My middle child had begun his vinyl collection a couple days earlier with some Jethro Tull and Elton John, and a turntable from Sharper Image that wasn’t too different from the small, briefcase-style one I got for Christmas when I was 8.

We came to Hippo Records in Greensboro’s Lindley Park neighborhood in search of some Hendrix, maybe some Beatles and whatever else the rest of his birthday money could buy him, with me acting in an advisory capacity.

The 1980s came back to me in a rush of sense memory, triggered perhaps by a Bananarama album from the dollar bin, one my sister owned in 1983, or the Stray Cats’ 1981 eponymous breakthrough, which at the time it came out was as important to my sense of self as Catcher In the Rye had been just a year or so earlier.

I’m old enough to remember vinyl and too old to collect it, a true convert to the digital revolution that destroyed the old business model but made it possible for me to hear whatever song I want, whenever I want to, for free. If you had told me that when I was 12, my head would have exploded.

But I still added the Stray Cats record to his stack, along with an old Cheap Trick LP from 1979 and some Steely Dan, both because guitarist Walter Becker had died the day before and because everybody needs at least one Steely Dan record.

My boy made his own way through the crates, nabbing some John Lennon and Axis, Bold As Love, a Hendrix album that I had practically internalized by the time I was 18, but which he had never, as they say, experienced.

It’s all new to him: this ancient, analog technology and this music written decades before he was born. And he sees a value in blowing his birthday money on records, even though he can listen to these songs whenever he wants to for free on his phone.

I’m not sure I completely understand. But I think I get it.


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