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Vinyl Fever Part I: The Stages and the Cure

We’re officially on a first name basis.  The owner of the small vinyl shop around the corner sees me roughly two to three times a week, so I guess it was just a matter of time.  He tells me the woes of owning a record store, profit on selling new vinyl vs. used and why Record Store Day isn’t what it used to be.  I tell him he’s got the best and cleanest inventory I’ve ever seen, which is why I keep coming back.  He tells me I keep coming back because I’ve got the “Fever” and he’s seen it many times before.

This was me 8 months ago when I first started out.  Some would argue that I am obsessive compulsive.  I have a tendency to collect, and an affinity toward diaphanism, and the subtle differences or variations of the same “work of art.”  In my particular case, the art form became vinyl, and I relished in the hunt for the obscure.  Had I known anything about myself before walking into his shop for the first time, I would have known it would end like this; in the throes of uncontrollable obsession.

If you’re afflicted like I am, there is hope, and there is the Cure.  Hopefully, my experience will help you identify the many stages of Vinyl Fever, and where it all starts.

I can rest easy knowing that my biggest critic was also the same person that “started it.”  I’m talking about my wife.  Last year for our anniversary, she bought me the Radiohead OK Computer OKNOTOK box set.  I immediately opened it and played it on a less than worthy record player at the time.  I remember listening to Exit Music (For a Film) and being completely blown away by the eeriness in Thom Yorke’s voice, and the subtle textures you never caught in the digital format.  I hadn’t realized it because at this point there are only early signs of Enthusiasm and Intrigue, but I was officially Stage 1 – Vinyl Fever.

Then I walked into the shop for the first time, and I bought this for $3.  THIS is what pushed me over the edge.  Yes, Big Country, you know, with the hit single from the 80’s called Big Country.

After giving it a listen, I discovered that the rest of the album was equally as good or better than their single, so naturally, I had to find as many of their records I could in the $3 bins.  I had to know if there were any other hidden gems on the remainder of their discography.

 

One of the best parts of collecting vinyl is Musical Discovery (Stage 2).  I had discovered that the B-Sides were equally as good, if not better, than the singles, and the cumulative experiencing of listening to the album all the way through was more impactful than the short 3 to 4 minute ADHD fix we get from listening to the single.  Plus, it just sounds better.  It really does, and I’m not just saying that.

When I started out, I had a $35 record player that I bought off of Amazon and I fed it through a pair of old Surround Sound speakers from the early 90’s.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics to share just how ghetto fabulous it was.  If I did, I’d probably be too embarrassed to post anyway.  I dropped the needle down on Led Zeppelin III and was blown away.  It was like they were playing in my living room.  What a MAJOR difference when compared to blasting Google Play through a pair of earbuds.  Clearly, it was time to Upgrade my Equipment because it COULD sound better.  I dropped about $700 on new speakers and a new turntable, a nice beginner level setup, and I slowly started to accept that I had just entered Stage 3 – Vinyl Fever.

Back in the day, when you listened to music, you listened without headphones.  You played it loud and you jumped around so much that the record skipped. You didn’t listen to a compressed digital file and drown out your surroundings.  Instead, the music was your surroundings because it filled the room.  Finally, music had been liberated on my new gear…

 

Back in the day, when I was a kid, I would go with my parents to the Pathmark and they’d let me pick out a new 45 single.  Pathmark had the top 20 singles side by side on a shelf, and you just hoped they had the one you had heard the other day on MTV (back when they played music).  Nothing fancy, but that was all I knew as a kid.  We had those cheap Fisher Price record players that we played read-along books on, and I had finally graduated to filling my collection with “MTV worthy” content.  I believe these were a few of the first, and we beat the shit out of our records.

(Clockwise from top right:  Slade – Run Runaway, Men Without Hats – Safety Dance, Adam Ant – Goody Two Shoes, Men At Work – It’s a Mistake)

I never kept the sleeves, because they were a huge inconvenience when it came to stacking them all on that old cylinder carrying case.  So they got lost in the trash.

I started to show symptoms of Nostalgia (Stage 4).  I had to embrace my childhood, I had to fill in the gaps of all of the music I had missed, and all of the music I had ever listened to needed to be experienced on vinyl.  I pulled out the 45’s and the few LPs I had on hand and played through them all.  And almost all of them sounded better than I remembered.  The ten LPs I had in the basement were moved upstairs.  I have no idea where I even got some of them.  Some I bought, others I had acquired from an ex-girlfriend that worked at a radio station.  She’d grab a few CDs and LPs as they came in if no one else was interested.  She was always good for that.  And she was good for something else, too.  But not much else besides that.  In the end, the vinyl stuck around.

When the basement batch moved upstairs, I started to look into their value.  I was used to digging in the $3 bin, so having anything worth more than that was unheard of.  Then I saw what I had, and while not worth a shitload, there were a few first releases in the batch.  Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine and The Fragile.  I just bought them because I was a fan.  They had never been played before.  Just stored.  And they were fetching a decent penny online.  Then it was over.  The final stage (Stage 5) was Hoarding.  I had to have them ALL.  And quickly, before I missed a chance at scoring a decent copy.

The store’s inventories always moved quickly.  You had to act fast.  Online was even worse.  You’d find 3 copies online of something obscure for $100 and you’d start to get that itch.  That you may miss out on an opportunity, an EXPERIENCE that will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN IN YOUR ENTIRE LIFE IF YOU DON’T ACT NOW!

I now have roughly 650 LPs, EPs, 45s, and box sets accumulated in only 8 months’ time.  I don’t even know how much I’ve spent.  I can only estimate.  As my wife would put it, there’s a new box arriving every day of the week.  She’s usually pretty subtle and constructive in her criticism, which is why I know it’s serious when she says, “I may want to slow down.”

I have slowed down a little, but not entirely.  I don’t even have capacity to store the new records that are coming in, but they still keep piling up.  I’ve “survived” Stage 5 Vinyl Fever, I haven’t been divorced and not bankrupted by the whole experience, but the itch continues on day by day. In fact, I’ve got a spot I’m going to hit tomorrow to satisfy the urge.

The itching and burning does NOT go away.  I know I mentioned earlier in my post about the cure.  Sorry, you’re shit outta luck!  All I can say about the Cure is that they’re one of the greatest bands in the world, and I think you should own ALL of their albums on vinyl if you can find them.  I’m missing a few.

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