Those pops and hisses you hear when you drop the needle on the record are anticipatory bliss
Listening to music is supposed to be a contact sport. If you don't feel anything, you're dead. You want "flawless" sound, instant gratification, and seamless transitions from one song to the next? It's not music you want, it's a digital wasteland masquerading as music. Be gone.
The experience goes like this...a dark room with warm lighting preferably coming from the console of the record player and maybe a candle or two. You're alone and all noise and distractions from everyday life are muffled and tucked away in a corner somewhere, not to be gathered anytime soon.
A beverage sits atop one of the 45 covers you have multiples of because you forgot you already owned it the last time you rummaged around a record store. Your thoughts are focused and plentiful, decisions need to be made. You find the perfect record for what you plan on being the first of dozens to spin tonight.
You turn the power on, the edges of the album pressed into the palms of each hand as you guide it towards its place on the turntable. Gently raise the arm, eye the groove, drop the needle, and smile.
The next few seconds send chills down your spine because what you are hearing is much more than pops, crackles, hisses, and static. Those blissful sounds are the familiar precursors to music you've chosen to take you away. They are without words and without instruments yet they make every single song they precede better, if not magical.
The drink sitting over to your left will taste better. The already low, warm lighting will feel softer, and the hush over the room seems greater, and of course, the music pouring out of the speakers sounds...perfect.
Talking about music with my podcasting partner in crime, Keith R. Higgons of the Abandoned Albums and The Generation Riff podcasts actually gave me the idea for this article. We were recording the latest episode of Abandoned Albums with the lead singer and songwriter for the band Animal Logic, Deborah Holland (Stewart Copeland and Stanley Clarke round out the band) when I said something that resonated with Keith.
The next day Keith sent me a text about a topic I brought up during the podcast. It was about how vinyl music provides you with anticipation right before each song kicks in due to all of those glorious little sounds the needle makes when placed onto the record before the music starts. He said that is what's missing in how most people listen to music these days and he's right.
He also said it would be a fun thing to write about and guess what, he was right again. As I thought about it a little more, I realized how much I've always loved those pops and crackles. There's just something about those sounds that feels like home. It's the anticipation of what's to come that I'm attracted to.
When we anticipate, our brains release dopamine, and our excitement for what we are about to experience is heightened.
With music, it's those few seconds of expectancy, the sounds of the imminent metamorphosis that gets me every time. I'm about to be in the company of people I don't know but who understand me with each verse and chorus that passes by.
There is no other method of listening to music that can do this, not one.