Enough is Enough
When I began writing about my record purchases in January, I was the proud owner of about 200 records. Today I have about 500 records in my electronic collection on Discogs, and in my Excel spreadsheet. Yikes. There are lots of reasons for yikes. I’m rapidly running out of room. And worse, I simply haven’t been able to listen to everything. By far, the majority of records I’ve purchased have cost a dollar or less, picked up at thrift stores and estate sales, but it’s a lot like my collection of unpainted wargame figures; I have to have time to listen to the records to appreciate them, just like I need time to paint the figures and play games with them. So, I’m not exactly swearing off acquiring records, but no binge buying or acquiring records in big lots. At least not for a while. Maybe. Kinda.
The cleaning quandary
I buy records from wherever I can get them. Some are incredibly pristine, probably unplayed. Others look like they came out of a musty old basement. I have one James Brown record that looked like it was covered in a landfill and dug up five years later. Cover’s trashed, but it plays good. There’s little question records need a cleaning before playing, especially old ones that have been who knows where, but even new releases that may still have release agents from pressing on them. The question is how to do it. There are several different options and I’ve chosen three of them.
- If they are from Goodwill or look really dirty I use a new Discwasher first. Some records are so dirty they are kind of muddy looking anyway so the Discwasher gets the heavy stuff off. It’s cheap and easy to use. I know the new Discwasher isn’t as good as the original, but I’m also using it as step one in a process.
- All my records will eventually get a wash using the Spin Clean Mk. 2. I bought one a couple of weeks ago and started cleaning my records before running off to J-camp. It seems to work well. I can definitely see dirt at the bottom of the washer. At eighty bucks its definitely cheaper than buying a Nitty Gritty vacuum machine at $4-500 or a VPI vacuum at $700. However, the fellow who sold me my turntable strongly suggested not getting records wet because of what it does to the record grooves. Others think Spin Clean is a great step to affordable cleaning. Ah, my brain is full.
- Everything will get a brush before playing. I picked up an anti-static brush from Audio Quest. Another mixed review item. But I hope to use it just before playing to remove dust and loose particles.
My turntable guy also rents his Nitty Gritty machine for a week at a time-$30 plus the cleaning fluid. It would cost about $70 altogether to clean my collection, but it would also be time-consuming. The machine can only clean about 10-12 records at a time before it overheats and requires a break, and I’d be giving up a week of life to just clean records. Don’t even think there would be time to shave. Maybe. Over Christmas break? Maybe not.
Sailor-by the Steve Miller Band. Before he made those great pop records in the ’70’s, Steve Miller was making blues-based, psychedelic-influenced music in San Francisco. Sailor is pretty representative of this era. Released in 1968, it includes the excellent “Living in the USA,” featuring Boz Scaggs on vocals.
Avalon-by Roxy Music. It’s the first record I tried on my new turntable and I’m really glad I did. It’s a bit of a departure from what I usually listen to. Its lush orchestral sound is full of textured layers that really put the input device, e.g. stylus, cartridge and turntable through its paces. Usually not a synth-pop person, but this is a magnificent record.
Beaucoup of Blues-by Ringo Starr. I know what you’re thinking–you’ve gotta be kidding. I don’t know about you, but I love the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction shows on HBO, and this year Ringo was inducted for his solo work. It was fun to listen to other drummers talk about his drum work, and his performance was great. Ringo actually made a series of good to very good records in the early-middle 70’s and this is probably the best of them. As a Beatle, Ringo always was partial to country-influenced music and this album, recorded in Nashville in 1970 with some of the best session musicians in the biz is quite good. Worth a listen.
In Search Of
Purpose–I’ve strayed a bit from focused record acquisition. The bottom line is I can’t own all the records from all the artists. i did really well when I was immersed in the Jefferson Airplane/Jefferson Starship mode. I need to get back to my Steve Miller/Boz Scaggs interests and try not to branch out too much. I don’t want to end up on television with a hoarding problem.
The Rock Canon-Experimenting with bands I’ve never heard is fun, but there is an awful lot of stuff I don’t have on vinyl that is central to every serious collection. I own one Beatles record, Abbey Road, purchased in 1969. And I love the Beatles-all the Beatles. Time to think about that, though it will probably have to be re-pressings. The old stuff is too spendy. I have lots of the Stones, picked up a nice used copy of Aftermath this week. Only one Kinks record, and these seem rare as hen’s teeth. I own no Cream, no Animals, and not much Hendrix. No Allman Brothers I’m shaking my head-how could this happen? I do have lots on CD (and I do have that rule.)
Answers–Why are some records so ridiculously expensive? Example-the LP version of Tom Petty’s Wildflowers is a $250 record. Why is that? I’m guessing scarcity as there was only one album release and its timing was 1994, just as vinyl was making its last stand against the emergence of cd’s. Why can I find every Rush album I don’t want, but can’t locate a handy copy of Moving Pictures, what’s that about?
And why can’t I ever find any records by the Meters, good, bad or indifferent? Maybe I need to go record shopping in New Orleans. I wonder if we’re busy next summer?