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Black Circle Synchronicity

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I enjoyed a little bit ‘o vinyl synchronicity this past weekend. It involved unusually fine weather, a used record store, beer and Brett Milano’s Vinyl Junkies: Adventures in Record Collecting.

Order is import to this story. First up: the weather.

As reported last week, me & the wife went on a mini-vacation up to Portland, Maine. The last time we’d visited was back in mid-December for our annual Christmas shopping weekend. The weather during those couple of days was clear, crisp and unbe-fricken-lievably cold (read: “nut-chattering”). As luck would have it, last week’s weather brought several days of unseasonably mild temperatures to the Northeastern United States. Being a native New Englander, I do understand that it’s my duty to complain about the weather in all four seasons (summer, fall, winter, mud). However…I’m not about to start up a tale of woe about forty degrees & sunny on the last weekend of February.

So: the weather-record store connection. In December I discovered this used record store located right around the corner from our hotel. One morning we were out on a quest for postage stamps and midway between the hotel and the post office there it was: a little hole in the wall shop that looked to be chock full of vinyl goodness. The place didn’t open until 11 so I vowed to make it that day’s post-lunch destination. The vinyl magic never happened though as my will-to-shop was frozen solid during the twenty minute, near zero walk back to the hotel after lunch. I tell ya, you know it’s cold when I pass up a chance to fondle some records.

Now, our recent spate of clear & mild allowed me to follow through on my plans. So on Friday afternoon it was off to the vinyl promised land (or so I hoped).

Fellow collectors, readers and/or worriers-for-my-sanity, I was not disappointed. The small store packed a big punch. Rows & rows of jazz obscurities, blues, rock, country, garages, psychedelia, rockabilly, avant garde, soundtracks & sound effects. I was sucked into the electronics bin where I added to my Stockhausen (gotta love a record where ‘potentiometers’ are listed as instruments), and Moog collection. Jazz: early Jack DeJohnette, Lester Bowie duets and a Keith Jarrett organ record. The find of the haul was a German reissue of Tom Waits’ The Black Rider (on blue vinyl). Man, did I have a good time.

Later that night we had a nice dinner of freshly scorched flatbread pizza (kalamata olives, carmelized onion, rosemary and goat cheese). The goat cheese pushed me (sure, blame it on the goat cheese) to order a second beer: a locally produced Scotch Ale. Mmmmm….so much flavor…so much alcohol! Yessir, I was not ready to drive back to the hotel with that major league buzz goin’ on so the post-dinner plan was to check out a bookstore and then some coffee. Not five minutes in the bookstore and I’ve found Brett Milano’s Vinyl Junkies. Now I’m psyched. We head out to the coffee shop for some French Roast and quietude.

Earlier that day I’d felt just a little strange as I held a copy of Gershon Kingsley’s First Moog Quartet in my hands. I thought to myself “What does it say about me that I want this particular record?”. Well, that little mental frown was definitely wasted energy as the collectors inhabiting Milano’s book make me seem like the most normal person (record collector-wise) in the world.

I have never given a thought to:

  • paying several thousand dollars for a rare 1960’s garage rock single
  • taking a trip/vacation for the sole purpose of seeking out used vinyl (I’m pretty sure that this story doesn’t qualify…right?)
  • owning 20,000 albums (though at 2,000, most folks would say that I’m already in ‘the club’)
  • collecting prewar 78’s (though I’ve always wanted a Victrola)

Milano’s book doesn’t just stick to the ‘serious’ and extreme collectors. His years of experience as a rock writer (Boston Phoenix, Boston Herald & others) allow him to apply a music-drenched slant to chapters on the phenomenon of collecting in general, the lure of rare records, where & how people track stuff down, ‘famous’ collectors (Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, REM’s Peter Buck, R. Crumb, Peter Wolf), CD’s vs. LP’s, and the ‘ultimate’ find. Vinyl Junkies is a great read for any music lover, vinyl hound or not.

So, the question remains: Should I have bought that cool Art Ensemble of Chicago reissue? I mean, I put it back in the bin and it’s been bugging me ever since. Should I stop worrying about it? What does this say about me?

(First posted on Mark Is Cranky)

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About Mark Saleski

  • Eric Olsen

    A worthy adventure, and since my recount I’m well below the 20K threshold (I predict at 2005 crossing). Thanks!

  • the positive thing about most of the collectors in milano’s book is that they aren’t like the depressing “shut-ins” found in alan zweig’s movie “Vinyl”.