Ask any record store veteran around my age when we hit peak vinyl, and he or she will probably say 1985-87. My personal pick is 1985, as by the middle of the Reagan Decade kids had moved mostly to cassettes and grown-ups were buying CDs. By the end of 1988, the LP bin in the store where I was working was about the size of a fairly decent personal collection. It was tucked in the back corner of the store, and CD bins had taken over the rest of the floor space. This was the era of the CD long box, after all, so there was no need for new fixtures. Speaking of fixtures: The tape wall ran the length of the store, minus a window.
None of us were surprised. We’d lived through the death of 8-tracks, which was quick and bloody, so we were a bunch of jaded old showgirls. Most of us were dreaming of cutout bin bargains similar to those of the great 8-track massacre.
But this wave of peak vinyl, if we are indeed there again, is different. This time around people aren’t buying vinyl because it’s the dominant format for consuming music. It’s about other things: identity, nostalgia, audio fidelity, speculation/investment, and myriad other reasons. In some ways that feels like a less solid foundation upon which to build a vinyl record industry, and in others it seems more stable. We don’t have to worry about records being obsolete this time around, after all. They already are, in a practical sense.
Maybe this time records are here to stay and maybe not. Regardless, we’ll always have songs about records. Here are a few:
“Big Ten Inch Record,” Bull Moose Jackson.
“You Spin Me (Like A Record),” Dead or Alive.
“Old Records Never Die,” Ian Hunter.
“Pump Up the Volume,” M/A/R/R/S.
“Can’t Stand Losing You,” The Police.
“45 RPM,” The Alarm.
“Hit Single,” Joe Jackson.
“Surrender,” Cheap Trick.
There you have it: Eight records that are either explicitly about records, pun on records, or name check records. What did I miss? I’m listening.