Why records? Why listen to and collect a medium that should have been extinct with the advent of the CD player and more recently iTunes and the mp3. I am asking myself this question. Only because I know how to answer it. For anyone that even happens to stumble upon my blog or any other blog dedicated to records, record collecting and such, you know why. I don’t want to go on about how record sales in the past two years have gone up tremendously. Because they have, and I can leave it at that.
I find it interesting as a 34 year old (about to turn 35) that people, much older than I, are so intrigued by the fact that I collect and listen to records. Last year I was at a yard sale sifting through a carton of records and I presume the lady holding the yard sale asked me if I even had a turntable and then asked if “they” even made turntables anymore. Oh, the best responses are the ones I get when I tell people that record stores do, still-in-fact, exist.
I always hold out for the day when I am shooting the breeze with an older fellow about records and this imaginary older fellow mentions “his old records” and says to me “You want them?” Some day.. Some day… But really, where was I?
I do in-fact enjoy the medium. I dove head first into record collecting in late 2003. I believe it was the summer, I got a nice part time job and with my measly second paycheck I ordered a Gemini turntable from Amazon for what would be around 79 dollars. I forget what brand it was, and I am sure it came with a stock Stanton cartridge but it did open the window for some great listening as well as fun purchases back then.
Living in Riverside, CA I had several options then when it came to record stores – Mad Platter, a staple of the Riverside area for many, many years, the now defunct Red Planet Records and there was one more record store that existed in Mad Platter’s old location, but the name totally escapes me and it has long since closed. I remember the joy of looking for and buying vinyl then. The great thing about Mad Platter was besides a good and fairly priced used section, low and behold.. There was NEW VINYL. A lot of my early purchases were mostly indie bands, because at the time, indie bands pressed their albums on vinyl.. And another thing, new vinyl wasn’t that expensive to be honest.
That brings me to another point… The thrill of the hunt. I think as a collector that is what clenches you. It is the drive that keeps you going when you’re say, at a Goodwill, sifting through a horribly crammed and dirty “record spot” on a shelf, while kids and older gentlemen are crowding around you looking through used VHS tapes and you’re hunched over, sifting through stacks of Firestone Christmas and Andy Williams, not wanting to give up simply out of fear that if you do stop there would be a prized jazz album hidden in there somewhere that you would miss out on. Yup.
I often think about all the records I might have skipped back then at second hand stores due to having limited taste. My taste has evolved in the 9 years I have been collecting. A decent full time job, a house and record storage, and access to eBay has really shaped my collection so-to-speak.
But why? Dare I get into “the warmth” and “the detail” I could but I won’t. Just google it! Actually what really did it for me back in 2004 was buying a used copy of U2’s “Unforgettable Fire.” I had the Island Records CD for many many years having been a U2 fan since 1992. So for years I would listen to that album on CD, on headphones. I thought I knew it, and knew it well. I played the used LP on my Gemini and I was amazed with what I heard. It was as if the needle dug into to the grooves and brought out more of that classic Brian Eno and David Lanois production.. The many layers came out, the shimmering effects of The Edge’s guitar work. It was as if the CD copy I had was keeping that hidden for some reason. It really came out and alive on that LP I had.
And ever since then.. it has become my medium of choice. Almost 900 LPs later I still love the format and probably always will. Funny enough, one of my very first LP purchases came in 1994 at the tender age of 19. It was an Agent Orange (seminal Orange County punk rock band) I had walked to a second hand store near where my grandmother lived at the time in San Bernardino, CA and sifted (what is it with thrift stores and just throwing their piles of LPs where they please) through albums I didn’t like at the time and I saw the Agent Orange EP “When You Least Expect It”. Gave the lady my dollar and took it home… but I never listened to it until 2010. I didn’t have a record player then. I was on to something though…