BIMM London’s very own Music Journalism guru Dr Jennifer Otter Bickerdike’s latest book “Why Vinyl Matters” is out now. To mark its release, we caught up with to the enigmatic music historian for a quick Q&A to hear how she first fell in love with the format.
What’s your earliest memory of vinyl records?
“My parents had two sets of record collections when I was growing up. One were the records that were in high rotation in our house, and lived literally underneath the record player. This would be a motley array of anything relatively new that someone in the house had purchased, though it seems that from the second it entered the house, Paul Simon’s Graceland took up permanent residence there. The second part of their stash was stored at the end of our living room, in a huge, specially made chest. Within this literal treasure trove lived original issue Beatles, Stones, Doors and Who records. We (myself and my two younger siblings) were rarely allowed to go into the chest without one of our parents, thus making its contents musical forbidden fruit. When we would get to choose a piece from the chest to be added to the everyday collection, or to even just play on a special occasion, it was a huge deal. One record that I clearly remember being a ‘big moment’ to access was the Beatles original issue White Album, as when it was anyone’s birthday in our house, the entire family would be awoken to someone blasting ‘They say it’s your birthday / well, it’s my birthday too, yeah!”
What do you think of the vinyl resurgence of recent years?
“I came of being a teenager in that awkward time when vinyl, tapes and CDs were all in record stores; looking back on it, it was kind of like if the dinosaurs, woolly mammoths and Neanderthals all had uneasily walked the earth at the same time. Someone had to go. Which makes the re-emergence of vinyl records so amazing and unforeseen; it would be like a stegosaurus unexpectedly sauntering down Soho in London. And that is another reason I love it so much; completely unplanned by ANYONE, a completely UN-capitalistic come back of the format took place because, simply, people loved it. When else has that happened? Only the blimp of the hipster beard, not fashionable since Little House on the Prairie days, seems to have been resurrected and embraced to the hearts of many in a somewhat similar way.”
Why does vinyl matter to you?
“I love that once I have a record, I have a record. How many times have I switched computers, changed hard drives or forgotten which external source I stored something on? I go to play, ‘I Want to Destroy You’ by The Soft Boys, and ITS IS NOT IN THE ITUNES, though I swear I bought it / downloaded / somehow had it before. Yet here I am holding N.F. Porter’s ‘Keep on Keepin on;’ it isn’t going anywhere. I don’t know what kids do these days, how they find a tribe. Yes, yes, there is the endless rabbit hole of the internet. But I loved the subcultures that vinyl helped create: the values, ethos and ideas literally encased in a 12” x 12” format. Vinyl is magic, and I am so happy it is back from extinction.”
Dr Bickerdike’s book “Why Vinyl Matters” is available now on ACC Publishing.
You can purchase it online here.