I’ve been going through boxes of stuff the last few days, getting ready to move to a new city. Like most people at my age, there’s still relics from high school and college stored in my parents’ basement that I haven’t looked at in years. Among the yearbooks, knick-knacks, and KISS posters, there’s a piece I keep adding too; the collection of music. It’s true what they say, you can tell a lot about someone from their records and after going through my own collection, I’m no exception.
Within my archives there’s about two hundred 12”s, ninety CDs, thirty 45’s, thirty cassettes, a couple 10”s, and one floppy disk for some reason. I find that not only what’s on the albums is what’s interesting but the form I which they come in.
Being a child of the nineties, there was a plethora of formats brought to our attention at the time. I know somewhere I still have my first cassette from 1998; a collection of Hanson’s demos called 3 Car Garage that I listened to endlessly on a camping trip through a Walkman. Tapes were where it was at for music then but they were quickly out of vogue when CD’s took the spotlight. In a weird twist of events, however, the tapes showed their way to the forefront again as the cheapest way to put your music out for punk bands when I was in college. Independent tape labels started popping up all around the country, even in the small town where I went to college. the audio quality still isn’t perfect, but cassettes have earned a place at the table for collectors when it comes to finding out about small bands even if they are novelties to some.
That brings us to the Compact Discs; the necessary evil when it comes to buying music. When I was younger, I enjoyed having a large CD collection. They were reasonably cheap, they had bigger artwork and they were still reasonably portable like heir predecessor. Unfortunately, CDs are a testament to the turning point in music’s history when major labels stopped caring about making a good product and started focusing on fast money. I still buy CD’s to this day because it’s all my car allows but on a brighter note, the cost is comparable to a fast food burger so rotating through music on that medium is easy. Over the years, my CD stack has shrunk and shrunk because of the poor quality discs find themselves in after too much play. It was one of my collection’s more heartbreaking days when my first copy of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid had been thrown out due to the scratches. It was the resurgence of another medium though, that inspired me to rethink how I bought and listened to music.
Vinyl. Is there anything better? Okay, there’s lots of better things than vinyl but when it comes to music, I’ll defend my wax any day. I still remember my first trip to Flat, Black, and Circular when I was thirteen and scouring through the crates until I found Led Zeppelin’s debut I for five dollars (it’s probably more expensive now due to a higher demand for records). Using my father’s collection as a jumping off point, I haven’t looked back much since discovering records. Of course, we’ve all gotten flak for it; the classic “hipster” argument or even the “they’re too big an awkward” dispute. Typically, the people that express these sentiments are not true music fans, they’re consumers. Like people who eat food because they need it, consumers just put on music to hear something. The thing is, records aren’t meant for consumers, they’re meant for the fans. The ones who want a tangible piece of history they can interact with on a level that isn’t just hitting the ‘play’ button.
Records have artwork you can see the details on and visualize how it plays with the music it represents. “I hate the snaps and pops on it” some say but that’s the worst argument of them all. New vinyl is made with such better quality now that the existence of ‘snaps and pops’ is a thing of the past. Sure, you still come across them on older albums from your parent’s collection but that’s what makes them better, they take on an identity different from the other ones that are supposed to be just like it. They enter the same realm as vintage motorcycles at that point or a hoodie you found at Goodwill.
There’s a lot of key records in my collection that are key for reasons only special to me and a few others so I won’t bore the reader with those stories. It is important to note that what’s in your collection is important no matter what form it comes in whether it’s cassettes, records, CD’s or even what playlists you’ve curated on Spotify. Your music collection is an extension on your photo albums in telling the story of where you’ve been in life, what was cool at that time, and, most importantly, what YOU found cool.
Here’s a link to Flat Black and Circular who I owe a lot of my passion for records to.
– By Mike Metcalf