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Sunday, 25 February 2018

Confessions of a born-again vinyl junkie

I'm not sure how it happened, but in the past year I seem to have fallen into the habit of buying quite a few second-hand records.

You know - vinyl. That stuff everyone's been banging on about ("vinyl revival" etc ). That people have been putting into their godawful caf├ęs or hotels to make them seem "hip". And that "vinyl-only" DJs have been bragging about playing as if it's some kind of virtue in itself.

Yes, records. Oldish ones. All scratchy and clogged up with dust. Shoved unceremoniously into torn paper sleeves and discoloured, creased and generally fucked-up cardboard sleeves. And (perhaps most annoying of all) often adorned with several layers of record shop price labels which will only come off if you scratch away at the sleeve until there's a hole (great).

As I've previously mentioned (yeah, I'm a bit of a broken record myself), I became thoroughly bored and vaguely repulsed years ago by all the vinyl fetishising that had been going on. Doubtless it was itself a small-scale reaction to the endless marketing of digital players and music on phones - but still, how tiresome. And yet ... strange to say, I've probably ended up buying more records in the past 12 months than in any other period of my life. "Why's that, Niluccio?", I hear you cry. Well ...

Here's the thing. It's cheapness. And curiosity. And some sort of deeper appreciation of records, in all their old-fashioned clunkiness.

Cheapness: for example, yesterday I picked up 20 records (LPs and 12"s) for £10. These included The Fall's Telephone Thing, Gary Clail On-U Sound System's Dreamstealers, UB40's Signing Off, a couple of jazz and hip-hop LPs, and numerous as-yet-to-be-played house/techno/electro 12" singles from artists I'm completely unfamiliar with. At 50p each they're not as cheap as name-your-price downloading (which I do quite a lot of), but definitely ... reasonable.

Just another pile of product

And at this price it's fairly painless to indulge your curiosity. In recent months I must have bought about 30 almost-anonymous 12"s just because they looked vaguely interesting. Nearly all have turned out to be some variant of house/techno/electro, and nearly all have been pretty good.

Which brings me to appreciation. Appreciation for records as records. For me it's not about thinking of records as supremely lovely artefacts or holding them in higher esteem than cassettes or CDs (which I don't). It's not about fetishising records and it's not a comparative issue. Instead, it's a sort of marvelling at the incredible durability of these easily-damaged things. And a sense that they're amazing survivors of decades of ownership/rough handling/neglect/whatever else has happened to them. Most of the ones I've been buying are at least 10-15 years old, with some 40 or even 50 years old. And there they are - in the bloody bargain bins in record shops (the lowest of the low). They've been picked over by all the crate diggers and the new-generation vinyl buyers, and they're still worth getting. And amazingly enough, they nearly all play perfectly well, despite their scratches and their ground-in dirt.

More than 30 years ago I left my job in a record shop and swore I'd never buy another record in one of these awful places. And guess what, dear reader: I never did. Well, not a new one anyway. Since then it's been bits and pieces of second-hand stuff, lots of home-taping (guilty!), lots of downloading and er, going to gigs.

For years I hardly ever went into a record shop, seeing them as the commercial antithesis of all that was artistically worthwhile in music. But in-store gigs have dragged me back. And now I'm hooked.  I crave the stuff! Fresh grooves for my tired old stylus. So please, please hear my plea - gimme some more records! I'm a born-again vinyl junkie and I need my vinyl fix ...


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