Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Records as Personal Artifacts

When buying a used record, occasionally you get more than the music and the cover art, you come across personal signs of the previous owner. Tonight as I pulled out MFSB's Love Is the Message, I noticed a small sticker on the back cover, the kind used as a return address label on envelopes with a name and full mailing address. When I pulled out the record from the sleeve, there was another small white sticker on the record label with "Alicia Saucedo" written neatly on it. This type of personal information always starts me thinking about the person who used to own the record. For example, what type of person decides to write her name on a label before sticking it to the record? Why didn't she write her name directly on the record label, like Zuckerman did with a felt pen on his (now my) copy of Led Zeppelin IV? Did she place the mailing label on the back cover, because she took the album to parties and wanted to make sure it was returned to her in case she left it behind? I could try writing Alicia to find out, if she still lives at the same address.

Once I bought half a dozen records at a shop. When I returned home I discovered inside two of the record jackets an index card with various dates written on it. I guessed the previous owner wrote down the date on the card each time he listened to the album, similar to a library card stamped each time the book is checked out. I felt an immediate affinity with him. After all, this is something I would do. (Instead I keep a notebook and now a blog.) Also, of the thousands of records in the shop, I happened to select two albums owned by him. As fastidious as he was about recording the dates he listened to an album, he had no inclination to leave his name anywhere on the album cover, the record or the card. So this kindred spirit remains nameless to me.

Then there was the time I brought home a copy of David Crosby's If I Could Only Remember My Name. When I opened up the gatefold cover, dried, almost powdery, marijuana leaves drifted to the floor. I shouldn't have been surprised.

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