Twisted Systems

Keith Richards Will Still Be Here When You Are Gone

This article is about preservation. No one exemplifies this more than the legendary Rolling Stones guitarist, Keith Richards.

Oh, sure, his survival despite years of damage from drug and alcohol use, is as startling as it is humorous. I’m using Keith here simply as a reference that very quickly and cleanly brings a visual into focus in your mind.

Preservation, in my case, covers a variety of subjects: my own body, my guitar collection, my record collection, my Beatles memorabilia collection, and by extension all things emanating from the sixties that tell the story of not only my teenage years, but the incredible period of time (cultural as well as political) that I had the great fortune to grow up in.

It begins not as a preservation story, but as an acquisition story. After all, before you can preserve you have to collect and/or obtain.

Why I thought that what I was living through needed to be to catalogued for the future, is the most intriguing question. I can clearly remember saying to myself, as I was attending one of the dozens of legendary live shows at the Fillmore East concert hall in Manhattan, that what I was watching was going to be talked about in 50 years. That’s why I kept all the Fillmore programs. That’s why I kept all my R. Crumb comics. That’s why I kept newspapers and magazines on the dates that mattered, like the Kennedy and King assassinations, the moon landing (on my birthday no less), Nixon’s resignation, the end of the Vietnam war….

I also kept the paperwork relating to my lawsuit against the NYC Board of Education for violating my constitutional rights for preventing me from handing out an underground newspaper, as well as my pretty horrible report cards.

I have extensive guitar and vinyl collections, as well, which are pretty awesome, if I do say so myself.

The guitars and the albums are always maintained.

Here is what it’s like to preserve and play an album in my house:

I have a record washing machine that I use before I play an album. It takes 6 minutes to wash one. My wife has no patience for this, which is why God created Sonos. When she wants to hear a song, she can push 2 buttons on her phone and have it instantly. Me? After a 6-minute record wash, I then place the album onto the turntable, make the speed adjustment from another piece of gear that controls the motor, set the preamp, the “phono,” and place not one, but 2 record weights on the turntable to stabilize the record so that the needle can pick up everything.

It takes about 10 minutes just to get to the point of placing the tonearm to the album, and since many of my reference albums have been remastered at 45 rpm, not 33, you only get about 14 minutes per side.

Oh, and did I mention the record washing machine cost $4,000, the turntable cost $21,000, the phono cartridge cost $6,000, and the phono preamp that allows the cartridge to connect to the stereo cost $13,000?

That’s  over $40K before the cables and power cords. Not to mention amps and speakers….

Why?

One can play an album pretty quickly and pay a whole lot less— like, say, $200!

I have been into vinyl as a music medium since I was 10 years old, and have followed its playback evolution for the past 60 years. Even after the CD was introduced in 1982, I just knew that vinyl was always superior sounding and the artwork with the album was an art form that could stand on its own.

There is a New Yorker cartoon floating around the internet in my hi-end audio world which shows 2 record collectors admiring a stereo owned by one of the 2 guys. The caption reads:

“The two things that really drew me to vinyl were the expense and the inconvenience.”