Vinyl Answer

Every record tells a story. Here's a few stories in my collection.

Also, I've been a down-to-earth vinyl nut for decades, so if you want some record collecting advice, just ask.
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I got here at 6:30 and I’m number 7 on line outside Mr. Cheapos in Mineola, NY. Third guy got here at 5:30. Questioning my values and direction in life. Also not going home and back to sleep, so that tells me everything I need to know.

Woke up by accident at 5:45am and couldn’t fall back asleep. Instead, I lay thinking that if I went to get on line at this stupid hour, I’d hate myself, but if I stayed in bed, I wouldn’t be able to sleep, wondering if I should’ve gotten up. So I’m up and I hate myself.

Billboard video interview with co-founder of Record Store Day

Accidentally stumbled upon a new vinyl collecting tip tonight: Visit your favorite record shop a day or two before Record Store Day, because they’ve been getting ready for it—cleaning up, making sure all the good stock is out, maybe they’ve dragged a few goodies out of storage to sell on the big day when they get more customers…and I had a good run at it before it got picked over.

The shop I visited had some bootlegs out I’ve not seen there before and the “just traded in” bins had been seriously freshened up. Would they sell me any RSD stuff early? Of course not, but it’s all set to go, hidden under a black sheet. So yeah—found some cool stuff before RSD; expect I’ll try that again next year.

Mike McGear is Paul McCartney’s brother—a fact good enough to get him a record deal. I guess he used the pseudonym so that no one could accuse him of trading on the family name, but on the other hand, Paul’s hand is all over this album, from co-writing most of the songs to producing the whole album, to getting most of Wings circa 1974 to play on it. Heck, Paul even makes a cameo on the front cover in the lower right corner!

Back in the Eighties, it seemed like every year, one instrumental would hit the top 10—a concept that seems totally bizarre today. There was the Miami Vice theme, Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” and Kenny G’s “Songbird”…and there was this track: Harold Faltermeyer’s “Axel F.”

Taken from the soundtrack to Beverly Hills Cop, the song was just one in a string of hits from the film, including the Pointer Sisters’ “Neutron Dance” and Glenn Frey’s “The Heat Is On.” Every time one of those songs appeared on MTV, it was basically a free 4-minute ad for the movie, so it’s no wonder they tried to milk it by turning this fairly Blah track of filler into a single. It worked though—Teenaged Me picked this 12-inch up while on vacation in London…and Adult Me can’t figure out for the life of me why.

I found a nice rarity for my Thomas Dolby collection: a Thompson Twins double-45 gatefold pack from the UK, circa 1982, which features him on three of its four tracks. Just before his solo career took off, TD paid the bills by touring as a session musician backing the Twins (still a seven-piece band trying to be the Talking Heads at that point), so he appears on two live tracks on the second 7-inch. He has a pretty notable presence in the songs, too—his synths aren’t buried in the mix at all, so his playing style definitely comes through. Guess it went well, because he appears on the studio-recorded A-side, “Runaway,” as well.

Sure, you drive a slick BMW that you use to pick up your astrophysicist supermodel girlfriend and take her out to your beachfront vacation house in the Hamptons where you chill with the biggest names in showbiz.

I, on the other hand, own the 12-inch extended dance remix of “Pac-Man Fever,” and you can only WISH you did. Stop drooling on your keyboard.

From a Kentucky newscast: How to turn a vinyl record into a homemade hovercraft. Must’ve been a slow news day.

Looking at the lists for RSD 2014, while it may be the most releases ever (600+), I have to say it’s not that great a line up. In fact, with less than a week away, I’m hard-pressed to find anyone who’s excited about RSD this year, regardless of their preferred genre.

Me, I’m an Eighties kid, so I’ll be looking for the Tears For Fears 10”, the glow-in-the-dark Ghostbusters 10”, and the Lake Shore Dive 7”. I’m on the fence about the Paramore 12”—and that’s about it. Four releases out of more than 600—what’s wrong with this picture?

Other folks I know are planning to look for one or two releases (the Alvins’ double 10” for instance), but can’t find anyone fretting about how they’ll afford everything they want as in past years.

I think part of the ennui this year is that there’s fewer major acts involved this time out, and the ones who are in have placed an emphasis on re-releases (Creedence? The Doors? 30 dollars for repressings of originals you can find in the $1 bin?). Also, a lot of longtime RSD stars skipped it this year—nothing from McCartney or The Stones, for instance, who always seems to have something out for the event. And then there’s the abundance of ‘me too’ releases that will probably wind up collecting dust in record stores for months to come—Katy Perry’s Prism LP is sure to be 2011’s ultra-obtainable Lada Gaga picture disk, for instance.

What’s your take on RSD this year—flood or dud?

UK gatefold double 7-inch pack. Gene Loves Jezebel were the fey-est hard rock band out there in the late ’80s, but this, “Gorgeous” and especially their GnR ripoff, “Jealous,” were all decent songs.

This is a 45 that The Goops put out in the mid-1990s for their punk cover of “Build Me Up Buttercup,” which came with a 12-page comic book [click on the pics to read it]. I saw them live once, opening for Too Much Joy, and they were great; the singer was an absolute dynamo onstage. The song I remember them for, however, was “Vulgar Appetites,” which—going out on a limb here—is exactly the song that Billy Joel would’ve written circa 52nd Street if he liked punk rock. The vocal melody and especially the lyrics are soooo Billy, it’s not even funny—and that’s a compliment.

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One of the best parts of record collecting is The Find—that awesome moment when you find a record you’ve just gotta have. That’s what happened at a flea market the other day when I found this 12” remix of Digital Underground’s hip-hop classic, “The Humpty Dance.” It’s funny and funky, but this copy was filthy! Look at all that dust and dirt, plus those smudges on the grooves? That was mold growing on it, just like the pizza in the back of your fridge. Yecch!

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Dude, you can’t put a record like that on your turntable—not only will it sound awful, but it’ll mess up your needle, so it’ll make your other records sound bad, too.

Here’s the thing about cleaning records: The more money you spend, the smaller and more imperceptible the differences will be. You can spend nearly $7,000 on a Keith Monks record cleaning machine, and I’m sure it’ll do a great job, but it will only be moderately better than the cleaning that a $750 Music Hall record cleaning machine will do, which in turn is only moderately better than an $80 Spin-Clean, so you get the idea. Is there a difference? Yes, absolutely—a flea-market record cleaned by a Monks will sound a lot better than a Spin-Cleaned one any day. Is it worth spending $7,000? Buddy, if you have the money for a Monks, why are shopping in flea markets?

I can tell you this much: Your best return on investment is to get a good, quality record cleaning brush for $15-30. A good brush and some patience will get about 70 percent of the results that an RCM will get, and if you’re not super picky about your sound, that’s all you need. If you’re just starting out collecting, don’t drive yourself crazy wishing you could save up for an RCM—just get a brush, use it and be happy. If you wind up becoming a serious record collector, then yeah, you’ll want to up your game at some point; it took me a few decades, so again, no rush.

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Hunt brush is generally considered the best brush for cleaning your records; it runs $30 and will get most of the dust and crud out of your vinyl. I have two of them—a Hunt and this one in the photo, the Milty Super Exstatic, which is the same exact brush but with a different name silkscreened on it. Avoid the crummy RCA Discwasher kits—they just push the dirt around on your record. As you can see in the photo above, it got a lot of dust out of the grooves—it’s all piled up in that wavy gray line—but if you look closely on the vinyl, the mold was still there.

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So I took the record up to my attic and slapped it on my RCM. I own a VPI 17.5, which I don’t think they make any more. I bought it used for $300 from my favorite used record store when they upgraded to a VPI Typhoon. That was more than I wanted to spend, but an opportunity is what it is, so look on Craigslist and your local classifieds first—you might find a deal.

You can clean a record by hand just as well as an RCM—it’s just a tool for doing it faster and more consistently. In the photo, cleaning fluid is on the record, and a brush is gently scrubbing up the muck in the grooves while the turntable spins. If you’re cleaning records in your sink by hand, use cleaning fluid and a brush (not the Hunt brush), go with the grooves and not against them, and then use distilled water to rinse. Here’s some great advice on recording cleaning methods from an outfit that makes record cleaning fluid; I don’t use their stuff, but their philosophy about cleaning records is very down to earth.

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Here’s the end result—a much cleaner record that I can actually play without ruining my needle. This photo also shows what RCMs can’t do, because you can see there’s still blemishes and surface-level scratches. No amount of cleaning will fix a nasty scratch; that sounds obvious, but it’s a truth. Some records are just beyond salvage.

This one, though, sounds great and I’m done with writing ‘cause I gotta go do the humpty dance. (Do the hump, do the humpty hump, c’mon and do the humpty hump!)

Kraftwerk’s classic “Pocket Calculator” had a plastic bag for a sleeve. The B-side is the same song in Japanese.

What a lineup: The Smiths, U2, Cocteau Twins, and, er, Bronski Beat. Well, 3 out of 4 ain’t bad. New Musical Express was a UK weekly tabloid magazine that ran for decades (the website’s still around). Back in May, 1985, an issue came with this free EP of exclusive tracks; to my knowledge, none of them ever appeared anywhere else.