This installment includes Henry's thoughts on the pleasures of vinyl records. And come back Friday for the awesomely annotated playlist for his KCRW BROADCAST. For more details please visit KCRW.com and HenryRollins.com
Last week I was at El Compadre, sitting across from my editor, one Gustavo Turner. He handed me an Amoeba Records bag and said the contents was a gift that he hoped I would like. I reached in and pulled out an LP by the Argentine tango master Astor Piazzolla. The LP, titled Suite Troileana, was one I had never heard before. I looked forward to the evening to get that platter spinning.
Hours later, there I was, sitting happily in front of my Wilson Sophia 3 speakers, soaking up every drop of this exquisite album. It was a perfect experience.
At some point during side 2, I remembered what Gustavo asked of me. Memo from Turner: Deliver some writing on music, something that captures your enthusiasm. By the time the Astor LP had come to an end, I had the idea for what to write about.
Wonderful readers, pardon me while I wax euphoric about the simple and complete joy of listening to music from a vinyl source.
As I write to you now, I am listening to a pristine Canadian pressing of Television's absolutely perfect Marquee Moon album. It is, to me, as good as music gets. The title track is one of the best things ever committed to magnetic tape. While the recently remastered CD version is excellent, there is but one way to truly enjoy the utter magnificence of the songs contained on this album and it is from the LP. Those of you who know what I'm talking about know exactly what I mean.
Yes, yes, y'all, it's not hipster, elitist hype -- vinyl sounds better. Much better. There is actual music in those grooves. Technically speaking, there is no music whatsoever on a CD. Lots of information but no music. Digital technology has made great strides to deliver a series of numbers to be read by a laser to emit that which is doing its damnedest to replicate its analog and sonically superior master. There are some very good CD players out there that sound incredible. I recommend the Rega Isis valve version, but even that cannot capture the full-bloom soundscape of your turntable interacting with an LP or single.
As an LP spins, your needle goes on the musical journey with you, traveling great distances as it deftly picks up the analog information and delivers the sonic message to you in real time. Vinyl is the people, a CD is the man.
Oh! Do you know that guitar breakdown right before the snare comes back in at the very end of Marquee Moon to end side A? That moment never fails to move me. It just happened. Tom Verlaine, one of the great guitarists of all time. What a moment!
Since I was very young, the playing of the vinyl has been one of the most enjoyable rituals of my existence. It was Beatles records at first and, as I grew older, Zeppelin, Hendrix, Isaac Hayes, Aerosmith, Nugent, Van Halen, Stones and the like.
And then, in my very impressionable later teenage years, in came the noise that would start a revolution in my mind that I have never been able to quell. The Clash, Ramones, the Sex Pistols, Buzzcocks, Devo, the Saints, the Damned, the Adverts and many others, all fitting somewhat together under the umbrella of punk rock and independent music. It was these bands that turned me into the record store-haunting album obsessive that I am now, decades later.
Some of these albums, I have no idea as to how many times I have played them.