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From vinyl to digital and every music era in between…

DCW advisor Russell Workman shares his passion for music and reflects on how things have changed over the years with the introduction of digital options for listening.

A close up photograph of a vinyl on a record player.

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Music was my first love and it will be my last.  Music of the future and music of the past.  So sang John Miles, and so sing I.  I love listening to music.  All sorts of music, modern and classical, thunderous and soft.  I have seen such a change in music formats in my lifetime.  I’m not quite old enough for 78’s, but vinyl 45’s and long playing records spinning at 33 1/3 rpm were a staple of my childhood.  I can well remember the smell of the vinyl that packed record cases in my grandparent’s front room.  The hiss and crack as the tiny diamond-tipped needle landed on the spinning grove, then moments later the warm croon of Bing Crosby, the rock’n’rolling of the Beatles or the lilting Welsh voice of Ryan Davies at the Top Rank suite in Swansea, poured magically from two teak-effect speakers hung high on the anaglypta covered walls.

Into the 80’s and vinyl, despite the advent of indulgent 12” singles, had competition from cassettes and their ultimate weapon – the Walkman!  Why invest in vinyl that could warp, scratch and skip when you could abandon your bedroom and listen to the new wave sounds of Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and Adam & the Ants as you strutted Travoltaesque around your village?  Frankie Says Relax, the future is here, and if the future begins to unwind, well you can just tighten it back up with a pencil.   But the future wasn’t just cassettes, and before the decade was out the crystal clear, like-an-orchestra-in-your-living-room, CD revolution had arrived.

For those of us who had watched in awe as a CD was covered in jam on Tomorrow’s World and, when entered into the player, still played; for us this was magic!  The reality wasn’t quite the same and we all soon realised that a stray fingerprint on a CD could result in a singer machine-gunning a single syllable, repeatedly ad infinitum.  And so, now, shelf upon shelf of IKEA’s finest Gnedby units groan with jewel cases containing the myriad musical purchases of three decades (and, yes, I was in the Britannia CD club!).

But now all of this – record cases, teak effect speakers, hi-fi decks, 12” mixes, Walkman’s, boom boxes, CDs and Gnedby units – are contained all in the tiny device I carry in my pocket.  They are all in there.  Bing, Elvis (Presley and Costello), Madonna, Oasis and Mario Lanza.  Even John Miles is in there.  Spotify contains the joyful sounds of Christmas and holidays.  It allows me to rediscover long forgotten songs and find again music no amount of searching in dusty second hand record shops could locate.  And it goes with me everywhere.  It’s playing now as I write.  It is my passenger in the car when I drive.  And, best of all, it is now funnelled via wireless earbuds as I strut around my village…Travolaesque.

For more information on keeping yourself occupied online, please visit Digital Communities Wales’ Keeping Occupied padlet which includes links, resources and advice that may be of use. Under the ‘Webinars and Virtual support’ section, you can access a recording of our Keeping Occupied introductory webinar.