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Drop the Needle

Vinyl music sales take off in the region anda round the glove.

Written by Eugene Stockstill | Photographed by Joe Worthem

If you were around before the CD and digital explosion of the 80s, you remember. Your first LP. The glorious smell of a brand-new jacket. The wonder of fresh tunes, lyrics and liner notes.

Some kids lined bedroom walls with album covers. Back in the day in Jackson, you caught the hippest sounds on WZZQ, bought the records at BeBop Record Shop and scored tickets for concerts there, too. It was a visceral, whole-world experience that digital could never hope to emulate.

“Before I had my own discretionary funds, I talked my parents into buying albums that I really wanted, like Willie Nelson’s ‘Red Headed Stranger’ and Barry Manilow’s ‘Tryin’ To Get The Feeling,’” Meredith Martin of Tupelo said. “I still have them today. My mom has a photo of me at 3 years old sitting on the floor leaning against the speaker of our stereo crying because I thought the music was so pretty.”

If you think the vinyl vibe is dead, think again. Last year, vinyl sales logged 46% of all music retail, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, eclipsed CD sales by about $450 million, and bested all digital downloads by a similar margin.

“I’ll take it any way I can get it,” Meredith’s husband, Brent, said. “But nothing ever replaced that feeling of bringing a new album home you’ve never heard, slipping on your headphones, and taking it in as a whole, while staring at the liner notes and lyrics. That was a singularly great experience that I don’t think streaming can replicate.”

The proof? The Martins house a collection of around 400. And the good news is that you don’t have to journey to the legendary Dusty Groove in Chicago or order online to find your LPs, EPs, 45s or 78s of choice. Try Rock Star Records in Tupelo or The End of All Music in Oxford if this idea makes you want to hold in your hands an old, old copy of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” or “Kind of Blue.”

“Listening to records helps slow down time and directs your attention to what’s actually playing on the turntable,” David Swider, owner of The End of All Music, said. “This is something no algorithm can replicate.”

Swider, who has a cache of about 10,000 records, opened his Oxford shop on The Square in 2012, and there is also a branch on North State Street in Jackson. Genres like punk, jazz and prog rock have had vinyl enthusiasts throughout the years, and Swider said that in the years he’s been in business, interest and sales have remained steady. Younger listeners’ awareness that new music is also available on vinyl may be helping drive the current trend, he said.

Wikipedia dates the so-called “vinyl revival” to 2002, beginning on the West Coast and in the Far East. Records’ packaging, sound imperfections and cultural aura all help lure customers away from CDs and digital downloads. Records, in other words, exude the nostalgic charm of a bygone era.

“I like the take-a-break experience of a record,” Peter Cleary, 51, of Oxford said. Cleary, who owns at least 300 records, gathers with a group of friends on a regular basis to listen to albums, talk about albums, swap albums and just plain get into the groove that only vinyl music produces.

The sentimentality of Generation X and the curiosity of millenials has driven both generations to latch onto records. When Cleary visited Dusty Groove in Chicago one day, he found old recordings of James Bond soundtracks, then walked outside and discovered three more record stores down the street. “There’s been quite a resurgence,” he said.

Concerned about prices? Most used records at independent shops cost somewhere between $5 and $20, depending on content and condition, unlike the $20-$30 range for a new record at Wal-Mart. And if you are a newbie and worry about a snarky reception at a record store (e.g. John Cusack, Jack Black and Todd Louiso in the movie “High Fidelity”), have no fear, Swider said.

“It’s a good film,” he said. “We are much nicer and less judgmental! We’re pretty excited to talk about music and records with just about everyone. There’s no such thing as bad music.”


The End of All Music

103A Courthouse Square, Oxford

662.281.1909 |

Rockstar Records

810 East Main Street, Tupelo

662.269.3745 |

Greatest Hits Music & Books

675 West Main Street, Tupelo

662.205.4464 |

Chef’s Vinyl

104 North Cummings Street, Fulton

601.813.3556 |

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