My Vinyl Collection

I played music I can’t remember now on a portable record player when I was little. Rather than the traditional black vinyl, these ten-inch records came in colors like Play-Doh magenta and yellow — neither shades you’d ever actually select for any purpose. They may have even played at 78 RPMs.

The children’s recordings got pushed aside for a stack of 45s, culled by an older cousin from her collection to make room for new additions (Vicki, for her kids and other family who read my blog). The fifty or so cast-offs included my favorite from the bunch, Big Girls Don’t Cry. To tell you the truth, I can’t remember even one of the other songs.

My first album was Carole King’s Tapestry, a Christmas gift from my wonderful Aunt Toodles. I still love all twelve songs. Joining Carole before long, to name a few, were Judy Collins, the Mamas and the Papas, the Fifth Dimension, and Peter, Paul & Mary. The folkish twist stemmed from a short period when I called myself playing guitar. Bad as my guitar playing may have been, my singing was worse, and I abandoned my dream to be the next Woody Guthrie.

When eight-track tapes came along, I bought a few — most notably, John Denver’s Greatest Hits, my favorite Judy Collins album so I could listen to it in the car, and an early Pointer Sisters recording. Portability was the only thing eight-tracks had going for them. Thanks to the annoying click when tracks changed, the inability to find the song or sometimes even the track you wanted, and a tendency now and then for tape to spill out into the floorboard of the car, eight-tracks became obsolete in near record-breaking time.

Listening to a cassette tape was a lot more like listening to an album than had been the case with eight-tracks. But I never really bought into them as a format. Yeah, I had a few from specific artists– most given to me for birthday and Christmas gifts. But having seen my small investment in eight-tracks rendered worthless, I decided to stick to vinyl for my music purchases.

The great thing about cassette tapes was the ability to create a mixed tape — what we now call a playlist. Folks who didn’t have reel-to-reel (a highbrow option that never caught on with the masses and maybe was never supposed to) could now listen to nothing but their favorite songs on self-recorded 30, 60, 90, or 120-minute cassettes. Mixed tapes outnumbered store-bought tapes in my collection by at least three to one.

Some came from girls I dated during the cassette years. I made most myself. Guys put together two-hour tapes to play in the background when making love, whether they were getting any or not. Sorta like that one condom every boy carried around from sixth grade on … just in case.

My favorite mixed tape is a compilation of dance hits from around the time I came out. Thom Robinette, the DJ from Johnny Angels, made it for me on professional equipment in the attic of a mansion on South Ashland Avenue in Lexington, KY. I still have the tape, but nothing to play it on. I lost touch with Thom years ago and include his name here in the off-chance he’s still around. I’d love to hear from him.

My vinyl collection is the soundtrack of my life. Every song takes me to a time in my past, evoking an era, a phase, or a season. With a few, the memory is more specific, recalling to mind a sometimes long-forgotten moment. The value to me? Priceless.

When I moved from Lexington to Washington DC in July of 1996, fearing how they’d survive the long trip in a hot rented truck, I left several hundred albums — my entire collection — with a cousin. She had plenty of room to store them until I figured out whether I would stay in DC or return to Lexington. I ended up moving to Athens, my cousin died an early death, and for various and sundry reasons, I never saw my albums again.

Though compact discs were popular, I resisted buying many before my move to DC. My next (and worst of the bunch) partner, who I acquired in DC, moved in with thousands of them — an overwhelmingly quantity to manage, organize, or otherwise get any real use from that I ended up with after we split up. Eventually, I gave them to a struggling college student to sell online for half the proceeds. I didn’t care if he stole them (he didn’t). At least they were out of my house.

I did another big CD purge a few years later after I burned everything onto my desktop computer. Ooops. I lost most of that music when I switched to Apple.

Every now and then, I run across a forgotten song or album from my old collections and download it to my iPhone. A few weeks ago I added John Denver’s Greatest Hits, which I haven’t heard in its entirety since my eight-track copy spewed its guts all over the dash of the Pontiac I drove in the seventies. I cried almost all the way through my first listen to a very old and dear friend from my high school days.

Finest Man on Earth tells me Spotify is the way to go now. Pay the monthly fee and listen to whatever you want, and even create and download playlists to listen to on a smartphone. I might have to give it a try. But I don’t see it replacing my long-lost vinyl collection.

12 responses to “My Vinyl Collection”

  1. Ahhh… the memories!! I remember those 45s, and how I saved up my allowance to purchase my very own. Roses “dime” store. 77 cents apiece. 6th grade(ish) I was into bubble gum and Gary Puckett, and little bit of Tom Jones. I remember my first 8 track was Led Zeppelin (4). By then I was in high school, and we had this gargantuan stereo console that took up the entire wall with AM/FM radio, turn table, and 8-track deck. Since those days I have been through hundreds of albums, probably less than 50 actual 8-track tapes, and thousands of cassettes and CDs. I still have tons of CDs, pared down with each move. I never listen to them, but have burned some of my favorite stuff into iTunes. I made a few mix CDs, but mostly I listen to the playlists on my phone through iTunes. My car has a “media” button on the sound system that I can push and it plays the songs from my phone – which I love. I don’t think I’ve ever even listened to a CD in my car, and I’ve had it almost a year now.

    I think I may have some old albums at my mom’s house, but there are four albums that have endured all my moves: My uncle was a teenager when the first two Beatles albums came out (“Meet The Beatles”, and “Introducing The Beatles”), and he got copies of those. When he went into the Navy, I confiscated those from his stash, and have managed to hang on to them. They are very old, and scratched, (from hundreds of hours of play and mishandling by us kids) and the covers are a bit worn, but oh my goodness…. what great memories!!! The other two are classical – one Beethoven and one Bach – I have never been able to find those particular two albums in any other format, so I’ve hung onto them. I don’t own a turntable any more, and by today’s standards, the sound quality would be horrible, but I just can’t seem to part with them.

    It is strange/nice/sometimes sad just how much hearing a song can totally take me back to a specific point in time. Kind of like a good old “Poems, Prayers, and Promises” kind of thing. 😉 Loved me some John Denver, too!!

    • OMG! My parents had a console stereo like that, only it didn’t play 8-tracks or cassettes, having predated both. Even obscure songs that were never really favorites of mine will trigger a memory. The soundtrack of our lives…

    • Alas, I rarely purchase any music these days…perhaps a function of my age and lack of exposure to new stuff. The last few songs I’ve downloaded have been Zumba favorites 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by…

  2. I have a funny/sad story about my 45’s….I had a collection of 45’s and I kept them in a carrying case. I probably had over 100 45’s in that case. My son was outside playing one day, he was about 5 years old. I kept hearing an unusual sound, so I walked out in the backyard to see what they were doing. They were using my 45’s as Frisbees……hitting them against a tree…..By the time I got out there they had already broken about a third of my collection 🙁

  3. wow, i’ve still got all my old records housed up in our ever ending loft. If only I had a record player *sigh* but like you i’ve put all those songs that have meaning for me on my Ipod including the Elvis Presley “Home is Where The Heart Is” which my dad introducted me to when I was around 7. I had a person rent a room from me when I was in my 20’s and when they moved out they managed to take half my record collection with them. That did cost a bit to replace :(.
    Thanks for sharing, brilliant post 🙂 x

    • Thanks for stopping by, Manty. I didn’t have any Elvis in my collection, though I do have A Little More Satisfaction–the song released a few years ago–on my iPhone. The one from my parents is The Brothers Four from my mother, and I do have that CD.