Friday, April 23, 2021

Take Those Old Records Off The Shelf

Continuing with my theme in this month's A-Z Blog Challenge. We are on the home stretch people-whoohoo!  

T is for Tunes

Let's talk music. Or rather how we listen to music because writing about it made me feel almost ancient. 

When I was a child my sister and I had a record player in our room. It played one record at a time and you had to lift the arm, which held the needle, and place it ever so gently on the edge of the album while the album was turning. Voila! Music! 

Also a little static-y white noise but we didn't care. We had music in our very own bedroom.

The albums had ridges in them to indicate where one song ended and the next began and if you wanted to skip a song you would try your best to land that needle right on the ridge. Sometimes you let go of the arm a little too quickly and it would skid across the record and leave a nice big scratch. Or a skip as we used to call it, as in 'This record has a skip in it'. 

I feel like I'm speaking Hungarian to the under 30's reading here today. 

I remember when my older sister got her first stereo which was very exciting!! You loaded the record onto the stereo and the stereo gently dropped the album into place and then gently dropped the arm with the needle too, so less mishaps, less scratches. This was 1960's technology at it's finest and we were there for it. 

Stereos were not small. In fact you could purchase a piece of furniture with a stereo inside, but my sister's sat on a stereo cabinet in her room. It had space to store the albums in the two door cabinet below and was part of her bedroom set-canopy bed, desk, dresser, stereo cabinet. She was a few years older than my younger sister and I and a teenager when we were still in grade school. She would let us come in her room and dance on her bed. Did my mom know? We didn't care, we loved it!!

Besides albums we had 45's. 45 stood for speed as opposed to 33s and 78s. 45s were small records with an A side and a B side, and in general the song on the B side was not as good as the song on the A side. You wore out the A side, but rarely played the B. When my kids discovered our albums they were fascinated at the idea of flipping a record over to hear music on the back. You couldn't do that with a CD now, could you?

In order to play a 45 you needed a plastic disc device (called a spider ) to click into place in the record's center so the 45 would fit on the stereo. Today we'd probably call it an adaptor. We had a little box to store our 45's and it was great fun to look through and choose a song. Then you went through all the rigamarole to get it to play and it was magic. 

When I was growing up there was no video so the only way you really knew what a band looked like, unless you saw them in concert, was via their album. Getting a new album was like opening a new book. The sleeves often had the bands picture on front or maybe inside, but sometimes they just had artwork and you were left wondering. Psychedelic artwork because it was the 60's/70's. 

My favorite were the albums whose insert included all the song lyrics because in 1970 something you couldn't google song lyrics. Or ask Siri. Or Alexa. Instead you just sang what you thought you heard until someone corrected you. We would play a song over and over and over trying to figure out a particular line and we spent a lot of time listening to music. Not doing other things while listening to music, but listening for the sake of listening. Playing records was an experience. 

When I was in high school I got an 8-track cassette player. I would tell you 8-tracks were about the size of a VHS tape, except again Hungarian. Suffice it to say they were large but you just popped them in to the player and hit play and that was pretty simple. The sound wasn't all that great, and they didn't hang around long, because cassettes entered our world and we thought we'd won the lottery. 

We bought our favorite bands. We made mix tapes. We tried to record from the radio. We had to rewind and sometimes the player was overly zealous and you'd have to take a pencil and put it into the little holes and rewind all the tape that had escaped by hand. You have to admit we were resourceful if nothing else. 

When cars added cassette players as a feature we were over the moon. We could listen to our own music instead of the radio which, prior to, was our only option. And if you were in the car with your dad you were generally not in charge of the radio. ahem. 

The early 80's brought the walkman, which was a portable cassette player. People literally walked around carrying a cassette player with headphones attached. Not tiny little light weight super comfortable air buds mind you, but actual headphones. Like pilots wear. We were cool. 

I remember the first time I heard a CD played. My brother was always ahead of his time music wise and he demonstrated the CD for me. There was nary a crackle and it was completely amazing. Hubs once had a company car with a five disc changer in the trunk and we thought that was the best thing ever. At the time it was, music wise. Course you had to load it before you drove anywhere, but still you could listen to five discs in a row without stopping. 

True story. I still listen to CD's in my car. I know they are no longer even putting CD players in cars but mine has one and I jam to my favorites. I also have been known to ask the librarian where the 'books on tape' are and she looks at me like I have two heads but old habits die hard. 

Today we hold our music in our hands, take it everywhere we go, never have to wonder who sang what song, what that lyric actually says and what the artist meant by it, or what year the song was written. And I'm just going to say we are missing out on so many great conversations about all of the above. 

In 2021 we have Sonos and Sirius, Pandora and Alexa, Spotify and iTunes. We shout into the universe and a song floats into our airspace. My 18-month old grandson can call on Alexa to play Baby Shark and there it is. Play it again. Again. Alexa again. We no longer have to hold a button down to rewind, oops went to far, hold it down to fast forward, oops went too far...if you lived it you know. 

We love music in our house and we listen to music in all the ways mentioned above. But we still have a stereo set up too. Hubs is not a DJ, but he plays one at home, and sometimes we pull out our old albums and we don't care that the sound is less than crystal clear. We love the memories they evoke, the nostalgia they stir up, the songs of our youth. 

"Call me a relic, call me what you will... Say I'm old fashioned, say I'm over the's music ain't got the same soul...I like that old time rock and roll." Bob Seeger, 1978


  1. I wonder how many of us after reading this post asked Alexa to play a little "old time rock n roll"...I know I did! Love Bob Seger! Fun trip down memory lane!

  2. Amen to that last!! This was a fun post, Joyce. Record player days. Stereo furniture. Yes, I knew it all well. Those really were "the days"! xo

  3. Exactly the same way as me ! Only when I was 13 I didn't understand English only when it was written so I really loved the music and the words were Greek to me ! When finally I started my first job as a translator in an American company and understood the first records of Elvis, etc ! I had to laugh because most of the texts were so stupid ! But still I love the old and still young music !

  4. The first summer that I had a job I earned $75 for the whole summer. I spent $50 on a stereo and my dad was furious! But I was in heaven. That stereo was what my husband and I listened to music on for several years after we were married. One of the best investments I ever made! (My dad would still disagree!)

  5. I think I'm an expert in Hungarian lol.

  6. Joyce,

    The revolution of how we listen to music from then to now is so different. Our grandkids will see our childhood technology as antique compared to their newfangled ways. For us we see bygone days as interesting even conversation starters, will our grand kids feel the same? Technology changes and it's complexities are mind blowing but to see the evolution of devices over the generations is an amazing thing to witness. That's something our grandkids won't be able to say when they are adults. Fabulous post!

    Tweety Looney Tunes A-Z Art Sketch