Back in 2010, I was in a bad way. Some days, I still am. Such is life. One day, I decided to try to do something about it by putting things in order and perspective in the only way I knew how to do without the presence of other people, by letting my record collection tell my own story through the way that I listened to other people’s music and how that coloured in my own experiences, whether mundane or catastrophic. Nobody was ever going to see it, I’d get all my ducks in a row once more and I’d probably go off and do something else in a few weeks anyway.
I don’t think I realised how much I’d enjoy it. Yeah, some of the reminiscence was horrible (and still is), I’ve probably exhausted all my major milestone things (except two, and with reason) and it didn’t really help much anyway to the point that I rarely do any soul-searching on here any more. But things are made to change, and I’m still here five years later with a subscription to renew. Hi.
To mark this occasion such as it is, I have decided to get drunk and mess about a bit, because if none of this is any fun, we may as well all bugger off right now. And what better way to have fun than to get angry about dumb listy articles about how you should collect, cherish, maintain and otherwise fetishise the way you enjoy listening to stuff…
1. Pick The Right Format
As everyone seems to tell everyone else these days, This Is Important. Actually, no it’s not. If something moves you, it’s not because it’s on a 180g virgin vinyl platter being played on something terribly expensive, it’s because you like it. A beautiful line and a time-stoppingly wonderful sequence of notes will still lift or break your heart if you listen to it in an acoustically perfect room or in your car in a thunderstorm. I have a lot of records. I have a lot of CDs. I have a lot of files on my computer. They all sound lovely. well, except the ones that sound terrible, but that’s the fault of those performing them (and sometimes those listening to them too) rather than the way that they are piped through the ether.
2. Clean Your Records And Equipment Thoroughly And Regularly
Because it’s impossible to be emotionally charged and recharged if there’s the remotest possibility of Static. And this is a point that I am genuinely confused about when discussing vinyl records – the oft-quoted Peelism about Life having Surface Noise is a wonderful line and is utterly true. Record shops throughout the world can be seen proudly displaying this very utterance. Yet there is also this whole other side dedicated to eradicating such a phenomenon. I’m fairly sure that unless you house your collection in a mine, a perfunctory wipe with a T-Shirt every two to three years will suffice, and a decent rule of thumb when it comes to needles is if you can see the fluff on it from ten metres away, give it a bit of a blow. I have a Def Jam sampler with what appears to have fungus growing on it, and a Half Man Half Biscuit LP that someone was sick on in 1987 (might have been me, thankfully though you still can’t dust for vomit so nobody can prove anything) and I can still hear them just fine.
3. Store Your Records Properly
I have a special storage area for all of my records. It’s called “Over there, somewhere. Probably.” It’s a system that has served me well for as long as I can remember, with stuff in no discernible order stood up in a vague (yet deceptively inaccurate) semblance of tidiness, with a secondary pile of stuff I have played fairly recently with the intention of putting them away at some point and a tertiary (ooh!) pile of Things I’ll Get Round To In A Bit. This is much more fun than sitting there actually ordering stuff and making jokes about where The The goes because if you know where everything is, then you’re never going to find anything unremembered/unbidden and you’ll never pleasantly surprise yourself ever again. Record shops order things by alphabet and genre for practicality, unless you’re
4. Treat Your Collection With Respect, Because Everybody Involved Worked Bloody Hard On It
I won’t lie here. I have a new record player and I’m not sure what’s been going on in the 20 years when I didn’t have one, but when I select an older record to play, the first thing that I have to do is jam a biro into the centre hole and wiggle it about so that it’ll fit astride the bit that sticks up in the middle. It’s something that is practical, fun and therapeutic, and will horrify vinyl disciples and biro enthusiasts alike. It’s also a handy metaphor for making the music work for you, not the other way around – people have spent huge swathes of their lives crafting these songs and pouring their hearts and souls into these tunes, and the thing is – you don’t always have to do the same when you’re listening to it. Have fun. Be irreverent. Be occasionally disrespectful. You share your empathy when you hand your money over, the rest is up to you.
5. Think Of The Resale Value
The most I paid for a record was 75 quid, and that was fairly recently. I did this because it was on sale the week before for 150, and I almost paid that for it too. I did that because I wanted that record, and I wanted that record because I wanted to play it and listen to it, and I do that a lot. The person who sold it to me must now be horrified that I actually do something so base as to risk further resale value by exposing it to the elements and a diamond-tipped stylus. Balls to him. I’m not going to sell it. I’m going to play the crap out of it until I get bored and play something else, and will maybe do the same with it again in a few weeks/months/years’ time. Because that’s what they’re there for. And if I come back to it whenever and I don’t feel the same way about it, then I’ll probably give it to someone who might like it. Or who might pretend they like it and then sell it. This is the way of the world.
6. Oh You Know What? It Doesn’t Bloody Matter
None of it does. Even the most heartbreaking record of all time exists and is loved because it entertains as well as whatever else it does. It’s there to be enjoyed in whatever manner the listener chooses to be entertained by it. None of the lists about what you should listen to, how you should listen to it and what you have to do in order to keep listening to it in whatever sterilised and fun-free fashion is dictated at any given time, matter. It’s not important. What’s important is that you have something to listen to, to think about, to lose yourself within, or just kill a few minutes. Enjoy the hunt. Enjoy the feelings. Enjoy telling people at great length why they should be listening to something while watching their eyes glaze over in that “oh, shut up” manner and then carry on enthusing anyway. And enjoy jamming biros into the centre holes of records, knocking a few pounds off their fiscal value in the process. Because once you have them, they’re yours.