce Springsteen, Black Sabbath and the Beach Boys. I also marveled at seeing vinyl representations of great, new music I’d only heard in digital form. I nearly purchased Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, but opted for vintage Springsteen—a new pressing of Greetings from Asbury Park, New Jersey and a used copy of Born In The U.S.A. (an album I owned 30 years ago)—and a new copy of John Coltrane’s Blue Train.

Once I left the record store, I realized I needed a turntable. My impromptu shopping excursion yielded nothing, so I went home and fished the ol’ Crosley out of storage, determined to take a stab at making it functional.

Lo and behold, got it working!

It’s not as impressive as it sounds. First, I spent about an hour taking the back off the player, only to realize everything inside was bolted down and I couldn’t get at anything; not with these hot dog fingers. Even if I could, what the hell could I do? I figured that was the end of it. And then I noticed a great, big screw attaching the deck to the base of the record player. Once I tightened that screw—Presto! Now, it works like a champ.

To christen the player, I dropped the needle on my just-purchased Born in the U.S.A. The familiar crackle of the dust in the groove made me smile a bit (note to self: gotta buy a record cleaning kit). As the opening chords of the title track poured out of the tiny speakers, I was once again going back in time to 1984. I played the hell out of that album when I first got it!

And then the needle found its way into a giant scratch and was stuck playing the same groove over and over, rendering this record unplayable. I guess you get what you pay for with a $1.50 used record, no?

Over the next few days, I’ll set up the turntable properly, maximizing its use. In addition to planning frequent trips to Zia Records (and other record stores in town), I’ll be busting my current vinyl collection out of retirement.

I’d like to say, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” to borrow a line from one of my favorite films, but that’s not necessarily true. It’s more like getting back together with your high school girlfriend, 30 years later. Of course, that’s absurd, too. One would’ve had to have a high school girlfriend to begin with to make that analogy stick.

Let’s just say I’m happy vinyl’s popularity has come full circle. Seems kinda fitting, given we’re on the edge of my 45th (!) birthday.

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