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We had a rite of passage in our house yesterday. Anderson learned how to flip a record and (fairly) gently set the needle down to start Side Two.
I think I was a little older when my dad finally let me approach the stereo system, and by then I'd already memorized all the skips, scratches and bumps on both sides of Neil Young's Harvest. I knew that my favorite, "Needle and the Damage Done" didn't come until deep into the second side, though I had no idea what Neil was singing about. When my mom was in charge, it was Carly Simon or Joni Mitchell, pouring her heart out, skating down a river I imagined was surrounded by frozen bushes under a baby blue winter sky.
By the time I was 10 or so, I knew which songs marked the end of side one and I'd rush in to do my duty so the pause between sides was as short as possible: "Are you Ready for the Country?" "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!" "Stairway to Heaven."
Records were the soundtrack of my youth.
We're no audiophiles, nor do we really wish to be, but one of the best purchases we've made as a couple has been our vintage Marantz stereo system. I don't think it's been off more than a few waking hours since we got the last pieces a few weeks ago, a couple of surprisingly decent speakers from Goodwill. We pore over our meager but solid little record collection, and we've begun to prefer our cheap-bin records to the crystal clear mp3 versions.
Digital music is great in several ways, but there's something ritualistic about pushing a shiny silver button and watching the stereo come alive. The deliberateness of selecting an album and listening to it all the way through is contradictory to the way most of us listen to mp3s. It's slower, and far less convenient, and you can't listen to records outside your house. I get it. We've moved on as a society and I'm nostalgic and a proponent of heavy lifting when it comes to my music.
It still warms my heart to know that when my kids hear Aqualung 30 years from now (because they will, I mean, come on - that's some amazing, timeless flute-playing right there), they will mentally insert all the scratches and bumps in just the right places, and they will know that the slightly creepy laughing at the start of "Up to Me" means it's almost time to flip.