In my mind's eye, I can still see that familiar orange and yellow 45-rpm label rotating on my little Sit and Play record player. The platter — the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann" backed with "Girl Don't Tell Me" — was a key artifact in my young life, a gateway drug responsible for years and years of vinyl abuse. I smile a little and break out into Baa Baa Baa ... Baa Barbara Ann whenever I think of it.
The 7-inch disc — Capitol 5561 to the initiated — may not have been the first record I ever owned, but it was the first I can remember falling in love with. I spent hours marveling at this shiny piece of black. The A-side of the single, I would later find out, was a cover of a much-beloved doo-wop song — a tune nearly as old as rock 'n' roll; the B-side was a prime example of head Beach Boy Brian Wilson's deceptively simple songwriting style — its plaintive story of a doomed summer romance seemed impossibly sad to me, even when I was too young to realize what nostalgia (or even romance) was.
Flash forward more than 40 years. I remain transfixed by vinyl records. I'm constantly surrounded by 45s, EPs, flexi-discs, 12-inch disco singles and crates and crates of long-play albums. It doesn't even matter that I don't have a working turntable in my home — I couldn't get rid of these things even if I tried. Records are in my DNA and key parts of my resumé — at various points I've been a collector, a disc reviewer, a vinyl DJ, an LP dealer, a record show organizer; I've chased down Italian disco, Canadian psychedelia, Korean colored vinyl, Virginia rockabilly, Detroit funk, even bizarre children's music and BBC documentary discs.
Thing is, I'm not alone. I live in Richmond, where vinyl has not only survived — despite the best efforts of the music industry — but also thrived. Here, in defiance of trends, new record stores are opening up, new labels are issuing music by modern bands and young people are abandoning the ease of digital downloading and those dreaded platinum Frisbees to embrace something a bit warmer, a tad more circular and hypnotizing; something that carries a little bit of history along with its surface noise.
Style Weekly's 2011 music issue embraces, and documents, our city's longtime passion for groove-making. You'll meet the new vinyl enthusiasts of Richmond, find out about the city's tireless collectors and entrepreneurs, and hear more about R-Town's formidable vinyl back story. Your soundtrack will be a 22-track compilation of some of Richmond's finest music makers — many of whom continue to release their music on vinyl.
Maybe it shouldn't surprise us that Richmond still embraces a failed format such as the vinyl record — this is, after all, the place where discontinued shelf items like the Civil War remain hot commodities. What should surprise is how passionate the embrace remains, how locked in groove step we are. In other words, if you think my vinyl abuse is bad, wait until you meet my neighbors. — Don Harrison