Young people with old souls prefer records to CDs
Monday, March 21, 2011; 12:52 PM
NEW YORK -- In most ways, Sarah McCarthy is your average high schooler. She has a job, college plans, but also a peculiar passion for a 16-year-old: She's a vinyl junkie.
That's right, analog. And none of that hipster new stuff or a USB-ready turntable from Urban Outfitters.
To this senior from Centreville, Md., there's nothing like the raw crackle, the depth of sound, her delicate hand on diamond-tipped stylus to spin from the dusty stash of records she found in the basement of her grandfather - yes, grandfather.
"He gave me his receiver and speaker system and told me to listen to it the way it was made to be listened to," McCarthy said. "I've turned a lot of my friends on to it. They come over a lot to listen with me."
At a time when parents feel positively prehistoric as they explain how to use plastic ice-cube trays or speak of phones with cords and dials, this teen knows what a record is. Not only that, she knows the difference between a 45 and an LP. She met her boyfriend in a record shop and now works there!
Sure, she has an iPod, but she also has a vinyl collection of 250 records and counting. Sure, there's a broader '70s renaissance in the air, but buying bellbottoms doesn't touch the commitment of teens unearthing old turntables and records, then convincing friends to listen, too, like a pack of crazy little anthropologists.
"Listening to old music remastered to a newer format is almost comical," Sarah said. "They weren't meant to be digitalized. Listening to Jimi Hendrix on my iPod doesn't capture his endlessly deep guitar solos quite like a 33 LP of 'Blues' does."
This girl's in love with vinyl, and she's not the only member of Generation Digital with an ear for analog.
"My dad always had these old records in the garage and I never got to use them until just recently, when my uncle let me have his old record player," said 14-year-old Nick Spates, a Los Angeles eighth grader who plays guitar and piano.
What'd he find in his dad's two milk crates?
A lot of George Clinton - "He's a genius. I swear," declared Nick. And Funkadelic. Of the band's Eddie Hazel: "'Maggot Brain' is like my favorite song ever. The original is a 10-minute guitar solo." There was also "Spiral" by The Crusaders. "It has a lot of horns. I love horns." And "Carmel" by Joe Sample, Hendrix on "Voodoo Child" and a trove of Stanley Clarke.
"My friends think it's cool," Nick said. "Before I had the vinyls I used to Google older musicians and see what songs they made, and I'd look for them on YouTube. We're all musicians and old music is like our favorite stuff in the world."