Soundtrack Of A Photograph-The Vinyl Edition

Methodically searching through your collection you scan the titles, head tilted at an angle ever so slightly to be able to read the words on the spine until you find your desired choice. Carefully you pull it out and place it on a flat surface. With care and precision you carefully remove the inner contents. Once that is removed, you even more carefully remove the object contained within from the sleeve, fingers delicately positioned in such a way to prevent smudges. Upon removal you stretch your fingers out on both hands to grip the object, pausing to surreptitiously blow visible dust off either side. Finally the object may be placed on its spindle as you carefully align the center hole. Next comes the  not so technical decision about which switch to push (or pull, depending on type of machinery) that determines the rpm once the machine is on. Now the object is spinning, it’s distinctive label of varying colors, logo and artwork clearly visible moments before now a blur as the second crucial component of this machine comes swinging into place, momentarily pausing as if to say, did you make the right choice?

Descent.

Contact.

Crackle.

Then…

…the music you have so carefully chosen bursts forth from the distinct sound of a vinyl record. There really is nothing like the motion and sound of a record being played. The rotation of the turntable mesmerizing in its simplicity, the distinctive crackle as the needle sets down on the first grooves of the record and the anxious few seconds of waiting just before the music actually kicks in. For those with a steady eye and solid nerves, what today can be done easily with the click of a mouse or a fast forward button, you can skip to another song  by the raising of the arm and the careful lowering of it again onto the thick grooves that mark the breaks between songs. Failure to drop it in the correct place results in a jarring scraping sound and a serious risk of damaging something you spent good money for.

There is also a physical side to record listening in many ways. The multiple staged procedure for placing it on the turntable  I describe above can take a bit of time to accomplish for starters. When I was younger, and particularly if it was a great album, you would sit nearby, poised to grab the record once the first side finished so you could quickly turn it over to play the flip side. You also had to safeguard against the possibility of someone stomping through the room causing the record to skip.  A far cry from the ease of playability in today’s digital era for sure.

In the last several years there has been a massive resurgence both in the popularity, and demand for vinyl records and turntables after many years in the dark ages it seemed. Vinyl was a huge part of my life growing up. What started with perusing (and sometimes chiding) my father’s collection of 45’s and LP’s gradually grew into the period when you had a choice about the format you wished to listen to your music on, which was not exclusively vinyl. Yes, I am of the generation that can remember those wonderfully indestructible 8-Track tapes one could usually find strewn in the foot well of your friend’s car  and the marvelous ca-chunk sound they made when selecting program 1-4. Then came  the smaller and more portable cassette tapes, and the advent of boom boxes and the Walkman allowing for carrying your own music around with you for the first time.  But up until a certain stage of my life the vinyl record  was always the preferred choice.

I think part of the reason was with an LP, you felt like you were purchasing something important. The pure size of a 33 rpm record felt substantial and meaningful in your hands. The photos of the band and the liner notes were much larger to look at than their digital counterparts today.  Sometimes  they came with little goodies, like band posters, lyric sheets, fan club information, or the famous cut out sleeve card on The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album,  which no one dared actually cut up I should mention! It was solid, yet flexible. Durable, yet breakable if you were not careful.

One of the reasons I also loved albums growing up was for the wonderful assortment of album labels, each of which had their own distinctive logo and artwork printed on the record itself.  The dog sitting  next to the old fashioned phonograph logo of RCA Records, the palm tree symbol for Island Records. The burst of light logo instantly recognized as belonging to Sun Records. The classic lettering of Stiff Records, the corporate style stamp of an A&M Record, or the orb-like Geffen Records were all memorable.  Others were almost dull in having no logo whatsoever such as Columbia Records, though the distinctive red color and font made them instantly recognizable as the label of Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash among others. Below in the gallery are  photos of some of my favorites.

But at some point among the general public,  vinyl records really stopped being a thing. People wanted convenience and portability. They wanted something that was not so fragile to handle. Sure you could still find them in most people’s homes, often relegated to boxes in the basement, or at garage sales and thrift stores. Even if you had wished to play something from  the old stacks of your parents records, it was difficult finding a functioning turntable to play them on, or worse still, locating a replacement needle. Though I kept all my old vinyl records from my youth, I literally had not played them for at least 25 years. That is until a few years ago when a resurgence in vinyl started happening from people who grew weary of the thinner digital sound and who longed for a return to those deeper and fuller sounds one can only get from a vinyl record. Suddenly it became easier finding turntables and the assorted equipment. In a nod to having the best of both worlds, USB turntables became popular as well, allowing for the vinyl sound to be transferred to your phone or mp3 player.

Even more surprising were record labels like the mighty Daptone Records in Brooklyn who released new material on records. And not just albums, but also singles on the beloved 45 rpm format. Reissues of classic albums started appearing. Missed the boat on those Beatles albums back in the 60’s? You can now buy them all on newly restored and reissued vinyl today. 25 years ago I would have never thought I would see this kind of renaissance happening, but here we are in 2016 and though it may pale in comparison to the digital sales of the latest pop sensation, there is a growing demand and desire for vinyl records once again.

Along with those new vinyl pressings has also come a desire for buying them from an actual store, and scattered throughout NYC, actual record stores have begun to crop up. Last summer, one such store opened in my own neighborhood-hifi records. In it you can find lots of those new vinyl pressings as well as bins of used records, turntables, and other equipment, not to mention tasty coffee as well! Just this evening, I went shopping for a brand new album there and HiFi put on an after hours showcase of three local bands. Great turnout, great free beer, and a great atmosphere hanging out in a store that only sells vinyl records! Best of all, as I scanned around the room tonight, I noticed that there is a steady stream of people shopping there, of all ages. All searching for a record to bring home and carefully open, and carefully placing on the record player, and reveling in that unique sound that can only come from a record player.

Now I bet some of you have been wondering what song I would choose for this edition, culled from my own vinyl collection. I thought about this for a good while, and I was thinking of something that was a really cool and cutting edge kind of group. Maybe some punk rock or some long lost vinyl classic. In the end I decided to go with something more personal. All this reminiscing has sent me back to my youth and I still remember the first album I solely picked out for myself all those years ago, and though battered and scratched, I still possess it to this very day. A couple of weeks ago as I write, we lost two great, but very different singers-David Bowie and Glenn Frey of the Eagles. Though I felt the loss of David Bowie deeply (still do in fact), that first album I bought for myself back in 1979 or thereabouts was the Eagles first album. There was a time when their music loomed large for me, and though I still like a few songs, I  moved on from playing their music that much, with one notable exception. Side 1, Track 1 on their debut album is a song that I still easily put in my top 10 favorite songs of all time-Take It Easy. Those harmonies, that banjo,  and most of all that wonderful line about ‘standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona defined the types of music I listened to in subsequent years. It all started with a vinyl record and a song co-written and sung by Glenn Frey. R.I.P. Glenn, this one is for you!

I’d love to hear some of your own vinyl record stories below in the comments. I would also urge you to dust off those old albums you or your family may have and give them a spin again. They really do sound better than any digital download you may  buy. While you are at it, find and support your local record store, or anywhere else that devotes space to them. For me it is HiFi Records, and please do check out their website here, and give them a follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Many thanks to Javi and Chris of hifi records!

 

Take It Easy-Written By Jackson Browne & Glenn Frey

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

SHARES AND LIKES APPRECIATED!

 

 

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54 thoughts on “Soundtrack Of A Photograph-The Vinyl Edition

  1. Wow, my friend. You totally captured the whole experience of what it was like to listen to music “way back then”. Everything you described brought back a flood of memories for me and, for that, I thank you.

    I loved all of the pictures you included; seeing the labels also added to the flood of nostalgia I am now left with. Awesome! Thank you so much for sharing these memories with us. You know just how to elicit the right emotions that make us want to come back for more.

    Well done. {hugs}

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! Initially I thought I wanted it to be about the sound of a record. Then I thought it might be about the tactile element of holding a record and putting it in place on the turntable. Then I thought it might be about the great graphic arts you saw on both the record itself or the sleeve. Then I thought it could be about the vinyl explosion of popularity today. Then I decided to meld them all together and I hope I did it in an enjoyable way for people. Thank you as always!

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  2. Wow..I couldnt help but smile while reading this. In the late 80’s I remember spending a lot of time at my aunts house during the summer. She was a nurse’s assistant at an retirement home. She worked 12 hour shifts and boy did we LOVE playing her favorite record while she was away…which was computer love by Roger and Zapp…long story short…we played that album so much that we ended up scratching it. My goodness how do you explain something like that? Somehow we miraculously survived….but I thought for sure we were toast!!! 😄 This post is definitely nostalgic Robert and you’ve done a wonderful job taking us down memory lane. * geez…I’m really showing my age, aren’t I?

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    1. Thank you so much Tasha, what a wonderful comment! And a wonderful story too! The album scratching is something I think most of us did. I remember wearing several records down from overplaying, and being less than careful…so I’m glad you weren’t toast for playing that so much! I wasn’t even going for the nostalgic route but I’m glad people are feeling that! As I was writing I was thinking that while I love the convenience of things the way they are today I say to myself, maybe taking a few seconds to flip a record over isn’t such a bad thing…or waiting for a tape to rewind, or whatever else that is now considered old school. And anyway, if you think you are showing your age, just wait until you get to be my age!

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      1. We weren’t allowed to touch my aunts record but we did anyway while she was away at work. I remember that one particularly because its the one we played the most. Boy were we scared when it started skipping cuz we just knew she was going to know it was us and we were in for a good ‘ol fashioned spanking lol…we stopped messing with her records after that even though she didn’t figure it out 😀

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  3. Ken Woolass

    Seriously enjoyed the blog thank you, I know several musicians would wreck a record trying to pic up on notes played,by dropping the stylus at a particular point! just a thought wasnt the dog listening to a phonograph the logo for HMV [His Masters Voice]

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  4. Nice one Rob. I sort of wish I had thought of it myself as I can think of lots to say on this subject. Part of what you identify here is that listening to vinyl was/is a ritualistic, possibly even fetishistic experience which made it memorable and gave it substance. The discovery of the music in the grooves was the reward for all of the care, attention and preparation that you had to untertake to get that far. Consumption of music in the modern world does not have these elements. Its ubiquity, instant availability and disposability inevitably reduces its value in our eyes. It is a passive experience rather than the activity of playing a record.

    I am glad that you focus on labels because my own “fetish” began there. It was the visual impact of the labels that mesmerised me as a child and ultimately led me to the music that they promised. The Beatles’ Apple label was one of the most pleasing of all and my own first purchase at the age of 10 was John Lennon’s Whatever Gets You Thru the Night. To see that juicy green apple on a black background, turning around the spindle and surrounded by the strange joined up writing outlining all of the copyright information, was a thing of beauty to me. And we were lucky in the UK. Our 45s were not dinked so we got to see the full picture. Lucky in other ways too. We didn’t have the Columbia label (or rather, we did but it was a subsidiary of EMI and not the label that was the home to Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel amongst others). Instead, Columbia’s artists appeared on the CBS label, initially a plain orange thing with black typeface but which morphed in the 70s into a very pleasing orange and yellow “sunset” with an alluring logo. Man, I could talk on this subject all night…

    A quick historical note. The dog and the phonograph on RCA? That started out as the logo for HMV Records. who became EMI later on. I’m not sure how the logo ended up at RCA but the dog’s name was, I believe, Nipper.

    And finally, from a UK perspective, that Capitol label on Sgt Pepper just looks all wrong!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, Al so much to comment on here and I only have a few moments to discuss it! What you say is so wonderfully put. Seriously. Particularly what you say about today’s listening being more passive. I’m glad I was not the only one fascinated by the coloring, stamps, and fonts of labels. It was a huge part of it for me. Of course the labels and imprints varied between the UK and here, but the creative side was in place for both. As to the dog, I know it was Nipper, and for sure started with HMV but forget the story as to how it came to be on RCA. Dad’s old Elvis 45’s with that logo are a fond memory. Sorry about that Capitol Records Beatles label. Can’t be helped! Thanks for the comment!

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  5. I remember once when I was little, I was sifting through some of my grandfather’s old stuff. He passed away a long time before I was born but I had heard all sorts of fascinating tales about him, both from my own family and the neighbors humbly residing near my ancestral home.

    So as a little girl of 11, I was naturally fascinated with all the picturesque things tucked in boxes, neatly covered with a layer of dust.
    I was playing with the old, antique stuff of my grandparents in the basement when I came around round, black disks kept in a separate box. I couldn’t make any sense of it. Sitting on my knees I flipped the black thing as if to find some pleasant surprise on the other side, but nothing.

    I carried the entire box to my grandma (still alive at that time) determined to find out what these mysterious black disks did. She gave a sad chuckle and said, “Your granddad was a musically inclined man Aakansha. This is his entire collection of music, right when he was very young and when the British ruled us.” Then she went about explaining what little she knew about vinyls.

    You can imagine how awed I was. My jaw just dropped. I asked my cousins to search everything about vinyls. I was very obstinate to listen to what my grandfather loved. I had this inkling that I might love it too. (Everyone in my family said I was a lot like him.)
    But we didn’t have the player or turntable like you said. So I persuaded my cousin to go along with me to an antique store where we could at least find a turntable to listen what these vinyls had.
    When we did finally come to a store, and the keeper skillfully placed the vinyl and I was on the edge of my toes, there came this screeching sound at first and then nothing happened. No music. I was appalled. He said that these disks had a lot of scratches from being carried about from places and they are not in listening condition.

    That night, I stared at those vinyls and wondered how amazing it would’ve been had these actually played. I decided not to lose hope and not let this precious collection go to waste. Since these disks were already gone, I decided to use them in a piece of art I created using them. I wouldn’t go into detail about what it was, but it still hangs in my room in my grandfather’s place and whenever I look at them I always think of my grandfather.

    I apologize for that bulky comment, but you wrote this post so wondrously, it brought back in a flash the memory of that day. So I thought I should share.
    Thank you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aakansha, thank you for such a beautiful comment. I loved hearing this story. My goodness, this should be a post by itself! I can only imagine what that discovery must have looked like, I’m just sorry to hear that you were not able to play them. I am intrigued that you found a use for them in your art! Have you been able since then to hear an actual record being played? Thank you sincerely for such a wonderful response!

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  6. Soprano Musings

    I can’t tell you how happy I was while reading this! Loved how descriptive it started out – made me relive the moment I first played my first vinyl record and captured the feelings I had the whole time!
    There really is no better sound than vinyl (except live, of course). We finally have a local shop that I try to visit at least once a month and the owner is great! Of course chains like FYE have started to catch on, but I just love the vibe and aesthetic that I get from the local shop too much to bother with going anywhere else. Thank you so much for sharing this 🙂

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    1. I’m so glad! I was not sure how to piece this together but I knew I wanted to start off describing the ‘action’ of playing vinyl. Glad you liked it! And good on you for supporting local shops, even if only once a month. Yes its nice to see vinyl in some big stores too but I like the smaller indie stores more.

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      1. Soprano Musings

        I’m glad you did start it off that way – it set the tone of your blog. Really nice 🙂 I wish I could go more often to my local shop – trying to see about starting an open mic there as well, so that could change soon.

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  7. What a great post! I absolutely love the sound of vinyl- there’s something so resonating, so real about it! Of late, I’ve been making a list of records I want to purchase, the Beatles and Pink Floyd are top of the list. The record player I had, a hand-me-down, broke, so first I need to get that!! But I’ll get there soon enough, especially now that I’ve read this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I’m so happy people are responding to it and sharing their vinyl stories. New pressings of Pink Floyd and the Beatles are not cheap but I do get tempted…! I did buy a brand new album the other night however-the excellent new album from Los Lobos. Hearing and seeing a bright and shiny new vinyl record is a thing of beauty for sure. You can get all kinds of record players now so I can’t wait to hear when you have it all set up and are listening to some vinyl yourself! Thanks again!

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  8. Ah Vinyl….I remember, way back in the 80s when tapes were king, and CDs were something rich people had. My friends and I were discussing that “Some music sounds better with the light and comforting crackle of a record…like the Beatles, Stone and perhaps especially Dylan.

    In terms of mediums for playing music, I have always been way behind the times. When ipods were becoming big I was taking advantage of the $10 CDs at Virgin Megastore, and fell in love with remastered box set collections Before that I clung to cassettes forever. I LOVED that one could make compilations. It was the first time one could take advantage of a friend or relative’s music collection, and just put the songs YOU wanted. Some of those tapes we made back in the day were outright amazing. It was also a cool way to strengthen a friendship with a gift, OR if you were brave and ambitious…woo a member of the opposite sex with your incredible taste in music. “I never realized how dark, and thoughtful Scott was until I got this tape he gave me” I’d imagine, when more likely the objects of my affection ignored my musical melange.

    I agree though, Vinyl has a “warmth” to it. I hate that hipsters have embraced it, so I defend it by saying “DJ’s love it” which they do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Scott, great comments! I still own (and sometimes still play) cassette tapes. I made many the mix tape in my day certainly. I do remember 8 tracks being completely indestructible! For some reason they were almost always the same ones-Boston, Aerosmith, among others. I still actively buy CD’s and prefer them over downloads or streaming. But there is really something about the vinyl experience that is so satisfying. It takes work to put it on the turntable. To flip over and the listening of it was usually very attentive. You didn’t wander off or have it as background music. It was active engagement. Appreciate the great comment!

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  9. I started collecting records about 3 years ago, and my collection has grown more than I could have ever imagined. I never realized how pure and relaxing music could be, especially when it is curated and listened to as a whole, the way the artist intended. I loved reading your thoughts about vinyl, and I’m glad there are so many others who feel the same way I do!

    Great post!!

    -Haley, http://www.mothandflame.co

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much! You know its funny, but like you my collection of vinyl has grown pretty rapidly. I have thousands of CD’s. I still own cassettes. I download as well, but when I started buying vinyl again a few years ago, I actively sought it out more than those other formats. In part because in addition to the record stores I wrote about, there are also lots of thrift stores around so it is easy to walk away with 10 albums for $10! Thanks so much for the comment and the follow. Off to check your blog out now too!

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  10. I love vinyl! I’m glad I found and read this post. This brings me way back with my mom and dad. We have a lot of them at home! Although, I can’t find anywhere online to buy a vinyl player. But you really opened up a lot of nostalgic stuff in my head through your post. This is amazing. 🙂

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      1. I wish I could finally find one online. I’m actually kinda inspired to write a blog post about any vintage stuff I found at home. I found old Pentax and Canon cameras that still work on film. Thanks for your post, Robert. 🙂

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  11. My husband and I enjoy antiquing. One of the things we have started doing recently is picking up vinyl because its cheaper than buying the music elsewhere. Last week we picked up a Lionel Richey, Marvin Gaye, and Scorpions! I had a party on Friday and we totally listened to Lional and Marvin. It was a lot of fun!

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    1. I think I said in one of the other comments that along with the vinyl stores like HiFi, now that I have a player, its great sifting through stacks of vinyl in thrift stores and antiques shops too. You can certainly come away with a nice stack for cheap! We regularly have ‘vinyl listening nights’ at home, where we only play the records-more R&B for my wife, and little bits of everything else for me! I also really enjoy classical music on vinyl. The focus is usually on rock & pop, but I have found some wonderful classical stuff too! Thanks for the comment!

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      1. Very cool. There is something fun about having to flip the record when it gets quiet and not being able to “fast forward.”

        In other news my parents still have a juke box filled full of old records. We get that thing going pretty regularly. Although admittedly my brother and I when we were teenagers went out and bought an AC/DC record and a Aerosmith record just to get something “newer” in there. 😉

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      2. I agree about the flipping the record over element. Its active, not passive listening. The juke box sounds cool! I don’t blame you for trying to modernize it a bit growing up. I can just imagine…something older for your parents and a little Hells Bells or Back In Black for you. Seems like a fair trade 🙂

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  12. Cool post. I never got into vinyl (the first music I bought was in cassette form), but I know certain people are really into them. It’s cool to hear how your experience has been with them. And I do agree about the liner notes and artwork. It’s one of the things I miss the most now in the digital age. That was such an important and reflective part of the music, but now it’s a way more minor part.

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    1. Thanks very much Liza. I still have cassettes actually (well ones that are rare and I’m not able to update digitally, and yes, sometimes I still listen to them lol!). I still also buy CD’s because of all the things you mentioned like notes and artwork but its really not the same thing as it is with vinyl. Its sad because it was a part of the experience for sure. Thanks for the comment! Hope you get into it someday 🙂

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      1. Yeah, I just may some day. I also still prefer to buy CDs when I can. Here in Guatemala it’s more expensive to get them, so I usually buy them digitally, but when I’m in the States I definitely prefer CDs.

        Oh, and, I forgot to mention, I know the Eagles! Haha. 🙂

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      2. I hear you on the price of cd’s. I have had to cut back, or recently I have been buying boxsets because they are good value usually.

        And hooray!!! A band you know!! I’m teasing though…there are a lot over the history of my blog I know you would be familiar with!

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  13. During those days of vinyl who would have thought the simple pleasures of making choices like the ones you have depicted with the vinyl and cds would bring warm memories years later. Reading this post transports me to a time when life was simple and not as complex. I remember Saturday mornings while cleaning, putting the vinyls out, and on, was second nature. It set the tone and took me to a happy place for the rest of the day. It is always good to read about old memories of the past and be reminded life was good, even when we did not realize it. For this reason, I try now to appreciate the present moment.

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    1. Yes, I like how you put that. It was a simple pleasure and I think sometimes in a broader sense that those simple pleasures are what we are all missing these days.Convenience is great but do we really need music at the click of a button, or 500 cable channels so readily. Is that much of a chore to flip a record over?! It was as you say, simpler and not as complex. This weekend I had some time to myself and spent hours doing what you used to do on those Saturday mornings-perusing my selections and pulling out what I wanted to hear, then spreading them out on the table. It was so pleasing! Thank you for this great memory 🙂

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  14. Pingback: Robert Doyle. The Charming, Talented and Wonderful Blogger Friend of Mine. | a cooking pot and twistedtales

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