To say local chaps like John Nichols, Gordon Stevenson and Tony Ward are rather keen on vinyl records would be among the great understatements of the year.

For a great many well-tuned decades now they, like a large and lately even growing number of music lovers, are well smitten by the pursuit of putting the vinyl disc on the turntable, applying the needle-equipped stylus, and heading for the volume dial.

Their love for vinyl led all three from picking up and collecting records to opening independent record shops, where vinyl rules the roost.

And it is a very strong roost with the grooves attracting plenty of attention these days.

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As they undoubtedly will do today, given it is Record Store Day — an event which was originally sparked in the US 12 years ago, and has since spread globally.

It was started to "celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store".

It is still effectively in its infancy around these parts as it only began emerging three or four years ago — but it has certainly gained plenty of attention and like vinyl records have done lately, will continue to expand.

Gordon Stevenson, owner of Off the Record music shop in Napier with a couple of groovy items. Photo / Warren Buckland
Gordon Stevenson, owner of Off the Record music shop in Napier with a couple of groovy items. Photo / Warren Buckland

Especially in England where special limited edition sets of remarkable records from remarkable international artists are pressed and sold for the occasion.

And Nichols, proprietor of the Music Box Record Exchange in Hastings, Stevenson who has been in the record business for 46 years and runs Just For The Record in Napier and Ward who steers Passionate About Vinyl in Waipawa, are all expecting the volume to rise a little today as they open the doors for a literally groovy event.

"It's a great thing to have," Ward said.

"It lets people know records are out there and the more people we can get into vinyl the better."

Both Stevenson and Nichols naturally echoed that, and Stevenson said it did bring extra record seekers on to the premises.

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"It doubles the usual Saturday numbers through the door," Nichols said.

Basically, vinyl records never completely went away, despite the arrival of cassettes then CDs and the rise in online accessibility to music.

They have always been there, and people of my vintage tend to have a fine little number of them.

I bought my first record in 1968 at the age of 14.

It was World by the Bee Gees.

That was the start of it and now there is a battalion of 45s and 33s (children ask your parents) in the cabinet ... including a rare Beatles bootleg (illegally recorded) which I assured one of the chaps was not for sale.

And bringing everything up into this present age, my son recently purchased a limited edition album from a band called Muse — and it comes in beautiful vinyl in an outstanding cover.

It also comes in CD of course but the vinyl ... you have to hear it to believe it.

Tony Ward in his Waipawa record shop Passionate about Vinyl with a desirable Th' Dudes album. Photo/File
Tony Ward in his Waipawa record shop Passionate about Vinyl with a desirable Th' Dudes album. Photo/File

So it was time to put a few grooved questions to the turntable trio in alignment with a very special day for the independent record store crews.

This musical creation called vinyl records ... is the demand still there or was it just another passing trend?

Stevenson: "There has been a massive resurgence in vinyl and a lot of that is down to the fact it sounds a lot better."

He said business had pretty well doubled in the past two-and-a-half years.

"The sound ... and you have an album cover to read."

Nichols: "Over the past 10 years vinyl sales have doubled."

It was not a passing trend — not a "fly by night" thing as the demand had remained strong.

Ward: "I've seen a large amount of younger people coming in so it is here to stay for as long time, and turntable manufacture has never stopped so there is some very good technology coming through."

He said if you listened to vinyl for a while then listened to CD you'd notice the difference and he reckoned CD sound would "niggle at you".

So what drives their vinyl passion?

Stevenson: "Everything — what else is there?"

He described the sound as clearer, warmer and more dynamic.

Get a good turntable, good amplifier and fine speakers and audio heaven will arrive.

Nichols: "Always been interested in music and like the sound of vinyl. The handling of it and the artworks. I remember owning a copy of Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones which was given to me by a friend when I was around 10 ... first record I ever had."

Now he's got about 20,000 vinyls in his shop.

Ward: "Since I was 15 or 16, and instead of doing homework I'd build amplifiers ... and get the occasional shock. I just enjoy a really good sound and when you get the combination right (of playing equipment) it is the best."

What is the rarest LP (again for the kids, that means a 'long player' rather than a single) you have for sale and how much would you ask for it?

Stevenson: "Just sold one for a grand ($1000) by a New Zealand band called Lutha."

Lutha formed in Dunedin in the early 70s.

He also has a copy of another rare Kiwi album — Scented Gardens for the Blind by Dragon and there's $700 sitting on that.

Nichols: "I've got a copy of The Who's first album My Generation and it is a very rare original Festival pressing."

There is a $600 price tag on it.

Ward: He has a huge selection of rare and desirable jazz and blues albums as well as some early Kiwi classic compilations which came out under the Solid Gold tag.

Solid Gold 35 and 36 can fetch $150 and he has several rare items which would fetch double that.

All three lads said they occasionally wandered into other record shops for a bit of a sniff about but there was not a lot they would come across that would get them excited — as they generally pretty much had what they considered "must haves".

In terms of whether Kiwi vinyls were considered expensive, Nichols said smaller volumes were produced here as it was considered a smaller market, in global terms, so initial costs were higher — but on that global basis they would still be about average.

Ward said they were not that dear "for what you get" and given the quality and the appeal of vinyl if you wanted it you simply paid for it.

"Cheaper than they used to be," Stevenson said, adding he can remember buying albums for $25 way back when the average wage was a lot lower — so a $60 purchase today was not excessive in comparison.

So then, the crucial component of playing and sound equipment.

Nichols pretty well summed it up by saying "buy decent quality equipment".

And ask for advice to ensure the amps worked in perfectly with the speakers.

"And change the stylus every 12 months," he said, adding he personally preferred direct drive turntables.

Stevenson said there were several factors involved and people had to listen to systems and ask about systems.

"It is a personal thing."

It was like a car which required an engine, a gearbox and wheels which worked in complete unity.

The sound equivalent was the turntable, the amplifier and the speakers.

Like a car, just ensure it all worked real well before buying it and driving it.

"You have to get the speed right," Ward said.

And he said he preferred a cork turntable mat rather than rubber and use a longer swing arm as it would track better.

At the end of the day, people with a well set up stereo system and a great vinyl record would end up listening and with a widening grin, and probably end up saying "wow I never heard that before", Ward said, as previously unheard or detected notes emerged.

So no real surprise then that along with these three vinyl stalwarts there is a growing army of record devotees out there, and many will almost certainly be out and about today on the Record Store Day turntable.