While I am sorely tempted to deal with the gratifyingly large response to my first blog for PS Audio, I’d rather look to something a bit more positive during these trying times. What I will say, however, to stem some of the misconceptions is that I was not blaming retailers alone for a failure to grasp the concept of “luxury goods” and how to sell them. But a sequel shall have to wait, for I would rather report on the teensiest glimmer of hope ….
Of late, I have noticed an increase in the number of turntables appearing in films and TV shows, as props rather than mere set dressing. The message, subliminal or otherwise, may be too obscure for the general public, but it’s there if you know where to look. While every single one of you will see what they’re trying to do, especially using LPs as a device to show rugged retro individualism in the protagonist, at the very least, it might trigger some analogue response in the non-audiophile public.
My first frisson of delight came to me while watching an in-flight movie. It was like seeing the Transcriptors in Clockwork Orange 40 years ago, or the high-end system in Indecent Proposal, or the MartinLogans in Friends: vindication. The film was the new Jason Statham remake of The Mechanic, and the system was totally of audiophile worthiness. Not only did it feature vinyl, it used tube amps, with those naked glass cylinders stating bluntly that the owner knew his hardware. But I won’t tell you which amp or turntable was in use, for that would spoil your fun.
As the film is strictly a loud bangs/gunfights/popcorn guzzling time-filler, with no more substance than Crank or The Transporter or other Statham vehicles – all of which I’d much rather watch than some frikkin’ Almodóvar or Wenders or von Trier snoozefest – you might think it unworthy as a showcase for high-end audio. Fair enough:
few elitist audiophiles would want a brute of bruiser like Statham, with permanent five o’clock shadow and buzz cut as the poster child for purist audio. But in the real world, he’ll call more attention to hi-fi (as does LP collector Henry Rollins) than some snotty, New York Times-approved poseur who only listens to Stockhausen.
Anyway, the hi-fi system actually serves as a prop in the film, with the same importance as the programmable turntable that once featured as the murder weapon in an episode of Columbo. (The one in Columbo may have been an ADC – please correct me if my memory is faulty.) If only one non-believer decides to find out what the system was, it’s a small victory for the music lovin’ good guys.
Even more prominently displayed, as it’s featured in more than one episode, is the Thorens TD-160 used by Tom Selleck in his Jesse Stone made-for-TV movies. For those of you not yet hip to this magnificent run of mysteries – and that might mean a fair few of you, as Selleck is one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood – the movies are based on a series of novels by the late Robert B Parker. Stone is the strong, silent type, an alcoholic LA homicide detective relocated to a small town in Massachusetts and is the town’s police chief. The Thorens is a form of short-hand, like his hatred of mobile phones, a code for independent thinking, immunity to trends and fashion, individualism, what-have-you.
Where this adds to the image of unreconstructed LP users in a manner that differs from the Statham character is in its use as soothing therapy for the trouble drinker. Stone winds down with classical music and two Scotches. Another difference, which won’t be lost on any of you, is that Selleck is clearly “of an age” where LPs are natural and familiar to him, whereas for Statham’s “mechanic”, the hi-fi system is a retro signifier like a fountain pen or a mechanical wristwatch, for a younger generation.
One TV series consisting of an episode a year, and a single high-intensity action flick do not a movement make. Equally, it doesn’t qualify as dishonest, vulgar, and obvious “product placement”, because Selleck’s turntable has been out of production for decades, while Statham’s tube amp and turntable would only be recognized by the converted – that is, existing audiophiles. But the message is in there somewhere, and I’d like to think that there are a few filmmakers out there who stamp their personal preferences, from their private lives and pursuits, on their productions in the form of props.
Someone in LA probably knows which actors and directors are audiophiles, but discretion prevents manufacturers from identifying them. The last one I recall, who was into hi-fi enough to attend shows, was Fabio a few decades ago, and both MartinLogan and Krell benefitted from having him as a customer. If a few more could be coaxed out of the closet, especially ones perceived as “cool” or as admirable role models, it could only help this ailing industry. Oh, to find that Johnny Depp spins LPs, that Twilight’s Robert Pattinson – all of 25-years-old– has raided his parents’ vinyl library, that the entire cast of Glee has a 7in singles fetish ….
But that is to dream. In the meantime, but on the same wavelength, there is a cultural project that every vinyl lover ought to support. I would ask all of you who care about analogue to visit http://kck.st/newfaceofvinyl. These guys are trying to raise money to produce a photo book, The New Face of Vinyl: Youth’s Digital Devolution, about the younger generation’s interest in the black vinyl record. With only days to go, they need to come up with a couple of grand. If 200 of you watch the video, then sign up to pledge the price of a used LP – a mere ten bucks, but $25 would be even better – you will have helped to spread the word in a concrete manner. It’s called “giving something back.”