Saturday, January 26, 2019

On Records, Sound Systems, And The Habits Of Music Addicts


I had a guy come over to rectify my stereo system, which increasingly has been having things go south. 

He got some of it done but I can only get my CDs to come through on one speaker. He’ll come back, maybe this weekend. 

But my record player is good through both speakers. So I’m listening to my old vinyl. Right now the beautiful sounds of Art Pepper. But it’s interesting: the repair guy is a venerable collector and glancing through my LPs, he tells me they make for a good collection, are worth more than I ever imagined and I should get a special insurance rider for them. I have no real interest in my records’ commercial value. I can’t imagine ever selling them. But it’s nice to know and I will arrange the insurance.


I've still got every LP I ever bought.  They rest in liberated imperial measure Clarke Dairy milk crates (themselves collectors items, I understand) where most have them haven't been played since the Carter Administration.

I rustled through a few of the titles to see what they were worth - I used to only play them once to record them to tape - I am an audionerd from wayback.  Come to think of it, I've had a pc since the time Bill Gates was credibly boyish looking.  I think I may be a nerd.  

I digress.  Every half decade or so, I pull out my Thorens turntable (also collectors items, I understand) find all the goop (I have record cleaning fluid from 1979), try and remember how to connect everything up without blowing apart my speakers and remind myself why I really really really like digital. Too much futzing for something that for me at its very best only sounds as good as its CD counterpart (i.e. "flat" mastering from analogue to digital like they did when they first reissued LPs as CDs in the 1980s and early 1990s).  They're probably worth insuring, but like you, I don't really have any interest in their commercial value.   I just wanna listen to the music.

I love Art Pepper. I remember schlepping his complete Galaxy set back to Regina that I'd picked up at Sam The Record Man on Yonge Street around the mid-1990s on a business trip.  Nice Jewish boy, wonderful sax player, probably invented West Coast Jazz, great dreamy listening.  And I give him full credit for the wonderful tongue in cheek self-deprecating album title - "Smack Up", which is also a great album.


Terrific note, thanks.

Talk about meta: even your milk crates are collectibles. My own view is that it’s a supreme pleasure digging out old vinyl and playing it, every scratch, pop, hiss and even skip, when it’s tuchess-getting- up-from literally to move the needle is a kind of odd pleasure. 

I’m a decided non nerd, not in the opposite of nerd being cool, but just not in the extreme pursuit of anything technical. If I have anything in my hoarding—books and records—that’s worth anything, its accidental and incidental. And my non nerd collecting has been exactly that, eclectic, undisciplined and totally unsystematic. I hear something I like, I want to get it. I read about something that looks like I’d like it, I want to get it. Someone suggests something that I might like, I want to get it. I like going to second hand record stores maybe once every few weeks and browse and pick up what my mood leans toward. I don’t know the indicia of what’s valuable. I don’t buy the recordings of artists I like in any comprehensive way, for example concentrating on different phases of their careers, with a few exceptions like the early BB King when he actually could sing, the later and early Billie Holiday, drug addled deep against fresh voices and bouncy, innocent one might say, Lester Young pre and post army, gospel Sam Cooke to blues, r&b and pop Sam Cooke, the incarnations of Elvis and Miles Davis from bebop all the way over to one lung one note bursts of pop. Others too actually but they’re all exceptions that prove the rule my laxity in this respect.

I don’t know the first technical things about what I laughingly call my 35 year old, give or take, equipment. Most I’ve ever done is blow off some dust, reconnect a loose wire, wipe off the surface of a record or CD and maybe once I changed a needle.

I don’t say any of this with any anti heroic pride; and I envy, not a bitter, dark green envy but rather a delightfully benign sea foam green envy, your technical passion and aptitude and your rigorous collecting. 

Btw, I didn’t know Art Pepper was Jewish: his musicianship is amazing considering his junkie travails. 

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