When the man who may well be the next president of the United States tells parents that their children should have ‘a record player on at night’, you can safely claim that the ‘vinyl revival’ has now been officially validated. This was Joe Biden’s recent urging and you would have to speculate that Joe is a bona fide vinyl freak, with a healthy stash of 45s and LPs lining the walls of his music room at home.
Up until now the recent renaissance of analog record players and the platters needed to keep them spinning has been seen as partly a nostalgia trip, partly a reaction to the Orwellian programming of music dictated by streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music. Yet what might have been viewed as a two or three-year resurgence, is now very much a commercial reality.
New vinyl pressing plants have opened throughout the world, including Australia, and sales of turntables have never been stronger. There are literally hundreds of new turntables on the market ranging from the ultra-cheap suitcase variety to ridiculously expensive audiophile models such as the Derenville VPM 2010-1 which will set you back a staggering US$650,000.
Most vinyl fans would rather have that amount of cash to spend on the records themselves and needless to say the market for second hand and collectable 45s and albums has never been stronger. Many one-time vinyl hoarders regret disposing of their collections 20 or 30 years ago when it seemed the CD would remain supreme.
These days Sydney has a number of thriving record shops that deal almost exclusively in vinyl and record fairs are a regular occurrence. The thrill of crate digging, of coming unexpectedly on some rare or bargain item, drives many collectors. Unfortunately, these days the pickings in this respect are well and truly rare. The internet and sites like Discogs mean everybody has ready access to valuing a record. It’s unlikely you will walk into a Vinnies or a second-hand record shop these days and pull some long lost gem from the racks.
Back in the 70s and 80s however, Sydney was a plentiful hunting ground for record hounds with shops like Ashwoods and Lawsons and some rather unusual sources. In the early 80s, a number of bargain shops in Sydney imported thousands of 45s from the US, obviously bought as a job lot and covering a wide range of genres. If you had the patience and enthusiasm to trawl through what was often a mountain of discs there were some real finds awaiting. Meanwhile, in a dusty Paddington second-hand furniture shop I can remember finding boxes of old US King and Federal 45s with artists like James Brown and Freddy King. How the hell did they get there?
These days people crave portability when it comes to listening to music and obviously smartphones lead the way. One thing that never really caught on in Australia, or the US for that matter, when vinyl was at its peak in the 60s and 70s, was the dashboard 45 player as pictured above with Muhammad Ali. Perhaps it’s just as well. These gadgets had a bad reputation for chewing up your precious platters not to mention the safety aspect of changing the player every two or three minutes whilst driving if you wanted to keep up a constant supply of music.
Practicalities aside, they do look rather cool, if only from a retro perspective. Find a working model today and you will have truly struck gold. It’s not the sort of thing you would now consider in your jalopy but they would make a great novelty item installed anywhere space was at a premium – your toilet perhaps, in a campervan or as a secret obsession from family, friends or flatmates in your bedroom closet.