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The Helena Arkansas Daily World - Helena, AR
  • Just for the record

  • There's an old saying that goes, “what goes around, comes around.” It couldn't be truer than in the world of music.
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  • There's an old saying that goes, “what goes around, comes around.” It couldn't be truer than in the world of music. I can honestly say that I cut my musical teeth on vinyl. From the 1930s to the 1980s most people listened to their favorite music on the original discs called records. Since that time, musical entertainment has taken many shapes and forms. In the early years, people sat at home around the radio and listened to live performances from the grand ballrooms of New York and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. But Thomas Edison's invention of the phonograph made the most significant and sweeping change in the music industry. When phonographs and records were first manufactured, the radio industry feared its own demise because if people could go out and buy what they wanted to hear and they would no longer tune in their radios. Thus advertising revenue would immediately dry up. That never happened. Recorded music and radio soon became inseparable partners. It didn't take long for the music industry realized that it had no product if it wasn't promoted on radio. So in essence the musical programs became instant on-the-air commercials or promos for musical artists and their would-be latest hits. Recording companies could not live without radio and vice versa. This relationship would become even more important with the dawn of rock and roll music and the ever-increasing popularity of the country music genre. AM radio stations across the nation began playing the Top 40 lists, which were dictated by the amount of airtime they managed to generate on radio as well as across-the-counter sales. Elvis Presley probably did more than any single individual when it came to popularizing music over the airways and on discs. In the 50s music was found in only one configuration – vinyl – but in various forms. These variations included the 45 rpm, which featured two songs – one on the front and another on the “flip side, the extended player (EP), also a 45 but with as many as four songs; and last but not least the long player (LP) that usually consisted of as many as 10 to 12 songs. Originally, LPs were bulky and expensive – a hefty $2.98 compared to the $1 price tag of the single. Even Elvis would put his popular singles on the LP backed by some relatively obscure tunes. During the 60s, The Beatles came along and changed that. While establishing all sorts of records for 45 sales, the Fab Four put together some LPs that were considerably more than simply filler material. As the years progressed, album covers became a work of art and the liner notes on the jackets provided a lot of background information about the artists. People's habits began to change. They became more mobile. Teens were no longer content to sit at home around the record player. They wanted to be out in their car visiting their friends and making the music of the day the soundtrack of their lives. Enter the cassette and 8-track tape decks. The affluent kids wouldn't purchase a vehicle if it didn't have the music option. Eight tracks eventually went the way of the Edsel while cassette tapes hung around somewhat longer. Sweeping changes come about during the 80s with the development of the compact disc. The CDs were compatible on both home players and vehicle CD decks. You no longer had to flip the configuration over in order to hear the entire album– it played straight through. You could also pick out your favorite selections without clumsily trying to lift and place the delicate needle. Storage also was more convenient. You could store twice as many CDs in the same place that it took to occupy LPs. Nevertheless, it seems that vinyl is making somewhat of a comeback racking up $4.6 million in sales in 2012. That figure is still tiny compared to what's sold in the digital world. It's nice to see the interest in vinyl for nostalgia's sake. Some say the records have a richer quality sound and that they were mixed to deliver a balance between vocals and the instrumentation. However, I tend to disagree. CD quality sound comes without the crackling, popping and sometimes skipping problems presented by records. Records also are much tougher to maintain. They collect dust and scratch easily. I have a nice collection of records and it is nice to know as long as there is an interest in them there will be a means to listen to them. I doubt seriously I would ever revert to the days of vinyl. Anyway you listen, John, Paul, George and Ringo sound pretty good in any configuration thank you very much.
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