As told by Joe Rosario
Images Sabrina Anuar
Joe Rosario’s love for vintage music, art, and collectibles is evident at Joe’s MAC – his vintage shop that is easily a staple visit for hunters of antiquated pop culture. Don’t mistake him for an anachronism-loving hipster who was never around during the Woodstock era though, at 63 this year, Joe is a walking, talking, living remnant of the hippie generation – the less maligned subculture with the hip prefix.
It shows when you speak to him, he is an affable stubby ball of a man, whose seasoned eyes glistened more with joy than jadedness. You can be just about anyone, stranger or regular customer, and he would still open up to you, ready to share his wisdom and stories. The first thing he told JUICE when asked about his story was that he will be getting married soon. Yes, Joe is one of those people whose friendliness equates to oversharing. We love him for that though. Enough to get him to shed light on vinyl, his love for it, and his story…
I Am Joe…
When I got divorce, I opened up a stall in the flea market, selling piring hitam (vinyl records). Slowly over the years I opened up a shop at the corner of AMCorp Mall before moving to the centre. I don’t just sell them, but nevertheless I am well known for vinyl. In fact, Traxx FM named me the vinyl guru in 2006-2007 because I talk about vinyl and I know about vinyl.
Music was the only constant in my life.
I was a guitar teacher for 17 years – both classical and general guitar. My ex-wife was a certain local diva’s auntie, who was a piano teacher. My brothers all played, my sister sung, my ex-wives were all musicians, my niece’s grandmother was a cabaret singer back then in Chow Kit Road. It might sound like people back then loved music more than now, but it’s not true.
When I was younger, in the ‘60s, I was with a group of music lovers. I was a musician and played in a band and I taught music. My gang was filled with the same kind of people. But there were others who were told by their parents to not listen to music because it’s bad for your studies, just like today.
When I was 5 years old, I went to my grandfather’s house and my aunties would play record batu, shellac records for the old gramophone – she would wind it and put these 78rpm (a speed no one uses anymore) record batu. So as I was listening to it as a child, when I hear the music from the horn, Hindi or Tamil tunes usually, I got so fascinated. I went behind the gramophone set and saw all these valves and tubes, I was convinced to be a singer, you have to be the size of the tubes because the tubes had the singers in them! Ever since then I’ve been obsessed with records.
Rediscovering Vinyl, or How CD Killed Hi-Fi
Fast forward to 1987, I discovered there was such a thing as a CD. I played it and I didn’t like the sound. I told myself that maybe there was something wrong with my ears, that I can’t appreciate music anymore. At the time I actually stopped listening to music altogether because of the CD format. Imagine this, vinyl is 98% high fidelity whereas with CD you’d get about 60% low fidelity! This is why you don’t see the term hi-fi anymore – CD became the dominant format.
Which is funny because I stopped listening to music because of that format. I mean, Bob Dylan is a bad singer but on CD he’s even more terrible!
I always had records, but I didn’t have a turntable with a working stylus. I didn’t know where to find one until I went to a flea market and bought more records along with a stylus, got home, played them, and wow, suddenly all my favourite bands sounded like themselves again.
Vinyl is analogue music while CD is digital. Now while we are talking, we are analogue. Our ears and mouths are analogue – natural sounds. So the ear doesn’t have fatigue. Listening to digital music for a long period, you’d get irritation because it’s analogue processing digital. It’s quite painful in the long run, digital music is a poor quality of audio listening.