Notes to a Turntable

Benjamin Woodard pens notes to a turntable for Vinyl Record Day.

Part of me wishes I could brag about discovering hip-hop through you, or that R.E.M.’s Murmur somehow made its way onto your platter, but that wasn’t my childhood. I grew up in a tiny Massachusetts town; most of my albums came from yard sales.

I was the kid who dragged your needle. The one who bounded about and rattled your arm. My love of Kenny Rogers during this period continues to astonish me. Perhaps it was the beard (Santa?), or the cowboy nature of “The Gambler.” Do you recall when I sang “Lucille” into a microphone? Or when I dressed in my homemade Greatest American Hero costume and flew around the living room to the 7” of “Believe It or Not”? Then, there was the Masters of the Universe story record, the lyrics of which I still occasionally warble, 30 years later: “We will fight (fight, fight, fight)/We will win (win, win, win).”

What spelled your doom? The day I brought home Thriller, my first cassette? Or did the shiver of death arrive alongside the combo radio/cassette player we unboxed a few months earlier? I can only imagine the feeling: gathering dust, impotent, while “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” oozed from the mono speaker of that little, gray, portable box, all treble, no soul.

Maybe we sold you. Maybe we hauled you to the dump. Your ultimate fate remains a mystery. For that, I apologize.

I once again listen to records. A new turntable is nestled within my electronics cabinet, but the magic isn’t the same. No matter my immersion, the raw life that those early albums provided cannot be replicated. I remember how my mom’s abundant Barry Manilow collection soothed me. I remember feeling the danger of heavy metal while rocking out to my cousin’s copy of “Breaking the Law.” I remember the nightmares I suffered after spying the cover art to Kiss’s Dynasty LP. I remember all of these moments, and I can’t help but think that a huge chunk of my personality comes from their resonance.

And yet, I crave more.

So I buy another album. I cut free the cellophane wrapping. I drop the needle, crank the volume, and close my eyes.

I hope for the best.

Benjamin Woodard helps put together the literary magazine, Atlas and Alice. His recent writing has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, New South, Whiskeypaper, Hobart, Electric Literature, and others. Find him online at or @woodardwriter.

Originally published on 8/12/15.