Opinion

Brotherton: The vinyl frontier

Last Thursday night, the sweet sound of Marvin Gaye singing the Beatles’ “Yesterday” wafted through Central Square in Lynn.

What’s going on?

Vinyl records are back in fashion, that’s what. Man-about-town Seth Albaum has revived his popular 33⅓ Thursdays Vinyl Open Mic Night, which previously held court at the now-closed White Rose Coffeehouse.

Albaum’s mic night’s new “home,” held on the third Thursday of each month, is the IronBound Marketplace on the corner of Mt. Vernon and Exchange streets. He set up his turntable, and about two dozen music lovers showed up with vinyl albums they wanted others to hear. One gent brought a vintage Chicago album, announcing them as his dad’s favorite band. A young man carried around a copy of “Kaputt” by veteran Canadian band Destroyer. Songs by Billy Joel and some New Yawk punk rawk also had toes tapping and heads bobbing.

It was a festive atmosphere on a lovely evening. Walloons food truck was there, serving up chicken, fries and other goodies. Down the Road Beer Co. of Everett had three brews on tap.

The record party motivated me to poke through my vinyl collection, which occupies most of the 1,300 square feet in our tiny home (my wife is ever-tolerant.)

Albaum’s next mic night is July 19. What should I bring? Classic R&B/soul by Sam Cooke or Percy Sledge? New Wave wowzers like “Turning Japanese” or “Pop Musik?” The Boston bands of my youth like The Atlantics, The Neighborhoods, The Nervous Eaters? Obscure blues (Abner Jay) or garage rock (The Sonics)? Richard Thompson or Fairport Convention … or Strawbs? Some protest song by Phil Ochs that’s as relevant today as it was in the ’60s? Amy Macdonald, Gin Wigmore, ZZ Ward, Thea Gilmore or other current women who deserve a listen? Or my old standby, The Kinks, quite simply the greatest rock and roll band of all time and likely unknown by many millennials?

So much great music, so little time.

The 33⅓ explosion continues on Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., when Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee Co. on Munroe Street will hold its first Vinyl Lounge. Fredy Hincapie and Brad Alderman, owner/teacher of North Shore Piano Studio in the Lydia Pinkham Building, will host the event. Alderman previously played keyboards with acclaimed Boston rock band Gentlemen Hall.

Hincapie said music devotees can sign up Saturday morning at the coffee shop, then take turns turning attendees onto some of their favorite tunes. He said the event is family friendly, and requests that explicit music be left at home.

Hincapie hopes the Vinyl Lounge becomes a monthly event, on the last Saturday.  

I wonder if Wilson Pickett’s “Land of 1000 Dances” will find its way onto the turntable?

Yes, vinyl is enjoying a major resurgence. The Peabody Institute Library in Danvers is stocking records again, both current and classic rock albums, which any member with a NOBLE card can check out.

The Newbury Comics store at the Northshore Mall has an extensive collection of vinyl records for sale. It appears more space has been reserved there for vinyl than CDs.

My friends at the Record Exchange in Salem, the best music retail store around, report that more and more young people are seeking out both new releases and vintage vinyl by such classic rock acts as Led Zeppelin and Neil Young.

Makes me yearn for the days when I’d travel to the Record Exchange and the Harvard Coop for that British import of the new Sparks or Roxy Music album or to Rockit Records in Saugus for the latest 45s or my weekly visit to Ann & Hope and Lechmere in Danvers for the new LPs by chart-topping bands.

The amazing thing: I can look at a record jacket and instantly recall where I bought that album, and which songs thrilled me on first listen. I can even remember buying “Leon Russell and the Shelter People” for $3.98 on special at Lechmere the day after Christmas in 1971. Newly-released albums today are 20 bucks or more.

Music makes memories, and there’s something special about the vinyl experience. Perhaps that’s why so many savvy young people are embracing records instead of MP3s.

Digital music just doesn’t have the same effect.

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