Friday, April 16, 2010

Creatures of the Vinyl Forest

The harsh reality facing the record collector is the dearth of listenable morsels in the vast vinyl forest of record stores and record swaps—and a proliferation of forest creatures after the same tasty morsels. In the Soul and R&B section, you’ll find DJs, hipsters, and collectors digging through worthless 70s and 80s soul and disco records for that obscure, rare 70s soul album that may be tucked away in the bins. You usually won’t find the most prolific creature of the vinyl forest, the doughy middle-aged man, in this corner of the forest. He’s foraging in the Classic rock and Jazz section, looking for original pressings of Neil Young albums or Miles Davis albums. Sometimes the doughy middle-aged man has his spouse in tow. You may think this is an advantage for the doughy middle-aged man, being able to scour twice as many albums in the same amount of time, but the spouse is invariably useless. Rarely does she come up with anything of value. A common scene in the vinyl forest is of a spouse approaching her record-collecting husband with a handful of records and excitement in her voice only to be deflated by the shake of his head as he glances at the worthless rubbish she has dug up.

Then there are doughy middle-aged men who have developed a special diet, say, of mono classical records, in which no one else has the faintest interest. I envy this sort. They can be found gorging by themselves in this untrampled corner of the vinyl forest. I’ve seen them walk away with boxes full of records from a store, while I could only manage to find two or three albums worth taking home. Other creatures not to be concerned about are the young pups just starting to collect records, lacking in the knowledge of desirable pressings and rare titles. When they mature into doughy middle-aged collectors with accumulated knowledge of the vinyl forest, they will become more formidable competition.

By far, the fiercest competition for Rocky is the hipster, who, despite his youth, has somehow honed his skills in sniffing out rare indie rock from the 80s and 90s, jazz and soul jazz from the 60s, and other staples of Rocky’s diet. I’ll never forget the unnerving feeling I had standing elbow-to-elbow with a twentysomething hipster at a record store, the sidelong glances that came my way as I was checking out the Replacements’ Stink, and the cool tone of his voice as I made a motion to return the album to the bin, “Are you going to get that?” Even though I had decided not to get it, I almost responded, “Yes, I am”, as my hoarding instinct kicked in. These hipsters may look like they sleep 18 hours a day, but their voracious appetite for vinyl knows no bounds. They will lay waste to the richest of the vinyl forests.

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