When I was a kid, we had an old-fashioned record player. Even then, vinyl records were obsolete. Cassettes ruled the music industry, but would very soon be surpassed by CD’s. I remember when stores stopped selling cassette tapes. My dad remembers when cassettes replaced 8-tracks and when 8-tracks replaced vinyl records. Today, digital downloads and streaming services are taking over. I still buy CD’s. The quality is the best offered on today’s market. But I almost never listen to them. I rip them onto my computer and load the songs to my MP3 player. It’s easy and portable – I carry dozens of albums in one device that’s smaller than a deck of cards. The CD’s themselves sit on a shelf and get dusted once a month.
But, somehow, I still have a soft spot for vinyl records. I don’t really know why. Nostalgia probably. Good memories of listening to them as a little kid. But it’s something more than that. I don’t know how to describe it. A record is something tangible, a work of art that you can hold in your hands. Listening to a record is a purposeful thing, a conscious act. Choosing a record, setting the needle, and getting lost in another world. Putting an actual CD in a boombox offers a similar experience, but it’s still not quite the same. Others say I’m crazy. That digital is the only way to go. Vinyl is too expensive and cumbersome. But is convenience really the only consideration? Sometimes the experience is the point.
That old record player is long since gone. It’s no great loss – its only value was sentimental. It was never a real high-quality player. Someday I will replace it with a better one. And some first-rate speakers. Someday when I have my own permanent place. I’m already carting boxes of books around, I don’t need crates of records too. Until then, I will hold my dreams in a special place in my heart. I can see it now. The husband and kids gathered around in the evening. One reading a book, a couple playing with toys on the floor, that one coloring pictures, this one doing homework. My other half playing with the kids or helping one with homework or reading a book. I’m in the next room washing the supper dishes or maybe a couple of the kids are. Maybe I have time to do something I like – knitting or reading a book. And a record from my extensive collection playing in the background. Someday.
Music is something magical. The universal language, we call it. An apt description. Whether the lyrics are in our language or not, music has the power to move us like nothing else can. Joy, sadness, triumph, despair, love – the right melody can make us feel any one of these emotions or countless others. It’s an astonishing thing. The great ones will live on long after their singers and writers are gone. It’s the closest we humans can come to immortality. One such song that touches me and that I feel will stand as a classic for many more years is Dobie Gray’s Drift Away.
A bluesy soft rock track with a hint of country, I fell in love with Drift Away the first time I heard it and I only love it more each time. I like to call it my “happy song” because it never fails to make me smile. Drift Away is everything I love about music. A simple melody, catchy beat, excellent vocals, and the blues/rock/country sound is my absolute favorite. And just listen to the lyrics. Lines like “You know a melody can move me;” “When I’m feeling blue, the guitar’s coming through to soothe me;” “Give me the beat boys;” and “I wanna get lost in your rock and roll.” I mean, come on, this song could’ve been written specifically for me. It’s my musical creed, summed up in one awesome song.
I still remember the first time my kid sister heard Drift Away. With our age gap, it’s no wonder we have vastly different tastes in music. At the time, she was into tween bubblegum pop almost exclusively and I was the cool hipster wannabe with my classic rock and my obsession with vinyl records. (I still love rock and vinyl, mind you, but I long ago gave up on trying to be cool.) Anyway, I had my music playing and she was poking fun at it. Pretty par for the course. Not that I didn’t return the favor every chance I got.
Then Drift Away came on. About halfway through I noticed she was quiet. She was smiling and kinda swaying to the music. She stopped when she caught me looking at her. “What? So that one’s not as bad as the rest,” she says somewhat sheepishly. I just grinned and didn’t say anything. I didn’t need to. She had felt the magic of a great song – the kind that you can get lost in and forget about reality for a few minutes. And that, I believe, was the beginning of the end of tween pop’s dominance in my sister’s world. Because once you’ve found the real magic of music, you can’t go back to the knock-offs.