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My Vinyl Finds

I have been listening to music on vinyl albums for as long as I can remember. My first memories of listening to music involve me pulling out my parents old albums or getting into my sister's record collection. There is just something about putting on an LP. It's almost ritualistic. You pull the record from the sleeve. Make sure there's not dust or dirt. Place it on the turntable. Turn it on and drop the needle. Then as you listen to the sounds generated by this needle and spinning wax disk, you stare at the cover art work, which is big enough that you can see all the little details. I feel like it was inevitable that I would become a record collector. And while the internet has made collecting easier in a lot of ways, I have to admit that in some ways it has dulled the thrill of the hunt. You couldn't just do a search for the album you needed to complete a collection. You had to go to store after store and flip through bins and stacks of old records hoping maybe the one you need will be in this pile. When you found a record you had been looking for it felt like you had conquered the world. Putting it on the turntable that first time was the sweetest victory you had ever experienced.

There were a few "holy grail" records growing up that I always wanted to find. I found most of them, still have a few. One that I did find was a live Motley Crue "bootleg" (I'm pretty sure it was put out by the band, it was very high quality) called Sinner's Swing. We had a record store the next town over that would get rare and import records.  You'd find things like the Japanese import of Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet that had the pink cover with the girl in the swimsuit on it. And one day, there it was. A copy of Sinner's Swing for $50. That was an enormous amount of money for record at a time when most of them sold for $5 or less. It took me weeks to save up, the whole time my anxiety building that someone else would snatch it up. Then the day came. I bought the record. I took it home. It was the first time I heard Crue live. They did Jailhouse Rock and mentioned they were recording it for their next studio album, but this wasn't the version they ended up using (when I purchased the record Girls Girls Girls was still a few months from coming out I believe, but memory does get hazy). I don't know what happened to that record (I must have blocked out the memory of how I lost it) but it is one that I have never been able to replace.

Another "legendary" record was Music From The Elder by Kiss. This was an album that was rumored to be so bad that Kiss had buried it. No one had ever even seen a copy, much less listened to it. Then one day I was at a flea market flipping through the records and there it was. It was marked for $5 and I only had $3. My friend was with me and made me a loan of $2 and we rushed to my house to hear this record. It was weird, but not terrible. There were a couple of really good songs on there. And for a little while I was able to crow about owning a copy. Then when Kiss began releasing their catalog on cd, this one was included and it's prestige value immediately fell. It's another one that disappeared somewhere over the years (probably a victim of my ex-wife's spite) that I haven't replaced. Unlike Sinner's Swing though I have had opportunity, but didn't feel the need.

Of course as an enormous Beatles fan, two records that immediately come to mind when talking about "holy grail" records are Sgt Pepper and the White Album. The White Album I picked up at a record store for $35. It was numbered and had the 4 portraits of the band members. I framed the portraits and had them on my wall. Unfortunately when I took them down I failed to put them back in the sleeve and now they are somewhere in storage. I picked up a copy of Sgt Pepper in a batch of records I bought, but it is missing the cover and it's a reprint, as it doesn't have the "Do what thou wilt" quote engraved in the wax. In that same batch I picked up a really cool Korean import of The Grateful Dead's Workingman's Dead. Maybe the best deal I have ever gotten on a record though, is a copy of Janis Joplin's Pearl that I got at a thrift store. This was right before vinyl was back in fashion, and people would just give records away. I picked up this classic in near mint condition for 25 cents.

Now that Ebay is a thing, I admit I will occasionally use it to look for records I want. And I will buy the occasional reissue at Wal-Mart. But I still buy old records in batches so I can sift through and find the treasures, like the Chuck Berry records from the 50's, or the John Coltrane and Miles Davis records seeded in among the gospel and polka records in a box someone took out of storage.  And there's still no feeling quite like finding that one gem among the dross, taking it out and cleaning it up, slipping it on the turntable and hearing the past blast out at you. And that's why no matter how convenient streaming and digital files are, they will never be as cool as listening to your music from a spinning disk of wax.


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