Tuesday, 19 January 2016


All that is holy is vinyl
What few remaining brain cells Fantasy Bob owns have been well exercised by reading a recent article by Ed Smith drawing out a comparison between Test cricket and vinyl records.

The substantive point that he makes is that vinyl recordings seem to be on the way back.  In 2014 sales in the UK leapt by over 50% passing the million mark.   From a position of near death following the introduction first of CDs and then of streaming, this is something of a resurrection and sales are higher than at any time since 1991.

Could this be a pointer for Test cricket, he asks, for which there are many suggestions that it is on its last legs, teetering on the brink of non-sustainability due to the rival attractions of the shorter formats.  Can vinyl Test cricket survive the onslaught of streaming T20?

The fan of vinyl will claim that by comparison with the CD, the sound is of a higher – more natural - quality (generally described as brown), it allows the concept of the album (or at least the half hour side) as opposed to the single song focus of streaming and encourages listening rather than consuming.  There is a parallel to the fan of Test cricket for whom it offers higher quality, greater sustained excitement and subtlety compared to the crash bang wallop of limited overs contests.

Is the route to survival for Test cricket to develop a similar niche status to that increasingly enjoyed by vinyl recording?

FB sees the point but is less than convinced.  He is sure that there is a parallel to be drawn between the behaviour of record companies, whose profit motives led them to abandon vinyl when CDs arrived, and the almost negligent behaviour of the ICC whose recent domination by the big 3 seems similarly designed to undermine Test cricket.  

But even if it is recovering a bit, vinyl is still a very small part of the recorded music market - a pretty small tail wagging a large dog.  Vinyl seems to be more like the heritage industry – it is about finding music in the format it was first recorded and issued in – there is little new music or recordings in the format.  This does not seem a proper comparison for Test cricket.

Like most cricketers of his age, FB has a sizable collection of vinyl recordings.  Even Mrs FB now treats this collection with respect having, after many attempts, given up her once enthusiastic suggestion that it might best be consigned to the charity shop.  

Like a proper cricketer FB ensured that these discs are carefully archived and stored in strict alphabetical and genre order. FB can recall where and how he purchased each one of these miraculous items and for most of them many of the times he played them - a set of reminisces that Mrs FB inexplicably finds less than compelling.  This orderliness went out of the window when CDs arrived which are stacked any which way and do no credit to anyone.   

FB's vinyl collection pretty much reflects his travel through music from the poptastic, through progressive rock and out the other end into the world of classical music which dominates his collection.  But there is something significant lacking at the centre of this collection.   He confesses with some remorse is that his collection contains no cricket recordings.  For there are a number of items in the catalogue that FB might well have added.  For example John Arlott Talks Cricket was released in 1982 but sadly failed to keep Duran Duran off the top of the album charts.  If ever there was a vinyl voice it must have been John Arlott's, but inevitably these discs are now downloadable.   Such treatment seems almost sacrilegious and FB has resisted the siren call of iTunes.

But the vinyl recording that FB most yearns after must be the record simply titled Cricket which was released in 1970 by the BBC. It took Bridge of Troubled Water to keep it from claiming its rightful place at the top of the chart. Cricket featured a collection of readings by Lords Taverners recorded to fill the tea interval of Sunday League matches.  John Arlott features here, but so do cricketers - Peter May, Alec Bedser - sportsmen - Graham Hill, Mick McManus and entertainers Brian Rix, Leslie Crowther, Eric Sykes.   As far as FB can tell this has not been digitised yet.  It remains holy.

Perhaps the solution is to get this on e-Bay and play it while watching yet another T20 thrash.


  1. Coffee might be a better analogy than CDs and vinyl. T20, the Big Bash or whatever, is the Nescafe Instant of modern cricket, while Test Cricket remains the freshly ground original, lovingly teased from the machine, complete with frothing reminiscent of the golden age of steam. It was encouraging to hear no lesser Titan than Jimmy Anderson state recently that, for him, Test Cricket would always remain the ultimate challenge for top-class players. Let's hope he's right. Anderson and FB - Macchiato Men both