For 40 years, I have explored the storage bins, attics, defunct retail outlets, haylofts, bathtubs, bedroom closets, cedar chests, wardrobes, coffins, and wherever else I could crawl into to get my hands on lost and abandoned and forgotten vinyl. Yes, once I was a vinyl junkie, willing to steal quarters from little children in order to appease my appetite.
Perhaps the search was about finding the sounds I'd not yet heard in a record's grooves or wanting to possess sounds I had already heard on some faraway radio station--or, perhaps, it was because I just didn't know what else to do with my adolescent self. Nevertheless, I succumbed to the desire, more often than not, but am still here to tell the tale of many heartbreaks & woes but also numerous triumphs & discoveries.
I was reminded of this initial fervor when recently reading the article in the New York Times about the closing of Vinylmania in the Village as well as other NY record-collector establishments. Suddenly it struck me that I had devoted 40 years (!!), almost non-stop, to a mad desire that tortured my soul for so long that I took it for granted. What I mean is, like anyone with an addiction, I assumed everyone else around me was looking for, say, "The Ballad of Walter Wart" by the Thorndike Pickledish Choir, and that's all there was to it.
As the Times article points out, sliding CD sales and the advent of MP3's contributed to the demise of Tower, Virgin Megastore, and more mainstream collectors' stores as well--and yet, the spirit of vinyl collecting continues onward. Rhino Records and other collector-oriented labels may have to curtail the amount of stuff they release in order to survive, but the very nature of collecting music suggests that a certain hidden desire develops into a neurotic narrative that just won't go away.
As a matter of fact, I don't consider myself even remotely a vinyl junkie anymore, but I do find myself playing records on my turntable these days and looking & listening for music and sounds I've never heard before.
Now, is that because the music being fashioned in the current marketplace doesn't appeal to me? Perhaps.
But I think it's more because I believe there's a secret narrative out there that I'm curious about that other people are also searching for at places such as Vinylmania or Midnight Records or Metro Music. And I know that, like myself, those seeking it are really searching for their own histories in bits and pieces, hoping there's an end to the story, a finality to the search.
...And there never is.
Photo courtesy of Addicted to Vinyl