Doesn’t it suck when you’re disappointed but you feel like you have no right to be? I took a chance and so far it looks like I lost on my gamble.
I guess first we have to jump back a year or so. My recently departed flatmate (she’s still alive, she’s just dead to me. Kidding. She moved out) brought with her a big turntable unit. She had a few records and it was a nice novelty to toss one on and hear that familiar crackle. Eventually she grabbed a bunch more from her dad and we had a sweet selection of classic rock to choose from. Queen, Fleetwood Mac, Meatloaf and so on. Albums I’d probably skip on my iPod, but the notion of handling a large plastic disc and dropping the needle into the groove was enough to make me give them a spin. Music to cook by, some kind of nostalgia for an era before I was born. It felt neat and I started to vibe on it.
Skip forward a few months and I won a gift card to a record store. Now that there was a record player in house, what did I lose by picking up a few of my own? I got Beach Boys Pet Sounds and Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Airplane Over the Sea. I now owned records. For someone with a deep seated resentment of portable media (what excuse would there ever be to not use hard drive based collections? It’s so much more efficient), it was kind of weird that I was glomming onto it so much. It brought something out in the kitchen, made the ritual of preparation that little bit more fun. Yeah, I had a sound bar and an iPod, but this was something special. It was more than just pressing a button. In some ways I was actually beginning to understand those strange folks who still use CDs (but fuck everything about DVDs). I expanded my collection by another album. I tracked down a copy of The Big Chill soundtrack. My Girl had a nasty skip in the middle, reminding me that there was a reason this technology was archaic. Aside from that though, it was a riot to sing along to that old Motown sound.
Then my flatmate moved out (of my life, but never my heart) and I had a couple of plastic discs in cardboard sleeves. Sitting there, collecting dust. Whatever remnants of a record collection I had, it didn’t mean shite without a means to play them. My girlfriend, who’d witnessed my burgeoning relationship with records, suggested we find a turntable for when she moved in. Our collection could swell and it could be part of the home we made together. I warmed to the idea, but did dick all about making it happen. I stopped in at a few stores and asked how much they’d expect me to pay for a player, knowing that I wasn’t an audiophile or looking for anything top of the line. $100-$200 they suggested. I said nothing, but it felt like more than I’d expected. Don’t they basically throw those away at op shops?
Walking around Kensington market today a closing sale at a record store caught my eye. I looked at the $5 rack out front and saw a copy of Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman. $5 for a great album that I knew I wanted for my collection. Hell, I’d just discovered last night that my girlfriend didn’t really know Cat Stevens. She never grew up listening to him. It loomed in my mind as a combination of a travesty and opportunity. Opportunesty? It had to happen, so I snatched it up. I went in to talk to the sales staff, who were lovely and chatty. I asked about turntables and one of the gents brought me to the back. There were four turntables of varying brands. Here I was with no knowledge of turntables and unfortunately the staff didn’t either. Turns out they were all siblings of their brother who’d passed away. He owned the store and they’d all come together to move the stock on, hence why everything was 50% off. We looked at the various turntables and figured the one that looked fanciest was our best shot. A Dual CS505 turntable with a TKS 55E cartridge. If that means nothing to you, don’t panic! It means nothing to me either. With zero knowledge and a hope in my heart, I handed over $50 and got a brand new second hand turntable.
I came home, plugged the RCA jack into my soundbar and nothing. It was turning, the needle seemed to be sitting in the groove, but no sound was to be had. I tried fiddling with a couple of options, but all I got was a big ol’ fat NOPE. It dawned on me that my impromptu decision to grab the first thing in front of me was pretty dumb. The table and cartridge came with manuals, so I figured they were probably working at least, but without the guidance of the actual guy who owned them previously, I had no assurance that they’d work. With whatever I’ve done right now they certainly don’t. Now I’m lamenting that I shelled out cash and dreams on a concept that’ll fail to come to fruition. That I bought a turntable shaped lemon and I’ve got nothing to show for it. What if it needs repairs? What if I need to get a ton of replacement parts? I’m not equipped for that kind of commitment. My only hope now is to get some of my vinyl inclined pals to come over, point fingers and laugh.
I rolled the dice, but it feels like I got rolled.