Do Consumers Sometimes Love A Bit Of Inconvenience?

Do Consumers Sometimes Love A Bit Of Inconvenience?
Retail

If people are welcoming back vinyl records, the antithesis of Spotify and YouTube, what else could return?

Andrew Vaterlaus-Staby
  • 29 november 2017

This article titled “The vinyl revival proves it: we love a bit of inconvenience” was written by Nigel Kendall, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 29th November 2017 13.24 UTC

So vinyl is back, is it? As HMV records its biggest sales of long-playing records since the 1980s, is it time to unplug the Sonos, scrap the Spotify and dust off the turntable?

Not quite. The headlines are fanning the fire of a full-on vinyl revival, but experts such as Paul Lee, head of technology, media and telecoms research at Deloitte, will always be around to douse the flames. “In 1981, over 1 bn albums were sold worldwide. In 2017, it will be around 40m. This is not the resurgence that is portrayed. It is a blip,” he told the FT earlier this year, attributing the temporary spike to fashion.

It is tempting, like Lee, to mark this up as the natural territory of people with a predilection for big beards and mystical tattoos, but anyone who grew up with long-playing vinyl as their primary musical format will know and appreciate its appeal – the warmth of its sound, the “rightness” of its length, the indelibly irritating click of that scratch where the cat once jumped on the moving turntable.

Back then one would listen, rapt, while reading, re-reading and re-re-reading the sleeve notes. I can say unequivocally that figuring out the cryptic (to 12-year-old me) scribble on the back of David Bowie’s Hunky Dory changed my life by broadening my musical perspectives, thereby introducing me to like-minded friends.

Perhaps this tribal feeling is what the new wave of vinyl aficionados is looking to recreate. Perhaps music has become too easy to access: in a world where a button can playlist the hits of JS Bach to follow those of Stormzy and Led Zeppelin, perhaps this is a cry for connoisseurship, for a bit more difficulty, an escape from the world that Bowie predicted (and helped create), where everything is available “like running water or electricity”, and nothing is valuable.

Perhaps we all subconsciously want our lives to be a little more challenging.

If that’s the case, late-20th-century Britain still has a lot to offer us today, particularly as the nation prepares for its biggest exercise in temporal regression since the Romans shouted, “Vale!” and ushered in the dark ages.

Come with me to the crowded high street of the early 1980s, where Radio Rentals and Rumbelows vie for your money with Woolworths, British Home Stores and your local Burtons the tailor.

It is Friday lunchtime, and every single bank or building society has a queue snaking out of the door and on to the cracked pavement, where the rainwater from the gutter is making tidal waves from the few passing Austin Allegros that haven’t already fallen to pieces. Such is the attachment to difficulty here that these cars are made with a rectangular steering wheel, making them skittish on a good day and lethal on a bad one. Stuff your self-driving cars. This is what we want.

The queues outside the banks do not reflect a nation growing rich under Maggie Thatcher, but the customary half-hour wait to pay a bill. Any bill. Every month you scoop as many as possible together to do in one trip, juggling a foot-long cheque book, all the bills and the tearing-off slips, plus the envelopes to keep the proof of payment in. The following day, the Access bill arrives and you spend half a lunch hour waiting to pay it with a cheque that might well bounce, because you have no way of knowing how much money you have in the bank with all the other cheque payments pending. The internet has cruelly robbed us of this valuable time to think, a time to make you grateful for simply being dry and warm. Bring it back.

While you’re at it, bring back milk in glass bottles, three-wheeled cars and cobbled streets to drive them down, inventors in sheds, rotary-dial telephones, shops with ashtrays, travel agents, insurance brokers, Vesta “instant”* beef curry and chicken chow mein, rank warm beer from salmonella-ridden pubs that smell of piss and tobacco, and household showers with all the water pressure of a middle-aged midnight piddler. Bring it all back. Progress? Pah! Wind up the gramophone and let’s dance.

* It took 20 minutes. More for the chow mein, whose crispy Quaver-like noodles required separate deep-frying.

• Nigel Kendall is a freelance journalist and former senior content manager at Guardian Labs

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.


Lead Image: A Post Office queue in 1989. Photograph: Leon Morris/Rex Features

This article titled “The vinyl revival proves it: we love a bit of inconvenience” was written by Nigel Kendall, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 29th November 2017 13.24 UTC

So vinyl is back, is it? As HMV records its biggest sales of long-playing records since the 1980s, is it time to unplug the Sonos, scrap the Spotify and dust off the turntable?

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