As it happened the other day, I was in that recently relocated Amagansett store that sells little more than vinyl records, talking to my friend Carlos Lama, who works there, when a woman walked in with a surprised look on her face.
“People still listen to these?” she asked with a wide grin.
“Yes, they sure do,” the ever-polite Carlos replied. Then under his breath, and to me alone, he whispered, “They all say that.”
Innersleeve Records, as the place is called, appears to be doing solid business. Most of the time when I pass by it appears a couple of people are browsing inside, which is a lot more than you might be able to say about the lonely shops nearby that sell hipster duds or decorative doodads.
Hanging around the store a bit, it seems that the other thing people say a lot is that they had once had a large collection of LPs, but had recently sold them or given them away. As for me, I never divested, but rather stuck most of my collection in the attic, pulling down a few selections, like a favorite Rahsaan Roland Kirk, when I had a turntable up and running.
I’m not going to get all choked up here about how vinyl played on a proper stereo has more soul than compact discs or the dreadful digital formats. I think it sounds better, but for me, truth be told, I think it is more about the fetishistic aspect to handling one’s music more than anything else.
If you think about it, vinyl has a more direct connection with performers anyway, which seems really apparent if you, like me, happen to have an old 78-r.p.m. player. If, for example, we listen to an Enrico Caruso recording, the vibrations in the air that carry the sound of his voice are made as the thin, steel needle rides in the grooves of the disc, which were cut from a master that came from a source that was animated by the singer’s own breath itself.
At no point in the process was “E Lucevan le Stelle” converted into digital zeroes and ones, as with an MP3 file or CD. Even though there are scratches and pops in my old records, I can feel as if the great tenor is there with me. And in a sense, he is.
Do people still listen to these? Yes, they sure do.