Obsessions: Vinyl

I’ve a few obsessions. I can’t reveal them all at once; that might be too traumatic. However, I’m willin’ to start by blogging about one of ’em: vinyl records.

I know I share this obsession with millions of other people. There are blogs, web sites, films, books, zines etc. all devoted to the subject. A while back I had a blog running as an adjunct to my web site. Soon I discovered that most of my postings were about finds I’d made at thrift stores or garage sales. Often I’d post a photo of my latest joys in my special record rack, displaying the chosen few and those in current heavy play rotation.

albums on display at former Pender Island home
The Album Display Rack circa 2006

I choose albums for a several reasons: I know and like the music or I like the cover graphics or I’m just curious. I’ve discovered lots of music that I’d passed by previously (or that was recorded before I bought albums) in this way.

BTW I do buy new vinyl also. Some of which you can read about in previous posts. But I still love the serendipity of finding something amazing in a stack of cast-off vinyl. Some of those finds stick in my mind: Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures (a UK pressing with textured cover); Buddy Holly’s 1958 self titled 12″ on Coral, with a beautiful photo of Buddy sans glasses on the cover; Elvis’ debut studio album, the one with the pink and green lettering that the Clash gave a nod to on the London Calling cover. How many Barry Manilows, John Denvers, André Kostelanetz get flipped on by and then, there it is! a real find – a buried nugget.

the record stacks
Buddy and Dusty and some Slack

Currently my vinyl collection resides in my studio, buried in storage under tables and seats. The new records are more accessible, although I only play them when I want the full sonic gamut that vinyl provides. The latest acquisitions usually stay on the surface also, as it’s too difficult to file them in crammed storage spaces. This past winter however, I sorted through some of the collection and weeded out duplicates and rejects. One day there’ll be a garage sale and I’ll part with them for those thrift store prices I paid for them. Except now they’re cleaned up and have been played a time or two. (btw… I’m not into the buying and selling of collectibles – this is an entirely personal obsession).

Although I’m running out of space I still love to stop in at thrift stores or garage sales. Here then are some of my latest finds.

Phil Silvers: Do Re Me cast recording
Do Re Me

This jumped out at me from the stacks in a Salvation Army store. The black cover has cut-outs to reveal the hot red inner liner. Cherished for its graphic qualities.

Cannonball Adderley Quintet in Chicago
Classic 50s cover

This Cannonball Adderley album I just acquired and haven’t listened to yet. But I love the cover already.

Jazztone Sampler 10 inch record
Another Great Jazz Cover

Above is a 10 inch EP. The thin, soft cover opens to reveal excellent liner notes.

And here’s another 10 incher:

Songs from Abbaye
Gotta Love those 50s Graphics

I found this, plus its follow-up, and the Jazztone sampler above, all in one store. This one comes with a little notebook. I really enjoy 50s graphics, when the photos were pasted in and line drawings still ruled. Andy Warhol did some beautiful jazz album covers (I’ve yet to find one).

early Elektra record sampler
An Early Elektra Sampler

Same store, same day. Sometimes it just happens that way. One day I walked out of a thrift store with 50 albums. I think someone had donated their kid’s record collection that’d been in the garage for some time (there was a faint whiff of oil lingering – since dissipated). Funnily enough I’d just read an article in Mojo magazine on the early history of Elektra records. This one pre-dates their rock catalogue. They were the first company to put a colour photo on the back of the album (a Love album). And at this time Elektra was still a New York City company (later they moved to LA). The catalog number on this album is SMP (sampler) 4x.

Thelonious Monk Dream
A Fave of Mine

I enjoy Thelonious Monk’s playing a lot. So I’ll grab anything of his I see. The fellow I got this record from knew the man who did the lighting for Monk’s shows in Vancouver. Monk had a certain style of lighting. Now when I look at this cover I wonder if this was a concert shot and if that’s the lighting style.

Each of the last two times I’ve brought home records I’ve had a Goon Show record in the stack. Both UK pressings. UK records have softer, more flexible covers and generally they’re glossier. More economic paper use I imagine.

Best of the Goons
Sneaking into the Studio

I also enjoy folk music and am constantly finding acts I’d never heard of before. Like these guys…

Bud & Travis In Concert
Are They Happy Campers?

Apparently when the lights went down these two sometimes came to blows. But their music is quite good. And I’d never heard of them before. So I not only get to discover their music but also discover a bit of musical history when I’m researching musicians I’ve never heard.

Recently my eyes lit up when I spotted the following two records.

Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck
Early Vancouver Psych Band

Mother Tucker’s Yellow Duck was one of the first bands I saw in concert. I don’t think they were headlining; they may have been the opening act for The Collectors. This was their last album and is not considered as good as their first (which apparently is quite rare). When I got it it was still in its shrink wrap. Therefore the cover is pristine. And so is the vinyl! And in the same pile…

Zabriskie Point Soundtrack
Classic 60s Cover

but apparently a terrible movie. Also came in its shrink wrap. Some interesting tunes by the recently Syd-less Pink Floyd and a lovely piece by Jerry Garcia.

When I bring these finds home, I give them a good cleaning (the record and, if need be, cover) and then slip the vinyl into a static free sleeve and the whole works goes into a plastic sleeve to protect it. I just know that one day I’ll have a room with record racks again. A space where I can sit down, plop them on the turntable and crank it up.

In the meantime rejects are subjected to artistic manipulations:

45s ready for sculpture
Recycling Old Vinyl

This is a shot of my work table with a work in progress. The 45s were used to replicate the tape reels in a large scale cassette made of 200 of my old cassette tapes. In the end the whole thing turned into a coffee table.

table made from recycled cassette tapes
Cassette Tape Table

And sometimes I make my own album covers:

Ewe and I Rock album cover
No Music - Just a Cover

or I transform an old cover into something new:

Star Wars Cover transformed
My Star Wars Cover

Above is one of my photos laid into a cut-out Star Wars soundtrack cover.

OK. I’ve got that obsession out and onto the world wide. Think I’ll spin a platter now …

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