Sunday, January 15, 2017

It Might Get Loud

Me (eating lunch): You got a record player?

Boss Man (attempting to steal my lunch): Umm. Yes. In my basement.

Me (handing him a half-eaten pickle): Great. Bring it to me. I need it.

Boss Man (crunching into said pickle): It's old. And heavy. It probably doesn't work anymore.

He also failed to mention it was covered in congealed shampoo.

But that's how, a few years ago, I came to own this Dual 714Q German turntable, produced between only 1978 and 1981 and known among vinyl-heads and a fine piece of machinery.

For 30 years it sat abandoned in the Boss Man's basement. He delivered it to me from the back of his trunk, covered in grime, dust and some kind chemical spill that frothed when it got wet (shampoo? toilet cleaner?).

The electric cord had been cut and soldered. (Apparently they didn't make extension cords in 1979, so the Boss Man cut it to "add some length." I believe that's also called "adding some fire hazard.") The RCA cords were rusted and the needle was light as a feather. I think it had calcified.

"Wouldn't you just rather me buy you an iPod or something? Save you all this trouble," he said, hauling it out of his trunk.

It was the nicest the Boss Man has ever said to me. A rare moment of… thoughtfulness. At first I wasn't sure what to make of it. Then I laughed until tears fell out of my eyes.

No. I wasn't looking to be saved from trouble. I wanted a turntable. A real one, an authentic OG with street cred. And I was determined to resurrect this one from the dead.

I called around and Everybody's Records told me to take it to Stereo ADV in Mt. Lookout, that two-story house on the corner that looks kind of 1980s itself. (The sign is a marvel.)

I was convinced they'd have no clue what this ancient thing was or where to get parts, so I told Dave, the Irish accented man at Stereo ADV, everything I knew about it.

"It's old. German. Only made in the 1980s. It's been in basement for 30 years."

I expected to hear hems and haws to the effect that they could take a look, maybe replace the cord, then a click when they hung up on me.

"Sounds like you have an old Dual. Nice player. Bring it in."

I was astounded.

An old Dual, covered in shampoo/toilet cleaner weighs about an awkward 20 pounds, but I lugged it to Mt. Lookout. Dave The Irishman looked at the spliced power cord and said, "Who did this?!"

I think he was afraid it would burn his business down.

He told me that the cartridge in it is rare and that if needs to be replaced I might be in "trouble." I took that to mean expensive. Or perhaps more flammable. But he said they'd replace the cord, start it up and see what all it needs.

Maybe just a new stylus, he said encouragingly.

Up until I got the Dual I didn't know what a stylus was. Or a plate. Or a cartridge. I nodded like I'd been collecting vinyl for years, even though I'd only learned these terms recently from Googling the Dual and downloading the owners manual from 1978.

Oh no, Irish Dave... let's hope it's not a cartridge problem, that'd be a nightmare. (What am I even saying?)

But a new cord, new RCA cables, a bath and a pre-amp... and you could hear the scratch of the needle as it hit the vinyl.

It was alive. To be more precise, it was bad-ass.

It's the fanciest record player I've ever seen. It has a weighted arm, pitch control, dials, knobs, a quartz-controlled direct drive and a green light that flashes as the plate spins so you can command exact control over it. Back in the day it was quite the machine. Actually, it still is.

The following Saturday Irish Dave left me a voicemail to check on the turntable. Did I have it hooked up? How was the pre-amp working? What was the first record I played on it?
"It's Saturday morning and you're bringing out the Irish accent in me," he said into my voicemail.

I called him back and told him the gloriousness that is the Dual 714Q. That Johnny Cash has never sounded so good. He wanted to know if I was going to the Southern Culture on the Skids show at the Southgate House the next week.

"Maybe I will see you there," he said hopefully.

At first I thought he was asking me out. Irish dudes who own stereo repair shops in Mt. Lookout want to take me to rockabilly shows, I thought.

Damn right they do.

But after I thought about it for a while, I realized I was wrong. Dave didn't want to get closer to me. He wanted to get closer to my turntable and its insatiable appetite for '90s R&B, Bob Dylan and Dolly Parton.

Can't say as I blame him.

Here it is yesterday afternoon taking a little spin with Prince. (Does anybody know about the quake?)

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