Why I Love Vinyl: A Collector’s Confession
I have been a collector my entire life. You name it: baseball cards, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, starting lineups, wrestling figures, ticket stubs, etc. In many instances I have taken this collector’s mentality to ultra-obsessive measures. I am completely aware that this is self-incriminating, but during the seventh year of my life I had my mother scour the aisles for over a year to find me The Nasty Boys tag team dual pack from Hasbro. I would not stop until the Nasty’s were mine. Ten months passed and with the help of a dedicated mother my gems were found at Children’s Palace (now Best Buy). Looking back, this was the collector’s pinnacle in my life. So much hard work, I should haven given them the tag team titles, started reading books and ended this sick obsession right there. Unfortunately, those are not the next steps of a self-diagnosed addict.
Music has always been my first and most important obsession. I give my dad credit for this. When I was a youth we would listen to the oldies radio station and he would always name the song, band, and year of any song that were to blast through the ’88 Oldsmobile factory speakers. My dad’s obsessive attention to historical detail made me think that this was how everyone was supposed to be introduced to music. Knowing that Spiral Starecase’s “More Today Than Yesterday” was the best one-hit wonder of 1969 at age 12 was normal, right?
My obsessive compulsive relationship with music coupled with my collecting, for many years, caused me to refrain from starting to collect vinyl. It was like opening the door of the local brewery on free sample day to a broke, deadbeat, recovering alcoholic. My dad enabled. He offered me his collection with the understanding that they would not be sold. The downward spiral into the deep, dark, grooves of the record began.
My dad’s collection was the fantastic beginning to my digging journey. Chicago, Beach Boys, America, Barbara Streisand, The Guess Who, The Grass Roots, early disco, Motown, I could not ask for a better foundation. I took these 70+ records and decided to build a vinyl skyscraper that I hope is never finished.
I love digging for vinyl because it is always an experience. If you are a dedicated digger, then you have the opportunity to discover something as rare as the Nasty Boys every trip. I love that most record stores give you the chance to dig through boatloads of 99 cent bins. Sure, a bad back and sore knees might result but it is completely worth it when you are on a mission. The justification for buying new releases on vinyl is elementary. It gives you a tangible item, cool sleeves, and a digital download along with your purchase. Why would you buy Dum Dum Girls latest release ‘Only in Dreams’ on iTunes when you can get a kick ass record along with it?
Playing a record is more intimate. All my attention is focused on the artist and their songs when I am spinning. Listening to songs in iTunes has become the norm in this new listening era. While it is convenient, easy, and the shuffle feature is fun, it does not completely suck me into the artist’s work like vinyl. The digital listening experience is flawed because of that very convenience and functionality. We are an impatient society and iTunes makes it to easy to expose this human flaw. The skip, shuffle, and search features enable us to enjoy what we already know we like, however, it does not challenge us to explore new listening opportunities. Listening to a 12″ LP forces us to hear it all. This is why I love vinyl.
This forced engagement has given me an expensive, but satisfying new hobby. I knew my addiction was in full force when I stepped off a U.S. Airways jet in LaGuardia airport. Instead of looking for directions to my hotel I pulled out my iPhone and searched “record stores + Manhattan.” My initial experience in the Big Apple was not visiting Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, or visiting my hotel. No, it was spent walking 30 blocks to a store to talk and buy records. John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, I needed this record. I needed it not because it was one of the greatest jazz albums of all time, but because I needed to bring back a piece of NYC with me. Vinyl currency is always the most valuable. Thank you Academy Records & CDs. You guys were great and feel free to reach if you ever follow through on your planned excursion to Richmond, Indiana.
A collector will always be a collector. I have met new friends, expanded my musical interests, and enjoyed many lonely nights since I began collecting records. While it can be an expensive obsession it rewards the listener. Why not pay for something that will last forever? If you’re on the fence I would recommend you to hop over to the other side. The hours will pass along with the soreness in your knees, and the grooves will get you. The recovery from your new nasty addiction will not be easy. I’m okay with being your enabler. Jump in.
Written by Brett McGrath