Hail to you Mr. Edison!
I come to you today (long with a host of others so inclined) once again to celebrate Vinyl Record Day. Make sure to head over to The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ for a list of all the participants.
This time last year, I related to you my personal take of woe from my very brief sojourn as an indentured seller of vinyl. It was – as the kids say – a hoot.
When I was asked to participate in this year’s blog-swarm, I have to admit that I was at a loss. This of course is something of a chronic condition these days, with the two little kids, and the advanced age and the worries of the world and what-not. That, and the fact that I’m pretty much preoccupied with writing about records, or at least music (all drawn from records) 24/7/365, so I had a spot of difficulty coming up with a new angle from which to focus on the subject.
If you’re a regular reader of the Funky16Corners blog you’ll already be aware of a phenomenon that I’ve spoken about many times, that being how my record room (or cave, or vault, or mess as the case may be) is in many ways the gift that keeps on giving.
Where the “magic” happens. Note autographed pics of Eddie Bo and Betty Harris…
This is not to say that I have some vast – Raiders of the Lost Ark style – storeroom attached to my house , shelves of records running to a vanishing point near the horizon, wherein my vinyl hoarding takes place. The room I speak of is the smallest of the three bedrooms in our ranch-style house (which was a huge upgrade from a corner of our old apartment). It is rather precariously stuffed with records, books and CDs, to the point where I seem to have constructed myself a small maze, through which I must navigate to get to my recording station.
I’ve been collecting (and periodically shedding) records since I was about twelve years old. In the three decades since I purchased that Beatles album in an Englishtown, NJ candy store, my music obsession (never exclusively vinyl, and for a few years back in the heyday of the CD, almost vinyl free) has only grown.
Soulstrutters take note: All Hail the Mighty Expedit (tablas not included)
In the last decade, during which focused mainly on soul and funk records, the amount of vinyl in my clutches has expanded exponentially. As a result, I have boxes upon boxes, upon stacks, upon piles, which although I try intermittently to restore order, resists organization.
This has much to do with my blogging and DJing. I’m always pulling records out to record for the blog, as individual tracks or for inclusion in the Funky16Corners Radio mixes. Very seldom do these records go back where they’re supposed to.
Thus the focus of this little essay.
So, these are the famous “crates”??
So tangled a web have I created, that the record room has taken on a life of its own, to the point where it is – in the most abstract of terms – a living breathing thing.
Having spent a lot of time reading Lao Tzu over the years, I’m a big believer in the Tao, which (very) loosely defined is a principal in which all of existence is an interconnected system where the actions of one effects the destiny of the whole. As a result I find myself – at least in creative pursuits – going with the flow, allowing myself to be guided by what I’ve referred to repeatedly as ‘inspirado’*.
When I make my way into the record room, whether to make a mix or to select a stack of 45s with which to DJ, I may set out with something specific in mind, but more often than not find myself pulled in another direction entirely.
As a result, many of these mixes/sets that I set out to assemble end up being a lot more interesting than first intended (though I always intend things to be interesting, the final results being yours to judge).
The thing is, I’m pretty sure that if I ever got things organized properly (which I keep promising to do the next time I’m alone for a few days, a state of being that is increasingly unlikely), the record room would soon rebel, oozing out of any genre, alphabetical or other constraints that I attempt to apply to it**.
And I’m cool with that.
If you haven’t already caught on, I dig it the way it is.
This phenomenon is the result (about a 50/50 split) of the aforementioned disorganization in combination with the size of the collection. As my lovely wife will remind you, I have more records than I can keep track of. Because of this I find myself flipping through stacks of LPs and 45s and discovering things which I either didn’t know, or forgot I had. Some of these are b-sides of 45s that I neglected to flip over. Some are items that came into the house as part of a particularly large bundle of records that I never sat down and explored properly (and there are a LOT of those).
It’s also important to note that this is a vinyl-specific phenomenon.
When you browse a folder full of MP3s everything looks the same. No 45 labels (or company sleeves), no album jackets, no weight of any kind.
Nothing to hold.
Were I to digi-ma-tize the whole mess, I can’t imagine I’d be willing to let a lot of it go.
I love my iPod, but were you to sit down and plumb the depths of that 21st century convenience, you’d soon discover that the record room has found its way into the digital realm, whether by virtue of the fact that many of the MP3s therein were produced by recording actual records, or because I have a tendency to tag my homemade files in a rather haphazard, some might say ‘devil may care’ fashion, resulting in a panoply of oddball categories that I surf through all day long at work, and every night before I shut my eyes and go to sleep.
This ‘system’ finds its way to you every time you stream or download one of the Funky16Corners Radio podcasts, and therein – as they say – lies the rub. If you pop on over to the F16 Radio Podcast Archive, you’ll see that the vast majority of the mixes are themed. Suddenly it’s apparent that my disorganization exists only in the physical realm, and in the abstract I am in fact a compulsive organizer.
Somebody call a psychoanalyst, quickly.
Perhaps the record room is bigger than I realize, like something out of a Twilight Zone episode.
The one where I’m going nuts and the devil pops out of a milk crate full of records to reveal to me that the heaven I thought I was in is – A HA!!! – really hell!
Somehow I doubt it.
I hesitate to say that vinyl is making a comeback. Though I see turntables (and occasionally even records) for sale in more and more places, I like to think of it as a momentary re-appreciation of a valuable resource.
That room is full of great stories (about the records themselves) and wonderful memories (about how I found them) and someday – Tao willing – I’ll pass it all on to my sons, who in their hermetically sealed, radiation proof underground bunker, will grapple with it as I have for lo these many years. If they find within that mass of vinyl even a small percentage of the satisfaction that I have, I (or the molecules that once composed my being) will glance back from elsewhere in the universe and smile**.
I’ll be back later in the week with a new Funky16Corners Radio mix.
*A term I picked up from an old Tenacious D short
**The situation isn’t helped by the fact that the inward flow of vinyl remains unchecked, which only makes the situation worse errmmmm more complicated….
***And probably attempt to shout something about handling the records properly