Living as a Mod in the 21st Century

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A little Northern Soul for the Mod on the run: Part II

When I first started buying music, you couldn't do it by simply clicking on your computer mouse. You actually had to walk into a record shop. The first LP I ever bought with my allowance was a Kiss album. (How things have changed!)  I was in 4th grade and I bought it in a small shopping mall, two blocks from my house. Every few weeks, my best friend Francis and I would pool our money together and buy a new album.

But it was in high school that I bought my first portable music player. After a few months of delivering newspapers, seven days a week, at 5:30 in the morning, I got enough cash to buy myself a brand new Sony Walkman. Yes, total freedom! Long live the cassette tape!

If you think about it, it was quite revolutionary. You could listen to your choice of music, anywhere you wanted. I remember when I first put the headphones on. It felt like I had the band right in front of me. Aside from the headphones, that you would have to replace every few months, the sound quality was remarkable.

I was independent. I could listen to MY music and nobody could tell me to turn it down. Since "nostalgia" is my middle name, I recently tracked down my faithful silver Walkman WM-4 on eBay and bought it again. I just learnt that Sony has finally discontinued the Walkman after 30 years in production. I didn't even know that they still sold them! You can read an online article about it here:

The mighty cassette was equally a very cool thing. You could make copies of your favorite albums and pass it along to your friends. That is how I discovered The Who, The Specials and Bob Marley. My friend Greg had made me copies of those albums.

Since I reignited my love for vinyl, I've been looking around for funky portable turntables. (See part 1) The latest addition to the collection is the Sound Burger. Made by Audio-Technica, it came out around the same time as the Walkman but it was, compared to the portable cassette player, a commercial flop. Who would want to deal with cumbersome LPs and a needle skipping when you could simply walk around with a bunch of cassettes?

This record player might not be an audiophile's first choice because of its average sound quality but it makes up in the practical department. I have since brought it with me at a few record conventions, flea markets and record shops. It has practically paid for itself by preventing me from buying a bunch of crappy records. On the flip side, it has allowed me to discover unknown artists that I would have normally glanced over without a second thought. Plus, it hits 10 on the cool scale. Just the name itself is enough to evoke a reaction or conjure up a smile.

Expect to pay a few hundred dollars for a mint example in its original box. Mine came without headphones but it did have the seldom-missing white screw at the back. The screw prevents the clamp from opening when it’s not in use. If you put your hands on one with the screw, make sure you take it off before you use it or you risk breaking the turntable. I have heard of it happening. The record player also comes in vibrant colors like yellow or red, reminiscent of the 80's.

With vinyl records making a comeback full force, Crosley came out with their modern version. It has the advantage of having a USB connection so you are able to transfer your precious vinyl collection to your computer, a wireless radio connection and integrated stereo speakers. Currently retailed at 149$, it's quite a steal.

For more info, check out the Crosley website here:

The Crosley Revolution

I bought a pair of inexpensive speakers for the Sound Burger that plugs in the headphone jack and it has proven to be very popular at parties or on my rooftop terrace. All you need is a good selection of northern soul, garage, ska and a stable surface.

The Sound Burger remains the perfect companion for the Mod on the run...


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