Posted: July 10, 2013 by The Social Retard in Music

You might be wondering, “What is the point of this blog?” That, I cannot answer. I can only tell you why I’ve bothered starting it.

I started collecting vinyl records in 1995 after my buddy Sandeep came back from India with his copy of Def Leppard’s greatest hits CD, Vault. Please don’t hold this against me. At first, I thought, “B.F.D. I’ve got this already.” But upon further inspection, I saw that his had a track that I had never heard nor even heard of.

“Can’t Keep Away From the Flame”, surely it was amazing. They put it on their greatest hits collection!

What the hell is this? Why should a third world country have a more complete CD than me when they don’t even have toilet paper? Obviously, I was a bit ethnocentric or just plain ignorant. I was sixteen, angry, and dumb. What do you expect?

I tried to find this import version or just the song but this was, again, 1995 and iTunes was not yet an idea. Maybe it was. It’s entirely possible that Steve Jobs wrote about iPods on a Starbucks napkin and filed it away for future use. That wasn’t going to be much use to me regardless. This probably wasn’t going to be easy.

I went to Best Buy and K-Mart and whatever other garbage major retailer I could find and came up empty. It was then that I turned my attention to the mom and pops. I walked into Remember When Records in Westmont, IL. It was near where I lived and I knew they sold music. Huzzah! I had never been in there before so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

I, predictably, rooted through the CD’s to no avail. I even tried the cassette route and that was as fruitless as ever. For no tangible reason, I went over to the 45s. How quaint? My grandmother has tons of these things. They’re all garbage but, oh yeah, these go in those jukeboxes. Why buy one of these? No one has a jukebox.

Why? Well, because when I perused the “D’s” I found exactly what I was looking for. “Can’t Keep Away From the Flame” was the B-side to the A-side of “When Love & Hate Collide”, the other new track from Vault.

The proprietor let me know that most any record player could play them and I knew we had one or two in the house still. So, I bought that and a new repress of the Rolling Stones’ Let It Bleed and went home to rediscover the wonder of tracks on wax.

Months of waiting to hear this song culminated in this moment. Putting on the Def Leppard 7” was going to be a religious experience. Three and a half minutes later, disappointment rushed over me along with something else. The song just was not very good but, in that instance, my world was changed.

Playing the record itself reminded me of living in my old house in Westchester where and when I was a decidedly happier person, nearly three decades from becoming the curmudgeon I am now. We had a finished basement where we blasted that same stereo that I was listening to these records on in 1995.

It’s part of what keeps me coming back for more and why vinyl is still my preferred format for music enjoyment. But nostalgia is only part of it. There is something personal about laying the needle down, something tactile and visceral. It is for this same feeling that I do not, nor will ever, own an e-reader.

It’s true that I can’t listen to my vinyl while exercising outdoors (which I do, a bit, not that you can tell). So, I do own an MP3 player. That’s just practical. The beauty of buying vinyl these days is that most companies give you a free download of the album with your record purchase. The best of both worlds. You get the superior fidelity coupled with the convenience. It’s a win-win. If I so choose, I can listen to the MP3 while looking at the record sleeves from the comfort of my toilet. Gross, maybe, but certainly handy.

To answer the obvious question here as to why didn’t I listen to the song from my friends CD and find out if it was any good first? Because I didn’t want to, okay? I wanted it for myself. Even then, I was a bit of a music completionist. I needed everything by every artist I liked. Which, back then, wasn’t such a lofty and expensive proposition.

That trip to the store was my first introduction to the indie record shop. And I’ve been in love ever since. And like any great love, it never seems to last. In a long line of many record stores, Remember When closed up shop in 2012. The records I bought that first day, along with the ones I pilfered from my mom’s collection (Goat’s Head Soup, the self-titled Montrose album featuring Sammy Hagar on vocals) were lost in a flood.

But I keep looking for new (or, at least, new to me) stores and hidden gems. Like anything, much of the enjoyment is in the journey. I love rifling through the stacks of old wax. I get visibly upset when the boxes are packed too tightly for me flip through them at breakneck speed. I point out to the owners when they have mis-categorized or overpriced something. I’m not trying to be an asshole. I just care. And it is only because I care that I demand perfection. If I only had a record store of my own….

I go to record shows as well, but that is entirely with a predatory mindset, to find something specific and/or rare. Also, to mock people that buy 70’s top 40 crap.

This blog will contain the stories of albums that I have hunted for and found, how I learned about them, how much they cost me, and what they mean to me. We all have those things that we can’t live without. These records (all of my records, actually, even my 7” of “The Final Countdown”) are mine.


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