The Story of HiFi Jones

Yesterday, a stranger came to my house and systematically shattered my dreams.  Cruel bastard.

Well, that’s not fair.  For one, he wasn’t really a stranger.  He was a man I’d never met before, but one I had invited to my studio to evaluate several turntables I’ve acquired over the last few months.  I wanted his professional opinion on their condition, and possibly an estimate on how much it would be to fix these treasures of mine, rescued from various locations via Craig’s List.  

Boy do I have to be careful on Craig’s List-- no sooner do I start snooping around that hotbed of material fixation then I find a new Holy Grail that someone is getting rid of.  MUST HAVE!  MUST HAVE NOW!

But I digress.  The turntable expert had nothing but bad news for me.  In case after case, he said my vintage turntables were designed with ceramic cartridges, instead of the much improved magnetic versions that came later. The ceramic cartridges (in which the needle is housed) rendered them outdated and not worth repairing.  He used the term “money pit” several times.

Can you hear my heart breaking from where you are?

I love these things.  I love records, turntables, the sound of a stylus on vinyl, the look of old stereo cabinets.  It is a deep, mysterious love that some might say (my wife, to cite one example) is more like an obsession.  I call this love ‘mysterious’ because I can’t really tell you why these things give me so much joy.  They just do.  I simply like looking at them.  I like their vibe and energy. They make me happy.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was a man without a single album to his name.  In a story that pains me to recount, I had about one hundred records I chose to dump, along with my turntable.  What good were they to me?  I didn’t even have the turntable hooked up.  CDs, I thought.  I’m a CD man now.  

Blast it and Curse You, late 20s something me!  How could you do such a thing?!

Before long though, albums found a way back into my life.  I lucked into finding a small house for my studio just a mile from my residence.  I looked at it as a double investment-- the property itself for one, and not having to rent studio space, for two.  

The house came with an unexpected bonus.  A feature that I initially viewed as a detraction from the house’s overall appeal.  It had a spartan, concrete, not quite finished basement.  A large cellar.  The kind of space perfect for a mancave.  In fact, the more I got the basement cleared out, the more I realized that it could be the cornerstone of the house.  The Hallowed Hall.  The Place to Be.  It would be my mid life indulgence clubhouse.

The longest wall in the basement is constructed of slate gray cinder blocks.  As I organized the room and became giddy with various possibilities for it, an idea struck me to plaster the wall entirely with album covers.  An homage to music and the iconic artwork that is linked to so many bands and so many of my memories.  Great idea, Hanst!

But where would I get the records?

Slowly, I began to purchase albums for the wall, at first taking whatever I could get, and then seeking out covers I have always adored.  Dark Side.  Dirty Deeds.  Revolver.  Exile.  Houses of the Holy.  The lineup grew and grew.  134 covers: classic, campy and obscure, each gazing out from those long rows of cinder blocks.

I fell in love with albums again.  I got a hifi cabinet and a turntable.  Speakers at a flea market.  I began to peruse thrift shops for vinyl, even though my quota for the wall had been filled.  I wanted to keep collecting.  I was smitten.

Along the way I began to notice images within some albums I had picked up in the early part of my quest.  Records I didn’t really know what to do with but had gotten as part of package deals. Middle of the road stuff from the 50s like Lawrence Welk, Billy Vaughn, Nat “King” Cole.  Dance records.  Polka records.  Light jazz.  Quite a few of these contained words and pictures not just about the music and the artist, but about the technology of recording.  The science of stereo. And how to properly care for your vinyl collection.  Messages from a time when records were king and 2 channel recording was a new technology.

The audio geek and music lover in me sensed creative opportunities but I couldn’t settle on specifics.  The ideas had to germinate.  

And before long they did.

Little sprouts started to pop through my gray matter.  I would take these images and words and do something cool with them.  Get them into my computer.  Play with them.  Learn about image manipulation.  Make them into something new while keeping their original feel intact.

At first, I hung the finished pieces on my studio walls.  And later I decided: maybe… just maybe… other people will like this stuff as much as I do.  Maybe I can take this passion of mine-- for both the raw material and the creative process-- and share it with folks.  Music lovers and audiophiles. Children of the vinyl generation.  Kids who are discovering records for the first time.  Maybe I’m onto something.

Or, maybe not.  I mean, you never know right?  I’m not sure where this journey will take me, but I can tell you I find it genuinely exciting.

My first public offering of my work went pretty well, I think.  People seemed interested.  Next up is designing a website so each image has a home and can be viewed.  If you want to come on the ride with me, drop me a note or comment on Facebook and I’ll make sure to include you.

This is the continuing story of HiFi Jones.