Before I start evangelizing, let me acknowledge one thing: collecting vinyl ain’t always cheap. Record stores turn into self-control battlegrounds, and you never know when you’re going to fall in love with the $40 imported pressing of some album you already own and don’t actually listen to all that often. Add in the cost of a turntable, maintenance, a receiver, speakers… you get the idea. Things can get out of hand. Wallets can suffer.
Collecting vinyl can also be unconscionably cost effective.
This weekend, I walked out of Deep Groove Records with Bonnie Raitt’s Streetlights under my arm, knowing that I’ll be able to enjoy that album for years and years — as long as I have a working turntable and take good care of the record — and that the cost of kicking off that era of enjoyment was just one dollar. 100 soon-to-be-extinct pennies. The same as a single song from iTunes or a bag of chips from that vending machine at work you avoid because it wields evil powers over you.
For just a buck, I snagged a 10-track collection that features one of the most beautiful voices in the entire universe singing compositions by Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, John Prine, Allen Toussaint and more. Opportunities like this one present themselves all the time, and they blow my mind just as regularly. On one hand, the transaction makes perfect sense. Supply and demand dictates that objects hold a certain value, and vendors price those items at a level that will facilitate a purchase. But when you think about the quality of Streetlights, and about the cost of the materials needed to make the disc, the jacket, the paper sleeve… and about how unexpectedly enduring the vinyl medium has proven itself to be, paying $1 feels more like stealing. It’s bananas.
I’m not saying that everyone who doesn’t have a turntable should go out and buy one tomorrow. I know that’s not going to happen, and even if it did, the supply/demand equation would shift, erasing the very benefit I’m describing. So instead I’ll say this… just think about it. Noodle on it. Maybe see if someone in your extended family has a turntable collecting dust in a garage or attic. You never know.
In the meantime, I invite you to join me in celebrating this beneficial inequity by trying out Raitt’s version of John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery” below. (I’ve also posted a live version that features the brilliant songwriter himself.) And while you’re listening to Raitt’s version, make a mental list of all the other pieces of timeless art you can hold in your hands and own honestly and permanently for just $1.