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In praise of record collections
In praise of record collections
Posted by Gizmo on May 29, 2008 :

Sitting in the skratchlab as I do, day in day out, I'd kind of forgotten about the vinyl that I built some rather neat shelves to house, prefering to let iTunes shuffle my music without any logic at all. It reads like a Gizmo timeline, from my first ever purchase - Exodus by Bob Marley and the Wailers way back in 1977, through several other genres right through to the present day. So I figured it would be a cool idea to pull out some gems to listen to while working and discovered a few things about records, and in particular my collection in general.

It's easy to get romantic about vinyl. I can remember where and when I bought each one, and the feeling I had when I got it home, tore off the seal, sniffed the fresh fingerprint free vinyl and played it for the very first time - and then proceeded to abuse it in the name of DJing. To me, vinyl has largely been a medium to transport music rather than having any special attachment to a particular sleeve or label. I'm not really a collector - vinyl is a tool, or so I thought.

But wading through my collection has made me very aware of a few things that being a vinyl user and abuser of a few decades, I feel I can say these things having been there, done that and earned my stripes.

How much room?
I don't have a huge collection to be honest, largely down to how much cash I've earned in my career and how much room I've had in my bedrooms and houses. But what I do know is that as a medium, vinyl is utterly inefficient, costs a shitload to buy and breaks your back carrying it.

iTunes Rules
Do you have any idea just how bloody annoying it is to listen to a stack of vinyl while trying to write? LPs aren't too bad, coming in at 20+ minutes per side, but a pile of 12s means up and down, fighting with slipmats and having to put the damned things away all the bloody time. It really does make you appreciate random play in iTunes even more.

Dirty Filthy Records
Like I said before, vinyl is a medium - a tool to allow me to spin records. It gets dirty, as do the covers, especially after decades of storage in less than sterile conditions. So having to clean each and every one before listening to them is a royal pain in the arse. I will get through them all, but I don't have to clean MP3s.

Sound Quality - Or Not
Vinyl is alleged to be the pinnacle of sound quality. There is something quite magical about hearing the needle in the groove and the thump every time you nudge your deck. But listening to some of the classics in my collection (even modern ones), you soon get to realise that some have been pressed with zero attention to mastering at all. Comparing remastered digital versions to the original vinyl ones, it soon makes you realise just how utterly crap vinyl can sound at times.

Purists bang on about the supreme audio fidelity of vinyl and even spout about the hidden invisible frequencies and other such hokum. Unless you've got the finest vinyl from a mastering house and pressing plant that care, chances are you've got some pretty dodgy sound quality on your deck. I've got a collection full to prove it.

Forgotten Gems
I've listened to A LOT of music in my 4+ decades on this planet. Some of that music has stayed current in my life and gets rinsed and rerinsed all the time. But sifting through some older stuff is a real trip down memory lane, as well as reminding you that you have some truly special music in your collection. Pay It All Back Volume 1... the b-side of ABC's "How To Be A Millionaire" has the awesomest beat... David Joseph's "You Can't Hide" 12"... and that's just looking at the records to my left.

Inherited gems
I haven't bought every record in my collection. I once inherited a suitcase of vinyl from a former soulboy who discovered Culture Club. I've not paid a lot of attention to the contents of this case over the years, but instead have moved it from house to house. Today, I found amongst others an original 12" of classic break "Rock Creek Park" and Harold Thumann's "Underwater" - a building block of the House music scene. I'm a very happy man. I just wish I knew who made the Funk white labels I have.

That's not mine... honest?
Back when I had money to burn, I'd venture off to big city and indiscriminately buy imports that I thought might be good. Often this was simply because they had a cool Hip Hop sounding name and if I'm honest, simply because they were imports. Many of these have been played once - now twice - and will never be played again. Back in the day, you had to actually buy music and be saddled with crap rather than downloading it and deleting it. Wait - you don't delete it do you?

Valuable - I Wish
Part of my rummage through racks of vinyl is to find some stuff that I don't want but might be valuable. I need a new laptop dammit so don't hate me for selling off some crap OK? The thing is, I really can't part with the truly valuable stuff because of the sentimental value. So I guess the collector is inside me somewhere. But it seems that not everything is valuable. Tripping around eBay and Discogs tells me that things I thought absolutely must be worth hard cash isn't, unless you translate "hard" to be coins. I've got some mint condition early Culture Club 12s if you're interested. Thought not. Bottom line - MP3s will never be worth a damned thing.

I read this week that Woolworths will no longer be selling CD singles because of the growth in downloads. This whole downloading thing saddens me deeply, because kids will no longer get to enjoy the retail experience of buying music. It's been relegated to simply downloading data, rather than experiencing the excitement of finding the new hotness on 12" and being the only one to have it in your circle of friends. No longer will people be able to flick through crates of records on your bedroom floor and annoy the crap out of you by getting them all out of order. And getting an iTunes gift card just isn't the same as trying to guess what's inside that vinyl shaped pressie under that Christmas tree.

I really feel sorry for the downloading generation. They may enjoy the convenience of instant downloads with crystal clear quality on their iPods, but they will never have the memories that go with buying music - they don't have an actual record collection. It's hard to look back on a folder in an open window on your computer and remember where you downloaded it from. The whole personal element is being sucked out of music each and every day. There is nothing like physically owning a piece of music.

If I'm honest, I don't buy new vinyl anymore. I'm a long way past playing out and frankly there's no new music that moves me enough to want it on vinyl. But I do still enjoy the experience of occasional digging in charity shops (if you can find one that hasn't cottoned on yet), but get most of my record buying pleasure via the internet - virtual digging on ebay and the like. I tend to want to fill gaps in my collection and get records that I feel I really should have. But even embracing the internet, I still get the retail thrill and especially the hunt and chase of finding some long lost classic, especially if it's still at 99p with 30 seconds to go.

So people - if you have a record collection that needs airing, do it today. Don't just flick through it on the shelf - get it out and look at the cover and the label - and most importantly play it. Remember why you bought it, where you bought it and just how you felt when you listened to it for the first time. To the iTunes generation - you just don't know how much you're missing out on.

NOTE: No further comments are being accepted.
23 comments to this story

On May 29, 2008, sureshot said this:
I can still remember listening to my LL COOL J "Going back to cali" single on 45!! I remember where I bought it (Beleive in Music) the seleve it came in, bringin it home and playing it over and was summer it was sunny and I was a kid in my room.
Vinyl has that certain "feel" that "thing" it does to you.
I used to sort through my mom and dads 45's pretending I was a DJ...listening to The Beatles, 4 Seasons, Dan and Jean, Galdis night, Del Shanon, Temptations, on and on..I would stack those suckers up on the spindle and just listen to em all day.
Today I have a very modest collection, and I am building it slowly. I have found some great funk and mid 80's rap 12" at local record shops. People who have brought in that "crappy old vinyl" to sell for 50 cents not knowing what they were throwing away. Each time I go, I find another "gem" that was discarded and with glee I snatch it up and brag to all of my friends "you'll never guess which 12" I picked up for a buck today?"
I hope vinyl never's something about that sound....yes iTunes is cheaper and more effeciant, but Vinyl is an investment. That's why we DJ's take care of two copies..and dig dig dig through dusty record crates looking for unused breaks. Vinyl isn't just merly buyin a 12", it's an adventure. It's a love.
Nice article Giz !

On May 29, 2008, Itchy_digits said this:
I love records!!!

...thats all...

On May 29, 2008, DaCaveDwella said this:
Love/Hate Relationship...


On May 29, 2008, Buttafingaz said this:
Nice article! As much as I like the convenience of Serato, I will always have love for my vinyl. Been collecting vinyl since '88 and have a pretty modest collection as well. You just can't beat the feel and instant gratification of putting a record on the ol 1200 and listening to it. Where as with a DVS system you have to boot up the computer. Boot up the Serato or what have you then slap on the timecode records. I miss flipping over to the B side on records lol..

On May 29, 2008, memhwa said this:
On the most part i agree, i just want to make one point. having been lucky to witness both the last days of pre-internet music culture and the current explosion of blogs, downloads etc i think that it is possible to value an mp3 or a website. It may not be the feelin we get from a new piece of wax, but as i know from my own personal experience, a website can also have a great meaning. i have learned a lot from various sites, there is music i simply would not know if it wasnt for a particular forum, user or a website. So it still has this elemenent of memories connected with music. It might be different, but hey - times are changing.

On May 29, 2008, memhwa said this:
i dont know if thats good or bad. It may just be a sign of our time.

On May 30, 2008, gusset scratch said this:
"kids will no longer get to enjoy the retail experience of buying music."

a little sentimental i think. i remember the "retail experience" from when i was a kid; leave the village (no record shops there) catch a bus/hitch/walk to the next town (no record shops there either), jump the train fare to the city, trudge across the city to the cheap rents retail units where the independent record shops were. upon arrival be treated unwelcomingly by the shop staff, and endure it as they were the only place that stocked even a limited selection of what i wanted. i was lucky if the shop i was in had any means of previewing the purchases, but it felt like a waste to make all that effort and not come home with something to show for it.

the result - lots of time and money wasted on vinyl i never really listened to after paying 5 a piece.

i'm not saying it was ALL bad, but it's hardly my fondest memories from my youth.

On May 30, 2008, afrofrench said this:
Just 2 weeks ago I was able to get a lot of my things out of storage. My CDs had been sitting in boxes for a bit over two years. So, of course, I was super excited to finally get to open my CD jewels! I got to hold 'em, read the track listings, pick my songs. I did relive my youth (with the necessary shameful CDs) and felt warm and fuzzy inside. love.gif

I get a similar feeling finding the odd random tapes (cassettes or VCR) but I'm oh so glad that we've moved on to other formats.Plus I'd argue that I get the same feeling going through my old mp3 CDs (yes,before DVDs). Yes, it's not as tactile but i try to make up for it with good tagging and large album art.

I love records (though I own few) and I still love CDs but I don't miss either simply because I still use both! That's why I got Serato! It's convenient and lets me use mp3s when I want but it's so easy to transfer my music into mp3s that I never felt that my way of collecting music was at all limited. On the contrary, it just expended.

On May 30, 2008, Dj Scratchdog said this:
As long as I have a place for vinyl in my house I will always cherish it I'm glad I never sold it and moved it with me fro place to place and believe me 32 crates of vinyl can do some back damaged.
But it was all worth it when I can still show them to my kids and when I ask them to hand me that record they understand what I'm talking about.
Great article Gizmo

On May 30, 2008, Lamont said this:
I see 2 copies of Hi-Fi series volume 2 in your crates.

On May 30, 2008, asx said this:
Great article, Giz! I totally agree with what you are saying. It's true that vinyl is actually a highly inefficient medium, it is also true that it takes good physical condition if you have to carry your bag full of 12's to and fro. What's more, record wear is an inevitable element of the life of one's vinyls. However, since I began collecting records, it has never crossed my mind to get rid of any part of my collection in favour of some Star-Trek-feature-packed system like Serato or suchlike, of whose potential I would still never be able to make full use anyway. Besides, I've never felt limited by a set of two decks, a mixer and a bag of vinyls when it came to rock the crowd. And as you are saying, Gizmo, the i-Tunes generation, by doing as they do, will never have an opportunity to witness this 'magic' associated with what you experience every time you buy a new record. Actually, I think it's all about respect. If music plays a significant part in one's life, it would be wise to treat it with due respect. My attitude is that I cannot imagine just drawing on the loads of pleasure that music gives me without being able to give it a part of myslef. I know that I will never be square with my music but at least I try to make my own regular contribution to this vast world of sound.

Vinyl rules. Period.

On May 30, 2008, Deft said this:
I just bought a dj mix as a download for $13. I do feel a bit cheated as it would be nice if it was zipped up with some artwork and a .cue file or something.
I'd rather buy these type of albums on CD but that's not happening. But then all of my CDs are ripped into FLAC now so I never actually 'play' them. So would it matter if I didn't have any boxes?
Still can't bring myself to ditch my relatively modest vinyl collection though.

On May 30, 2008, rall said this:
Well I am itunes-gen, or maybe more cd-gen, but I still only buy vinyl. Nothing like.
And ebay is breeze for collecting 8)

On May 30, 2008, arkei said this:
Vinyl will always survive, thanks to people like Zambo or Vinylgrabber IMO. And I refuse to buy digital unless I'm forced too. And there lies the problem. Vinyl is not cheap to make. So I fear less and less groups will be supporting it, which is understandable but still a shame (once the cd's gone, there will be no more physical medium for music). Regarding the bad mastering...Isen't it a process, which was constantly improved? My newer vinyl seems to be better mastered then some odd 70s rock album IMO. And I don't find it inconvenient to change the music, when I'm home, since I'm a DJ. Hopefully the need of these dvs vinyls, will contribute to the survival of vinyl. But I already got a good amount of vinyl, so that even if it dissapears, I won't start crying blink1.gif

On May 30, 2008, sureshot said this:
Just picked up Gangstarz "you know my steez" on 12" vinyl for $2.00. I also have DJ KOOL's "Let me clear my throat" and Herman Kelly $ Life "Dance to the drummers beat" coming on 12" vinyl as well.
Just doing my little part to keep vinyl alive, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL VINYL SHOPS


On May 30, 2008, jason_md2020 said this:
As someone who got into drum-n-bass about 10 years ago I've been happily picking up cheap lots of 12" on eBay as more & more DJ's go digital. It's not the sound quality, or the nostalgia that gets to me. It's the feeling that I'm actually playing with the music. It's right there in front of me. Not a LED display, not a laptop screen, but an actual physical object spinning in front of me making sound. It forces you to use your ears to mix, not your eyes. Also the digging through the collection, sliding a record out of it's sleeve, placing it on the turntable & resting the needle in the groove, just has a special feeling of ritual that you don't get from clicking a mouse button.

I got a question though: Is there anywhere that recycles vinyl? Surely we all have a couple scratched, warped, unplayable & overall destroyed records. Seems a shame to just throw 'em in a landfill. Maybe Serato, Torq & the others can melt them down & make new control vinyls out of them.

Oh yeah...Recent $2.00 crate moment at a used bookstore: Biz Markie 12" single. Sing along if ya know it... "You...You got what I need...But you say he's just a friend...

On May 30, 2008, sureshot said this:
Jason...there's no way you got that Biz Markie joint!
Very jealous mad.gif

On June 1, 2008, Iron Monkey said this:
Well, I love vinyl! But like you, I don't really use it that often anymore. I have maybe 4,000 records spread around betwee my house and my parent-in-law's house. I maybe touch 30 of them on a regular basis (battle breaks) the rest mostly sit unused. But I love them all.

I remember my first records ever: Gary Numan: Cars, Kraftwerk: The Model, and Kraftwerk: Pocket Calculator - still classics today!

I remember shopping at 1-Up in Aberdeen back in the 80's begging them to bring in the latest hip-hop singles.

I remember when each one of the Street Sounds "Electro" series was released and we'd snatch the latest one to hear new stuff.

I remember competing with my friends to be the first to get a certain 12" or a fresh remix of a dope album track.

I remember listening to new rap albums hoping for a DJ track. Gang Starr, Low Profile, Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince, etc always delivered...

I remember going to London when I was in Uni and buying 500 records in one trip.

I remember working in a record store and spending almost all of my paycheck before I walked out the door each payday - thankfully my girlfriend's Mom used to do my laundry and feed me

I remember when my goal (seriously) was to own every rap record ever made (this was around 1988).

I remember rubbing sealed vinyl against my jeans and then snapping the vinyl against it to split open a new record.

I remember buying protective sleeves by the hundreds to sheath my favourites.

I remember finding gems at vinyl fair (orange PE Night Train 12", BDP: Memory of a Man and His Music double LP)

Yeah, its all gone with the download generation, but its still the music that ultimately excites. I do lament the experience, but the money I spent on vinyl over the years is insane.

Nicely written article Giz, thanks for the memories...

On June 1, 2008, Mr Brown said this:
I'll always buy vinyl. i don't have a dvs system, and with the money it costs to buy one + a laptop...i'd rather spend that same money on more records.

On June 1, 2008, Lamont said this:
I've owned 2 top of the line DVS products, but I ended up selling both and buying extra midi controllers.

Sound quality, analogue vinyl still packs a mighty punch compared to todays DVS, especially in the lower range frequencies. I would have to spend so much time boosting files just to get it to sound right in a DVS.

Things become too easy, which takes away some of my joy.
This is a purely personal matter, I know.

Another beef is it takes away visually from the live performance. People do like to see dj's/performers cue up records instead of checking their e-mails.

Vinyl, midi controllers and hardware/software synths for me.

On June 2, 2008, Cisco said this:
Ha you said woolworths, those store still exist? well not in NY NJ.

On June 3, 2008, T-Bernas said this:
Nice article, specially the ebay part and "the vinyls i think i should have"even though i have them on mp3 or cd, i have a huge "everyday growing bigger" list i want to buy in vinyl, and hope to press vinyls someday.
Thats why vinyl will never die and when it does lets hope we get to buy a pressing machines at 99p!
about those unwanted vinyl make a little tower of a about 100 of them wrap them all together and make a eco seat!

On June 9, 2008, Keylowe said this:
I think the worst part is the fact that too many people just DONT get into music. People dont buy cd's anymore. I think thats why there is such a mindless music generation now a days. I still love picking up old LP's to add to my collection just to have and finding old singles or stuff at the store. There's just a fun, legendary quality about it!

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