Vinyl Record Day 2008 – Grappling With the Beast

Example

Hail to you Mr. Edison!

Greetings all.

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.

Example

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.

Example

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.

Example

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.
You know…
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!
(OH CRAP?!?)
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.
Until then…
Peace
Larry

*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

PSS Don’t forget to head over to Iron Leg for some groovy garage pop!

PSSS Check out Paperback Rider as well.

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21 Responses to “Vinyl Record Day 2008 – Grappling With the Beast”

  1. Captain Wrong Says:

    I feel ‘ya, but at the same time, my archive got a LOT smaller after the last move. In fact, I’m still weeding out, at least on the CD side of things. I’ve seriously been a collector since age 5 but I just can’t keep hauling this stuff around, especially stuff that has been in and out of packing boxes and still hasn’t seen a turntable. Of course, mother nature was kind enough to him me with a flood and kinda help the process along a bit…

    Anyway, yeah, there’s something I miss about that whole playing a record experience. On the other hand, I’m getting too old to keep moving this stuff around and the last time damn near killed me. Plus, I’m spending much more time listening these days and much less time acquiring. It’s a trade off, though the reality is, I could never buy another record, cd mp3, 8-track, whatever and still not have enough time to listen to all I got.

    And oh yeah, didn’t vinyl make a comeback in the grunge years too? Spin the black circle and all that rot? Maybe I’m just an old foagey, but I’m seeing a flavor du jour hipster fashion accessory, not anything meaningful. A comeback? Never went away for some of us.

  2. Vinyl Record Rundown 2008 « The Hits Just Keep On Comin’ Says:

    [...] –At Funky16Corners, Larry takes us inside the room where the magic happens. [...]

  3. jeej Says:

    I, too, worship at the temple of Expedit. 5×5, baby.

    Gav
    http://www.juslikemusic.com

  4. Todd Lucas Says:

    Larry,

    You and I are sort of in the same boat. I, too, got a small bedroom for my records when we moved two years ago. It’s great having an entire room but, even then, things are starting to get a bit cramped. I have my 45′s alphabetized in boxes but there are always a few hundered that I haven’t gotten around to filing, all the while still more records piling up. I find myself constantly acquiring new things, giving me little time to enjoy them before the next batch takes its place.

    Oh, out of curiosity, any estimate on how many 45′s you own?

  5. funky16corners Says:

    Todd
    Probably in the neighborhood of 4,000 45s, maybe 1,000 LPs, probably another 1,000 CDs.
    L

  6. Walknthabass Says:

    Thanks for the look inside your “nest”! Mine is all in a closet now (mostly albums, a few 45′s). But still about 3000 in all.

    Here’s me in my heyday! Oh the memories!

    http://img504.imageshack.us/img504/8919/stxn3.jpg

    (No comments about the giant Olivia Newton-John album covers please!)

    And thanks for the links to the podcast archive and Iron Leg! Never knew David McCallum sang “Turn, Turn Turn”! I led a sheltered life!

    Peace!

  7. Vincent the Soul Chef Says:

    again, what a small world. I too am wrestling with the same thing. My 45s now reside on the dining room table… again, and there’s the six boxes of LPs I just got, and the hundreds more that made there way out of the closet, and now, the two boxes of House music 12″ singles I almost forgot I had (dare I say I made a new mix full of those guilty pleasures…?) Don’t let it get you down, and by all means, don’t stop collecting!

    Peace and blessings.

  8. Tony C Says:

    Larry I dont think your alone in your organized chaos.I’m always pulling out bundles of 45s and finding things that I’ve bought played once and then filed ,(stuffed in a pile and pushed to the back of a shelf when I’ve been told to clear the floor so the carpet can be hoovered!! )
    I suppose it’s all part of the madness of record collecting.
    Also am I alone in thinking that I must buy some new tunes when I’m going to play out? even thogh I dont play out that much and in reality I’ve plenty of stuff in my collection!!

  9. red kelly Says:

    Yes!

    It’s a living, breathing thing, this mass of vinyl. A beast that rebels at the slightest hint of organizational intervention… spreading itself in teetering piles across whatever surface may be available as you try to sneak up on it muttering something about the alphabet… we can only follow where it leads, and revel in the mystery.

    …or something.

    Happy Vinyl Record Day!

  10. devil dick Says:

    organized chaos is my life….

    more than 1/2 of what i own is in boxes and bins in hiding in various places throughout the home and my lady friend…

    one day it’ll ALL be put in order…. (hope)

  11. Kevin Says:

    So refreshing to read about someone else with the same quirky madness concerning vinyl! It got so bad that I had to hire a carpenter to custom make me a set of ‘gravity shelves’ to hold about half of my vinyl collection – albums only! And it was a huge improvement!

    However, they seem to birth over and over in those rooms – generation after generation keeps appearing.

    Nice entry – thank you.

  12. sub Says:

    wow!

  13. funky16corners Says:

    Tony
    You are not alone. I always like to be packing a new piece of heat (or two, or three) when I go to spin.
    L

  14. jb Says:

    I confess that I love the spacious hard drive that sits on my desk and powers my working days. But I still dig the tactile experience of vinyl, too.

    And this is a fine piece of writing, by the way. Thanks for participating in the VRD blogswarm. For a guy who claimed in the second paragraph to be at a loss for inspiration, you did great. And no, I won’t let you off the hook for next year. . . .

  15. funky16corners Says:

    Thanks JB! I’ll be ready next year!
    L

  16. Stu Says:

    Great post.

    As I have said before, I love this blog and the fantastic tunes you keep coming up with. I have never been disappointed yet.

    I’ve posted a link to the (extremely amature) online radio show in the ‘Website’ bit – it’s off-air just now, but the shows are archived in the forum post. I do it from Glasgow (the one in Scotland). Expect to hear a lot of tunes and artists that you have introduced or reintroduced to me over the last year or so when the show starts up again in October! :)

    Massive respect to you, sir, and your delightful vinyl addiction! Long may you reign!

    Stu

  17. themusicologist Says:

    Larry,

    speaking of The Tao…Iv’e been on a Journey these last few weeks with Yen Tzu as a guide…12 teachings, 12 cuts of musicology. each one unplanned, (of course)..one of which was the Swallows 1953 cut of ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’.

    beautiful version of ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ by Little Miss Cornshucks came my way just at the right time so that’s in there too. the combination of the two, (music and the Tao) has helped me to walk the walk with my head held high and love in my heart.

    http://themusicologist.wordpress.com

    p.s nice to see the funky16 vaults

  18. b Says:

    Rad.

  19. david barsanti...spinifex Says:

    Larry, I’ve been a collecting music for most of my life. I’ve always kept everything in alphabetical order within types of music. I was very anal about keeping everything in order. About nine years ago I finally started doing my own radio show on KSFR pubic radio in Santa Fe NM. Well it did not take long for me to start loosing my order. I started just leaving music bundled in radio show order. Now I DJ out in small clubs and still do the twisted groove radio show and keep all my show types together. My radio shows are quite diverse and this is a great help when loading shows. Even if a radio show is all together I look else ware in my collection to augment any given show. I understand where you are coming from. It is impossible to keep a large collection in order if you dj on a regular basis. Thanks for doing what you do Larry…
    David B spinifex

  20. david barsanti...spinifex Says:

    PS I’ve been intrigued with John Cage for years and through him I was introduced to the I Ching and Cages music of chance operation. I have DJ friends who have every track figured before they do their set. I personal do all my ordering by chance. It is by chance what I put in my DJ bag and by chance what gets played that night. The set and the audience feel dictate what I play any given show….
    Later
    db

  21. funky16corners Says:

    David
    That is exactly the approach I take to spinning. I’m glad to have a kindred spirit.
    Larry

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