Last year, I sold off most of my record collection. I came to the conclusion that two thousand LP's were too many, so I decided to get rid of all of them except for about five hundred. The figure of five hundred was semi-arbitrary. It was a nice, round number and that's how many fit into my sturdy shelf unit. The five hundred was slightly expanded to seven hundred (500 in the shelf, and two boxes of 100 each hidden in a closet). I didn't go complete cold turkey, but I was still pretty proud of myself. I thought I was out of the record weirdo biz - no more buying, no more selling. I didn't write much about it because, in the back of my mind, I feared that I would someday return to my wicked, wicked ways of collection and accumulation.
After about a year, it happened. I fell off the turnip truck and relapsed.
It started innocently enough. A work acquaintance of my wife announced that he was giving away his record collection. It was a long story but here are the details: The collection had been in storage for years, he was losing his storage space, and he didn't want the baggage anymore. He set up a time for several interested parties (myself included) to come by and help themselves to the all-you-can-eat record smorgasbord. "Okay," I thought to myself, "I'll just look through some records, pick out a few that I like and be on my merry way." That didn't happen.
On that fateful day, I showed up a few fashionable minutes late in order not to seem overanxious. I was relieved to find that there were already four or five guys already going through records like a pack of hyenas feasting on a dead zebra. That was okay with me - I would have felt uncomfortable being the sole scavenger at the kill-site.
The collection was nothing if not eclectic. The owner of collection had been collecting since his childhood (so he said) in the 70's. He worked in a series of record stores in the 80's and seemed to have lost interest in staying contemporary about 1990. It followed a logical course. It seemed to start with 70's rock and singer-songwriter stuff, onto 80's new wave, followed by world music/reggae, which seemed to run concurrently with jazz, blues, and the Great American Songbook.
I tried to be selective, but ended up going into a familiar zombie-like trance and seemed to start pulling records out at random, stopping occasionally to wipe the foam from my mouth and chin. Here is a sampling of what I will admit to bringing home. As usual, there is no order.
Joe Cocker - "With a Little Help From My Friends". The best part about this record is the cover - it's great for frightening children. I told my son that if he keeps making faces, his face will freeze that way and he will look like this. My second choice comment would be that Joe Cocker looks like the conjoined twin growing out of Andre the Giant's ribcage.
Bob Dylan - "Great White Wonder". This is not an original, but a 1970-ish reissue credited to "Dupre and his Miracle Sound." Still a nice artifact.
This is Duke Ellington. There were a bunch of compilations like this, and I opted to keep the two-disc set on the flimsy 70's "flexi-disc" format.
Chester and Lester x2. Chet Atkins without all the goopy strings meets Les Paul without all the bells and whistles. I can live with that compromise.
Big Country. I used to like this and I wonder if I still do.
Joe Jackson. His first three or four albums were great. Then he got all "artistic."
Louis Armstrong, multiple jazz comps on Verve and Blue Note. Maybe I really like this stuff and maybe I just like the prestige of having tasteful jazz in my collection. Does it make me appear smart and sophisticated? I don't know. Are you impressed?
Marshall Crenshaw, Smithereens. Lumped together for no apparent reason other than a lot of their records are interchangeable but all of them are worth hearing.
Elvis Costello "Almost Blue." I didn't really like it when it came out but I'll give it another chance.
Peter Tosh "Equal Rights" and "Legalize It." I saw Peter Tosh play the Roxy once. While his drummer(s) were taking an extended solo, he smoked a spliff the size of a horse's leg. Twenty-seven years later, I can finally pass a drug test.
The Specials. I've had several copies of the first Specials album but they've all skipped. Why do I think that this one won't?
Kinks. "Misfits" and their 1980 live album. You really can't go too wrong here.
Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Art Pepper. Listening to these artists may or may not make me smarter, but having the records will make me look smarter. Writing about them, however, will only expose my pretensions.
Santo and Johnny w/"Sleepwalk", Bo Diddley, Richie Valens. Original vinyl from the 50's. Rendered almost worthless as true collectibles due to their "beat to hell" condition, but still really cool.
Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich. I love drums. Some of the music is borderline cheesy Dixieland, but the solos are great.
Dave Brubeck, Ramsey Lewis. I really like the popular 50's jazz like this if only for the sake of offending snooty jazz snobs.
The Clash "London Calling" w/lyric sheet. One of my favorite albums ever, but at some point during the last 30 years, the lyric sheet to my vinyl copy of London Calling disappeared. Now I can once again read along as I listen. For those of you that have trouble with Joe Strummer's enunciation, the last line of "The Right Profile" is - as written - "ARRRGHHHGORRA BUH BHUH DO ARRRRGGGGHHHHNNNN!!!!"
The Clash "Cut The Crap" This is a terrible album. It has no redeeming value. I've owned and discarded two previous copies. This album's place in my collection could not be justified as being either a sick curiosity or because I wanted the complete Clash catalog. I justify keeping this copy for the reason of preventing someone else from having it and therefore besmirching their collection. I just have to remind myself not to actually listen to it - ever.
It is one of my goals to remove the guilt from guilty pleasures, for example:
Foghat "Live," You know you really want to hear a twelve minute version of "Slow Ride." Admit it.
Bad Company (s/t) I remember buying this album for 3.88 at the Wherehouse in the Orange Mall when I was 12. "Can't Get Enough" has a great story - Mick Ralphs wrote it while with Mott the Hoople to humiliate Ian Hunter, because Hunter had the vocal range of an Easy Bake oven and couldn't sing it.
The Alarm. I saw this band three times in the 80's - once on purpose and twice by accident.
Anthologies of Ian Hunter, Lou Reed. I also got a bunch of Lou Reed solo albums. I wish there were more Ian Hunter albums.
Lou Reed "Take No Prisoners" is the best live album of all time. Grumpy Lou heckles his audience for an hour while his band plays jazz-fusion versions of his songs behind him. Better than both "James Brown Live at Budokan" and "Cheap Trick Live at the Apollo" put together.
Barbarella soundtrack. Great pseudo-psychedelic music from the only good Jane Fonda movie.
The Monkees "Greatest Hits". Give me a good fake band over a bad "real" band any day.
Badfinger had great hits but spotty albums.
Grand Funk, Thin Lizzy. If I don't hear "American Band" or "Jailbreak" on any given classic rock radio station for a couple days, it's good to know that I have easy access to them.
I have resigned myself to the fact that I must always have a copy of "Frampton Comes Alive." Every time I get rid of one, another one shows up out of nowhere.
Wes Montgomery, Jimmy Smith (lots of both). More nice jazz that even I can understand.
Several BB King albums. I like my blues like I like my jazz - pop infected and easily accessible.
Rufus Thomas "Walking the Dog." Original on the Stax label. Thrashed almost beyond recognition and a definite keeper.
Nat King Cole. Here we have a pretty good compilation covering his earlier stuff including the best version of "Route 66" that will ever be done. Here is my bit about "Route 66" - it's a great song and almost impossible to screw up - both the Stones and the Cramps did it credibly - but I find it impossible to listen to the Brian Setzer or Wayne Hancock versions. When Brian Setzer did it, he wrongly sang "Reno" instead of "Kingman." Reno is nowhere near Route 66! We're talking about 500 miles! It's a good thing that Brian Setzer doesn't drive his own bus. I've been to both places and I admit that Reno is nicer, but you just can't go messing with geography like that. Wayne "The Train" Hancock pronounces "route" as "rowt" and that's just plain wrong - Texas Schmexas. When Chuck Berry recorded "Route 66" he pronounced "Barstow" as "Bars-Kow" but that doesn't really bother me.
Did this appease my savage vinyl bloodthirst? No, it only awakened the slumbering giant. What happened next was somewhat predictable. About a week later, I got the following email:
"For those of you who missed the great LP giveaway last week, you'll have one more opportunity. Five (collectors) did show up last Friday and relieved me of some 800+ albums, but that still leaves me with nearly 2000 lps looking for good homes! (This) will absolutely be the last opportunity, though, for anyone who might be interested in adding to their collection. All are welcome to come, browse, and take!"
So I showed up. The usual suspects had been back for another scrounging but had only taken another couple hundred. There were still about 1400 records left. I volunteered to rescue them from becoming landfill. Instead of responding verbally, he simply began loading boxes of records into the back of my small pick-up truck like they were sacks of steaming cow pies and let it be known that I should leave before I changed my mind.
His recovery was my relapse.
Out of the second lot of records, I managed to give away a few hundred, kept a few, traded a few, kept a few more, sold a couple, kept a couple more, and donated the rest. Some of the records mentioned in this piece were actually from the second batch, but I lost track of what was what.
Postscript: If you would like to view or purchase the remainder of the collection, go to the Goodwill store on Tustin near the 22 in Orange.
Post-Postscript: I have since moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. More on that later.
My entire LP collection fit comfortably into only ten moving boxes. When I moved back to OC from Seattle eight years ago, I needed twenty-four boxes.
Recovery is a long, dirty, dusty, winding, gravel-strewn road littered with run-on sentences and the bloated corpses of collectors who can't say "no."