When I was just a young kid I started collecting records, 45 rpm singles to be exact. I couldn’t afford albums as they were called back then that usually contained about 12-14 songs divided over two sides of beautiful stamped out plastic. But if you were lucky the singles had unique picture sleeves to go with the music. These brought an extra dimension of satisfaction to me. Any spare money, birthday or earned, allowance or found, was spent in the pursuit of this exciting new sound phenomenon. This was a strange adventurous language that spoke to me so deeply that it thrilled every fiber of my being with joy. And I listened to and memorized the B sides as well as the hit side. I studied the labels and became an early on expert at identifying which artists were represented by which record companies. I read all the music magazines I could get my hands on. I mean I took this thing quite seriously. It meant the world to me. I had my own player, red and white, that opened and closed like a miniature suitcase, and kept everything neat and nice. These were my treasures.
One day I was thinking I would take a stack of my favorite 45s outside to see them in the bright light of day. I sat on a big rock that was stuck in the ground in the back of our yard and looked at them over and over again. Looking at the names of the songwriters, pulling the vinyl in and out of their colorful sleeves and watching the sunlight glancing off and around the perfectly circular plastic edges like some kind of magic rainbow show. Then for some reason I was called away from my rock, by my mother I think. It’s a painful memory so I’ve suppressed a lot of the details. Anyway by the time I got back my beautiful records were all melted by the hot sun down into the shape of the rock, ruined beyond repair, unplayable. I burst into a fit of tears and was inconsolable for many days afterwards. Today I would have put them on something flat and baked them in the oven back to their original shape, or as close as I could get them. But as it was, I had to throw them out. It hurt like hell.
But life goes on, new music kept being made, new records kept being pressed, and pretty soon I was back in business again. Enter the Beatles. After the Beatles everything changed. Music kept getting even more exciting than ever before. The possibilities were endless. The sleeves became like works of art. I was beginning to buy whole albums now and discovering that some of these even came in different colors of vinyl. Like I said, the possibilities were endless. I now kept my records in plastic outer sleeves and wiped them off with a soft cloth before and after playing. I kept them in special boxes, away from sunlight. They were alphabetized, categorized, and shored up to protect them from the obvious heavy handed side effects of gravity. They still brought me enormous amounts of pure unadulterated joy on a daily basis. Unlike other collectors I wasn’t just interested in completing a collection of titles by a certain recording artist or rock band on the run, no, I looked for the best possible physical version of the music I was seeking. My collection was pristine. I learned to collect what I liked, not what everyone else thought I should like.
Years later, I needed some quick money pretty badly for someone very, very dear to me and I sold my record collection to another collector. I could see the greed in his eyes as he wrote me a check. But you do what you have to do. I don’t regret it because it was done out of love and if I had to I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. But, again, it hurt like hell. Some of those records were like old friends of mine. One of life’s toughest lessons is learning to let go.
Today I like to collect my records on cds. I know I know today’s cool kids are all getting back into vinyl big time. Believe me I understand the thrill, holding it in your hands, putting it on the turntable, dropping the needle down, hearing the warmth. It’s all still there, reading the liner notes or lyrics without a magnifying glass. But life has a funny way of coming full circle—I just simply can’t afford the vinyl today, it’s too expensive. I did make one exception recently, I bought myself a copy of the recently rereleased mono version of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on heavyweight 180g vinyl cut from the original master tapes—and I love it! So life rewarded me with an old friend, after all these years, and it was well worth the wait.dp