I was buying vinyl records before buying vinyl records was cool again. Sounds like a smug statement but that’s true.
The reason I got into it was a friend of mine, who was also the guitarist in my band at the time, had one. We would drink and listen to rockabilly and lots of other great stuff from the ’50s and the ’60s.
The first vinyl record I ever bought was an Eddie Cochran compilation. From then on, I was a bit hooked. I even raided my parents’ collection and made some of their records my own. Though I couldn’t find much I felt was cool enough to make the cut.
For years, however, I have had to cut down on my record shopping because I have been living like a drifter. There is nowhere for me to store my vinyls and I also never get to listen to them.
Yet, I often accost one of the reasons why I long to settle down somewhere with my desire to start collecting vinyls again – pick up where I left off.
Something else has happened over these past few years: I have embraced digital streaming platforms. I am constantly on Spotify and I love it. It has helped me discover some great new music.
It is not only because of this that my attitude towards buying vinyl records has changed.
When I first started out, I thought buying well-known records was the way to go. This, I suspect, is what many people do, especially when they first start buying vinyls. I used to even spend a lot of hard-earned cash on brand new reissues, remastered sets and so on.
While I totally see the appeal in doing that, I understand that the truest potential of buying records lies in the bargain bins of second-hard stores across the globe. That’s where you will find forgotten gems, things you will not be familiar with.
Some of them won’t even be available via digital streaming platforms, or the internet at large. That to me is where it gets truly interesting — that’s where it feels like you’re unearthing something — that’s where it feels like you’re making discoveries, much like an archaeologist would.
I was thinking about this yesterday because I went to my favorite record store in Galway. I couldn’t really find anything I wanted and in any case, as I mentioned, I am not currently looking to buy anything.
The shopkeeper, possibly seeing that I hadn’t yet picked out anything, looked at me and kindly said, “This is where the good stuff is,” pointing at one of the boxes.
I thanked him and when I got to the box, I could see that he was right. Lots of Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, The Jam, two copies of Getz/Gilberto, anniversary editions of The Velvet Underground & Nico… That’s definitely good stuff to me.
But if I would have walked out of the store, I wouldn’t have walked out with one of those acclaimed titles. In fact, the one record that interested me the most was one by a band called Distorsions, which I didn’t know at all but had a cover artwork that seemed to me very ’70s garage – though I couldn’t be sure it was indeed a product of that era.
Whenever someone asks me what my favorite of the records I own is, I tell them it’s one by The Waikiki Beach Boys, called “Breeze of Hawaii.” Not necessarily because of the music — a chilled out Hawaiian type of affair that is mostly background stuff for relaxation — but because to me, it encapsulates the potential of discovery that vinyl record shopping has.