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Being a modern kinda guy who cares about the animals providing they stay way over there in that field, and who frets about what we are leaving behind for our children’s children, which in my case is a teetering pile of polyvinyl chloride that will not break down in landfill, at the weekend I visited some homes with eco credentials. You know; solar panels, water butt showers, real insulation – anything to stop the utility companies bleeding us dry is a good thing, I reckon. And from my brief unscientific survey, I can tell you that people who fit green improvements to their homes are partial to music. There was evidence of musical activity in several of the homes: keyboards were spotted in two; a guitar; bongos in another. Bongo drums? Don’t go thinking these folk were crusties; they were respectable middle-class folk, as concerned about school catchment areas as the rest of us. (Which I am not – my beloved kids have been through school. They’d put up with me as a parent, so how bad could any school be?) But there was a further manifestation of musical life in some of these homes I was lucky enough to be admitted to. They too are partial to a pile of non-biodegradable musical plastic.
I am sure this letter has previously mulled over the topic of vinyl and the environment. And it has come to a few conclusions: is it better that I accumulate it, saving it filling the land, and avoid buying newly-manufactured vinyl (as if!); or would it be better that I gathered MP3s, played on modern devices made of rare, possibly toxic elements plundered from the planet at who knows what cost, and designed to be obsolete within months? Anyway, I am not concerned with that here. What I am concerned with is another deeply vital issue: how rude is it to march into a stranger’s home and pore over their albums?
Don’t tell me you haven’t been there: I know you’ve felt the agony. You’ve walked into someone’s home for one reason, but once you were in there, you saw records. Your host is talking to you: “Oh, and the sink is blocked, could you please take a look?”, or “Ooh, you’re a big strong fella, aren’t you? Why don’t you come over here and show me just how big?” but they might as well be speaking a duplicated Western European language, because you can’t concentrate; you can’t take your eyes off the record collection. They could be offering you unfettered passion, legs quivering, lips pouting, eyes infinite pools of desire, but all you are thinking is: “I wonder what’s on that shelf? 60s, 70s, 80s? Maybe there’s a Mighty Baby on Blue Horizon? I think I can see a Motown logo, wonder if there’s any reggae too? I must look. But how? When? Must concentrate on what’s being said… is that an Elvis 78?”
It’s a collector’s dilemma. You can come straight out and say: “Oi, shut up, I wanna look at the records,” or you can fake hoarseness, ask for a cup of tea and make a lightning swoop through the Ikea Expedit while the owner’s brewing up in the kitchen. Then that slow-to-rouse-itself thing called reason finally wakes up in your head. Bide your time, it purrs. Those records aren’t going anywhere. Follow social convention. Make love, slurp Gold Blend or fix the cistern; whatever it is you were meant to be doing. Then afterwards, casually ask if you could have a gander at the records, they look marvellous. If they say “yes”, get stuck in. If it’s a “no”, they either own some fabulous albums they are worried that you might nick, or they have sussed out that your wham bam thank you ma’am technique was not because you found them so exciting, it was because you wanted to get it over with so you could paw their collection, like, in about 30 seconds.
I’m an old hand at this. In my case, reason always wins in this situation. Once, in the dead of a rainy night, I saw a charity shop outside which some thoughtless soul had dumped boxes of vinyl, and I walked past it, figuring that theft is theft and if someone was going to do it, it wasn’t going to be me. I have a modicum of control. So at the weekend, I didn’t flick through my hosts’ vinyl, though I did spot some Supremes from afar. I remained polite and decent. Besides which, the records I want are in the hands of other collectors, some of whom I can name. The chances of my finding a 12” of Barry Brown’s Release The Chains on a random shelf are pretty remote. If I thought it would be there, reason could take a hike! Here are some shelves I probably couldn’t resist looking through…
The new Record Collector is in the shops about NOW: see below for a pic. Hope you like it. Thank you for reading this newsletter and RC. Have a great week.