I recently became separated from a rather large compact disc collection. We live in the Digital Age, so this is theoretically not a problem; almost everything I listened to on CD is available on demand through the ever expanding selection of streaming music services--Spotify, Deezer, Amazon Prime Music, and dozens of others.
But have you ever stared into empty search box? Sometimes it's staring into the abyss, a soul-scraping job. You know you like music, a lot of music, music that has been integral to the phases and changes of your life. But nothing comes, and you feel as if strata of your past have been paved over. Maybe, desperately, you close your eyes and imagine yourself standing before a bookcase full of CDs, scanning the dusty shelves of your brain for just the right thing. Of course, there are "recommendation engines," but I'm a hard case, and algorithms won't find that song that moved you at age 15 if you haven't thought of it for 30 years (*cough*). That's just something you need to stumble upon.
Maybe I'm exaggerating, but obviously I'm not alone. Beyond all the nostalgia that comes with record collecting, surrounding yourself in the physical artifacts of music (and books, natch) makes it easier to rediscover emotions and memories--good and otherwise--that might be lost, were the music attached to those experiences ephemeral. Even the pops and scratches become integrated into the music, lending an aspect of time and personal history to the act of listening. Digital is convenient and has its place (i.e., the future), but vinyl is just more fun.
I'm going on, but Eilon Paz's book gets right to the point. Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting ventures into the homes and record rooms of the most passionate collectors, presenting the epic collections of DJs, dealers, and quiet fanatics, along with interviews exposing the myriad motivations that drive such an anachronistic habit. Paz's book shares the peculiar obsessiveness of its subjects; like vinyl itself, if you don't get it, you just don't get it.
Enjoy these images from the book, as well as this introduction by the RZA, fellow vinyl-head and founder of the legendary hip-hop group, Wu-Tang Clan. Maybe he can convince you!
Sweet Analog Sounds
Foreword by the RZA
I am delighted and honored to be writing the foreword for such a cool book about vinyl collectors. It was record collecting and DJing that led to my career as a music producer, and so I feel like a kindred sporit to allthe collectors featured here. When I was a young DJ and vinyl-head, there was nothing like the joy of going to record stores and digging up LPs and 12-inches that were instrumental in my musical evolution. Records like Kurtis Blow's "The Breaks," the O'Jay's So Full of Love, Diana Ross "The Boss," Stevie Wonder's Original Musiquarium I, and Run DMC's King of Rock were life-changing and hugely influential on both a personal and creative level. I remember the thrill of ripping off the plastic, taking the vinyl out of the sleeve, and gently placing it on the turntable, making sure not to get any fingerprints on it. Then, as the record played, I would study the cover and get lost in the liner notes. These were deeply personal, intimate moments with music, and that's something an mp3 just can't duplicate.
Science says the human ear cannot differentiate between analog and digital, with the differences being so subtle. But I do not agree. The calculated digital wave lacks the randomness of analog. While digital duplication will always yield a concise sonic print, it's that unpredictable essence of the analog wave that makes it so much more satisfying to the ear. As as creator of and listener to music, I can hear the difference.
I started collecting vinyl at the age of 11 whilst living at my grandmother's house in Staten Island, New York. We had the turntable set up on the dining room table with crates of records stored underneath. I remember my first few purchases--the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight," Fatback Band's "King Tim III," and Jimmy Spicer's "Adventures of a Super Rhyme." Some came from major chains or mom-and-pop stores, others from a merchant selling his wares on a city sidewalk. As far as buying records was concerned, I knew no limits. I'd pick up vinyl for any good reason - sometimes I'd be struck by the cover art; other times I'd try to track down an entire run of a rare label that existed long before my time.
I will never forget my first chance to go vinyl shopping in the Bay Area. It was 1997, and I was working on the Wu-Tang Forever double album. King Tech took me down to Haight Street in San Francisco, where I came across some of the coolest record stores I'd ever laid eyes on - Open Mind, Groove Merchant (and their Love N' Haight reissue label), and the original, coolest, greatest of them all, Amoeba Records. I think I spent close to 10k on records during that trip. paying hundreds of dollars for a single piece of vinyl - namely the original pressing of the Black Caesar soundtrack by James Brown and Coffy by Roy Ayers. It was these LPs that I sifted through looking for ideas to add to the production of em>Wu-Tang Forever. Sadly, I lost every single one of those records when I left Cali. I had boxed up the records and instructed my label to ship them to my East Coast residence, but ahahaha... I think I got dipped on. Funny thing, as I found that a lot of hip-hop productions released after that period sounded strangely similar to my style.
I continue to seek out vinyl all over the world. One of my coolest finds was from France, where I picked up a copy of Antoine Duhamel's "Belphegor," an old French TV show theme that led to the production of Wu-Tang's top 40 hit, "Gravel Pit." At one point I had over 10,000 pieces of vinyl in my collection. While I still have a modest stash, most of my stock has been lost through time - partly due to flooding, theft, and giveaways.
Although the digital world dictates how we purchase and listen to music, it's great to see so many collectors and music fans still flying the flag for vinyl. We share in the knowledge that vinyl is still the unrivaled medium for music and has yet to be bettered. Each spin of a record offers a unique listening experience; each turntable has its own way of playing a record. There's just nothing like the sound of a needle hitting the groove, sending sweet amplified music straight to my ears.