Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My ten laws of record collecting

I've spent the weekend trying to tidy up my vinyl. This exercise forced me to admit to myself that I've got too much. I don't mean too much in the sense of "you can't possibly listen to it all", as my mother used to say. I mean too many records that I'm not all that bothered about and quite a few that I don't think I'll ever listen to. To give you an idea, a flick through the F's yields albums by Floy Joy, The Family Stand and Friends Again plus a solo album by Andy Fraser.

Of course, you just accumulate records over the years. You buy some. In my job you get given others. Then you start hanging on to the third album because you quite liked the first one, which is no way to carry on. If you were born in a certain era you never shake off the feeling that records are precious even when they're clearly not.

If I was starting again now, this is what I'd do:

  1. I would have fewer records by more people. There are a couple of dozen rock acts who have made more than two great LPs. In most cases two is plenty.
  2. Buy more singles and fewer LPs. Anybody worth their salt can condense their talent into a hit single. As a genre rock albums get far too much reverence and pop singles don't get nearly enough.
  3. Don't worry about formats. They're all provisional. They go in and out of favour. Look at all the people who "let their vinyl go" and have kicked themselves ever since.
  4. Don't bother with Greatest Hits albums. Nobody ever fell in love with a Greatest Hits album. Now that everything is going to be in the Cloud for ever there's really no reason for them at all.
  5. Don't bother "keeping up" with music. In general the best music is the oldest. As you get older you appreciate music that once seemed merely quaint. Louis Armstrong's been dead since 1971 but he'll never be as dead as [insert name of overrated contemporary artist here].
  6. Don't say "I like all kinds of things". Everybody thinks they've got broad taste. The more music you listen to the more you're aware of how much you've yet to hear.
  7. Buy more records by black musicians. Records made by black musicians are usually better than records made by white musicians. Most record collections have too much of the latter and not enough of the former.
  8. Don't bother alphabetising your records. Now that any tune you want to hear is a couple of clicks away you should approach your shelves in search of inspiration rather than enquiry.
  9. Don't worry if you let a record go. There is an angel watching over record lovers to ensure that you never ditch anything you are intended to hang on to. 
  10. Don't waste time trying to like things you don't like because you think you ought to. It's supposed to be popular music, for God's sake.


  1. A few more to add.

    1. Don't be put off by people not singing in English. You don't always need to understand the words to enjoy listening to something.
    2. Don't feel you need to buy something because it has got a 5 star review this month (especially if the same act is on the front cover of the publication with an exclusive interview).
    3. If you see reviews by people who seem to like the same things you do and they praise someone you have never heard of, try it since you may like it (eg I bought and enjoyed several CDs reviewed in The Word on this basis).

  2. Regarding 4, what about 'The Eagles - Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975)' which has sold 42 million copies?

  3. Greatest Hits albums these days sell a lot but probably aren't treasured. I bought Elvis' Golden Records Vol 1 and The Buddy Holly Story in 1961, and treasure them. Later artists not so much, but some artists are best as Greatest Hits -the Drifters, e.g. And probably James Brown.

  4. I couldn't agree more David. However, bring down the fog quotient:

    1. Listen to stuff you like.

    2. That's it, really.

  5. Haha,

    your post hits me directly in that space of intersection between my inner Music Collector (where completionism and currency rule) and inner Music Lover.
    In the interests of space, I think you're right- let the Music Lover rule!

  6. Read metaphorically, this post could be a guide to life...

  7. The comment on old music being the best is way too simplistic. I know this is part of your schtick but good music is good music whether it is new or old. For young people all music is new anyway.

  8. I'll have the Family Stand album if you don't want it

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  10. Anonymous5:58 pm

    Buy more records by black musicians. Records made by black musicians are usually better than records made by white musicians. Most record collections have too much of the latter and not enough of the former.

    That entirely depends on the music you like so I for one do not totally agree with your point No.7 .

  11. Number 8 stressed me out just reading it... my friend Bryan has the biggest record collection I have seen and it blows my mind that he keeps his tunes in no order... I am a firm believer in records being in alphabetical order. I your enjoyed the post