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Musings & Observations / Barry Halpin

Published 1:55 pm, Wednesday, February 20, 2013
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On Christmas day, waiting for me under the tree was a Sony turntable. The best Christmas gift I could ever imagine; it was a moment of pure joy. I immediately went up to the attic to look for the box of records that had been relegated there ever since my last turntable broke more than 10 years ago.

It had been a long time since I'd been up in the attic; it looked like an alien landscape, with luggage, cardboard boxes and stuff piled everywhere. After rummaging through a mountain of boxes with labels like school stuff, vacation stuff, box-o-slides, stuffed animals and just stuff -- and hearing echoes of the past -- I came across the record box, chock-a-block full of albums and 45-rpm records. They were treasures waiting to be played on my new turntable.

I grew up in a vinyl only universe; it's my preferred way of listening to music. The day a new release came out was always special -- we all wanted to be the first to get them. I would get to the store early and wait in line. Once inside, I held the pristine album like a newborn baby, admiring the often mind-boggling artwork. As soon as I arrived home, the album was on the turntable; time to blast some good old rock and roll and have a listen with friends.

It was a new release day prized ritual, a communal listening experience and an event we all looked forward to; something that doesn't happen in a world of iTunes, digital files to be downloaded, and the solitary iPod listening experience.

The Times Square Record Store, Cousins Music on Fordham Road in the Bronx and Bleecker Bob's Golden Oldies in Greenwich Village were homes away from home, places to escape to and hang out with friends, be turned on to new music and browse through a sea of 45s and LPs. Nothing beats whiling away the hours browsing through racks and racks of records. Hanging out and talking shop with fellow music lovers in hip and magical independent record stores was an important part of the soundtrack of my life growing up. They were the coolest teenage hangouts. Sadly, there are very few indie record stores left.

You could not wipe the smile off my face as I sat in the living room, lost in a world of musical memories, flipping through all my dear old friends, who I hadn't heard from in at least 10 years

I reach in the box and pull out my Andy and the Rattlesnakes' 45 -- A-side: "Solitary Man;" B-side: "Anaesthesia." Thirty years ago, I booked the band into The Sidewalk Cafe in Venice Beach, Calif., and Merlin's Abbey Restaurant in Marina Del Rey, Calif., after seeing them put on an incredible show at the legendary Taurus Tavern in Venice Beach. I take the 45 out of the sleeve and gingerly put it on my new turntable; it sounds great, as it did 30 years ago.

I go to the Andy and the Rattlesnakes website and learn that the original members of the band got together in Los Angeles last November to play at the Trip in Santa Monica, and that Andy is a professor of music and music business at Bergen Community College in Paramus, N.J.

I decide to email him to see if he'll be performing in the New York area anytime soon. He got back in touch and let me know he's working on a new Andy and the Rattlesnakes album and hopes to be back performing later this year. I tell him about the very cool music venue, Stage One, in Fairfield, that I thought would be perfect for his band.

I reach back in the box, pull out my 44-year-old copy of The Rolling Stones' "Beggars Banquet." The Rolling Stones, irrepressible, rebellious and eternal teenagers, sound fabulous. I'm transported back to Dec. 7, 1968, the day the five-star album came out. My friends and I each bought a copy, went straight to a friend's place and put it on the turntable. As "Sympathy for the Devil" started up, we were instantly blown away by what we knew was going to be another incredible Stones' album. Those were great times indeed.

The Stones sound as good as ever. I start singing along and playing air guitar, when my wife walks into the room and gives me "the look." Long live rock and roll and vinyl.

Barry Halpin can be reached at barryhalpin@aol.com.