Thursday 18 July 2019

To vinyl or not to vinyl? This musical conundrum has me in a spin and I’m torn between nostalgia and collecting more 'stuff'

'The trigger to get album shopping came after attending the opening night of Beautiful, the excellent musical at the Bord Gais Theatre which wraps on Saturday. I headed to town to do the deed and invest in vinyl. Round Two'
'The trigger to get album shopping came after attending the opening night of Beautiful, the excellent musical at the Bord Gais Theatre which wraps on Saturday. I headed to town to do the deed and invest in vinyl. Round Two'
Bairbre Power

Bairbre Power

While passing the National Stadium in Dublin last week, I was instantly transported back to a memorable afternoon when I sat out the back on a big metal transport case, chatting with one of my all time music heroes - James Taylor.

His rendition of the Carole King classic, 'You've Got A Friend' was a favourite from my teenage years when the perfect night in involved sitting on the floor beside the record player, lapping up every last detail of the album sleeve, from artwork to credits and lyrics, if you were lucky. I smile when I think of how, as wide-eyed teenagers, we listened non-stop to Tapestry and blasted out those lyrics in 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?' (which Carole wrote with her first husband, Gerry Goffin), little suspecting that her heartache might become ours too down the road.

Going into the interview, I asked the photographer if he would take one photo of me and my hero. Those were the pre-selfie days and all this James Taylor fan wanted was a casual snap with the man whose Mud Slide Slim and the Blue Horizon album I'd played back-to-back for years. I was there to discuss Taylor's latest album, on which the tour was based, and the publicist had gone to great lengths to warn me off one topic: his ex-wife, Carly Simon.

He was perfectly polite and very informative about his latest work, but I could tell by the perfectly-polished soundbyte answers that they had been trotted out before. You wouldn't have to be Miss Marple to work out that he was probably being asked the same questions about the album in every city he visited.

Our conversation took an unexpected twist when a writer from a sister paper got caught in traffic and rang to say she couldn't make her 10 minute slot so I volunteered to ask the templated lifestyle questions for her. You know the type: favourite food, favourite place - that kind of thing.

Well, what a transformation. James really got into it. He was animated and funny and couldn't volunteer enough information about his favourite restaurant in New York where he and his then wife, ballet dancer Kathryn Walker, liked to go.

It was a real eye opener to how people being interviewed can react to being taken off topic (not Carly), especially if they are on a promotional tour and are being asked the same question over and over. I often highlight this when I'm talking to young journalists. That and always trying to meet the interviewee in person, face to face, preferably in their own home if possible because you will inevitably spot something that adds to the tapestry of their life not in the publicist's press release.

Anyway, James continues to be one of my favourite performers and it's thanks to him that I'm flirting with the idea of dipping my toe into the water and collecting vinyl again. Santa brought me a record player for Christmas and it's still in its cardboard while I get my head around this latest chapter in my musical odyssey.

I've had such good times with my records, but in one of our house moves, my box of albums somehow got stored in the garage and didn't react well to the drop in temperatures. Naturally I was annoyed with myself but I didn't think I'd be playing them again. I was more keeping them to show the grandchildren what we got up to way back when. When a big-brother figure moved to Australia, I became the proud owner of a stellar collection of 151 albums and my tastes expanded way beyond my 17 years.

I got into the Traveling Wilburys and loaned out albums with enthusiasm. Big mistake. When it came to our wedding, I handed over a big box of albums to the DJ who sent them back minus Chris De Burgh's Spanish Train. I wasn't sorry. I'd listened to it way too much during the summer of my Leaving Cert.

When I got a tenner instead of an Easter egg, I cycled like the clappers into town and bought Linda Ronstadt's Heart Like A Wheel and Kate and Anna McGarrigle's Dancer With A Bruised Knee. One time I went to fish out The Eagles' Greatest Hits when I headed off to the RDS for a press conference with the band. Oh, the naivety of cub reporters. I actually thought I might get it signed, but they weren't much into talking that day, especially to each other, let alone journos.

Lying in my sick bed over the holidays, I'd plenty of time between coughing fits to compile my top 10 list of albums that I wanted to buy again. After watching way too much Grace and Frankie on Netflix, I perked up when I heard Stealers Wheel's 'Stuck In The Middle With You' was the title theme song. Oh that brought me back. Track two, side one, the soundtrack to studying for the Inter Cert with Gerry Rafferty and Joe Egan. I tried it on guitar and practiced the chords: D, D, G7, D but I was rubbish.

It's been fun compiling my list and yes, it will include some Paul Simon and Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. Of course there will be James Taylor and Carole King, plus the two of them singing Live at the Troubadour from 2010.

The trigger to get album shopping came after attending the opening night of Beautiful, the excellent musical at the Bord Gais Theatre which wraps on Saturday. I headed to town to do the deed and invest in vinyl. Round Two.

For a woman who is trying to downsize (I'm on skip five and charity shop-run nine), should I really be even considering buying into more 'stuff'? Am I mad?

Nostalgia is powerful but let's be practical here. What's this episode going to cost and am I just trying to recreate moments when I was happy? And if so, what's wrong with that? I had four albums and a new stylus in my hand in Tower Records but at the final hurdle, I put on the brakes so it's back to Spotify for the time being.

I'm smitten with the whole 'ritual' of playing records. You slip the album out of its sleeve, give it a dust, have yet another look at the album cover and if it's Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, you'll probably recognise someone new in Sir Peter Blake's artwork. The new record player is not a posh hi-fi stereo system, but it has good speakers and I know just the right spot for it. As for the photo of me and James Taylor shooting the breeze out the back of the National Stadium, would you believe it - the photographer FORGOT to take it!

Irish Independent

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