Saturday, 13 November 2010

return of the turntable

*disclaimer - unless you have had an enduring love for a turntable and the playing of vinyl records then this is probably a very dull post and best avoided.

once upon a time a owned a michell hydraulic reference turntable, a beautiful thing even if was a mirrored green in finish. stuff happened and i sold it, sort of, to my friend euan for a song in order, as he said, to buy 'other things' but wiht a long term understanding that one day i'd be getting it back. quite when that was wasn't specified and he always refused to commit saying that the extra time was justified so that, as he said. it could ' be a lesson for me'.

later i got myself an even more beautiful oracle delphi mark II. it was a nightmare to set up and even more fiddly to work than the michell but sooooo lovely to look at that when the divine s, with whom i lived at the time, changed status from partner to best friend (albeit with a hiatus of not really being very able to tolerate each other), she couldn;t bear to be parted from it and to this day occasionally taunts me with her possession of it (along with the vile music she plays on it).

in the interim i got some sort of thorens, easily the worst turntable i've ever owned. as i was into electronic music at the time it didn't seem to matter even if, as it turned out, i stopped listening to vinyl altogether. it gave up the ghost a couple of years ago and has sat, taunting me with its non-function and generally acting as an expensive and useless shelf.

which brings us up to the present. euan is now dead and i'd kind of thought that both the turntable and the records would fall to me. certainly when he died the first thing i did, aside from the blubbing, was go and listen to lots of music that we used to listen together. all very sad. but no turntable. and no vinyl. those went to his brother, the kaiser.

now the kaiser is a man with baggage, to put it mildly. at the same time he's my oldest friend and has easily earned the right to be the biggest - something between arse and galoot but with a completely contrary dose of affection - i know and get away with it, a right he exercises frequently and with gusto. but i love him with the same frustrated tolerance i would a brother so that's that.

anyway, recently he's being having the michell refurbished. he thinks it's a gyrodec (there's one on the cover of that morcheeba album he tells me. big calm, i say. hate it) and who am i to tell him differently? so, kindly, he's offered me his old linn (for money obviously, there's no giving of things in the lexicon of the kaiser). of course there's needle there. i always used to say i'd never have a linn in the house, back when such things made a difference (the pre-thorens days). and there was always the issue that the kaiser's stereo equipment, of which he made much, was the aural equivalent of a ford mondeo. and kind of still is. me, i've given up on all of that, even to the point of the linn. but, we're still who we are!

which is why we spent a very pleasant afternoon, despite the undercurrents (offering to sell me his dead brother's big black records. to me! the wrongness! but only if they were worth something mind. otherwise he's keeping them despite not liking them. a buffoon of a man!), along with geo, listening to old music, at an age now where we're too lazy to demand we make the choices. for two of us at least, and maybe, just maybe, for the kaiser, it was just a bit sublime.

and then back to the house where today i rejigged the bits, set up the linn (oh gods of sterophilia look away now) and settled down for an evening of vinyl listening at my gentlemanly ease (t being away for the night). i'm not saying vinyl sounds better, certainly not with what's left of my hearing, but really, it kind of does. if you like mp3s well there's really no talking about the notion of sound quality and cds, even allowing for things like hearing and system deficits there's still that tactile thing that is the physical fact of 12 inches of vinyl. proper, heavy in the hand and, because you've got to turn the thing over, it's not something you just have in the background. you have to stop a bit. listen. and that's kind of wonderful.

so what did i listen to? these -

my life in the bush of ghosts - david byrne and brian eno
speaking in tongues - talking heads
satyricon - meat beat manifesto
sandwiches - the detroit grand pu bahs
automatic - the jesus and mary chain
nico and the faction - camera obscura
beethoven's concerto no 5 in e-flat - allegro - boston symphony feat artur rubinstein

and then t came back. 'did you have a nice time?' she asked. 'listening to your old records?'
yes, i said, yes i did. and i had.


Rachel Fox said...

A short story this post is. Said Yoda.

Marion McCready said...

you're right, my eyes had glazed over by the time I got to the michell hydraulic blah

swiss said...

yes, it does go on a bit. but i did put up a warning!

Anonymous said...

i love this!

swiss said...

and you'd be even more pleased with the amount of relistening to tom waits i'm doing!

Dominic Rivron said...

Go on a bit? I was rivetted. But then I've a NAD downstairs, a Garrard Zero100SB upstairs (and a lidless Pioneer I was given in the attic).

Last few records listened to?

Beethoven's Archduke Trio
Lucky Thompson featuring Oscar Pettiford
Weather Report I Sing the Body Electric
John Williams Plays Barrios

swiss said...

john williams? i haven't heard him in an age. i need to put that right!

i did have a lovely nad for years but it finally gave up the ghost just recently. the amp i got to replace it is fine but is sorely lacking in inputs. it does sound great tho!

i guess what i was trying to get at in this post was something of the blokiness of turntable/hi-fi/vinyl/muso obsessives. but, having said that, once i got her to have a listen t also agreed that there was something different 'an expansiveness' she said, in the sound quality of the vinyl so that rather than have the background noise of cd or mp3 sitting down to vinyl was an actual listening experience.

so it's been kind of an autumn, stay in, get the real fire on, crank the turntable up kind of a week. which has been great!

Dominic Rivron said...

Talking of cranking turntables, dad and I made my first turntable out of meccano. It worked, with the help of a paper cone, the tip of which had a pin stuck through it as a stylus. The next door neighbour gave us two 45s to play on it - i remember there was 7 little girls sitting in the back seat and the bubble car song.

swiss said...

now that i'd like to see! setting up a tone arm represents the far limits of ability for me!