It is not uncommon to hear the acronym OCD* and my name in close proximity. The remark is invariably linked to the music collection. Its sheer volume. The rituals of care to protect it. The order. The tension between delight, comfort and satisfaction and the almost unbearable millstone it sometimes represents.
I once asked a fellow music-nut about his recorded music holding and he promptly slapped me down. ”Let’s not get into a dick-swinging competition,” he said. No, let’s not. So we’ll leave it at ‘big’.
Big enough that if I took one LP or CD per day (to keep the doctor away, you understand), I wouldn’t need to visit said physician for a couple of decades.
I blame affluence and greed. There are the resources to acquire goodies, so goodies are acquired. It’s a shameful admission and one I much prefer to avoid thinking about. Sometimes I hide the indulgence via deflection: a minuscule donation to a worthy cause, support for this or that. Kind of like attempting to hide a used car lot under a handkerchief. There is no deception like self-deception.
The protection of the asset involves several ceremonies. A treating professional’s diagnosis would allow that cleaning secondhand records before playing is a sensible and logical process; sound is improved and condition maintained. But cleaning new records? And what about the brand new inner sleeves? Writing that makes me laugh; I want to tell you about audiophiles who pay big bucks for top-end inner sleeves boasting all kinds of protective virtues. If I compare myself to them, how normal am I? So instead I’ll note that I purchase those (inexpensive, not-at-all lavish or obsessive) inner sleeves by the hundred. Or at least in fifties. Same with outer covers. A transparent square raincoat to shield the corruptible cardboard sleeves and precious vinyl from harm. They are vulnerable; need protection. The shepherd cares for his flock.
How can I possibly know all these uncountable albums? Put simply, I don’t. A tiny fraction—mostly those of my youth—are very well-known; played into my psyche like ink into a water glass, permanently colouring the way I hear music.
As the interest in different styles developed, these core albums were like stones in a lake, sending ripples out into previously unknown sonic worlds. Early on I noticed how an album that, on first listen, confounded with its complexity (or simplicity) or repelled with its intensity (or passivity) became, on subsequent listens, a trusted guide in unfamiliar territory.
But this romanticising is disingenuous. If I played every album sufficiently to really get to know it, the listening time would stretch to several lifetimes. Yet I still buy records. And I still listen to each new acquisition at least twice before filing.
Filing. Another source of jests. I’ve written about this at Vinyl Connection, so will not wander down that muddy path again, other than to observe that if you have a great many of something and want to find anything, you need order. The alphabet is very handy in this regard.
One of the most pleasurable parts of the process is carefully placing the new item, still warm and drowsy from its initial listens, into the correct place on the shelves. There’s a kind of release, an exhalation. And a sense of increasing the heft of the collection with this one-leaf addition. Sometimes I think it’s the weight of the record shelves that prevents me drifting off into space. Vinyl gravity.
Then there’s mastery: knowing stuff others don’t, being a repository of arcane information.
Custodianship, self-reward, addiction, blog-powering. We’re far from done, but we’re done for now. Anyway, I’m about to second-listen a lovely re-issue of the Dali’s Car album.
After which I’ll file it between Daddy Cool and Roger Daltry.
* Obsessive Compulsive Disorder: An anxiety condition characterised by repetitive thoughts or actions. Many people have set habits or know the experience of double-checking the front door; OCD is considered a diagnosis when it significantly interferes with everyday life. More here: