Saturday, September 13, 2014

To "Wax" Philosophic

Here we are about 10-12 years into a movement and I've decided to join. Call me current. As a matter of fact, I've been a proper slave to it for several months now.Total rookie shit, I know. It's getting to be ri-goddamn-diculous... I'm talking about the resurgence of vinyl, LPs, wax tracks, good old records, man. I'm hooked and well past the point of no return. I'm head down in the stacks, nose to the crates, belly to the bin. I'm on craigslist digitally underlining a made up map in the garage sale section on friday nights, I'm trolling my hood every Saturday morning, scoping out brilliantly colored slightly neon signs affixed to telephone poles. Looking for arrows and numbers. Elbowing out the elderly on their silly little quests for decorative and/or commemorative plates and old curtains.  I'm everywhere I can be without cloning myself, looking for these goddamn records, leaving my bored kid in the car(windows cracked half open,people) Thrift stores, church sales..no garage or stoop or flea market is off limits. Hi. My name is Seano and I'm a curbaholic.


However.......I was a cassette guy right out of the  gates in 1980 when I joined the Columbia House 6 tapes for a penny club. I still remember the six because I still hear the tape hiss in my head from playing them to death on my GE tape recorder and later Panasonic Boom Box.That's right, Boom Box is capitalized. And yes, I never bought those two cassettes at full price and avoided prosecution, most likely by providing them with an assumed name like Ben Dover or Hugh. G. Rection.

They were Billy Squier-Don't Say No, Van Halen I, Led Zeppelin II, Led Zeppelin IV, AC/DC-Highway To Hell and The Doors-Greatest Hits. These were my go-tos, until I was old enough to ride my bike down to the Music City shop in Perinton Square Mall, with a couple weeks worth of lawn mowing money and add to my collection. Cassettes fit easily into my Cannondale bright yellow bike seat bag. I couldn't have imagined riding one handed on a 10 speed all the way back up that hill with a slippery bag of albums under my other arms. Cassettes were portable and in another year, fit perfectly in my Panasonic silver Walkman knock off. (Just like the brand Kleenex became the word for all tissues, Walkman became the word for all portable cassette players, at least in idyllic upstate NY).

My parents had a stereo, and a bunch of albums housed in an old wooden icebox in our funky little farmhouse, including Sgt. Peppers, Physical Graffiti, Big Brother and the Holding Company's Cheap Thrills and a host of others. I remember those iconic covers, wanting to know who R. Crumb was, wanting to see the pictures behind the brownstone windows on the gatefold, wanting to research all of the so called Paul-is-dead symbolism within the lineup...

I don't remember my parents having music on as much as I do at home. Nor do most of the busy people I know. My father was always working in the yard or ensconced in some art project in the barn, my mother was always taking my sister to some dance recital. I wouldn't call either of them influences for my musical ability or obsession. To the both of them, music was something you put on during conversation, when they had company, and the kids were in bed. But those albums, those covers, the big bassy warm sound that rumbled out of my Dad's big brown cloth covered speakers, that's what stuck with me. I used to pull a chair up to the ice box and play those albums, years before the ease of cassettes and blank TDKs and recording arena rock tracks off of the radio took over my listening experience, thus began to chip away at my general attention span.

Now, decades, and 2k cds in boxes and 40k mp3s later, I've returned. You'll find many vinyl appreciation blogs and youtube videos out there, and naysayers vs. pundits in every corner of the globe, volleying beliefs, insults and scientific studies that approve or disprove vinyl's sonic superiority. Which at the end of the day is all very relative, case study by case study, with speaker quality, vinyl thickness, speaker placement, tube amplification, 1300 dollar turntables vs. white ear buds all coming up for consideration.

I don't care about any of that bullshit. I found that over the past ten years or so, music listening became something I patched into my lifestyle, squeezed into a road trip big or small, affixed to my ears while I worked or played. It became invisible, fleeting and as shallow as the next track scrolled through with infinite ease. It became something to acquire, peruse and discard or file away in a dead hollow cloud nobody can see or figure out the location of. Smaller, Faster, not even there, but will come when you call it, when you will it to appear, for your own personal function or form.

Multitasking. Some call it a revelation. I call it a killer. Why not stretch your mind and body to their limits? You'll get it done sooner, faster. sign off on it. On to the next. Bitch slap your bullet points, bully your bucket list, bring your " A" game to all of the games people play and watch all of your critical synapses struggle against each other in a cage match to the death. I'm not good at it, but surely fell/fall victim/champion to it as we all have.

So, I'm going to strip it back down, I'm going to indent my lovely couch with my lovely ass a moment or two after I split a gatefold open, engulfed with a waft of mildew and memories slide that black circle out of that worn sleeve, and plunk it down on my 1979 Pioneer PL-512 turntable. I'm going to drop that arm, and look at the cover and the liner notes, while I listen. And while I do that, besides partaking in an adult beverage, I'm going to do fuck all else.

I'm going to repeat this heroic, primitive series of events often, while some of you are bluetoothing while you compare organic tomatoes, shuffling while you bodycycle. I'm going to be here enjoying the crackle of the dust in the odd groove, the risk of skip, the warm bruise of the bass blanket. And these are my roots, these are the steps I must retrace. This is the emotion I must court, date and score with.

However....A vinyl nerd I am not. I have adhered to some personal guidelines after several run ins with hipsters of a previously unseen level of pretense and snobbery. I have arrived at auctions or musty garages to find too many an archaeologist of wax in my way, and I in theirs.  My rules are as follows:

1) Unless an album is on my holy grail vinyl trail, I'm not spending more than 8 dollars on it. This means I don't buy new releases on vinyl. I'm not spending 35 dollars on a new pair of Levis let alone a new album.

2) I don't buy re-releases on vinyl. Sure I really want that Stooges-Fun House I saw the other day. It may or may not sound better than the original, but I want the original. Call me an antiquer, people.If the original is found, see #1.

3) If at all possible, I prefer to "find" vinyl by accident, rather than go to a record store that has something that I covet nicely displayed. Record stores are down the list for me and mostly a last resort behind suburban garage sales(I say suburban because 9 out of 10 times a suburbanite just wants to get rid of that stack of albums his wife keeps loudly reminding him to get rid of, and therefore has no idea/or the disposable income not to care about what he has.), thrift stores in the middle of nowhere(the further away from the city, the better) and finally estate sales where the word HOARDER has been mentioned in the listing.

It really is about finding a bargain NOT for their collector/resale value but so I can buy MORE albums with the wad which I've allotted for myself. I plan on giving my son everything I have in my will with a STRONG addendum that if he doesn't share the passion when he is of age he may not give away or sell my collection but must leave it for an heir that is sure to appreciate it. So who cares if its a first pressing, or still sealed or has a NM on a listing, fuck that! Its about the music! Besides, that crazy notion is reserved for my 4000 comic books.

I would love to hear some/any stories of your happy accidents on your own personal vinyl acquisitive journeys.

Mine are posted on instagram.

Thanks to Derek and Derek and Alex for fueling this fire.

5 comments:

  1. Nothing beats the warmth and the ambiance of vinyl... And the plus side of opening the gatefold and getting a "visual" of the music.

    Since '77 I've amassed a collection of over 5,000 different album titles spread in a dresser full of cassettes, two wall sized racks of CD's, and 11 14x25 crates of vinyl. It's my baby that has grown over the years...

    The highlights of my vinyl include:
    My first ever album-KISS Love Gun (still have the cardboard "Love Gun" and merchandising orders were inclosed in)
    An original copy of the Rolling Stones Let it Bleed with the poster still inside for a quarter
    Grand Funk We're an American Band-the yellow vinyl
    An out of print and rare copy of Neil Young Journey Through the Past
    The five lp set of Bruce Springsteen Live '75 to '85 given to me!
    The original copy of the Beatles' Second Album.
    Numerous copies of long forgotten albums from obscure bands like Babe Ruth, the Outlaws, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Nazareth, Shooting Star, Savoy Brown, Montrose, Head East, the Sweet, Foghat and Jethro Tull.

    Like you Seano, I have scoured rummage sales, thrift shops, flea markets,etc for these treasures. The last time I paid full price for any vinyl was back in 1990 when they became obsolete. Those albums were the Black Crowes Shake your Money Maker, Rush Presto and Robert Plant Manic Nirvana.

    Oh BTW, I do have a CD of Bang Camero's debut

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  2. With your permission, may I link this post to my blog? When I reassemble the bits of my blown mind from reading this post, I'll be in shape to comment. Great piece of writing, sir.

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  3. In the fall of 2000, I was poking around some vinyl on display in milk crates at a street sale. I found (in mint condition) Japanese issues of Rubber Soul, Revolver and A Hard Day's Night with inserts that had lyrics in Japanese and English. I scooped them up and asked the guy how much he wanted for the trio. He said, "What have you got?" I had a ten dollar bill. He winked and said, "Deal, because I know that you'll take care of them."

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  4. So it's Jan 2016. I have 1012 pieces of vinyl. I have definitely (and at this point I care not)broken ALL THREE rules I had set for myself. But BOY WAS IT FUN!!!

    Seano

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