Crackling Records

record-playerYou know how it is when your old vintage records crackle and pop when played on the old system (that is if you still have one antiquated model). Wherever did it come from? How did it get “in there” to affect the sound? I was in a used music store not long ago, hung with old guitars, a few missing strings, and some odd assorted instruments in cabinets. There was dust everywhere and piles of sheet music. I liked poking around so I began to explore. After a few minutes I caught a phrase of a familiar tune.

I could hear the strains of an old Frank Sinatra song coming from the back room, so I popped my head in. An old man was sitting doing some kind of bookkeeping work, listening intently to every note and word. I watched him for three or four minutes before he looked up. “Hi there,” he offered. “Come on in.” I obliged him and asked what he was listening to.

“Just Frank,” he said with a smile. “Still like the same ol’ songs of my youth.” I laughed. Don’t we all I thought. We listened some more. Soon the record started to crackle… and it progressively grew worse. It sounded like it was recorded with the mic in a wood stove. Now they take these old recordings and digitally remaster them to allow listeners to use their iPods and smart phones. You don’t have to have piles of large cardboard albums lying about catching dust.

“I know it sounds bad in places, but it still magic to my ears. I want to play my old albums, just like in 1955. I had the whole rat pack at one time: all of Dino and Sammy Davis, Jr. A very flamboyant and talented bunch.” He unsheathed a new record and started to play it.

“Listen to this one. I danced with my wife for the first time on our first date back then.” His eyes glazed over, his memory engaged. “I know it crackles now like a fireplace in action, but I don’t care.” I understood. I asked about his wife, now deceased and he lit up as if a blaze from the chimney were in front of him.

“Yeah,” I said, “they get rid of all the distortion with our modern technology. But I know that it is not what the old music is about. He started to reminisce. “My wife was the apple of my eye,” he continued.” We were just kids but we know what we wanted. On the first date, I vowed to myself never to date another girl. On her 16th birthday, I gave her this Sinatra album. It was the one with a big close-up of the guy in his signature hat. In fact, the night I proposed two years later, we were still playing this song.

He spent the next hour describing her grace and beauty and their three wonderful offspring: two girls and a boy. He is a proud grandfather of six. There is a lot of love in that recording, I thought, and a lot of time gone by. But it has been good time, so he says. I know we all have, or will have, music that marks milestones in our lives.

I can think of a few similar, although more updated, occasions. Most music is background for social interaction so it fades into the woodwork. But there are times when it marks a special family outing, anniversary, or holiday. Christmas music always takes me back a couple of decades to tree decorating time and ice skating. Then there is the high school prom and that senior frat party where you met…

Most people select their favorite music for their wedding, and highlight one song for the couple’s dance. Then there is the first foreign music you heard on a trip to Italy. When you here it you see wine glasses filled with deep red liquid that sparkles in the dinner candlelight.

I am sure you have a few personal recollections yourself. Along with photos, and heaven knows they are ubiquitous, music accompanies our lives and spreads our joy in ever widening circles. We share our playlists and exchange recordings. We value each and every special note.

Posted under Music