Vinyl Record Day

"The vinyl record should be commemorated, not forgotten, for its unique contribution to our society. Therefore the County of San Luis Obispo, in the state of California, proclaims a celebration of the memories of music. 'Vinyl Record Day' will be celebrated to acknowledge vinyl records' influence on individuals and cultures worldwide. The date is August 12th, the date of the invention of the phonograph by Thomas Edison in 1877."

So states the official proclamation that vinyl activist Gary Freiberg is holding up before me. The richly illustrated and important looking sheaf of thick paper also has the official gold seal of the County of San Luis Obispo and the signatures of its five elected officials.

Freiberg, who makes his living as a financial planner (he has a turntable set up in his office) and who organized the event, says he originally got in touch with his local congresswoman, Lois Capps, to see about creating a National Vinyl Record Day. "Capps told me that Congress won't declare any special days to celebrate an industry," says Freiberg. "So I decided to stay in my own back yard where they said yes."

That back yard is affectionately known as "SLO" county, about mid-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco near the California coast. And on the first weekend following the official Vinyl Record Day August 12th date, the city of San Luis Obispo devoted its downtown to a celebration of all things vinyl.

Two stages were set up at opposite ends of the plaza presenting a kind of "vinyl then and now" theme: Classic vinyl was being spun from one system to a crowd of baby-boomers, while a DJ "spin-off" contest was taking place amid a more adolescent swarm at the other. In between were dozens of booths devoted to vinyl-related products, and of course piles of records themselves. The local city art museum was also enlisted, and offered an exhibit of album cover art ranging from the rare to the simply bizarre.

Audiophiles would have instantly recognized the Classic Records booth, where the company's Coleman Brice was on hand to show off its recent issues. Brice was holding the just-released Vanilla Sky soundtrack Quiex SV-P 200gm LP (packaged with a strip of five frames from the actual film) that Michael Fremer raves about in the September Stereophile. Brice also had a copy of Classic's new Quiex SV-P 200gm mono pressing of Hank Mobley. He explained that SV-P stand for Super Vinyl Profile, and called our attention to the flat edge around the record where the run-in goove sits. According to Brice, the little lip (sometimes referred to as the "groove guard") that typical records have around their edge is used to prevent the grooves from hitting each other when records are stacked in the record changers popular in the old days. "But," says Brice, "a flat lead-in area leads to a better, flatter record. It's a problem for modern turntables that the record industry never corrected."

Local independent music merchant Boo Boo Records had one of the larger displays with boxes of records new and used spread out on several tables. Boo Boo's store features a "Wax Museum," and owner Ed Taylor remarked sales of used LPs have been increasing in the past couple of years. Taylor added, "It's amazing how much business we do with new LP sales as well."

Vinyl spinning hardware was also on hand from local retailer Jim Moyer and his shop, Audio Ecstasy. Moyer says that, because of local media attention for Vinyl Record Day, he's seen a tremendous increase in interest for turntables. "We get a steady stream of people saying they had no idea there was still new vinyl," he adds.

Historic vinyl hardware was also well represented with a pair of dazzling displays from local audio equipment collector Dan Steele and Northern California restoration shop and retailer Record Players Plus. Steele's booth had examples from the early days of the phonograph with an Edison wax cylinder and a wind-up 78 machine surrounded by a wild assortment of record player oddities. Record Player Plus's booth was packed as owner Willie Bosco showed off some pristine phonographs from the '50s and '60s that he restores and sells. Bosco was telling onlookers that "of course, 78s and 45s sound best played through a tube-driven amplifier."

By late afternoon, thousands of vinyl fans and curious locals had waded into the booths, prompting a beaming Freiberg to state, "Vinyl is the medium that every generation can relate to. You say vinyl to one person and they say 'Sinatra.' You say it to another and they say 'DJ Shadow.'"

Photos by James Wigger