Ask a vinyl record collector about his collection and it becomes clear that listening to records is about more than the music. It’s about the ritual of placing the needle in the groove and being present for the sound; listening to The Beatles with your dad; anniversary dinners with your wife. In honor of Record Store Day on Friday, November 25, we asked local collectors about the vinyl experience.
What is the first record you owned?
Aaron Goff: The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead; I found it at a thrift store. I originally had no intent in playing it, I just thought it would be cool to have a large, tangible form of an album I’d always loved.
Liza Pittard: My dad and I would talk about music while he would rummage through his old record collection and recount his memories of each. Once I bought a record player, he would give five records to me at a time to listen to. Two of the first ones he gave me were Hendrix’s Axis: Bold as Love and Talking Heads’ Little Creatures. Almost every time I go home, he continues to share his collection with me. He still won’t part with his Beatles records, but we’ll get there one day.
Matthew Simon: All the children’s “play and read” records, which I had a ton of—and Christmas with the Chipmunks. I remember so clearly wanting one album when I was 8 years old, and I stubbornly wouldn’t take any treats, books, clothes, anything, until I got that record. My grandparents came to visit and they had a gift in a brown paper bag for me and I wasn’t going to accept it; when they slid out a copy of Thriller, I was the happiest kid alive.
What’s in your collection?
AG: I have around 500 records, give or take. I’m constantly buying new stuff and giving away stuff that I don’t listen to anymore. I want to keep a collection that I will regularly listen to rather than one filed with rarities. A few highlights are an original mono pressing of Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde (thanks to SPCA Rummage), an ’80s German copy of Bowie’s Hunky Dory and an original pressing of Fugazi’s End Hits. I am usually particular about having entire discographies; I have complete collections from The Smiths, Joy Division, Slowdive, Sunny Day Real Estate, Tortoise, The Appleseed Cast and Sigur Rós, among others. I’m slowly eating away at Brian Eno’s discography.
LP: I own about 90 records, ranging from classic rock to electronic music of the 2000s to funk and soul. As I’ve been collecting, I’ve expanded the types of music that I listen to and I think that’s reflected in what I own. I also like to have a balance of older and newer records, so I can be exposed to the music of the past and also support musicians making music now.
MS: I have about 600 records, and they tell my story. I’ve got copies from when I was young, like Weird Al Yankovic and John Denver and The Muppets’ A Christmas Together; my dad’s copy of the first pressing of The Velvet Underground & Nico; a bunch of Stereolab, Talking Heads, John Zorn, Devo; every Phish album ever pressed; jazz, hip-hop, international compilations. It’s all over the place.
What’s your favorite record?
AG: Emergency & I by The Dismemberment Plan is one of my favorite records released within my lifetime [in 1999]. It’s technical and groovy with big hooks and relatable lyrics. They traverse so many different styles on this album while remaining accessible. It still holds up.
LP: It’s hard to pick a favorite because it changes based on how I’m feeling and what I’m into during a given time period. I listen often to Lali Puna’s Scary World Theory, a melodic and haunting electronic record. It was one of the first records that I bought when I started collecting. I am constantly listening to Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s A Real Mother for Ya, which I found at Melody Supreme a month or two ago; I heard him on WTJU’s jazz and blues marathon and have been hooked since. I found the record right after the marathon ended, so it felt like fate.
MS: The collection as a whole is my favorite. I love adding to it to make sure I have a record or song for every possible occasion or mood. That said, I love owning the original copy of Stereolab’s Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements. The sound of that album on vinyl is the epitome of all the reasons to own a record player: the music and phasing is so good, the album art is cool. Records can certainly be art. I have a copy of Animal Collective’s Hollinndagain, of which only 300 copies were initially made; each and every copy features a cover spray-painted and decorated by hand by the band themselves. They even drew on the center label with a marker. I love just looking at that one.