Vinyl album suggestions for a 12-year-old
November 22, 2012 6:21 PM   Subscribe

My 12-year-old nephew wants some vinyl record albums for Christmas. What should I buy him?

Right now he likes top 40 music (Virgin Radio) and it's probably impossible to predict what his taste will be in a few years. When I was 11-12 I think I was the same way.

Do I share contemporary music I like, such as the Black Keys, and things I'm guessing he'd enjoy, like Fun.? Or are those bands only relevant to me because I'm totally old?

Do I give him some classic rock, cheap and abundant on vinyl? (Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Doors, Pink Floyd, etc)? That stuff was old when I was a teenager and I loved it all the same. But is that too rock-heavy for a kid who may not actually listen to a lot of rock?

Is there some past era that informs the music he might be listening to now that he could explore? For example in 2001 when the strokes and white stripes were on the radio, you could hear similarities in 60s garage rock. For today I'm thinking like old Daft Punk?

Or, do I just buy him vinyl copies of One Direction (I know he likes that band) and some other things that are on the radio right now?
posted by Pruitt-Igoe to Media & Arts (34 answers total)
Buy him a gift certificate to a cool vinyl store and let him pick it out. Half the fun of buying vinyl is picking up a stack of records and listening to them.

Though I guess it depends why we wants vinyl.
posted by empath at 6:30 PM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

You could go the twenty year retro route and try to guess what'll be coming back into fashion in the next year or so.

Top Hits From 1993

I got my first record player when I was 14 and with it my dad gave me two of his old records - Led Zeppelin's II and Black Sabbath's Master of Reality. At the time I was all "Laaaame!", but I so wish I still had those now (lost to a basement flood).
posted by mannequito at 6:34 PM on November 22, 2012

How about Picture Discs? There are contemporary groups releasing 7" picture disc singles.
He may also like this odd VW Bus record player
posted by Sophont at 6:58 PM on November 22, 2012

I'd also try top 40 stuff from the 80s in the vein of Duran Duran, Madonna, Human League, OMD and the Eurhythmics in addition to the classics-it's usually easier to find decent used copies that are inexpensive. Maybe take those, put together a starter pack, and give him a gift card to pick out some stuff on his own.
posted by deinemutti at 7:21 PM on November 22, 2012

You have a unique opportunity to shape a young man's life. When I was 11 I was listening to the crap in my parent's record collection - Roger Whittaker, Neils Sedaka & Diamond (ok, not all crap) - until my uncle took me downtown and bought me Parallel Lines.

I'd give him a gift certificate to your local record shop and then go with him and help him pick - you are Yoda to his Luke. Make sure you show him the dollar bin.
posted by doublesix at 7:29 PM on November 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Dark Side of the Moon, of course.
posted by pompomtom at 7:32 PM on November 22, 2012 [5 favorites]

I would just head to a used record store with a set amount to spend (like $20/30) and buy him as many various essential artists as I could find. Folk, jazz, reggae, classic rock, whatever. Open his mind as wide as you can.
posted by gnutron at 7:33 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ramones - Road to Ruin
posted by fings at 7:38 PM on November 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Make sure you show him the dollar bin.

And don't forget to check the cut-outs!

(Are there still cut-outs?)
posted by she's not there at 8:01 PM on November 22, 2012

A Beatles album, or any of your classic rock suggestions, he'll thank you for it when he's older. You could think of it as doing him a favour by not buying One Direction.
posted by Under the Sea at 9:43 PM on November 22, 2012

I'm biased (I made this), but: OK Computer. Many-layered, beautiful, lots of variety -- melodic, playful, spacey, hard rock, experimental -- and there's plenty more where it came from.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:59 PM on November 22, 2012

Miles Davis - Kind Of Blue
posted by chillmost at 10:15 PM on November 22, 2012

The Knack - Get the Knack

If he doesn't like "Good Girls Don't" just yet, he will in a few short years. I would also suggest some Foreigner (not the ballads).
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 10:24 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

Journey - Escape
Van Halen I
Hall & Oates - Private Eyes (or Rock & Soul Part 1)
Human League - Dare
Motley Crue - Shout At The Devil (or Dr. Feelgood)
Pearl Jam - Ten
posted by rhizome at 10:40 PM on November 22, 2012

I have never met a college aged dude in America who didn't have a Zeppelin phase as a teenager. Maybe you can start him early?
posted by FakePalindrome at 11:37 PM on November 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

I for one never had a Zeppelin phase as a teenager.

It could be fun to give him a sense of the continuity of popular music genres - the through line from 60s girl groups to early Beatles, to mid-period Beach Boys, to the Ramones, for example, I think I would've been infinitely grateful if someone had run this down for me as a teen or pre-teen.

But that's also pretty heady. Seems like there are two ideas with less baggage: (1) Let him pick it, as per empath, or (2) find a handful of used records that appealed to you at a similar age.

One final thought: you know, the Chronic by Dr. Dre is available on vinyl, as are Ice Cube's early records. Looking back, these records dramatically expanded my understanding of the world and my appreciation for a variety of music genres, right around 12 years old.

There's a lot of dodgy content in there, also a lot of really enlightened political content. Whether this is appropriate depends in large part on whether mom and dad would object to his exposure to this, and also whether they would be willing to talk honestly with him about some of the content. BUT you could definitely do worse than these, as a 12 year old. Most popular artists probably regard these records something like how rocks acts regarded the Beatles' Revolver when I was a kid.
posted by kensington314 at 2:22 AM on November 23, 2012

I'd go on a "three present" rotation here:

Record #1: something that you know he will like. If this means One Direction, so be it.
Record #2: something on the very edge of his like scale, so there should be a hint of familiarity to it. The twenty years ago route seems smart... perhaps something like Pocket full of Kryptonite from the Spin Doctors?
Recrod #3: the mind expanding moment on Christmas day when they go "WTF" as they look over the album. Seriously, go crazy here, bend, shape, whatever. Try for something that has echoes in today's charts... For some reason I'm thinking Queen's Night at the Opera, Tommy, Dark Side of the Moon, Dog of Two Head, Made in Japan...
If you still have money left, go back to record #1 and repeat.

Failing all of that, a gate-fold double-vinyl copy of Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.
posted by ewan at 3:01 AM on November 23, 2012

When my son got himself a lovely retro record player I got to do the 'Dad thing' and gave him a copy of King Crimson's 'In the Court of the Crimson King'. He's not a prog fan at all but he loves that album now!
posted by timpollard at 3:06 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The idea of an album of songs has become strange and alien in the time of iTunes, so I'd get him some classic or concept albums. Sgt. Pepper's, Dark side of he moon, Led Zeppelin IV, Never mind the bollix, The Wall, Ziggy Stardust, Greetings from Asbury Park.

Or the first vinyl I ever bought at 12, Queen's Greatest Hits! Still love it.
posted by nevan at 3:54 AM on November 23, 2012

Get him Urge Overkill's "Saturation". It's roughly 20 years old, awesome, and the vinyl is this awesome orange color.
posted by themanwho at 4:35 AM on November 23, 2012

Best answer: Queen.
posted by newpotato at 5:38 AM on November 23, 2012

My first vinyl album was a two-record compilation of The Firesign Theatre called Forward Into the Past.

It's hilarious, and a pretty great record to smoke dope by.

This lead to me buying pretty much everything the group did.

There are some fun vinyl tricks, with sounds starting in one speaker and zipping over to the other speaker. Jokes that start on one side of the record and are answered on the other.

Also, any record that features "backmasking" how many hours did I listen to these things trying to make out if it actually DID say, "It doesn't take a genius to tell the difference between chicken shit and chicken salad." It DID!

I envy you, there's hours of fun here! And yes, I'm the chick in the Honda with the Ralph Spoilsport Motors license plate frame.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:02 AM on November 23, 2012

I would work backwards from a band he likes now, decade by decade, tracing musical predecessors until you've spent as much as you want to. So, New Direction, boy band from the 00s, one from the 90s, the 80s, etc. If you do go a boy band route, I'd try to make it back to the Beatles, even if you have to skip a decade or two.

Or, you could do what I'm doing with my daughter (she's 9), which is introducing her to the music I think is essential listening for life. Of course that list is totally arbitrary, and it's like a tiny knife wound to the heart when she hates some of it (or worse, is completely indifferent) but she finds contemporary pop by herself and doesn't need my old lady help in that area at all. Also, some time she loves it and that is totally awesome.
posted by looli at 6:36 AM on November 23, 2012

Best answer: Oh gosh, Beatles. Rubber Soul or maybe Sgt. Peppers. It's timeless stuff, and if he likes pop music, early Beatles might really be up his alley. Help! might also be an excellent choice, but it's hard to find cheaply on vinyl in my experience.
posted by k8lin at 6:54 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

it's hard to find cheaply on vinyl in my experience.

Weren't all the Beatles albums just rereleased on vinyl a week or two ago?
posted by stopgap at 9:59 AM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't think it's ever a bad idea to give somebody Daft Punk's Discovery (a double-album in vinyl).

It has hooks that a modern pop music kid could get into and an overall 70s nostalgia sound that thematically works with the format.
posted by whittaker at 10:33 AM on November 23, 2012

I was going to say Computer World/Computerweld by Kraftwerk, but I realized that some of the themes addressed on it might be a a wee bit mature still for an 12 year old, so I'll say The Man Machine/Die Mensch Maschine. "The Robots/Die Roboter" is a very fun song to dance to.

He might even recognize some of the beats if he listens to any hip-hop; both those albums are still sampled frequently.

Any James Brown/Parliament-Funkadelic/Sly and the Family Stone music is cool, too. Between 10-12 years old was when it graduated from "background noise for grown-ups" to "Hey, this actually is pretty awesome stuff!" for me.

Just to make things interesting, perhaps you can find an album of some old dance music from the late 40s-early 50s, when the transition from 78's to 33 1/3's was happening. There's got to be some swing/jump blues like Louis Jordan available at a thrift shop that's on 33 1/3.
posted by droplet at 10:44 AM on November 23, 2012

I find that I'm more a fan of older music on LP, partly because it's the way the music was "meant to be heard", and partly because for the most part it's easy to find really amazing stuff for dirt cheap.

I've spent real money on a few albums because they're Extremely Good Records (Blonde on Blonde, The Velvet Underground and Nico, stuff like that). But my favorite way to get records is to go picking at flea markets, thrift stores, and garage sales. (Also record stores with good bargain bins.) I love the fact that I can buy amazing music for under $5.

So what I'd suggest is that you buy a new copy of something you think he'll really love and absolutely want to have for a long time and maintain properly (he is taking care of his records, right?). This could be newer or older. I'd probably pick something with timeless intergenerational appeal. The Beatles comes to mind first, though I don't know if there are new pressings of any of their albums. The Black Keys are a good bet if he likes rock, or maybe one of the really classic White Stripes albums (Elephant, White Blood Cells, maybe De Stijl). You also can't go wrong with prime Michael Jackson, if he is less into rock.

Then, if you want to spend a little more money or give him more than one record, I'd go to a flea market record booth or a local record store with a good discount bin and just pick out some stuff that looks cool. It's easy to find TONS of classic rock and 60's-80's pop for under $5 per LP, and you also typically find all kinds of interesting pop music that you've either never heard of or have only heard that one single that gets played on the 80's pop radio station or whatever. (For example for some reason I see tons and tons of Madness and Ian Dury at flea markets.) Pick three or four albums, and don't worry too much about whether what you pick is "cool" or how much your nephew will truly enjoy these FOREVER. The whole point of a $5 record is that it looks interesting and you put it on, and maybe it's your new favorite thing, or maybe not, but it was $5, so all in good fun.

It would be even better if you would take your nephew on record-hunting missions to these places, though you could prime the pump on that by picking him out $10-20 of cheapo records to experiment with.
posted by Sara C. at 10:58 AM on November 23, 2012

Response by poster: Great answers, everyone. Thanks!

I wish I could take him record shopping. We're on different sides of the country, and we're meeting at my parents' (his grandparents') place, which isn't close to either of us, for Christmas. They live in a really small city and the record shopping there is dire (I tried myself a few years ago).

Queen is a great idea. ewan's three albums idea is great too.

Help!, at least the version with no orchestral tracks, is hard to find cheaply on vinyl unless you go for a brand new reprint. (Assuming that one was re-released)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 11:28 AM on November 23, 2012

The Beatles Red Album is a perfectly fine substitute for "Help!" or any other early albums. In fact, the Red and Blue albums should provide him with plenty enough Beatles for him to figure out whether he wants more.
posted by rhizome at 2:51 PM on November 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

INXS - Kick
Jackson 5 - ABC
Little Richard - Here's Little Richard
MGMT ‎– Oracular Spectacular
posted by churl at 8:47 PM on November 23, 2012

Cheap Trick. Greatest Hits should "hit" most of the highlights, but I'd recommend the individual albums for the art as well. Those gotta be easy to find and cheap as can be.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:55 PM on November 24, 2012

Response by poster: I bought him:
Ramoes - Road to Ruin
Queen - News of the World
Queen - The Game
Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
Beatles - Sgt Peppers (a double I had in my collection)
The Doors - 13
Michael Jackson - Thriller

My brother was all set to buy him some newer records as well, like Discovery by Daft Punk, but that fell through.

He knew a few Queen songs, and recognized Freddie Mercury from some meme online. He has heard of the Beatles and Michael Jackson. He didn't have the patience to sit through more than a song or two at a time, so we didn't get through most of the albums. He recognized Dark Side of the Moon as a Pink Floyd album but I'm not sure he's ever heard it. We didn't get a chance to listen to it together.

He thought the organ part in Light My Fire was boring and now says he doesn't care for the Doors. Ah well :)
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:07 AM on December 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

That's an awesome list. I love updates!
posted by looli at 12:48 PM on January 3, 2013 [1 favorite]

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