When it comes to mixing up a seasonal soundtrack, Elvis Presley and Bing Crosby and Christmas go together like rum and eggnog.
Savvy music fans in search of a deeper experience are flipping through the stacks in search of musical gold at places like Timeless Treasures in Cloverdale, where sales of second-hand vinyl records from every era are through the roof.
Fortunately, for those in search of a holiday fix of mid-century LPs, proprietor Adrian Clements has done the heavy lifting, salting away classic Christmas albums like Der Bingle’s Merry Christmas on Decca Records (“White Christmas”, “Silver Bells”) and Elvis’s Christmas Album on RCA (“Blue Christmas,” “Silent Night,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” to name a few.)
What began as a side offering in his eclectic store – initially barely noticeable next to old video games, comics, antique furniture, knick knacks and collectibles when he opened the 176 Street storefront a couple of years ago – vinyl records now represent 40 to 50 per cent of sales, he says, and a good portion of floor space.
Clements has plans to stock needles and other record-player supplies to keep up with demand for what might be dubbed tech support for a legion of analogue aficionados.
Nostalgia doesn’t come cheap; a record in good condition will run you $10, $20 or more – depending on how collectible it is.
For a medium that supposedly died with the advent of the Compact Disc in the late 1980s, the vinyl record album is enjoying a post-millennial Renaissance among discerning music fans.
Clements says records that were played a lot – like Led Zeppelin’s back catalogue – are actually hard to come by in mint condition.
Fans wore out their vinyl, playing their favourite tunes over and over, the discs acquiring the characteristic pops, skips and scratches along the way.
Clements is a recent convert to the medium, and keeps an open mind when it comes to unfamiliar artists.
“If I haven’t heard of it, I put it on,” he shrugs. Much of the time, he likes what he hears, describing how he’s discovered the likes of jazz great Duke Ellington, Calypso King Harry Belafonte and more.
At least half of his record buyers are repeat customers. The rest are amazed, exclaiming: “‘You’ve got records?’”
Clements says a new generation is discovering quality sound and enjoying the ritual of putting a record on the turntable, dropping the needle, and settling in for an entire side of an album.
Customer Lane Hogenes is a recent convert; part of a generation raised on ubiquitous, cheap MP3 downloads, and possessed of ever-increasing computer storage space, a scenario that doesn’t necessarily set the stage for music appreciation.
For one thing, he says, as computer storage space has increased, people don’t have as much reason to edit or limit their music collections.
Streaming has likewise made listening to music less of an occasion than an opportunity to treat music like something that’s put on in the background to match the mood of any social occasion.
But put on a record, he says, and everyone pays attention.
“It’s the ritual,” he says. “It brings thoughtfulness back into music.”
Hogenes cleaned up his dad’s 1970s Technics turntable and plugged it into his modern sound system (discovering he’d need a pre-amp to make it work properly) and was hooked.
The LPs hold up well in terms of sound, but it’s more about appreciating the sound and experience of playing a record, he says.
His record collection now spans 250 titles, all “bought in the last two months,” he jokes, admitting he is a frequent presence in the store.