Friday, September 30, 2011

Public Service Announcement: Collecting Records Is Awesome

As most of you already know, in addition to being the best writer on the planet and the handsomest guy in town, I’m also a DJ and record collector in my spare time. I’ve stuck stubbornly to the practice of playing and collecting vinyl records, even though the medium is becoming increasingly obsolete (Editor’s note: became obsolete, and that was thirty years ago, but whatevs), and even though, from the standpoint of pure physical effort, it’s spectacularly impractical as compared to the widely-used digital alternatives.

When I lived in New York, I used to frequent a record store called Sound Library on Avenue A and 13th Street. I started going when I was living just a few blocks away, and kept coming back even after I moved to Queens and needed to take two trains into Manhattan to get there. They had a great selection, of course, but what really drew me there was their dollar 45 bin. (For the uninitiated, 45’s are those tiny little records with only one song on each side.) Sound Library also had a listening station set up: A row of turntables where you could listen to records you were thinking about buying. I would post up for hours with their dollar 45 bin, going through hundreds of records, and maybe finding five or six good ones. It’s even harder to come across a hidden gem like that in LA where – other than Turntable Lab on Fairfax – nobody has a listening station like Sound Library’s. You either need to know exactly what you’re looking for, or you need to guess based on the record label, the artist, the year produced. Sometimes I buy records based on the cover art, and believe it or not, it’s a surprisingly effective methodology.

That feeling of sifting through a stack of records and finding that one truly excellent song is indescribably glorious, especially so in the realm of vinyl collecting where there’s a legitimate chance that the record you just found is one that very few people actually know about. I know, I know, this is one of the classically obnoxious tropes of hipsterism: priding yourself on listening to music that nobody else knows about. But those hipsters are lying to themselves. No, dingus, you’re not the only person who listens to The Tallest Man on Earth. Yes, I’ve heard of Band of Horses.

But collecting records is different. Case in point: Back in college, me and a few friends of mine – vinyl collectors, all three of us – became infatuated with the music of famed composer Ennio Morricone. My buddy Sean, on a crate-digging binge on day, stumbled across the soundtrack to a weird-sounding Italian quasi-docu-drama called “Malamondo”, composed entirely by Morricone. He bought it – for a dollar, no less – and brought it back up to school where we spent an afternoon listening to it. And it was amazing. Lush and orchestral in classic Morricone fashion, but at the same time almost comically upbeat. We tried to find a copy of the movie, but couldn’t. Both the movie and the soundtrack seemed to have, somewhere along the line, fallen into deep obscurity. This amazing soundtrack, we thought, was ours. Nobody else knew about it. And that glorious feeling comes back to me every time I hear one of those songs.

Every time I walk into a record store now, I look for a copy of that soundtrack. And ten years later, I still haven’t found one. Oh sure, I could probably order a copy off the internet. But that would be cheating. This record, my very own white whale, must be hunted down, caught in the wild. And even if it takes me my entire life, one day I’ll track down a copy of it. And God, will that feel amazing.

In short, I’m not going to go on a rant about how digital distribution formats are killing music collecting. It’s too far-gone at this point for my complaints to have any more weight than those of an embittered old man yelling at the bratty neighbors to get off his damn lawn. But my point is this: Yes, collecting vinyl is impractical. But, when you find that hidden piece of gold, it can be incredibly rewarding, a million times moreso than clicking a few buttons and buying a song from iTunes. So without further ado, I thus present you with a few selections from Ennio Morricone’s “Malamondo” soundtrack. And if you all, in listening to these songs, experience a fraction of the excitement and elation that we did ten years ago upon first discovering them, then I, as a writer and a record-collector, have done my job. And if you happen to find a copy of this in a record store somewhere, don’t buy it for me. Don’t call me and tell me about it. Just leave it there. I’ll find it, one of these days.

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