Rummaging through the contents of the spare room in an effort to clear out some of the superfluous bric-à-brac accumulated over the years I found an unmarked box. On opening it turned out to be a box of LPs, long unplayed. The discovery released a wave of nostalgia for a time long gone. I didn’t have to play any of the records to bring back memories, just a glance at their covers was enough. The majority of them were bought during a period stretching from my mid-teens to my mid-twenties.
As a teenager, I was never one of those who walked around with an album tucked under their arm, I never really saw the point. What was it for? To show off your, undoubtedly cool, taste in music; the fact that you could afford to buy the latest release; or perhaps to demonstrate your tribal affiliation? I mainly kept my music at home. What was the point of taking any of my records over to a friend’s house when they were sure to share my tastes and own the same ones that I had?
There was another box, behind the first one, containing the balance of my collection, I opened it too. I flicked through perhaps twenty years of purchases. Most I remembered as old friends although there were a few that I had no memory of at all.
Looking at the two boxes I was astounded by the number. Records, rows and rows of records. Most people of a certain age have a box or two of records stashed away somewhere. Few play them anymore, few even have a record player. Records can tell you a lot about a person, about their taste, their background, and their age.
That first record bought, it’s a rite of passage. It maintains a special place in one’s heart, regardless of quality or merit. Later purchases may show a greater discernment but that first one is the special one.
A record is not just a record, it’s a measure of one’s life. A diary in musical form. From the earliest purchase when still too young to know what you were buying; through the purchases made when first dating, the ones you’d hope would impress the opposite sex; to the purchases of young adulthood, when sure of the elegance of your taste; all tell the story of your life lived so far. At some point these purchases become a rare occurrence, perhaps with the advent of family, and eventually for most, fizzle out.
But still you keep those boxes of old records, treasuring them although rarely, if ever, playing them. There are those few who do still play their records. For many it turns into a ritualistic experience. First, clean the stylus in preparation for the actual playing; second, lovingly remove the record from its sleeve; third, clean the surface of the record before placing it on the turntable; finally, start the record turning and gently lower the stylus onto the groove. Listening to the music itself can be secondary to the ritual of preparation but still has rules of its own.
All that’s behind me now, I no longer have the means to play them and I’m not sure that I would want to, anyway. The nostalgia is enough for me. Carefully, I resealed both boxes, and restored them to their resting places among the junk that will never be jettisoned from my life. Perhaps, in a few more years, I will revisit them but until then I’ll let them rest in peace.
Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink December 6th writing prompt competition.