Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Getting in the groove



PANAMA CITY BEACH — My haul at last Saturday’s Vintage Market in downtown Panama City included four albums featuring old-time radio shows of “Superman,” “The Green Hornet,” “The Shadow” and “The Lone Ranger.”

My friend Brady has said he once tried to listen to an old radio show, but it was too strange — apparently stranger than an audio book or whatever the closest modern approximation might be. I replied that “The Shadow” was “The Walking Dead” of its time — appointment radio; no doubt future generations will look at “The Walking Dead” and not understand our fascination with the quaint technology called “television.”

Other than the treasures I find in thrift shops and yard sales, my album collection has swelled in part because family or friends no longer played theirs, so they gave them to me. It’s how I accumulated everything from Broadway musicals to the Dead Kennedys, from chamber music to King Crimson, and from Boots Randolph to Souxsie and the Banshees. It also has helped me develop as broad a range of favorites, which I often display in a changing rotation.

One wall in my writing space at home features albums exhibited in frames; I trade them out when the mood strikes. Recently the collection has focused on portrait covers and included the likes of Kate Bush, Johnny Cash, Todd Rundgren and Nat King Cole. Before that, it was a group of movie soundtracks. During the season, it features old Christmas records. I suspect it’s about to be filled by radio shows.

And it’s not just nostalgia, either. Vinyl lives.

That’s more than simply a statement about the “warmth” you might hear someone describe when comparing the sound of a vinyl record to a CD or mp3. It’s also a truism about the record industry in an age of digital downloads.

Indeed, if you buy an album on vinyl these days, the price usually includes a code to download the entire album for your mobile listening pleasure.

Vinyl will be celebrated Saturday with international “Record Store Day,” which is also a way to recognize local music shops. Both objects of attention may seem like dinosaurs (and this is a guy who still works in print media talking, so I’m not calling names), but they still have life in them — and maybe even a bright future.

Central Square Records in Seaside is the nearest participating store, marking its fifth year as part of the event. The shop will have most of the limited-edition records being offered for the day and lots of giveaways (record totes, label samplers, T-shirts). There will be live performances in the store by Chris Alvarado (releasing his new album “Home"), Cody Copeland (supporting his new release "Two States"), and Gileah & The Ghost Train.

Central Square will also have a drawing for a test pressing of J.J. Grey’s new album, "The River." The store opens early for the event — 8 a.m. — and there will be a crowd, so be prepared.

Peace.

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