Vintage vinyl alive and well downtown
PRESCOTT - Every Tuesday evening around 6 or 7 p.m., customers at Whiskey Row's Bird Cage Saloon in Prescott get a free ride through musical history. It's called Vinyl Night and music fans love it.
"I grew up listening to records that my parents played," said bartender Josie Meador, 22, the inspiration behind Vinyl Night. "There's just so much good music on vinyl."
Vinyl records, also called LPs (long playing,) records, albums, 33s (for their 33-1/3 revolutions per minute) and record albums, are making a comeback with younger audiences. Many of them show up at the Bird Cage on Tuesdays.
"I would say that 99 percent of people under 35 years old have never even seen a turntable," said Brian Maize, 32, Bird Cage bartender and vinyl record collector. "It's fascinating to see them actually try to figure out how to use it."
Maize provides a Pioneer PL 530 Direct Drive Automatic Turntable and a couple of crates of albums. Customers are encouraged to bring their own albums.
"We have people that donate records to the bar," Meador said.
Vietnam veteran Thomas Lane is one of Meador's regular Tuesday night customers.
"I like vinyl," Lane said. "I can't say if it's any better than CDs, but I like the sound much better."
"Vinyl has more depth in its sound, more mid-range," Maize said.
In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the first phonograph. It recorded and played on tin cylinder discs, and Edison intended it primarily to record office dictation.
Emile Berliner in 1888 invented the lateral-cut discs that evolved into modern vinyl records. About the turn of the century, someone discovered that shellac could stabilize the fragile records and allowed for recordings on both sides of a disc.
Although CD makers proclaimed the death of vinyl in the 1980s, and they were nearly correct when most stores quit selling records and record players, the 2000s are seeing a dramatic comeback in interest from younger generations. Industry tracker Nielsen SoundScan reports that vinyl record sales reached 1.9 million units in 2008 and nearly 2.8 million units in 2009.
"I started collecting albums for the artwork," Maize said. "You line them up and it becomes like an art show."
"Album covers have so much more personality than a CD cover," Meador agrees. "Albums altogether just have so much more personality than CDs."
Bob and Sarah Cohen, both in their mid-30s, were visiting Prescott from Las Vegas this past Tuesday when they happened into the Bird Cage Saloon.
"I remember listening to records as a kid," Sarah said. "I didn't know places still played them. I love the art of the album covers."
Bird Cage owners John and Debi Stamm give Meador free reign over Vinyl Night.
"It's Josie's baby," Debi said.
Thumbing through the two crates of albums is like a stroll through some forgotten history. A Moby Grape album is tucked between Cheech and Chong's Big Bambu album (the foot-square rolling paper is long-gone) and Paul Revere and the Raiders.
When customers start to drift home and Meador is alone with her beloved vinyls and Maize's turntable, she starts spinning records.
"When it's quiet, I love to play the Supremes," she said. "I like music that moves me, that touches me."
While a couple shot pool Tuesday night, and the birds in the cages watched over Meador and her customers, vinyl discs belted out music the way Meador thinks music should be heard.
"I just love the crackling sound. Some people hate it, but I love it," she said. "I don't know, vinyl music just reminds me of my childhood when the world was young and innocent."
The Bird Cage Saloon is located at 148 S. Montezuma St., in the heart of Prescott's Whiskey Row. Vinyl night is every Tuesday night and starts when the first customer spins an album.