There’s something about carefully placing the needle into the groove of a record, then carefully having to lift it again to turn the record around and listen to the other side. It’s the kind of interaction with music you just don’t get when listening to a CD in the front-loader of your car or a digital file on your phone or MP3 player.
The allure of vinyl has seen many a music-lover dedicate a room or more to house precious collections, with Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger even naming their TV series homage to the 70s US recording scene in honour of the format.
With World Record Store Day (April 16), on the horizon, Atlantic Sun speaks to two vinyl enthusiasts, record store owner Stephen Segerman and Paul Waxon, DJ and organiser of one of the city’s hottest vinyl-only parties.
Stephen, the co-owner of Mabu Vinyl record store owner, and also one of the men who initiated the search for folk singer Rodriguez documented in the film Searching for Sugarman, said that it is great to see the younger generation coming into his store and buying records.
“I can only talk from experience from my own shop which is now 15 years old – and according to the Oranjezicht residents, that is a long time for a record shop in Cape Town.”
Stephen, who says he “grew up going to record stores and loving record stores” was born and raised in Johannesburg and studied at Wits University. He worked with his dad at a jewellery factory for 20 years and in the 90s he decided to move to Cape Town.
“I watched as CD’s came and records disappeared and people gave up on them. I didn’t, because I didn’t want to give up my records.” Stephen said his business partner, Jacques Vosloo, started the shop on Kloof Street, not far from their current location in Rheede Street.
“Across the road, where Vida Café is now, was a double shop. It was a second-hand shop called Kloof Mart and it was his dad’s shop. Jacques bought a batch of records and turned part of the shop into a record store.” This was the beginning of Mabu Vinyl. They have been in there current location for the last eight years. “I’d been a big customer in his shop and helped him advertise. In the 13 years that we’ve built this shop and moved here (about eight years ago) we’ve seen nothing but the rise of vinyl. Vinyl has been massive and come back.”
He said that originally the shop just focused on dance, trance and house records.
“This is what kept vinyl alive. Slowly as DJs started using computers and CDs, pop, rock soul and jazz records became popular again. There were record shops where you could buy (vinyl) records which there hadn’t been for years.”
“With electronics you won’t be able to touch things, put a needle on it and get that kind of quality. We’ve watched records become popular with the younger generation which is wonderful. There are thousands of records out there.”
At Mabu Vinyl, they only sell second-hand records. “We have a saying that the universe has to bring it to us. In the old days these records were analogue and you could feel the sound. These new records are made digitally and then converted to vinyl. It doesn’t have the same soul,” said Stephen.
“People nowadays download tracks but we grew up listening to whole albums. You had Ziggy Stardust and you would put it on your record player. You looked at the cover to find out who the musicians were. After 20 minutes you had to turn it over and listen to the other side. I still think that people who love music want to hear the whole album. What we’ve seen now is that this analogue world has come back. It has a place and it is not going anywhere because these records are valuable.”
“We are supportive of World Record Store Day but we are not going to go out and get new records just for it. We are a 365 day celebration. We are all music addicts and it is wonderful that this addiction has bought records back.”
DJ Paul Waxon said he has been collecting vinyl records since he was young and started his WaxOn events, at The Waiting Room, two and a half years ago because he just loved playing music.
“I have been collecting records and DJing for a long time. I stopped for a while when everything went to digital. I went away on a holiday with my friends and I realised how much I missed playing music to people.”
He said that he also knew that the only way he would get back into it again would be with vinyl records. “I’m not a purist but I didn’t enjoy playing the CDs and MP3s. I started my event because I wanted to play music in the way I wanted to.” Vinyl, he said, was the only format being played in the clubs up until the early 2000s, and it was this scene that contributed to keeping vinyl alive when many vinyl pressing plants were shutting down.
It was the introduction of CDs to the market which pretty much killed off vinyl sales. Then came digital formats such as MP3, which turned the music industry on its head, challenging recording companies and music stores to reconsider their traditional ways of looking at the music business.
Over the past few years, however, vinyl has regained its popularity. “They started Record Store Day to create interest in a broad way,” said Paul. “It put some weight behind and sales started growing on a very rapid scale. We are close to the point where vinyl will outsell CDs in the next couple of years.
But it hasn’t all been positive, with record pricing often in the upper-hundreds as everyone seeks to cash in on the renewed interest in the vinyl record.
Now the big major record labels have jumped on to it. The people that kept the plants open were doing small indie rock bands and electronic music. They are reissuing albums now that are already there and also overpricing the new records. I saw a Saturday Night Fever album for R500.
“I feel like we should promote our own music in this country. If we want to promote Record Store Day we have to find a way to support local music and not just bring in old re-issues.
“There is a lot of music from the 60s and 70s that sit in our record stores and nobody cares about it. Then what happens is people overseas find them and reissue them. Then they become popular. We need to value our own music more. If I find the right store, I walk out of there really happy.”