I am coming up on a momentous anniversary. On January 11, 2015 I stated my intent to get serious about collecting vinyl records. And I have.
It has been so much fun. I’ve learned so much-about music, about vinyl, about myself, about the market, and I don’t regret a minute of it.
When I began this record collecting journey I had maybe 225 LP’s. I now calculate my collection at about 625 records. That’s a lot more vinyl.
More importantly the journey has changed too. I began by thrifting-acquiring lots of .49-$1.00 records from estate sales, the Goodwill and all places cheap. But ultimately I found this unsatisfactory. Though I did find some good records at good prices, they rarely were the albums I really wanted to collect. Rather, those records exposed me to music I might not otherwise have followed–The Smithereens, U.K., and PowerStation were three really good bands I simply didn’t know, and now I really love their records.
But ultimately, a record collection should include “the good stuff” whatever that means to the collector. And I’ve tried to do that. I’ve crafted my “wantlist” on Discogs, and carefully keep up with my collection, and whenever possible try not to stray too far. I’ve created mini-collections of records from bands like Little Feat, Blondie, Robert Palmer, and Blue Oyster Cult. I’ve also added to my collection of Hipgnosis covers. I have about 40 of the 180 official covers designed by Storm Torgerson and Aubrey Powell.
But as I move my record collecting away from a reliance on the cheap, to a more consumer/market-driven model, I’ve also recognized the dangers. I am addicted to viny and I’m now spending real money on the music I want.
There will not be 400 records purchased in 2016–for a couple of reasons, but let’s start with–I can’t afford it. With most used records I buy at between $10-20, that’s a lot fewer records I can afford compared to 50 cents to a buck a throw. That’s not to say I won’t occasionally check out the cheapies, but I’ve become more choosey about what I bring home. Higher costs mean lower demand. That’s just the way it will be.
Another problem is space. I have maxed out all the space potential I have. I figure I have room for about another 150-200 records at most before I fill the space I have. When that is full, it will mean for every record I add, another will have to leave. I’ve been poking through some of my albums, and there is definitely some fat that can be cut–do you hear me Thompson Twins and Scritti Politti???!! But it won’t take long before choices will get a lot more difficult. So care must be taken and hard choices will have to be made.
One last issue, is that I’ve bought vinyl in such volumes I have dozens of records I haven’t listened to yet. One week I bought-ordered from Discogs and purchased at used record stores-a dozen albums. 12 albums in a week? That would have been like dying and going to heaven forty years ago. Now it just seems like wretched excess–even to me. Records are meant to be heard, not to be stashed. The other way around is simply hoarding, and I am not going there.
Targets for 2016
My Discogs Wantlist is here, but I need to update it to include some albums I’d definitely like to get my hands on in the new year. Lots of Hipgnosis covers in the wantlist. But here are some records I’d like to add:
Allen Toussaint and the Meters: I love their music, but honestly the New Orleans soul and funk they were so good at sharing is pretty hard to find in the Puget Sound area. These are going to be Discogs purchases.
The Steve Miller Band–This is going to be one of my completist projects. I have most of Steve’s stuff, but there is so much he’s done, I’ll need to focus on getting the rest of it. Sadly, most of what’s left isn’t that good. But hey, Steve is headed for the Rock Hall this year, so I need to get with the program.
More Psychedelia. Would love to pick up some Grateful Dead, Chocolate Watchband, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and ad nauseum.
The Beatles–stuff I don’t have like Rubber Soul, Help, Yellow Submarine
The Rolling Stones-stuff I don’t have, but really want–Exile on Main Street, Sticky Fingers, Tattoo You.
So What Have You Listened to Lately Smyth?
I decided I needed some Joan Jett in my life, because she’s cool, in the Rock Hall and performed Smells Like Teen Spirit when Nirvana was inducted in the HOF a couple of years ago. So I targeted a mini-collection of three records
Bad Reputation was Jett’s first album after leaving The Runaways. The style is a stripped down, energetic rock and roll. It’s an album without her future backing band, The Blackhearts, but she does get help from Sex Pistol, Steve Jones. By far, the best song is the title track with Jett’s trademark snarl and simple, fast, powerful riffing. And the album’s best moments are when Joan is being Joan, on songs like “You Don’t Own Me,” or “Do You Wanna to Touch Me (Oh, Yeah)” But the album stumbles when Jett gets shoehorned into covers like the Isley Brothers’ “Shout” or Sam the Sham’s “Wooly Bully.” Not without flaws, but the record was a good beginning.
I Love Rock and Roll is Jett’s first album with the Blackhearts. It seems more fully realized than Bad Reputation. Together with the Tommy James hit “Crimson and Clover” the title track was a big hit, and her MTV exposure catapulted Jett to international fame. The band is louder and provides more depth to her sound than on Bad Reputation. Strange covers continue to pop up, with The Dave Clark Five’s “Bits and Pieces” and the bizarre inclusion of “The Little Drummer Boy.” Jett is best when she is being Jett.
A couple weeks ago I invested my record sales in a few new albums including Jett’s 2013 record Unvarnished. Of the three records, it is the one I like best. Jett has a hand in writing all but one of the songs, and frankly that allows her to do what she does best-crashing guitars, vocals that sneer with confidence and defiance. This record features a fully formed Joan Jett. Lots of friends on the record, including Dave Grohl on “Any Weather” to start the record off. She’s joined by other bandmates, Dougie Needles and Kenny Laguna throughout the record and the effect is electric. Unvarnished is consistently enjoyable, and the kind of record you could imagine Jett making in her early days–except it’s better than those records.
I know there will be some records for me under the tree for Christmas day. I hope Santa will remember your habit as well.