Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Book Received: Old Records Never Die by Eric Spitznagel

Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His PastA little less than a year ago I got my turntable and record collection out of storage, had the turntable serviced, and have been playing records since. I've even added a few new titles to the collection.[1]

However, as I went through my records, cleaning them (using the Spin-Clean Record Washer System) and then cataloging them via, I discovered, much to my dismay, that dozens of titles were simply missing. My wife said that maybe, in my misguided youth, I sold the records for cash and simply forgot that I had done so. But I ask you: Who sells an original pressing of Led Zeppelin II, or Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, or Zappa's Ruben and the Jets? Hmmm? Who, I ask you?

Somewhen, probably while I was traveling (I had hitchhiked across the United States in my youth), and/or attending college (UCLA, UMass/Amherst, Sonoma State, UofO/Eugene, and back to Sonoma), and/or living in different areas and states, my record collection was pilfered. I won't name names, but I have a fairly good idea what may have happened to them, but I won't talk about my family here.

I've searched online for some of these albums, but most are too pricey and/or in too poor a shape, for the original pressing, or else all that I can find are reissues, and more reissues. During one of these searches, I came upon a review for a book entitled Old Records Never Die: One Man's Quest for His Vinyl and His Past by Eric Spitznagel. The premise is that Eric sold/traded in, over time, his massive record collection, mostly for spare change (gas money, fast food, movies, etc. -- his John Mellencamp Scarecrow album garnered a whole ten cents!). And now, in his 40s, he's feeling the loss -- and decides he's going to return to the scenes of the crimes and try to track down some of those records. Not replacement copies, mind you -- but the exact same copy of the record that he once owned! Crazy? I'll have to wait to see, as I'm only on chapter two.

The introduction is by Jeff Tweedy, singer, songwriter, and producer, whose bands include Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt, and Wilco. Here's Tweedy's and Spitznagel's four-and-a-half-minute trailer for Old Records Never Die:

I don't know that I could search for the exact copies of my missing records, since I don't know where and when they went missing, but I'll still have to find a VG+ or better replacement copy of the original pressing at an affordable price. Forget the reissues; worse case I'll just settle for the CD. Here's an excerpt from Old Records Never Die:

As I browsed Reckless, there were albums that were entirely foreign to me, and albums that were instantly familiar. But the old friends, they'd all been given an upgrade. Fugazi's Repeater? A reissue. The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead? Another reissue. Anything by the Replacements? Only one Tim and two Pleased to Meet Mes, both reissues. Even the crown jewel of my collection, the record I bought solely because a guy with Elvis Costello glasses and a nose ring behind the counter at Record Swap recommended it, Screeching Weasel's How to Make Enemies and Irritate People, was only available as a reissue.

Everything was a deluxe edition, remastered on 180-gram vinyl, now with original artwork. The stickers that used to read FEATURING THE RADIO HIT . . . now promised things like INCLUDES A DOWNLOAD CODE AND HIGH-RES DIGITAL AUDIO EDITIONS IN 2.8 MHZ, 12 KHZ / 24-BIT, AND 96 KHZ / 24-BIT! I recognized the covers, but the albums felt different. It's not just that they were new; there was something too slick in the design, too high-definition in the packaging.

...[I] drifted toward the used section, which was actually labeled LAST-CHANCE SALOON.

This was more promising. Here were the records that might've come from my personal library. Not the titles, necessarily, but the general poor condition. They smelled like something that'd been left in the basement during a Chicago winter. If you grabbed them with too much force, the sleeves folded back. I spent almost a full minute cradling albums like Bryan Adams's Cuts Like a Knife and the Greg Kihn Band's Kihnspiracy, not because they were records I particularly cherished, but because they had the physical battle scars of music from my era. Also, it didn't hurt that the average price for a bargain bin record—fifty-nine cents on the high end—meant I could probably buy back my entire collection for about a hundred dollars.

I'm all for superior sound quality, but vinyl made after 2000 is fundamentally different from vinyl made in the twentieth century. It smells different, it feels different. The vinyl copy of the Pixies' Doolittle I purchased at Reckless in 1990 is only tangentially related to the reissue vinyl copy, ticket price $19.99, currently for sale at Reckless. I don't give a shit about rare test pressings. Or when new albums come with free download coupons. Or colored vinyl. Or goddamn picture discs. I want the records I recognize. The records that feel like a part of my double helix.

You can read more about this book on the author's website: In fact, the website has a special section, Lost Found, where people can post photos of the records they have found, that were all marked up by the original owner, along with the original owner's name, if it was written on the album. Check it out.



[1] As I wrote in my December 15, 2015, blog post entitled "And Now for Something Completely Different: Vinyl," I begrudgingly gave up on buying LPs when the recording industry moved, in earnest, toward the CD. Finally, on July 13, 1990, I broke down and purchased a CD player and my first stack of CDs. I still have my CD library and, in fact, many of the LPs I'm missing are in my CD collection, or bits and pieces of those LPs are included in box sets. But vinyl...vinyl is the true love of music listening.

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