I grew up listening to music in the age of CDs, MP3s and streaming – it all seemed to change so quickly. Vinyl wasn’t something I ever really thought about, and nostalgia, to me, was keeping hold of my iPod when I could just as easily stream everything on my iPhone.
Music has always played a hugely important part in my life, particularly during those angsty teenage years when it felt as though everything was awful and nothing was awful all at the same time.
Living in Bradford during the 2001 riots, I was acutely aware of the political hatred groups such as the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defense League (EDL) were spewing out onto the streets – literally. It was normal to see the BNP driving down our street and shouting at us to vote for them. There was a lot of political tension and I remember thinking how terrible it would be for some of my friends, particularly those whose very existence these hate groups were targeting.
Aged about 12 or 13, I went to my very first gig. It was at Bingley Live Music Festival and I saw Scroobius Pip who was talking about the BNP and it felt good to hear that this hatred, that almost felt normalised, was being challenged by someone.
From then on, I went on to see tons of live music with friends and family, and I developed a taste for punk. The most pivotal moment, perhaps, was going to a punk gig and hearing all these people chanting “f*** the EDL”. It felt like a real connection, a moment of coming together.
Yes, we were all angry, but we weren’t angry at the person next to us, or at our neighbors or the people who had arrived on our shores in a tiny boat. We were angry with the politicians and the hate groups who were creating the situation and the divide.
As I got older, I learned to play bass and formed a band with some friends. We rehearsed almost every day but we could only actually play two songs over and over. But I listened to more and more music – developing a love of ska punk and rock music. Growing up when I did, we always had music at our fingertips, and we could stream it the second a new song or album was released. But when I was about 19, the vinyl revival hit, and it became a bit of a “hipster” thing to buy vinyl and walk around with one of those little Dansette record players.
So, yes, when I first started taking notice of vinyl, it was the “on-trend” thing to do. I bought a few records because it was cool, but I soon developed an interest in how vinyl could change the way we listen to music.
Today, I have a small but growing collection of vinyl. I certainly don’t buy everything on vinyl – the cost means I have to have a very good reason to invest in it.
With older music, albums that weren’t built for streaming, I enjoy listening on vinyl. It gives me more of a feeling of being able to hear it as it was meant to be heard – or at least of hearing it how everyone else did when it first came out. There are certain bands that I buy on vinyl just because their sound is really suited to it. The Cure are a band I always like to listen to on vinyl because they just sound so good when played that way.
Vinyl is something I might buy when I am keen to listen to a whole album. There are times when I just like the odd song and that’s fine, but when I really appreciate a whole album and can see myself proactively listening to it, rather than passively having it on in the background – like when I’m sitting in the living room or mooching around the house – that’s when I want to have it on vinyl.
Being a fan also plays a part. I absolutely love Florence and the Machine, so as a fan, I like to have a physical copy of their music. It makes me feel like a bigger supporter of their work and more connected to it.
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Vinyl is lovely to receive as a gift – you can’t get excited about someone buying you a couple of download credits in the same way. My friends recently bought me Bo Burnham’s Inside album which I loved getting because we followed his lockdown comedy on Netflix.
And even though we can listen to music online, you can still get the vinyl envy – I know I really want to get my hands on my dad’s old Meatloaf records. And my housemate, Cameron, was given a vinyl copy of Dolly Parton Live From Glastonbury in 2014 which I am insanely jealous of because I watched that gig and it’s probably my favorite live performance of all time.
So it’s not about having vinyl for vinyl’s sake. And it’s not just something that older generations like to have for nostalgia reasons. If younger people wanted to buy vinyl just because it was “the thing to do”, it wouldn’t matter what we bought or how we listened to it. For me, vinyl is a part of my journey into music and my love of music, and it gives me something that streaming doesn’t.
But if that’s considered “cool” then great, so be it.
Rebecca is a writer and theater maker based in Newcastle and co-founder of the theatre/queer collective The House of Love. Her new play by her, We Are The Best! opens at Newcastle’s Live Theater on 26 May. Tickets are available here