October 13th, 2016
|12:55 am - Don't need a cure, need a vinyl solution.|
A few years go - before housemate and I fled London - I had to dispose of the majority of my record collection. It was harrowing and horrific as I tried all the normal routes of disposal first. Only to encounter the shadiest bunch of arseholes since the House Of Lords. It didn't used to be like that; record dealers used to be straight shooters generally, because they actually liked records, and would at least give you a reasonable amount for material they knew they could sell. And with the vinyl renaissance it was not unreasonable to imagine there were still those who were interested in acquiring notable stock. However, this time I encountered people who insisted that they only wanted certain items, wouldn't quote any prices or even say which items from my exhaustive lists, but would add that they'd take the whole collection as "a favour" whilst only paying for these few unspecified items at these unspecified prices.
Only one dealer out of the dozens I approached gave me a quote. It was appalling. At that time if someone had offered me £500 for the lot they could have taken away a bargain. As it was this guy went to the trouble of telling me which items he wanted and what he'd pay. He was offering prices like 50p for items he already had in his own catalogue selling for over twenty quid (and mine were in better condition). A few items were more but most were for MUCH less. Pennies. The total was less than £250, with a caveat that if he didn't like the condition of the sleeves he'd lower the amount. In other words: Give me the collection first and I'll see about paying you what I feel afterwards. In disgust I declined.
At this point I could mention some of the strokes pulled by dealers on other people that I know of but I think you already get the point.
Even charity shops (outlets for the corporate charities) were dicks. I called a few and universally they seemed to think they were also doing a favour 'allowing' me to donate the collection and freaked when I said they'd need to collect. Maybe it was just a London thing.
So eventually - with the whole re-location deal pressing, as deadlines approached and other matters drew far more importance on the scale of things needing doing - I destroyed a good two thirds of my record collection. Recycled the vinyl, shredded the inner sleeves for cat-litter and recycled the outer ones. None of this was done lightly or, bearing in mind the above is a long story much shortened, without severe emotional trauma.
Nobody wanted it (or at least to pay for it/put any effort into acquiring it) and I absolutely couldn't take it all with me. What? - ten (?) house-moves in less than something like twenty-six years: a fucking nightmare. Especially with the accrual of two people's ever burgeoning collections. Everything had to be downsized severely the last couple of moves. And very dramatically the last time, but even for this move decisions had to be made.
A couple of years post-relocation and I still had the final two skips of vinyl, plus three cases and at least two cases of sevens. After the last move retaining any of it was no longer a viable luxury. This place is - not to put too fine a point on it - tiny. My bed, such as it is, is four industrial shelf/storage units in a row. With my mattress on top I'm nearly five feet in the air. The vinyl was just one of the things that were stored on it. After a year it was still there. Research showed that, again, no-one wanted to buy this stuff. I doubt it's physically possible for the dealers here to be as bad as those in London, but it has become a very bad culture of wanting something for nothing. And I'd rather give it away than sell something for pennies that I know (from experience, and just by looking at their stock) they'll sell for pounds. The books were a bad enough lesson. The remaining comics/magazines and vinyl would be a lecture too far, I think. Even if they actually wanted it. And I absolutely, simply could NOT go through the trauma of selling the cherry picks piecemeal. That would just entirely wipe me out; these days I'm a soggy ghost at best. Because through all this logistical/pragmatic/retail gobshitery I was constantly aware of what my record collection actually meant to me.
Things are just things, but accruing the vinyl a piece at a time brought with it almost as many mnemonics as discs. I can remember where I was when I bought so many of them, and more importantly how I felt during those days. Different records also reference different periods of my life. Times when I felt a certain way, or was in a certain situation. These emotional memories are strong in some cases and it's what these things represent; these anchors, that pulled so sharply.
I finally negotiated for someone to arrange collection of the bulk of my remaining record collection. Someone who will make good use of them and, in return, I will be getting very high quality digital copies of the actual music. No, it's NOT the same but it's the only actual compromise I can achieve. Reviewing the boxes and comparing them to the original lists I sent to prospective buyers in London I was fucking BRUTAL with myself back then. There are things that I no longer had that I was sure I did; was surprised at their absence. But as I made a pragmatic decision on each one there were valid reasons for what went and what stayed.
There are now seven double boxed packages waiting to be collected by a courier. About fifty records per, boxed or cased and then packed again in polystyrene and other energy-dampening materials and then another outer box. Not taking chances.
I'm very ambivalent. I don't really want to have to lose my precious record collection - but then I already have; MOST of it - on the other hand it's an almost physical relief to have made a concrete decision and acted upon it. I would like, at some point in the future, not to have to fall out of bed at least once a week when I wake up shattered and momentarily forget where I am spatially.
A good home is better than the parasitism of the opportunist. In the case of the however-many individual items that are actually worth something more than few bob, it's simply too heartbreaking to have to go through the rigmarole of selling them off one at a time because I have to. So I'd rather they all went at once.
I have kept about fifty discs, maybe less. These are artefacts. Not the most valuable or those in the best condition. Each was set aside simply for the individual reason I attached to each one. The memories, or feelings - the simple mnemonics they engendered when I picked them up. So, on a shelf not in a box, where they can be seen, if not played. For instance, I remember vividly picking up 808 State's Quadrastate and Creation Rebel's Starship Africa in 1988 at a long-gone record shop in Ilford just by the station and actually PLAYING these in the house with no heating or internal doors. Rather than just taping them and playing the tapes instead, as was my general habit. Memories of, if not a better time, then one where I still had hope.
Going through them I did um & ah over keeping more. The New Order singles - especially the RUN2 one which is quite pricey outside of Britain never having been released elsewhere because of the legal dispute with John Denver. The Justified Ancients of Mu-Mu/KLF 12"s, particularly as they're in such good nick and nobody around me at the time had them or got it until they started appearing on TOTP, that kinda thing. But I didn't see the point and decided being ruthless with myself was the way to go.
In this century I have found myself having to get used to being more ruthless with myself about what I may have/retain. It has become a pattern. A trend.
I tell myself each time; it's just stuff. And indeed hindsight is wonderful and I realised long ago I should have collected experiences, not things, but I didn't - and the things brought their own attachments and hooks. And the disentangling has proved awkward, at best.
I look at the few discs I've kept. Amongst them my first record; the seven inch single my dad bought me, when I was four, two years before he died. The Magic Roundabout BBC soundtrack LP and Peter Ustinov voiced soundtrack/retelling of Disney's Blackbeard's Ghost. Also from my childhood. The Tackhead LP and 12"s from the late eighties when I was going bananas; part ecstatic/part terrified. The Napalm Death combined Peel Sessions LP. The Gist's Love At First Sight 7"; my favourite record.
And I wonder how long 'til they leave my presence too.
Records aren't just the music they contain. Like books they're a whole experience. The search, the encounter, the tactile melange of sleeve and vinyl and player. The smell. The sensation they engender.
When I had to start downsizing, both my and flatmate's CDs and DVDs were stripped of their packaging (about ten bookcases worth of space) and transferred to bulk disc carriers. Little cases carrying an average of five hundred per. That was no trauma. Just a lot of effort (and lots more recycling). The comics, the books, flatmate's magazines (the remainder of all of which, bar the books, are under my 'bed'), these were learning curves of the kind you get on a frozen road, with no lighting, on the side of a mountain, at midnight. So with the vinyl.
But it's done.
It's heartbreaking to lose what it all means. But physically it is just stuff. And you and those around you are always more important than things. To lose sight of that is to lose oneself.