Book Review: Why Vinyl Matters by Jennifer Otter Bickerdike
As an enthusiastic crate digger, I thought I didn’t need to be told why vinyl matters. But when presented with this fine-looking and lovingly compiled book, I was happy to read the arguments put forward.
In Why Vinyl Matters, author and academic Jennifer Otter Bickerdike has set about writing and presenting the perfect manifesto for the rebirth and resurgence of a form that was in danger of passing into obsolescence. She has pulled together a notable cast of figures to support her passion, and while it feels like a huge undertaking, it’s a task that can be filed under the category of labour of love.
The book has interviews with distinguished figures from around the world and all aspects of the music industry, notably producers, manufacturers, DJs, musicians, label owners, and designers. The North of England is well represented, with The Charlatans’ front man (and label owner) Tim Burgess, DJ and Inspiral Carpets’ Clint Boon, and the designer of some of the most memorable record sleeves of all time, Factory Records’ alumnus Peter Saville.
But this is not a one-sided vinyl love fest. The praise is tempered by the mention of its impracticalities, too. Many DJs admit to using technology, in particular Serato and MacBooks, to put together their live sets. Carting crates of records around the world is a risky process in terms of damage and loss. Fat Boy Slim recounts a number of occasions when his gargantuan collection was depleted for reasons beyond his control. The realities are that a number of DJs see vinyl for moments when they can kick back and relax.
The age-old question about whether vinyl sounds better is discussed throughout the book, but it is not definitively answered. Technology experts point to frequencies and sound waves to support their arguments, but generally it seems to be a matter of taste and owning a decent sound system.
Like vinyl, the look and feel of this book is something to behold. The lazy pigeonhole is to class this as a coffee table book, but that would be doing it a disservice. You could download a copy of Why Vinyl Matters to your e-reader, but that wouldn’t be the same experience. It’s almost as big as your typical vinyl record and as visually stunning. It now takes pride of place on the shelf next to my record collection.
If you still need convincing that the resurgence of vinyl is merely a passing fad then this is the book for you. Even if you are a convert to all things shiny and black there is much to enjoy here.
Nevertheless, Why Vinyl Matters should come with a warning as it will seriously damage your bank balance given the amount of album covers presented throughout subliminally begging you to buy them.
Why Vinyl Matters is now available to buy
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