My passage into adulthood was marked in a manner appropriate for suburban youth in a consumerist culture: my first solo flight to the mall. Or, at least, the first one that was fully sanctioned by the authorities. And I had a mission, to buy a record album–another first. For the sake of posterity, I’m glad it was a worthy choice, one that can be remembered without embarrassment: the White Album.
And so began my days of collecting vinyl, which could be described as a 20-year binge-purge cycle. I spent the summer of my 15th year in England. The treasures I brought back included suitably mod clothes, Joy Division t-shirts never before seen on my side of the Atlantic, and a big stack of vinyl. A lot of Joy Division and Bauhaus, including a picture disc of “Burning from the Inside”, and assorted others. But within a couple of years, I had eschewed my disaffected friends, was sporting a crew cut and playing jazz on my ’59 Guild with Joe Edmonds and his London Youth Jazz Band. I couldn’t listen to enough jazz, so I hauled my pile of angst-ridden hip alternative vinyl to Dr. Disc and traded it all in. My high-priced imports bought me a huge stack of bargain bin jazz.
A few years later, and it was time to do it all over again. This time, out went the “Moe Kaufman live at George’s Spaghetti House” and in came the Beethoven, Bach & Brahms. I should say, that during each purge, I held on to a few precious discs. The stack never surpassed three feet, but had it not been for the two great purges, the pile would have been unmanageable for someone who was accustomed to moving every two years or so. By the time we left Toronto in 1997, vinyl had already becom somewhat antiquated, and the process of CD-ifying had already been underway for a few years. So we found a good home for everything that was left. An audiophile friend, heavily into vinyl, with a sound system that included tube amps, Thiel speakers, and a good turntable that was rigged onto some kind of plutonium bracket on his wall (so that a car could crash into his front door and not cause the record to skip, I guess). And there it all sits to this day.
Now if everything that was ever released on vinyl was re-released on CD, there’d be no problem. But sadly, that’s not the case. It’s mostly old jazz records that I’m pining for. In some cases, the re-releases are done in tiny runs and then go out of print. Such is the case for “The Velvet Touch of Lenny Breau Live.” A great album by Canada’s finest jazz guitarist, and it’s no longer available.
Bill Rue, on the other hand, is someone who never got rid of any vinyl. Already famous in some circles for the cleverly-curated mix CDs he puts out every year, Bill now runs Vinyl Haven, a vinyl transfer service. No doubt, if I had held onto that Lenny Breau disc and all the rest, I’d be one of Bill’s customers right now.