Henry Rollins. Pic Danny Llao, LA Weekly
Henry Rollins. Pic Danny Llao, LA Weekly

A Case For The Imperfectly Perfect Sound Of Vinyl Recordings

How does vinyl play into the ethos and values of punk?

Punk and digital, to me at least, are antithetical. I can only project my own perception – but for me, punk is vinyl and cassette. It is the picture sleeves, the noise on the vinyl, the way you know the next song on the cassette because you have carried it with you and played it so many times. Punk is analogue. It is real. Would you rather hear the first album by The Clash on LP or CD?

Some music is merely an advertisement for what music can be. It never escapes the enclosure of its commercial goals, nor does it seek to. The people who appreciate this music are happy with their streaming or other wretched sound-delivery systems."

One is real, the other is, at best, somewhat trite. On the other hand, do you really want a Beyoncé LP? Why? What do you hope to get when you pull the album out from its sleeve, a coupon for a free Pepsi? Some music is merely an advertisement for what music can be. It never escapes the enclosure of its commercial goals, nor does it seek to. The people who appreciate this music are happy with their streaming or other wretched sound-delivery systems. Punk, like rock, is an analogue, real-life experience, so you want analogue playback.

What does the return of vinyl in popularity say about the place and space of music in our lives?

Vinyl requires you to be where a record player is. Time, place, ritual, etc. The area around the system is your temple – all are welcome. The system – the sermon. The record – a ladder extending from the Parliament Mothership, Sun Ra’s barely perceptible nod from Saturn… I can’t explain to you how important this is to me.

When I listen to an album sitting alone, it’s great. When I listen to that same album with my best friend Ian MacKaye, suddenly we’re together, listening to an album we have been playing since we were teenagers.

Now, it’s more than music. It’s our lives coming through the speakers. This is the place and space music has in my life. Sometimes, when I visit where I come from, I walk by houses and apartments where I would hang out with others and listen to records. Those places have a lot of meaning to me. Vinyl speaks to that more than any digital rendering of music ever will.

– Excerpted from Henry Rollins on Why Vinyl Matters, Reverb

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