When I was young they were simply called “records”. Only much later, as CDs invaded our world, were they renamed “vinyl records” or simply “vinyl”. Suddenly the old records that we had put away in our attics and basements became something valuable, and soon our children were asking us if we had kept any from the old days, and where had we put them.
Actually for me this revival began a few years ago when my son Afonso was still in high school and I was taking him there in the morning. We usually heard music in the car and I had one of my CDs on, when he handed me his own CD and asked me: “Mom, can you put this on, please?” I said yes; I was curious to see what music he had, and to my absolute surprise I was suddenly hearing the familiar sound of “Rockaway beach” by one of my favourite bands ever, the Ramones! In his turn, he was surprised at my reaction, as I immediately put the music louder and sang enthusiastically, knowing all the lyrics by heart. I explained – after the song had finished, of course – that the Ramones had been a punk rock band I had listened to in the early eighties, one of my favourite bands in fact. I could see he was surprised.
Soon after he was asking me if I had any vinyl records and I said yes. We went down to the basement and retrieved, alongside with the old record player, some of my favourite records, and I smiled at the memories they brought back: here was the Ramones Long Playing record “Rocket to Russia” with the most amazing drawings and crazy lyrics; a selection of the Beatles’ hits, that I had bought during a Beatles’ revival in 1977; the Bee Gees’ “Spirits Having Flown”; the Dire Straits’ “Making movies“, Elton John, Pink Floyd’s “The Dark Side of the Moon“…and of course the unforgettable ” Hotel California“, featuring a beautiful photo of what we supposed was the hotel, but that most of all included the mysterious lyrics….that incredibly, after forty years I still know by heart!
A few years later I came home one day to find someone was listening to the Beatles. The sound was coming from my younger son Pedro’s room and as I opened the door I saw that the record player had changed places and was now in his room together with the records. When he saw me he smiled and told me: “Afonso did not care about them anymore so I have “inherited” them”. And he went on to ask all sorts of questions about the Beatles, what songs I heard when I was young, which were my favourites…while listening to “She loves you, yeah, yeah…she loves you”. And from then on it became a habit – I would come home and listen to some of the favourite songs of my youth that my son was listening to before going to his training. Of course this brought back many memories that I shared with him, about “garage” parties, about how we had to wait for a few seconds while disc jockeys (“Mom, what is that?! DJs!!!!”) changed records, and how convenient this was when we were dancing slow music and wanted to get rid of our partner…of course this was an alien concept to him, as now they don’t play slow music at the discos they go to…
Some time later I learned that music producers are making vinyl records – and record players – again. How incredible, I thought – all the arguments used for making them disappear have suddenly vanished, such as the sound quality, the size…it is a fact that CDs could never have the magic of vinyl.
I pick up “Hotel California”. I look at my old signature, back in April 1978. I can still see the price tag – 287 escudos (the Portuguese currency then), little more than one euro, but of course it meant so much more then, as records were not cheap and we had to save in order to buy them. Finally, I go through the lyrics and especially the last verses that we found so intriguing:
Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
“Relax” said the night man
“We are programmed to receive
“You can check out any time you like
“But you can never leave”.
Ah, I think – if only we could always find the passage back to the place we were before.