The Needle and The Damage Done

I believe in karmic justice. And I wont lie; this post came about simply because at 11:40 a.m. like some sort of divine moment the thought came to me that “the needle and the damage done” would make a great title for a blog entry about records that are a little worse for wear due to mistracking, mishandling, etc. And like some sort of karmic justice as I got up off my couch to change side 3 to side four of Radiohead’s 2001 album Amnesiac I placed the needle down on the 10″ record lead in groove and wouldn’t you know it, the needle slid off and landed on my acrylic platter producing the scariest noise ever to a record owner/collector. if I could spell out the sound right now it would be – Skrrrrchchhhhtttjkltch.  I would like to think that the karmic justice was served because my clever idea for a blog entry title is more than likely a title used by many “real” bloggers and music journalists, clever, but probably unoriginal. Or maybe not. Maybe I am that clever. I doubt it. But anyway, I quickly rescued my cartridge from being obliterated by skating against the the platter.

So that does actually lead me to the point of this post. In 2011 my stepmother had passed away and left the planet to a much better place, I imagine spiritually and I also imagine her reincarnated as a cat. She loved cats. With her passing on my father took a while to get his life situated and began his efforts to ultimately move on like most people do when their spouses depart from this world. Being that she was a teenager in the 60’s and I imagine a great time to be a teenager she soaked in the music of the era and she had records. She managed to hang on to her records despite not having a turntable anymore in the late 80’s and beyond as most people, including her, ditched their turntables for cassette players and CD players. Well, I inherited her modest record collection. I would say she owned owned somewhere between 50 – 60 albums… and again like most teenagers during that time she liked both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles..

The bulk of her collection were actually the original US mono releases by “The Stones” which when I brought them home and cleaned I was maybe not too surprised that the albums were well worn. Because, to be fair, it was the 60’s she was a teenager, she probably had a modest turntable and more than likely didn’t really care or know about tracking weight. She bought the music, she played it, it brought her joy and that is all that mattered. It’s funny looking back on my father and step mother’s relationship and marriage. She was all about The Rolling Stones. To her they were a bit more dangerous than the Beatles who were great musicians, but safer and cuter.. I guess.

I don’t really play her records, I house them, and I will keep them in honor of her. She was a great person and treated me well and cared about me. But that leads me to another point. While most collectors who actually take the time to examine the records they’re buying can instantly see a record that is obviously damaged by needles skating across the record, and other crazy mishaps, somethings aren’t so easily identifiable on the surface. Like the quiet neighbor who looks professional and happy when you see him leaving for work he could be quietly falling apart, in debt, or maybe even a serial killer.. Sometimes a record upon visual inspection might look pristine, which is something I fell victim to years ago when I found what looked like a great used copy of John Lennon/Plastic Ono band for $3.00 only to get it home and throw it on my turntable and be subjected to incredibly harsh surface noise over the music contained within the grooves.. Which is the moment I learned about “groove damage”. There is no cure for it. It just happens when people listen to records with their tracking set wrong, or on cartridges that have worn out needles.

Like a lot of aspects of my life I need to change at the moment, one of them, really on the bottom rung of what is really important to me is that I do need to change my cartridge. I’ve been listening to music on the great Ortofon 2M red cartridge for a few years now. I think on average I listen to 10-15 hours of music a week, multiplied by 3 years and there is some math there somewhere. You know what phrase/saying I hate? “You sound like a broken record” broken records don’t repeat themselves.

Some new music reviews coming soon this weekend as well as continuation of “The Vinyl 100” stay tuned!

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