Birney Imes: For the Love of Vinyl

Birney Imes

Iit could be the smallest thing. A child has an experience, seemingly insignificant at the time, and it turns out to be the spark that ignites a passion for life.

Take Shelley Dornan, whose parents, on Easter 1964, gave their 8-year-old son a record album by a British group they had watched together a few weeks earlier on the Ed Sullivan Show.

We never know.

That was 57 years ago and over 3,500 albums.

Although he’s slowed down in recent years, Dornan, 65, continues to add to an LP collection that began with that 1964 release, “Meet the Beatles.”

The seed planted that Easter morning lay dormant until Dornan was in high school. A neighborhood friend, Stephen Ferguson, introduced him to the idea of ​​the record collection.

It happened to be the late 60s and early 70s, a time widely considered the golden age of rock music.

Dornan began to collect seriously. This would last until the 90s when record companies slowed down their production of LPs.

Then, seven or eight years ago, he resumed his quest.

“If I like an artist, I get all of their records,” Dornan said. “I have almost everything I want from the 60s and 70s.”

It has all the Beatles; all of Dylan’s studio albums and 11 box sets; the approximately 50 albums of Neil Young; same with Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull and Frank Zappa.

Friday morning we sat in Dornan’s house on a hill overlooking Ridge Road. The structure, built in 1919 and inspired by a hunting lodge, was the home of his grandfather, Er M. Shelley, the famous African bird dog trainer, author and guide.

Dornan isn’t alone in shunning the technically perfect CD in favor of an analog system with its occasional pops and hisses and the almost imperceptible sound of a needle scraping the grooves of vinyl.

“In 2021, for the first time since the 1980s, vinyl surpassed CD sales,” Dornan said.

He estimates he has 2,500 CDs in his collection, which he says are of little value to collectors.

“It sounds better,” Dornan said of vinyl records. “The sound is warmer. There’s just a presence with it that you can’t get with other formats.

“You have to have decent equipment to hear the difference.”

Dornan has the equipment: a high-end Yamaha AV amp, a Parasound power amp, a German-made Clearaudio turntable and 11 speakers, including five French-made Focals.

To make his point, Dornan picks up an LP from one of the many rows of Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” albums on his living room floor.

Suddenly we are surrounded by sound. You can hear the pops and scratches – the damage caused by a rainstorm – then about halfway through the nine minutes of “So What”, the pops and scratches disappear and the jazz classic sounds just as fresh and pure as when it was saved. that day in April 1959.

“To be a vinyl listener, you have to commit,” Dornan said. “It’s more tactile; you are more engaged. Personally, I think it sounds better.

Dornan purchased many of his vinyl records from Elysian Fields, which had stores in Columbus and Starkville and Xanadu in Starkville where he says he spent all his money on food while attending Mississippi State University. He also frequented Caldwell’s Record Rack in the downtown furniture store and The Fraction, a record store on Main Street run by the long-haired Roger Short.

“I can trace where I was and what was going on in my life based on record albums,” he said.

These days he buys online, Amazon for current releases; eBay and Discogs, an online source for collectors, for older LPs.

Another selling point of larger LPs over digital formats is the cover art, which during the boom years of the 60s and 70s was often as distinctive as the music.

“Heck, I buy records because I like the cover,” he said, citing David Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust” as an example.

Dornan searches for another album, “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” by Wilco, and puts on “War on War”. This disc is in perfect condition.

As he begins to tell me the story of how it was made, music fills the room.

Birney Imes ([email protected]) is the publisher of The Dispatch.

Birney Imes III is the former immediate editor of The Dispatch.

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