the vinyl question

A question was posed this morning in the hobo facebook group about starting a vinyl collection and what were some “must have” albums. My response:

“I have a hard time saying you “must have” this album or that album. A vinyl collection, for me, is a personal collection. I’ll gobble up mp3’s without any regard, but getting vinyl….it’s different. I don’t get just whatever because fuck, they take up space! get what you love. i can give a list of great albums that I love, but i would never say you MUST have any of them. and fuck Radiohead, for good measure.”

Keeping the response that short was difficult and why I decided to write this. I have albums for my many moods. All the ones that I have purchased new have one thing in common, I love them. I know them before I buy them. I’ve listened to them over and over and the thought at some point that occurs to me is “I want this on vinyl.” I relate to or live that album. Where to start though? Fortunately another person piped up in the thread and said what I had been trying to figure out what to say here.

@shrillcosby had this to say about building a collection:

“Yeah, I’m with Sap. Assembling a vinyl collection is way more personal/complex than getting mp3s or even CD. I don’t buy too much vinyl these days, for space/money consideration. Here’re my recommendations for vinyl:

1. Only get records that you love.

2. You’re buying a physical object, so pay attention to the physical properties (heavier vinyl won’t warp, for example. Is it gatefold? Double gatefold? What’s the art like? Does it include liner notes? etc)

3. Get most of your vinyl used.

4. To facilitate not getting scratched records due to 3, wherever possible buy vinyl from physical record stores so you can examine them.

5. Thrift stores can be tedious, but rewarding. You’ll probably spend hours sifting through Englebert Humperdinck & Streisand records, but nothing beats the feeling of finding a diamond in the rough.

6. Records from reissue labels like Numero Group or Light in the Attic can be incredibly fun but rewarding. For me, that’s the only time I’ll get a record that I’m not 100% sure I’ll love.

All that being said: Sufjan Stevens – Michigan

Oh, an exception to #1 – definitely get records you’re NOT sure you’ll love, just make sure they are cheap/used.”

As to a collection being personal, here’s one example, I have my mom’s collection. It’s more than just a bunch of records. It was her at that point in her life. It serves as a window onto the young woman she was. I doubt that’s how she would categorize it. That’s just how you bought albums in the 60’s and 70’s and 80’s. For me though, when she gave them to me, it was kind of monumental. It’s facilitated conversations, it’s even healed old wounds. I was so used to being an angsty teenager and young adult that I saw only our differences, not our similarities. Now I love seeing where our tastes overlap, what she unconsciously passed on to me and the ones she bought for me when I was a kid. They’re treasures, all of them.

Above all assembling a collection is FUN. Every aspect is great because it’s an activity for me. Nine times out of ten it involves me going to a show, going to a thrift store, going to a record shop. Buying it online really only happens when my shop won’t be getting it in and I have to have it before the band goes on tour to support the album. Digging through crates is a hunt, sometimes rewarding – David Bowie’s recording of Peter and the Wolf is one of my favorite finds, and sometimes nothing grabs me. It’s cool though, maybe next time.

I started my own collection a bit over a year and a half ago so clearly I’m no expert, it’s something I love. I don’t worry about having the best turntable, best speakers, that’ll come in time. That said, don’t get shit, it’ll ruin your records.

This is an ongoing discussion so I may edit this as we go.

Currently spinning: Stevie Wonder – “Songs in the Key of Life” (1976)

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