Dust & Grooves: interviews with vinyl collectors


I noticed she’s not wearing any shoes. Do you know why hi-fi addicts always sit on the floor barefoot?

Have you ever priced a set?

And some of us are just old farts who never sold off their LPs (and cassettes and 7-inch reels and clay tablets) because we, like, liked the music. (No 8-tracks, though. There are, after all, limits.) Maintaining the necessary electromechanical devices is getting to be a pain, though–some of the guys who can repair them are even older than I am.

clunky shoes on a hardwood floor don’t sound so nice?

Why should you care about records anyway? Because as an inquisitive person you’re susceptible to having your mind blown by what’s on them. Fifty plus years of Gilbert and Sullivan, Opera, rockabilly, delta blues, prog rock, Lenny Bruce, Beethoven, Balinese gamelan, jug bands, Yardbird Parker, Klezmer, and much more that you can’t even imagine. The second half of the 20th century was a tremendous time for musical creativity and performance. Long playing records were the primary format for music distribution, and they were produced by the hundreds of millions. From Bozo the Clown Under the Sea to Van Cliburn at the Tchaikovsky Competition, it’s all still out there and much of this material never made the transition to digital.

I’ve been amassing vinyl since my teens; half my living room is shelves full of records. I don’t collect particular niches obsessively or get hung up on quality. I buy (well, used to buy) what interests me. It was more of “I’ve got twenty bucks I can spend, what’s the coolest music this shop has?” In the 90s, the baby-boomers liquidated their collections and you could get all but the most collectable stuff for a few dollars; you could take a chance on something because it was in a dollar bin. Then I started DJing, but I’d buy stuff just to have a certain beat even if it was a re-press/bootleg/beat-up. But, of course, I ended up getting some stuff that it turns out is really collectable. Like, my copy of Exile has a full, intact set of postcards in it, which seems to impress my more market-oriented collector friends.

Looking at that photo made me realize that listening to high fidelity music used to be an experience. Not just throwing some buds in your ears so you could drown out the world, but actually being very deliberate about it. Find the album, pull it out, possibly clean it (Disc Washer!), set the tone arm down… Then there was the adjustment of the system itself to give you the best possibly equalization for the environment.

I don’t miss the hiss, pops and crackle of the old days, but I do miss the whole culture of audiophile-ism in the analog age. I know that it exists today, but let’s face it, arguing about how much better certain cables transmit signals is just stupid.

Priced a set of shoes?

Besides, the artwork was sooo much better on the large sleeves. That, and I haven’t managed to find the CD version of Like Children.

/It took me three years to locate a vinyl copy, back in the day.

I sold off my vinyl in the 90s, and got some good money for the pile of old ska and punk albums. Vinyl sucked. The first listenings were nice but dust and scratches degraded things fast, albums warped in the heat, and the finickiness of the whole thing was a pain. Knowing that every time you listened to an album it was degrading slightly was enough to ensure me never looking back. In the day I always took an album out and recorded it to tape before it got destroyed and then played the tapes saving the vinyl as basically masters. Some purists think CDs don’t have enough fidelity, but I can’t hear the difference, so it doesn’t bother me. Modern digital music is better in basically every way on a practical level, sounds as good to me (usually better, since there’s no hiss/pop/skips), and being able to carry 10,000 pounds worth of albums in the phone in my pocket is awesome.

Maybe people like the ritual involved?

I still have my vinyls but have never been a Luddite. Albums were wonderful: large enough to have art on them with a clever title with certain songs arranged in a certain order. Some albums were a beautiful experience because of it. The current scene has forgotten about that – it’s not as if you couldn’t do that, but people have almost forgotten how.

Albums were an art form all of their own – I miss that aspect of music these days, though I still love much of the current offerings…

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