A record. Vinyl. Wax. Regardless of what your generation called record albums, chances are you have a personal connection to the music medium in some way. Records as pressed, sound-reproducing musical devices have been a part of the American existence since their invention by Thomas Edison in 1877. Back then, the cone-shaped, waxed devices were only the beginning of a long history of a way to experience music. It didn’t take long to switch to the ideal disc-shaped version, and there have been so many more revolutions since then; from materials used to the sizes of the discs and the motors that move them, the evolution of the album is an interesting one indeed.
Vinyls were dying out, but then there was an upswing. Why?
Vinyls were threatened by the introduction of the CD in the early 80’s and were being outsold by 1991. Then, an upswing began in 2006, album sales began to rise again. The medium was no doubt kept alive during this time by DJ’s, audiophiles, and collectors but younger generations started taking an interest, they started talking to their parents about how they experienced music, old records got pulled out of the basement, dusted off and revitalized.
Record stores starting seeing more and more people buying albums, so more and more artists starting putting them out, and more and now more record press businesses are trying to keep up with this now amazing demand for wax.
The Quad Cities’ Ragged Records’ owner Bob Harington has experienced this exact upswing. He used to own 3 Co-Op Records locations down in the Central Illinois and in the early 90’s got into antiquing because people stopped buying records. Always keeping some around his shops, the demand for them began increasing again and he opened Ragged Records in 2008. About 5 years ago he moved into his new space, located at 418 East 2nd Street in Davenport, Iowa, right at the base of the Arsenal Bridge.
That’s when Ben Crabb joined the team. A young Quad Citian looking to bring new record albums into the inventory of the store, widening the appeal to the next generation of vinyl customers as well as old fanatics that want to hear today’s artists on this particular medium. When talking to Ben, he gave a lot of reasons why albums are an the upswing; records are tactile, its not just about what you hear but what you see and feel as well; it’s communal, it brings people out to a store, to discuss what’s there and what’s coming out next; friends often gather round a record player, looking at a collection and sharing new music; it’s more than a way to listen to music, it’s an experience.
This is why Ben got together with Jason Parris, talent buyer of Rock Island Brewing Co., (RIBCO) and suggested they put together an event that invites people to bring their own albums out to the venue and to sign up for short sets, playing whatever records they choose. Not a night for DJ’s, but for collectors, for the record fanatics and wax junkies of the QCA. This idea is not a new one, Ben did admit, he first experienced it a few years ago at a bar in Chicago called Reggie’s, it was called “Wax On, Wax Off”, and he fell in love with the idea.
Fast forward to today and they have developed “Turntable Tuesdays” at RIBCO, located at 1815 2nd Avenue in Rock Island, from 8pm – 12am. Anyone (21 years of age) can show up with their albums and sign up for 20-minute slots to play whatever they want. Ragged Records brings in the turntable and hooks it up to the sound system at RIBCO, a pretty cool way to experience an album. Ben said that “records are great for sharing and they are best heard loud.“
The Quad Cities, so far, seems to agree. Turntable Tuesdays have been wildly successful just 3 weeks in; Jason Parris said typically Tuesdays they’d have 50-100 people in a night and this event has easily doubled that. There are great specials too, half price drafts on excellent craft beer and $3.50 burger baskets; with no cover, it’s a cheap night that starts early, so even 9-5er’s could come for awhile.
The evening usually progresses into a dance party as the younger crowd shuffles in with their albums, a medium that truly is generational. Parris said this is one of the reasons why he loves this event so much, so many different people show up and the music is so eclectic, “It runs the gambit. From Jazz to Soundtracks to R&B. You know when you have to stop in the middle of a conversation to ask about what music is playing? That’s special. That happens to me each time a new person is up there playing their set.”
Whether you need to pull out the family’s records, dust them off, and find your favorites or you have all of your wax meticulously alphabetized, grab a stack of something you’d love to talk about and share and head to RIBCO next Tuesday night. Don’t own any vinyl and don’t know where to start? Head down to Ragged Records and talk to Ben or Bob about what you like, what they’d suggest; gone are the days of music snobbery, replaced with a community of people only waiting to introduce you to your next favorite band.