The Vinyl Farewell

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
Tony was delighted to inherit his grandfather's record collection. The record player itself was something special.

Submitted: August 13, 2019

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Submitted: August 13, 2019

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A few weeks after his grandfather’s funeral Tony’s parents invited him and his sister over fro a take away. Tony had agreed straight away. If it involved beer and curry, he’d replied, then count me in. He found his sister Sarah and his parents in the kitchen. His dad greeted him and handed him a beer.

‘Thanks mate.’ He sighed, cracking open the can.

He joined them at the long table. His mum told him they’d ordered him a chicken Madras.

‘Lovely.’ He smiled. ‘Diet starts tomorrow.’

‘Tomorrow never comes.’ added his sister Sarah.

As they munched on the Indian food and drank lager, they exchanged stories of their departed relative. Tony’s grandfather had been a real character. They laughed at the little things, like the way he would insist on putting the rubbish bins out for the ‘old people’ despite being in his eighties himself.

The curry was belting. The food had a cracking kick to it. His mother waved a hand to the food in the middle of the table.

‘There’s rice and naan left. Get stuck in, you lot.’

Tony, mouthful of food, nodded and gave a thumbs up.

Once the able had been cleared and the left-overs put in the fridge for his parents tea the following night, his dad gave his son and daughter a serious look.

‘We’ve been going through your grandad’s things.’

Tony and Sarah exchanged puzzled looks.

‘There are a few bits we think you’d like. Sarah, he would have wanted you to have his books.’

Sarah, an avid reader, beamed in excitement.

‘There’s all kinds of books there. There’s some Chris Platt short stories, lots of Charles Dickens, and some horror and crime fiction and thrillers.’

‘Ow wow, I’d really like that.’

His parents turned to Tony. He would like whatever keepsake they had deemed suitable, but couldn’t see himself wearing the garish 1970s-style ties to the office.

‘Tony, you’re into your music. You always have been. We think he’d want you to have his record collection and his record player.’

‘No way. Grandad’s records?’

‘There’s some awful stuff in the collection.’ His mother added.

Tony smiled. If his mother thought the records were bad then them must have been awful. She had a reputation in the family for having an appalling taste in music. Tony recalled one of her favourite songs had naff whip-cracking sound effects all the way through it.

‘Some good stuff too. Lots of sixties and seventies LPs. There’s all sorts really.’

‘Thank you so much. It really means a lot.’

He hugged them both. They smiled at each other, happy that his prized possessions were going to the right homes.

‘Fancy a whiskey?’ asked his dad.

‘Always.’ Tony replied.

 

Tony called round to his parents’ house the following Saturday morning. He couldn’t wait to get his hands on the record player and the collection. He had been looking forward to it all week. He was eager to go through the epic collection and playing the records. Part of the reason was sentimental. It would be great to listen to the records his grandfather had enjoyed, and on his player. But also, an avid music fan, he was also excited to delve deep into the collection. He might even discover bands he’d never heard of. His grandfather could turn him on to a new band from beyond the grave.

He followed his mum and dad into the front room. He gasped. Half the room was full of record boxes.

‘This is the lot.’ His mum said.

‘You said he had quite a collection but this is something else.’ He grinned.

The record player itself was something special. It was a pale blue case with a white carry-handle. The sound came from two square speakers on the front. Tony couldn’t take his eyes from the record player. For a moment he simply stood transfixed.

This was just fantastic. He felt like he had been given the best present ever.

His dad placed a gentle hand on his shoulder.

‘Come on. I’ll give you a hand loading the car.’

‘Are you sure I can have all this?’

‘We don’t want it cluttering up the place.’ said his mother.

‘Besides, we listen to music online these days.’

Tony said nothing. His parents were a little too old to have been bitten by the vinyl bug. They had a point about being able to listen to hundreds and hundreds of albums online and without jumping or scratching, just digital perfect quality. But there was just something magical, spiritual almost, about listening to music on vinyl. And staring at the numerous record cases, he felt like an archaeologist at a fresh Egyptian tomb. This was a real find.

By one o’clock that afternoon Tony had shifted the cases into his living room and set the record player up on a cabinet in the corner of the room. He looked around in amazement. The collection was so vast. It was as though he had been given his own personal record store. The whole thing was just so special. The fact that it had belonged to his late grandfather really meant something. His dad had told him that he had been listening to his records when he died. The record collection the eighty year old had owned was certainly impressive. The selection was so wide and varied. There were so many different genres of music, spanning decades. It was the opposite of Tony’s music. His musical taste was very much stuck in the 1990s.

He selected a record at random. To choose any other way from the vast collection was just impossible. He stared at the record sleeve. It was a jazz album. He’d never heard of the Dennis Alan Quartet but the dudes in suits and dark glasses looked so cool. They posed on the album cover, looking more like movie gangsters than musicians. The album was a live recording of a gig at Essie’s Jazz Club from 1963. Very cool. He slid the record from its sleeve and placed it on the turntable. He handled the arm with the reverence and respect of a curator holding an ancient artefact.

He placed the needle on the record and took a seat on the armchair. As the vinyl span there was the hiss an crackle that only records can provide. When the music started something strange happened. In front of him, hovering in the air, a thick strip appeared. It was as though thick paint was being splattered on an invisible canvas. The dark strip spread and grew wider. The dizzying jazz music began in earnest, swirling saxophone and hissing symbols. A second later the darkness spread and he was enveloped in the strange scenery.

He gasped. He was now encapsulated in the weird scene. The trumpet solo began as he made sense of the images. He was in the smoky intimate gloom of a jazz club. The trumpet player, a pale man in his fifties, blew his heart out. The place was packed. All the chairs were taken up. As he played the crowd whooped, clapped, and cheered.

‘Go on, Den!’ someone hollered.

It was then that it clicked. The record he’d put on was the Dennis Alan quartet. And there they were in all their glory. This dream-like word seemed to be where the record was set. Despite it making no sense at all, Tony told himself to relax. If this was a dream, or hallucination then he was best off just riding it out. He clicked his fingers in time with the throbbing beat of the double bass.

In front of the small stage, people got to their feet and began to dance. They rocked and shook in time with the hypnotic tune. The jazz quartet launched into song after song. Tony’s head felt fuzzy. The real world seemed very far away. He smiled and became more immersed in the music and the scenes around him. It was all so seductive, the crowd, the atmosphere, the sway and pulse of the music.

A while later as the band finished playing, the scene started to fade. The corners of the room wandered out of focus and daylight peered through the edges. He could see his living room coming into view. The jazz club evaporated quickly. Suddenly he was back in his armchair. Tony sat up. He looked around. He was back in the sunlit afternoon of his home. It was as though he had just woken from a dream. Maybe, he thought, that’s what had happened.

He went over to the record player. The record had finished playing. The needle had reached the end of the side and was stopped at the middle of the record.

Maybe emotion and imagination had got the better of him. Maybe he’d fallen asleep while the record was playing and he’d dreamt of the jazz club where the record was set.

He flicked through a stack of records. What should he play next? Something different this time. There we go, he said, pulling a record out of a box. He smiled as he studied the swirling psychedelic wonder of the prog rock record sleeve. This wasn’t an album cover, this was more like a work of art. He wondered what the album would sound like. The band were called Hodgepodge, not that he’d ever heard of them, nor the album, A Headful of Magic.

Wondering what would happen next, he carefully slid the vinyl from its sleeve and placed it on the turntable. Again, he placed the needle on the record and took to his armchair to wait for the music to start.

After a few seconds of hiss and crackle, the album started. Tony stared in wonder, as once again, images appeared in front of him. The picture created this time was of a far-off blue pink planet, and shining stars. As the first track kicked in he found himself drifting, floating through space. The high-pitched science fiction soundtrack whirred, beeped and soared as he journeyed through a galactic landscape. Strange planets gleamed purples and orange and red. A grey shuttle ship whooshed by. Tony waved a hand in greeting. With the spiralling music steering him, he drifted across the star-scape. The scenes were just astonishing. He orbited beautifully ringed planets of colours he couldn’t even begin to describe.

As the music faded away, so did the images of space. Like a frost windscreen being scraped clear, the real world appeared once again. He was quickly returned to his living room. Could this really be happening? Did the record player transport the listener to wherever the album was set. No wonder his grandfather loved the record player. Now he fully understood why he owned so many records of such a wide variety. He laughed to himself in almost a childish delight. This was just so amazing. He jumped to his feet. What next? What to listen to? Where should he go? He flicked through the stack of records once again.

He selected an LP by a guy called Claudio Palazini. The writing was all in Italian. On the cover, the singer wore a tuxedo and his thick wavy hair was slicked back. Tony wondered what would happen when he played this album. Would the strange images appear for a third time?

Tony put the record on and returned to the armchair. He grinned like a child about to go on a funfair ride. The big band kicked in and Tony was transported once again. His living room was changed. Spots of green and blue appeared in front of him. He couldn’t understand the words he was singing but Claudio’s voice was so glorious, so exotic. He found himself walking along a Tuscan country lane as the crooner’s words rang out all around. He strolled the wondrous Italian countryside. He turned into a small picturesque square. The beautiful piazza was lined with tall sand-coloured stone buildings. Ivy and plant-life climbed up the brickwork. One building was a café, complete with tiny tables out front. The tables were crammed with people in old-fashioned clothing. The men wore waistcoats and flat-caps while the women wore long dresses that swayed on the Latin breeze. He had never been to Italy but he had an instant yearning to visit the country. And the singer went on with his ballads.

Once again at the end of the record Tony emerged back in his living room. This was just amazing. He had never known anything like it. He wondered if it worked only for one person or if it would do the same for Tony and his friends. He recalled that his grandfather had died while listening to the record player. With a machine like this, no wonder his grandad couldn’t resist listening to record after record.

The next LP he selected was a classical opera album. Grinning, he put the LP quickly on the player and dived into the armchair. As the orchestra boomed to life Tony was taken to a strange ornate palace. He swept down a long, grand corridor full of statues and gold-framed portraits. He entered a lavish ballroom. He stared in wonder at the revellers gathered on the black and white tiled dancefloor. An opera song started up. The deep tenor voice was like thunder. The people all wore outlandish period costume. Everyone had elaborate masks over their faces. The men wore hose and frilly waist-jackets. Grey wigs covered their hair, the kind of thing a judge might wear. The women wore grand ball-gowns. The people quickly formed two lines on the chequered floor, men on one side, women facing them. As the opera went on both sides gave a low bow.

The ladies delicately extended their arms, holding out their hands. The men stepped smoothly forward, taking the offered hands. The newly formed couples swept and wooshed grandly around the dance-floor. The wonderful opera music continued.

Suddenly the music jarred. It was as though he was travelling in a vehicle and it had collided with an obstacle. The operatic voice repeated the line. Nel blu di pinto di blu.

The singer repeated the line again. And again. Over and over. Tony felt sick. The dancers also seemed to be stuck in a groove, their movements somehow connected to the music. Like a video tape sticking, the dancers stepped forward then reversed, back and forth, back and forth. It was like he was stuck in a loop. Tony sensed he was also stuck, like the dancers and the record. The line and the dance step repeated over and over.

‘Hello?’ he called out. ‘I need help.’

Again the scene freeze-frame went forward and back. If the record wouldn’t come to an end, how would he get back? He yelled and screamed out for help.

A horrible thought occurred to him. He suddenly knew how his grandfather had died.



© Copyright 2020 CTPlatt. All rights reserved.

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