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Sixty-Something: When Your Vinyl Record Collection Defined You

T.J. Clemente

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It was your selection of songs to be the soundtrack of your life. (Photo: TJ Clemente)

If you are sixty-something, you once had your own personal vinyl record collection. It was your selection of songs to be the soundtrack of your life. In that collection were your albums with those special songs; the songs you played when you were about to fall in love, when you were in love, when your love was ebbing and then when your love was lost forever. To this day I hear songs that instantly take me back to a specific moment in my life such as my first date, my first PAK (Pelham Association of Kids) dance, or days and events in my college years. Some even remind me of certain people.

I spent hours reading the album jackets over and over to see the lyrics, to see who played on the recordings, where the recordings were made. I read all sorts of other trivia as the vinyl recordings spun on the record player. We had a record player that was sort of furniture. It opened and had the turntable mounted with a tone knob, volume nob, and a left and right speaker nob. It also had three speeds 33rpm (revolutions per minute), 45rpm and 78rpm. I was proud of the record player, because it replaced the original one that was more of a small suitcase of a thing that only had one speaker and was moved all over the house. When I was younger and my older brother and sister had those small 45's record collections that they kept in those small boxes specifically sized to fit 45 records; I practically never purchased a 45, I owned whole record albums! I kept them in my room, they were almost like pets.

Back in the 1960's buying an album when it first was issued was huge. I actually waited on line to buy The Doors second album, Strange Days, at Caruso's Music Shop in New Rochelle. I know my own first record album was Meet the Beatles and I was in 3rd grade. I knew every song by heart as did everyone at OLPH (Our Lady of Perpetual Help) and we sang them in groups in the parking lot before we lined up to enter the building. Billy Lyons even had a Beatles wig!

The album cover art was sort of an evolving phenomenon. I am sure so many of us sixty-somethings can identify many albums by just seeing the covers from 20 feet away. King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King was such an album cover as were all of Cat Stevens' early albums. Everyone remembers trying to figure out all the faces on The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's album, but back then I was so young I didn't know who most of those folks were. There was always excitement peeling the clear plastic off the album to see what goodies might be in the packaging or album jacket. I still somehow have the photos included in The Beatles' White Album.

Now when I went to visit friends at their homes one of the first things they would proudly show me would be their record collection. Their prized album would be played first as I would look through their album collection. A collection would say a lot. I remember specifically being disappointed when a girl I thought I liked had Karen Carpenter records, lots of them. Occasionally if my friend came from a family of six or seven kids (back in my day a big family started after five kids), sometimes the combined record collections of their whole family had almost everything! Certain albums were not to be played or their older brothers or sisters would do bodily harm to us. My favorite album was the first Doors album that had the long version of Light My Fire on it. Crosby, Stills & Nash's first album came out my junior year of high school, and had a profound effect on me. Sadly I spent way too many nights alone back then listening to Cat Stevens!

Sadly technology and moving around was the demise of my record collection. People borrowed some, my brothers pilfered others (Hey Jimmy please someday return, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars!) and finally all were lost to CD's, cassette tapes, and now downloads. However my wife Cindi still has a good part of hers, and we now once again own a retro record player.

I still listen to new music and when Adele released her album 25 all be it in downloads, she had a song she wrote and sings titled, When We Were Young, which I find strange since she is 25-years-old!

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Guest (Arline Gidion) from East Hampton, New York 11937 says::
Hello TJ Calmente: Good article, I used to do Packaging and Pre-Production for Atlantic Records, 28 years. I worked my way up to Vice-President of ....once you are in a specific department that is where your education lies and your relationships mean something. I worked on those album covers with in house designers, outside designers, designers from Europe, we compiled all the credits on the packaging, album covers, then CD's, cassettes, 8 tracks..My department was responsible for scheduling the music when it was finished, to working with designers, color separations (film), printers who printed the packaging up to the manufacturer who put it all together and sent it out to the record distributors on their way to the record stores. Now there are no more record stores and there is no more A & R, Record Companies depend on You tube and how many hits an artist might get. No more hanging out at clubs hoping to find the next Meatloaf or Jimi Hendrix or Prince. Anyway, it was very nice reading your article, brought me back to when album jackets were important to people..thank you. Arline Gidion 11937
Dec 15, 2017 9:13 pm

Guest (Donna) from Ridge says::
Thank god we have wonderful memories of a simpler time no hi tech turn it on dance with your sweetie good feeling thanks for sharing
Dec 15, 2017 8:56 am


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