A friend of mine sent me a message on Facebook with one of my favorite conversation starters: “Random music question for you.” Favorite because I know the discussion to follow will be a lot of fun. It just has to be. After my reply asking what’s up, she continued: “So I just bought a record player. What are some essential vinyls I need in my life?”
I’m glad you asked. This is what I do.
(Links below are to vinyl copies of the named records on Amazon.com. If you buy from those links, you help support this website. Thanks!)
1. To start, she said she already owned Rumours by Fleetwood Mac. I can’t think of a more perfect album to be the anchor in a vinyl collection. *I* don’t even own that record, but it’s a classic. You can envision dropping the needle on it on breezy summer afternoons, or if you’re gearing up for a night on the town, and even late night as the evening winds down.
But where to go from there? Here’s what my thought process looks like:
2. It’s super cliché, but my mind turns next to Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue or Birth of the Cool. Again, I own neither record, but a classic from that jazz age seems fitting. If you can’t find classic Miles, then one of the Jazz Queens would fit perfectly here – Ella, Billie, Sarah, Dinah.
3. *The* rock record – AC/DC’s Back In Black.
4. A comedy record. I have Reality…What A Concept by Robin Williams, but anything by Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, Redd Foxx, Cheech & Chong, Bob Newhart, Nichols & May, or Eddie Murphy would be good, too. (Nothing by Gallagher, though.)
5. A crooner – Sinatra, Tormé, Nat King Cole. Maybe a Dean Martin or Johnny Mathis record if you can’t find the first people I listed. I feel like Bing was kind of past his prime by the late 50s/early 60s, so it would be difficult to find a record by him. I would also put Julie London in this category.
7. Any Led Zeppelin album up to and including Physical Graffiti. Personally, I prefer Houses of the Holy, but you can’t really go wrong with any of the LZ I-IV albums, either.
8. Early rap – After all, it was made with turntables! If you can score some old school – Grandmaster Flash, Sugarhill Gang – go for it. Otherwise records from the golden age will do – LL Cool J, Run-DMC, etc. Public Enemy might be a little hard for a “starter vinyl” list.
10. Round it out with a classical record. I have 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky backed with Ravel’s Bolero, but whoever you like – Beethoven, Bach, Mozart. Whatever speaks to your soul.
And that’s what I’d recommend for my essential vinyl top 10.
As I was writing this, I kept thinking of other records to have in the collection, but they’re not as essential as the top 10 list.
Bonus record #1: Something camp from the $1 bin. Mrs. Miller. Jim Nabors.
Bonus record #2: 80s new wave remixes – The remix was the rage for new wave, easy to loop those electronic beats and keep the dance floor going. My 12″ collection includes New Order, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Depeche Mode, Book of Love, Erasure, and The Blow Monkeys. If you can’t find a good 12″, then any classic early 80s album will do: Men At Work, Cyndi Lauper, Go-Go’s, Devo.
Bonus Record #3: Psomething Psychedelic! Isn’t that the cliché of record players? Getting stoned and zoning out to some Pink Floyd or Grateful Dead or Jefferson Airplane or Cream or The Doors. Blaze it! Turn on, tune in, drop out. All that psychedelic stuff.
Bonus Record #4: A Soundtrack. This could be Saturday Night Fever, Star Wars, or South Pacific. Songs, scores, or showtunes, something connected to a film.
Ok, that seems like enough to *really* get you stocked up to break in your new record player. (Don’t ask me what record player to buy, though. That’s beyond my purview. I just have an Ion turntable and M-Audio AV42 speakers.)
What are *your* essential vinyl picks? Leave a comment below!
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