I recently rediscovered one of the best tee shirts in my stash that was floating around the record collecting community in the last decade or so that just said “Record Collecting Ruined My Life” (thanks Jeff Ogiba from Black Gold Brooklyn). I laughed like I did when I bought it, but then I started to think about it. Had it? Did I just dedicate close to four decades of my life to something that has influenced many decisions throughout that time? I had to break down those thoughts. Here’s what I came up with.
First and foremost, vinyl records started out (and continues to be) about discovery. Being given England’s Newest Hitmakers and by The Stones from a friend of my parents’ when I was barely eight was a discovery. Going to the flea markets years later and finding jazz records that were hip hop samples was a discovery. Every new record I find is a rush. But when did the simple joy of discovery become an obsession? I’ve always collected things since I was young. Sports cards and memorabilia, books, sneakers, then later I started focusing hardcore on vinyl records, art, culture items such as magazines and print material. However, records really were and continue to be my main focus. Being a DJ pushed me to get anything and everything I could find to help further my craft. As my career evolved, this site was started, and I was able to hone my skill, focus, and direction I wanted to go, I was still driven to get records. Days off turned into record digging excursions. Vacations revolved around where the records were. Driving down the street in a shady part of a town I didn’t know, just pull over, “there are records in there!” Now, I’m going to be honest, this did not always fare well relationship wise. It didn’t always work out for me because records always came first. My life was built around my record habit. But to me, it wasn’t like I was out scoring street drugs, I was just buying the black crack. Hmmm weird flex, but ok. Buying vinyl was physically healthy, but the addiction was still there. The rush was still there, and the rewards were like anything I’d ever felt before. Nothing compared to it. I didn’t get records to say that I had it, but to just learn about music. That was the reward. I was DJing, so when I played a record and got a reaction from the crowd, that was another reward. I justified it to myself and kept buying.
Was I the weird beard at the flea who had egg on his face? Had I turned into the thing I despised many years ago?
But with the acquisition of records every week, living spaces started to get filled. I needed rentals with space for shelves and LPs. I finally bought a large house that I filled up pretty quickly, and when it was sold, I realized how difficult record collecting can be. Danny Krivit once talked to me about his 80K records in his place in Brooklyn and how packed the house was and I thought: “I’ve got a long way to go.” I still do, but having to move that last bunch and get a place with an entire floor dedicated to a studio and records got me thinking. But here I am still going. Even trimming some of the fat, I still have trouble parting with records. Then there are times when you run into a huge collection. The last jazz record collection I acquired was 8-10 crates of the rare stuff. I can’t say no, but now I need more shelves. Was I turning into the weird record collector or an R. Crumb character?
I thought about it. There was a dude at The Spot many years ago, who still lurks around the flea market buying records, being cantankerous. With a huge gray beard, he walked around with an egg sandwich and egg on his beard earning him the nickname Eggbeard. Was I turning into that guy with my huge beard? Was I the weird beard at the flea who had egg on his face? Had I turned into the thing I despised many years ago? The answer plain and simple is a resounding no. Everyone’s quirky and has their thing, and records are mine. Has vinyl record collecting influenced my life? 100% yes. It’s influenced my listening habits (which continue to evolve with time), who I’ve become friends and work colleagues with, my career path, and my daily habits. For the last almost 15 years I’ve written about vinyl records and vinyl record culture almost every day. I was a part of the biggest vinyl record book and official book of Record Store Day (let’s not get started on that) and more. Has it ruined my life? Absolutely not. I mean, if I hadn’t bought records and thinking about the amount of money I’ve spent on records, I’m sure I’d spend it on something else. Collecting vinyl records has enriched my life, introduced me to people who I’d never have known all over the world because of a spinning disk. And let’s face it, to me, there is nothing more satisfying that opening a newly acquired record, putting it on the turntable after a long day, closing your eyes and just get listening. If that’s record collecting ruining my life, and I’m ok with it.
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I often wrestle with the same doubts, resorting to pro and con lists that tend to overlook all of the experiences had and people I’ve met and befriended. It helps to be reminded of those positives. Thanks for sharing.
“I didn’t get records to say that I had it, but to just learn about music”