Why Vinyl Matters author Jennifer Otter Bickerdike quizzes hard-partying singer-songwriter, TV host, author and motivational speaker Andrew W.K. about the album that changed his perception of music when he was a child – and discovers what vinyl means to him…
“It’s quite challenging to remember exactly what the first record I bought for myself was. I was purchasing records from a very young age, with my parents’ money, allowance, or cash I made babysitting. The first vinyl album I remember asking to have was USA For Africa performing We Are the World. I was six years old. I saw that footage of all of the artists and celebrities singing on TV. I’d always been very moved by choirs, groups of people singing and vocal classes at school. I asked my mum if we go could go get it. That was the first time I remember hearing music and seeking it out.
“Growing up, my parents had a lot of records, but I do have a very clear memory of one particular album. When I was four, we moved from California, where I was born, to Michigan, where I had my formative childhood years. My dad must have been setting up the stereo system for the first time, because we were unpacking and moving into this new house. There was this one album, I think it was called Hooked On Classics from K-Tel. It’s an instrumental record, with very popular motifs from many orchestral pieces set to this disco beat. I remember running around the house with a small inflatable toy basketball. It was like a soundtrack to this imaginary, high-stakes drama that only I was playing. I got chills when it kicked into this sort of intense, romantic section of Rhapsody In Blue.”
“I was just really amazed by how much the music changed the way I was, physically. These melodies and the intervals of these notes could change the way your body felt. That instrumental, the really melodic-driven portion, the sound of these people playing together: even though there weren’t voices, there was a human presence in that. The artwork on that was quite striking; it was this neon-coloured treble-clef staff from sheet music. It’s not very interesting, but it’s very memorable.
“With Andrew W.K., we put every record out on vinyl. In terms of my peer group, it just wasn’t really a question. People were always making 7″s and vinyl. There was never a real falling away of that format, from my experience. But there wasn’t a big market for it, so when we made them, we didn’t do a large number.
“Now it’s quite exciting to see more pressing plants opening and the quality of records increasing; it’s great. I do like having that larger artwork space. The sleeve, to me, is really very important. One of the best parts about getting to make an album is getting to work with that space, and what kind of impression you can give someone from the cover or the inside. The more surfaces you have to work with, the better. For me, that’s the best part about it.”