Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Your Buddy's Rec Room

I was enjoying one of my favourite vinyl albums recently, featuring the most perfect pop song ever written.  "Baby What a Big Surprise" by Chicago (seriously - I wish more reports and presentations would follow this simple formula - 3 verses, a recurring chorus and a bridge between the 2nd and 3rd verses).

Maybe more on that later, but in preparing the album for play, I reflected on some simple social and business skills maybe missing from those who've never heard an album in their buddy's rec room.

Care and Attention  The vinyl album is very delicate, taking only a piece of dust or a percussive movement (like a heavy footstep near the turntable) to cause the needle to skip and potentially ruin the album.  We learned to take care, holding the album by the edges to avoid fingerprints on the play surface, making sure it was clean before playing, and treating the area around the turntable as a strict no-go zone during album play.

I've dropped my mp3 music device so many times I've lost count.  I've thrown a CD into a box without it's cover.  Yeah, you can damage it but not usually on the first try.  Albums were a lot less forgiving.  It was someone else's life's work.  Someone else's album.  Someone's favourite song.  We respected that.

Good Manners and Hospitality  Someone had to host the album-playing get-together.  Someone had to get up and flip the album to the b-side, and then take it off and put it away.  And the guy standing next to the turntable inevitably turned to his guests and asked, "any requests?"   Yeah, it was his (parent's) rec-room, his stereo, and his collection.   Sure, we brought a few albums of our own, but the host set the tone.  In asking for requests he showed respect and good manners.

Man, I'd love the next board meeting, or committee meeting, or department meeting to work like that.  "I'm done with my personal agenda, thanks for indulging me.  Anyone else have a thought to share?"

New Music  We didn't all listen to the same music.  I heard some great albums I would never have purchased myself, and frankly never did.  It was enough to know a friend who had that album and would bring it along if asked.  Decades later I've finally bought artists' music that friends introduced to me.

Respect  Only the owner of the album could take the plastic off a new album.  Some people left the plastic on to protect the cover.  Bad idea.  Common wisdom was that the contracting plastic might eventually damage the vinyl inside.  Even if your friend was foolish enough to leave the plastic on, it was the full extent of your responsibility to point it out, and then shut the hell up.  People don't always see the obvious, and that's not our problem.

Great Conversation  There were no phone interruptions.  Sometimes someone would join the rec-room session in progress, but mostly it was just two or three of us, maybe with a bit of whisky in hand, listening to rock (it wasn't called "Classic Rock" yet, and we didn't always listen to rock) and solving all the problems of the world.  And sometimes just sitting there silently and appreciating the artistry.  Passing the album cover around to stare at the artwork, to read the credits, and sometimes to clarify the lyrics.

People at work should be treated with such respect for their time, their work, their opinions and their company.

"These are the best of times"  sang Styx way back when.  There's no reason they can't be now.

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