Am I addicted to buying records? I was ten when we moved country and house a few times, and for a good while we didn’t have a TV. There was a red ghetto blaster which had an enormous aerial, which I was able to pick up loads of pirate stations from the city through the fuzz, mixed in with the usual dross, even though we lived in the suburbs. I guess this was the start of my interest in music, even though my parents had a small vinyl collection of stuff like Leonard Cohen, Cream, Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin, and other run of the mill acts. The first record I ever bought was in 1988 from HMV, and it was the Information Society’s “Tell Me What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)” 12-inch, who I’d describe as the poor man’s Depeche Mode. But it was the start. There were some decent ‘club’ mixes on it – as an eleven year old I wasn’t sure exactly which club they were referring to.
Musically as a teenager I drifted in several scenes, dance, guitar, jazz, hip hop, and even some experimental noise / musique concrete, and bought records when I could with money from odd jobs or pocket money savings. In the summer of 1992 I heard the Orb playing on a shop sound system and something in my brain exploded and went sideways. From them on I was completely absorbed and every spare penny went on collecting music that transported me somewhere else, even if that somewhere else was only a mile or two down the road.
As I reached 18 (I always looked young and had trouble getting into places when I was underage) the opportunities to hear music in social settings expanded and I found myself dancing and connecting people with similar interests, doing the rounds of all the central shops on a Saturday until my ears were ringing. With the money from my first job I had decks in my bedroom but never got the courage & confidence to DJ out much, bar the odd house party with friends. Then as an adult (a proper adult I mean, not just when I turned 18) myself, I moved around, and lived in five different countries in the space of ten years. Ferrying around records, decks, mixer, amp and speakers becomes expensive and problematic. The vinyl took a back seat in storage, even if music was still a cental part of life.
Now that I have settled down somewhat with my own space, my collection is back with me – even though I offloaded a portion of it to second hand shops, to my eternal shame. Occasionally I’ll think back over the years and wonder what was I doing at that time? I find that having the records from any year acts as a trigger for fond memories of that time. No other format fires my neurons up the way a record does. Once I was completely broke, digging in the used racks, and I swore to myself that I was only going to buy just this one Two Lone Swordsmen 2×12″ (Swimming Not Skimming) if I found it, as the vinyl release had different tracks to the CD. After recovering from a near heart attack from the absolute incredulity when I flipped through the racks, AND THERE IT WAS, I nearly cried with joy… identifying something on Shazam or buying it on discogs and waiting for the delivery just doesn’t have the same jouissance.
These days I like to listen (but certainly not constrained to!) to slower, atmospheric, deep house music. I try not to get shackled by the 4/4 rhythm but its hypnotic pulse lulls me into a trance and I find it hard to snap myself out of it. DJing with vinyl has a responsiveness and a physicality I like to engage with, that a CDJ or mp3 emulation does not replicate. And thankfully there’s a plethora of regular record fairs throughout south/east London to mainline that shit right into my veins. Is it ridiculous to accumulate this level of physical material when it can be stored on something the size of a credit card? Perhaps – but analogous to a printed book or actual photograph, I feel more comfortable about the longevity of the music in this format than a digital file. And retaining it is about sparking or evoking small moments of cerebral ecstasy in life. Being addicted to buying records isn’t such a bad addiction, and fellow addicts generally tend to be reasonably well-adjusted friendly types.