By Bernie Schmitt
I had nearly forgotten the scratchy sounds of a needle gliding along a spinning vinyl record.
A couple of weeks ago, my son-in-law bought a large box full of old vinyl albums for his daughter at a local yard sale. She selected a few titles, but wasn’t interested in the rest. So I started to thumb through them, one by one, like I used to do at record stores in the ‘70s.
Some of the album covers are faded, yet they still provide big pictures and on some, colorful and intricate artwork that provides one with minutes of enjoyable viewing pleasure before, and during, the listening of the album.
It has been years since I’ve played, or listened to, an old-fashioned record. Come to find out, of course, vinyl albums are making a come-back, and for young people like my granddaughter, it’s the cool thing these days, along with plucking away at an old typewriter.
The last time I played vinyl on a turntable was in the mid-1980s. We packed our LPs away in the basement where they remain, standing tall on a shelf in the dark. My cassette tape collection held sway for a time, but eventually gave way to compact discs. I have an MP3 player, but I’ve never bought music from iTunes and I don’t have a fancy phone to download digital music.
So when this box full of albums appeared one Saturday, I was enthralled. Not only are records a reminder of my youth, but this little collection contains an eclectic mix of artists and genres. I was like a kid in a candy (uh, record) store. I had struck gold.
Some of what I found include:
A pristine copy of Rod Stewart’s classic “Every Picture Tells a Story,” the classic edition. Yeah, the one with “Maggie May” on it. I once had a copy, back in the day. Now I have another.
A couple of Conway Twitty albums, “Linda On My Mind,” and “Play, Guitar Play,” the latter a 1976 beauty featuring larger-than-life photos of Conway, with that beautiful pompadour and lengthy sideburns that show only a touch of gray. It includes a version of “Some Kind of Wonderful,” a John Ellison song made famous by Grand Funk Railroad in 1974. Can’t wait to hear Conway’s version.
A number of Christmas albums, “Christmas with Buck Owens and his Buckaroos;” “Winter Wonderland” by The Mexicali Brass; “Holiday Sing Along with Mitch” by Mitch Miller and the Gang (song sheet lyrics included!); and “A Very Merry Christmas,” a selection of tunes sung by artists such as Johnny Mathis, Patti Page, Jimmy Dean, Mike Douglas, Jimmy Rodgers, and Ray Conniff — produced exclusively for W.T. Grants, a popular department store chain that died in 1976.
A most interesting 1966 recording titled “East of Suez,” by 101 Strings, which is a collection of spacey, jazzy music with songs like “Baghdad,” “In a Persian Market,” “Moonlight on the Taj Mahal” and “Dance from ‘Prince Igor.’” A hit-maker, I’m sure.
There’s a cool Patti Page album titled “Today My Way,” on which she covers “Gentle on My Mind,” one of my favorites, as well as “Cant’ Take My Eyes Off of You,” and “There Goes My Everything.”
One of the first of the Johnny Cash hits albums looks as if it has never seen a turntable needle. It’s Johnny and the Tennessee Two on this “Original Golden Hits Volume I” record, a wonderful find. There are a couple more, one an early recording that contains the Dylan-penned “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright.” It’s Johnny Cash. Enough said.
Leon Russell’s “Carney” album from 1972. Remember him? It features his first hit song “Tight Rope.”
A 1973 comedy album by the late, great George Carlin titled “Occupation: Foole.”
“Dancing Violins,” by Rudy Risavy and his Dancing Violins. It was released on Telefunken Records and it’s to be played “only on stereophonic equipment.”
The soundtrack from the 1963 motion picture “Charade” starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Music composed and conducted by Henry Mancini.
“By popular Dee-Mand: Lenny Dee,” which is a recording of “organ solos with a chorus and orchestra.”
A 1974 album by Barbra Streisand titled “ButterFly.” The album cover is white, and features a photo of a fly sitting on a stick of butter. Go figure. It was the ‘70s.
Floyd Cramer’s 1962 recording of “I Remember Hank Williams.” Yep. All of Hank’s songs are there, including “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” via piano.
A Capitol Record Club release of “Love Letters” by The Lettermen, the popular trio that started in 1959 and continued for many years thereafter. They are known for such hits as “Theme from A Summer Place,” “Love Letters in the Sand,” and “I Only Have Eyes for You,” all of which are featured on this recording.
A couple of Red Sovine albums, including the famed “Phantom 309,” and “Giddy-up Go.” Classic.
The creme de la creme, however, is “Diana Ross presents The Jackson Five,” the 1969 debut album of the five brothers from Gary, Indiana, who became an instant sensation with the help of Barry Gordy and his Motown machine. Michael Jackson, who later became a superstar, was only 11 years old. The album cover is worn, and the record has seen better days, but it still plays and is a prize among record collectors.
I searched for our old turntable, thinking that we stashed it away like our old vinyl albums. Apparently we had gotten rid of it at some point, but I just don’t remember. So I played a few of these gems on my granddaughter’s small, retro-styled record player, in mono. It was kind of like the old days, before we played our music in stereo.
I guess I’ll have to get another turntable and start playing vinyl again. I’ll be getting with the times, once again. I just hope we don’t go back to eight-tracks.