My friend Braden used to claim his favorite thing was to sit on the floor and listen to records. I always figured he was just a quirky hipster and didn’t think much of it.
Then I got a bunch of records, a record player, and a proper receiver to play all this shit (yes, in that order), and I realized why it was his favorite thing to do.
Once Kristin and I got the system hooked up properly, we rocked out with music and beer that lasted well into the night. I am not a huge believer in the importance of symbolism, but I do like to pay it tribute where possible. So I thought it important that the first record we ever play on our new system be the first record we ever bought that sort of unintentionally set us down this path.
So mark it down. The very first song ever played on our record player was “Pancho and Lefty” by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. That was followed by “Seven Spanish Angels” by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles, and we concluded with “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” by Willie and Julio Iglesias. If you’re not ahead of me here, it’s clear the first album I ever bought was “Half Nelson.” If you own a record player and don’t have at least one Willie Nelson record, you’re doing it wrong. If you haven’t drank whiskey while listening to this record, you’re not only doing it wrong, everything about you is just plain wrong.
We jumped to Strung Out after Willie, because why not. Impossibly fast punk rock naturally leads to Mumford and Sons, which then begets Chuck Berry. Chuck Berry progresses to AC/DC, and AC/DC then gives way to “Pet Sounds” by The Beach Boys. The night can’t end with anything other than Elton John’s Greatest Hits played all the way through. You know which one. This one:
It feels cliché to write this (or even think it), but listening to records has such a romance about it. Huge disks with great cover art and photography. The needle. The sound of the needle hitting the vinyl. The anticipation. The incredible sound quality. It’s a portal to your imagination. The music is tactile. You feel it in your fingertips, your neckhairs and the pit of your stomach. I haven’t felt this way about music since high school. It’s invigorating.
It’s also a tangible reminder of one of my happiest places. The only other substantial phase of my life that involved listening to records was my first year of graduate school. Jason had a hi-fi system. We had just built a Beirut table. They both lived in a sun porch in the house we rented with Jamie and Clayton. It’s not many people who can blissfully recall listening to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass while playing drinking games, which is one of the reasons I remember it so fondly.
I remember a lot about those nights, and when I put that needle on the record, so much more comes flooding back.