Today is an important day in history for all lovers of vinyl records. On this day in 1878, Thomas Edison patented the phonograph and unwittingly created the “record business” as we know it today.
Previous inventions had succeeded in recording sound, but Edison’s phonograph was the first device to be able to reproduce sounds. The original phonograph recorded sounds onto a tinfoil cylinder, and could both record and reproduce sounds. In the 1880s, Alexander Graham Bell made improvements on Edison’s original phonograph by introducing the use of wax-coated cardboard cylinders, and a cutting stylus that moved in a “zig zag” pattern across the record. It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that Emile Berliner introduced gramophone records: flat, double-sided discs with spiral grooves, the early ancestors to today’s vinyl records.
The vinyl record dominated the market of recorded music until the mid-1960s when 8-track tapes were introduced to the public. These would be followed by cassette tapes and eventually compact discs, which almost succeeded in eradicating vinyl records all together but luckily hip hop DJs and turntable enthusiasts kept the vinyl market alive until today, when we’re seeing a resurgence in vinyl production and consumption. Part may be due to nostalgia but many argue that digital formats like CDs and mp3s are unable to recreate the “warmth” that vinyl gives to a recorded piece of music.
I know for me personally, my favorite songs always sound better on vinyl, pops and hisses aside. I admit that part of this is nostalgia and the fact that putting a piece of vinyl on a turntable somehow makes that music seem more special than something I double-click in iTunes. There’s a ritual involved and a sense of tangibility that will never exist with digital files.
So, in honor of the record, I’m featuring some events that center either around vinyl itself, famous record labels, classic albums that are synonymous with vinyl or styles of music that rely heavily on vinyl.
And, be sure to thank Edison for all the great recorded music we’ve enjoyed for the last 136 years.
Friday, February 21 I Respect Yourself Screening and Book Signing with Author Robert Gordon – Atlanta, Georgia
Some of my favorite records to spin on a Saturday night are old Stax Records sides like Otis Redding’s Live In Europe or any of the amazing records by Booker T. and the MG’s, Stax’s house band.
At this event in Atlanta, music historian and Memphis native Robert Gordon will be signing copies of his book Respect Yourself after a screening of the documentary with the same name about Stax Records. The book tells the story of a white brother and sister who build a record company that becomes a monument to racial harmony in 1960’s segregated south Memphis. Stax defined an international sound and their story is loaded with epic heroes in a shady industry. It’s about music and musicians–Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Wilson Pickett, the Staple Singers, and Booker T. and the M.G.’s and the legendary sound that they helped forge.
After the screening Gordon further discusses his work with The Bitter Southerner‘s Editor-in-Chief Chuck Reece and resident “soulologist” Nelson Ross.
Saturday, February 22 I Classic Vinyl Listening Club- The Rolling Stones Aftermath – Kittery, Maine
Following in the footsteps of The Dance Hall’s hit fall event: The Vintage & Vinyl Listening Club, writer Steve Morse returns for a vinyl listening event featuring the Rolling Stones classic 1966 album Aftermath. Joining Steve is Boston deejay John Laurenti.
“The Rolling Stones have made countless albums, but to me the very best is Aftermath from 1966. It’s the crowning achievement of Brian Jones’s work with the band, as he not only plays guitar but also sitar, hammered dulcimer, mandolin and vibes for otherworldly effects. It’s a psychedelic classic with memorable tunes such as ‘Paint It, Black,’ ‘Lady Jane’ and ‘Under My Thumb,’ but also under-appreciated nuggets like ‘Flight 505,’ ‘High and Dry,’ and ‘It’s not Easy.’ Plus, there’s the 11-minute space odyssey of ‘Goin’ Home,’ a tale of seduction with Mick Jagger in full flight. Some Stones fans point to the later Exile on Main St. as their best album, but I’ll take Aftermath. I’m looking forward to hearing it again and talking about it.” – Steve Morse
Saturday, February 22 I Goat Farm Presents | Live to Lathe – Atlanta, Georgia
The centerpiece, a limited edition lathe cut single release, is the result of a collaboration between Atlanta’s folk super group Book Club, artist Molly Rose Freeman (The Creatives Project Artist-in-Studio Resident), Straw Hat Press, The Cottage as well as Bang! Arts.
Patrons will be able to experience a long set of music from Book Club and will also get the chance to witness the construction of a 7″ single from cut plastic to handmade front and back covers. Molly Rose Freeman will live paint a piece that will then be broken into 30 7″ original pieces of art. Print Masters Straw Hat Press will live- screen print the back cover, as well as exhibit work from the artists that they contract work for, including Jason Kofke and Nikita Gale. The Cottage, East Atlanta’s “most delicious” recording studio and venue will provide the sound engineering for the evening. And last but not least, local mad music scientist Thomas Barnwell will lathe cut plastic into 7-inch squares.
Thursday, February 27 I Beats and Brew – San Francisco, California
Vinyl lovers owe a lot to the hip hop scene of the 80’s and 90’s for keeping vinyl alive when CD’s were trying to take over the market. Not only were DJ’s unearthing incredible slabs of vinyl to sample but they were also helping to move turntable technology forward. While many thought that scratchers were ruining records, they were in fact breathing new life into the format and ensuring its survival.
So, if you’re in the Bay Area and always had an interest in DJ’ing, you’re in luck. The Children’s Creativity Museum (CCM) is hosting an adult-only event and fundraiser where guests are invited to meet Today’s Future Sound (TFS), participate in multiple beat-making sessions and receive hands-on DJ lessons! All this while enjoying light hors d’oeuvres, drinks and networking at the museum!
Proceeds from this unique nightlife experience will support two important non-profit organizations: CCM and TFS. Admission tickets include one free drink.