I thought I'd take your mind off the recession for a few minutes today by regaling you with a tale about a quest of mine that has become a bit, to quote my wife, crazy.
When I was a kid, if you wanted to listen to music, you listened to tapes and records. We did that on a behemoth of a stereo, one in a wooden cabinet that was 6 feet wide with a hinged top.
At some point during my adolescence, the decision was made to let me move it from the living room into my bedroom. Whether my mother was just tired of looking at it or it was a strategic move to put both the stereo and its primary listener in a place that could be closed off by shutting a door, I don't know. But I was certainly happy.
Our collection at the time consisted mostly of Elvis and Jerry Clower records, but I liked both and so that's what I listened to until I was old enough to start working odd jobs and buying my own.
You could also check out albums at the library, so that was a great way to listen to stuff you didn't have (and occasionally, if you hid them real well in between a couple of country albums, the stuff your mother wouldn't let you buy.)
By the time I headed to college, I had a newer stereo and a pretty good collection of albums and cassettes. The rest of the world was already moving on to CDs, but I had neither the money nor the inclination to replace a lifetime worth of vinyl and tape.
But sometime in the '90s, I finally decided to switch. Albums and cassettes were getting harder to find, so I somewhat begrudgingly bought a CD player, joined a CD club and started getting rid of records. I sold some, gave away the rest, retired my old stereo and forgot about albums, presumably forever.
Flash forward about 15 years. I'm in a thrift shop and I spy a copy of Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Street Survivors" album, the one with the rare cover. It's $5. I buy it, along with a Kiss album they had, just for the artwork.
I kept those two for a few years. Then one day recently I was reading somewhere about how true audiophiles believe the sound of albums beats CDs, that the analog signal is "warmer" and truer to the original recording.
I've heard both, of course, but I've never compared the two by taking an identical album and CD and listening to them back to back to hear the difference. I became curious.
Off to eBay, thinking an old record player would be the cheapest thing on the Internet.
Not so. A lot of people are into vintage vinyl and stereo equipment. And reviews on the new "retro" players are horrifyingly bad. I start surfing the Web, and I find an awesome site, audiokarma.org. It answers all my questions.
All this research on old stereos and records makes me nostalgic, so I become convinced that the best thing to do is build a vintage system from scratch.
First, I buy an early '70s stereo receiver for $10. But those old things weigh a ton, so it costs $40 to have it shipped to me. I also buy another album for $9.
Once I had the stereo, I had to have speakers. Off to craigslist.
I find a pair for $35. I pick them up on a Sunday. They are nearly as big as the old wooden stereo. My wife is less than thrilled.
Now I have three albums at a cost of $19 and $85 worth of stereo gear. And no turntable.
I start hitting thrift stores. I don't find a turntable, but I do find a nice CD player to go with my receiver for $25. I also find a clock radio to put next to my chair in the bedroom for $4.
Then my neighbor asks me to help her pick up some furniture in my truck. We get to talking about my turntable quest. Just so happens she's transferring her old albums to her computer and I'm welcome to whatever I want after she finishes.
When we get back to her house with the furniture, she opens the garage door and there's the album collection. She decides to show me some of them, and then finds some she's not interested in transferring. I score four more albums, including Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon."
Seven albums and $133 so far. No record player.
I go to my parents' house that weekend to make good on a long-promised cleaning of my old bedroom closet.
Yeah, I found albums in there. I apparently could not bear to part with Jimi Hendrix's "Electric Ladyland." And 14 others.
That night I brought home some of my old guitar equipment, another set of stereo speakers and the albums.
So to review: I have purchased, found, recovered, been given and/or otherwise obtained one stereo, one CD player, one clock radio, one guitar amp, one guitar, one bass guitar, two sets of speakers and 22 albums.
And zero turntables.
But I have managed to obtain one increasingly irritated wife.
E-mail Nate McCullough at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Fridays.