Monday , June 25, 2018

Alamon: Listen well

I BELONGED to that generation too young to actually enjoy vinyl records but experienced them vicariously through parents’ and siblings’ listening habits. For us young ones, that corner of the house was off-limits and they were to be avoided at all cost much like the faux expensive celadons and crystals displayed at various points in the cramped living room like hurdles for a precocious toddler’s imaginary obstacle course.

But curiosity killed many parents’ stereo equipment and record collection. That was the case for my father’s prized Victor record and eight track player that, after a protracted struggle, finally succumbed when the toddler that was me finally crossed battle lines to inflict permanent damage on the delicate audio equipment.

The Achilles heel of any Hi-Fi audio equipment at that time was the fragile diamond stylus that must be oh so carefully lowered into the spinning vinyl. If the needle was carelessly dropped or accidentally brushed with too much force, the thing could break. I don’t remember exactly how I exactly caused the destruction of my father’s needle, forgive the Freudian reference. But I do remember how since then, the stereo equipment occupied that dark corner of the living room, mute and covered in a white knitted quilt of sorts. My mother was also into knitting at that time and it was all the rage among the women housewives of the neighborhood.

That the whole contraption remained there at the corner of the living room beside the new star of the family, the colored television with remote, years later, and not thrown or placed in the junk limbo-status pile in the garahe spoke of how the stereo equipment occupied a special place in the family’s aspirationally middle class imaginary.

However, more than being status symbols that mired the social climbing era of the 70s and the 80s, the stereo, as it was lovingly called, I believed, was my parent’s link to their youth. And they weren’t much too old in the late 70s, come to think of it since I distinctly remember The Beatles and The Carpenters as part of their record collection, reasons why when the I Am Sam soundtrack and the Carpenter’s cover album came out in the 90s, it was not a surprise that I knew all the songs by heart.

I remember there was always constant talk of reviving the crippled equipment and making it sing again but needles were to be sourced from a mystical far away land called Quiapo - a place too distant for Makati residents at that time. The technical process of finding the matching expensive needle also stumped them provincial folk. Besides, vinyl by the late 80s was on the way out for a new kind of medium.