BETSY HART: Old LPs a trip down memory lane
September 22, 2013 1:30 AM

My daughter, a high-school senior, just told me to turn down the music because she is studying. Really.

The music is from the 1984 Go-Go’s album, “Talk Show.” The track? “Head Over Heels.”

You see, I just dug into my vinyl-LP collection for the first time in about two decades. From the mid-’90s on, as LPs became so “unhip,” the collection — built mostly in my teens — was stored away in my home in Virginia. It made the trek to the Chicago suburbs in 2004, where it just sat gathering dust. Somehow I never bothered to connect the collection with a turntable I had in the attic.

Well, upon my move to a new home with a new husband, I thought: Now what? What do I do with almost 150 LPs that came to me through the record-of-the-month club, or special gifts, or were carefully bought with baby-sitting and birthday money? The prized collection traveled with me through junior high and high school, to college, and beyond.

I finally posed the question on Facebook, looking for input from friends of my generation there.

That same daughter, by the way, seeing the question on Facebook, asked: “So, Mom. How does it work? Does every one of those things have just one song or what?”

Really.

I looked for suggestions of what to do with my collection because it is priceless to me, yet seemingly useless, all at once. But as I really sifted through it for the first time in many years, handling those albums one by one, I realized something new that makes the collection even more special to me: Every album tells a story.

There’s the soundtrack to the remake of the movie “A Star is Born.” I was 13 when this came out, and I remember playing the soundtrack countless times and having to convince my father that half-naked people on the cover (Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson) were not reflective of moral decay. Of course, that case was harder to make with Rod Stewart and “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),” which came out about the same time. That one my dad just shut off when he heard it.

Then there are the albums “Help!” and “A Hard Day’s Night.” When I was in junior high and my parents were heading to England, I asked them to bring me real Beatles albums from real England. They did. Priceless.

Ahh, I remember REO Speedwagon and “You Can Tune a Piano, But You Can’t Tuna Fish.” Before Google, I needed the jacket for the words to “Time For Me To Fly” so I could write them out, in longhand, in a breakup letter to my high-school boyfriend. There’s also the “Chicago X” album with the hit song “If You Leave Me Now.” In the wake of that breakup, I literally called WKQX radio in Chicago so many times to request the song that the call screener eventually would just ask, “Is this Betsy?”

Um, yeah.

I still have “You Had to Be There,” a collection by Jimmy Buffett, which I won while in high school by being the right-numbered caller to my good friends at WKQX. (In retrospect, maybe they just wanted to get me off “If You Leave Me Now.”)

After breaking up with my college boyfriend from Kentucky — yes, there’s a pattern — I played “New Orleans Ladies” by the little-known Louisiana’s LeRoux, a group he had introduced me to, so many times that the girls on my dorm floor literally staged an intervention to make me stop. Yep, I still have the album, hard to find even at the time.

Fleetwood Mac, The Police, The Doobie Brothers, Earth Wind & Fire, James Taylor, Gordon Lightfoot (featured with a lit cigarette, no less, on the cover of his album “Sundown”), Jefferson Starship, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Boz Scaggs, Styx, Genesis. Even England Dan & John Ford Coley. The list goes on and on.

The ’70s and ’80s live.

And they will live, in my new living room, connected at last with that turntable. There I can give them a spin, and my kids can tell me to keep it down — just like my parents used to.

Reach Betsy Hart at www.betsysblog.com.

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