Diary of a Record Collector, Vol. 2

Radio was my first conduit for experiencing music.

But it wasn’t the only one.

My parents had record albums.

And people gave records to me when they grew out of them.

I am not sure how that came about.

I was young so I have no memories of how I came to possess these records that were older than me.

Mostly they were pop albums and singles from the 60s.

One of them was Every Mother’s Son’s Back.

This is the only ‘song’ that I remember from it, which just missed the Billboard top 40 but did go Top 10 in Canada.

It’s not quite psych, it’s not quite rock, and not quite sunshine pop, but it seems to sit at the crossroads of those styles.

The other thing I remember about it is this – a ‘birthday party’ for band member Larry Larden:

I also had a copy of this soundtrack given to me on the United Artists label:

I also recall having the first two Stones albums on London Records:

And I remember having Something Special! The Best of Tommy James & the Shondells:

It’s odd, but I don’t much remember playing or getting into The Beatles and the Stones.

It was the Sons and, more specifically, James and the Shondells that resonated most from those handoffs, and I think I know why.

It wasn’t the hooks or more agreeable nature of those albums.

It was a sense of wistfulness I was hearing in songs like Mirage.

(Okay, the novelty of a birthday party on vinyl explains why Every Mother’s Sons remains a strong memory).

I also recovered a memory of having this album given to me, which is funny, because years later I ‘discovered’ Scott Walker through a second-hand copy of It’s Raining Today, a compilation pulled together by, uh, Marshall Crenshaw:

All of those albums are long gone.

I cannot imagine they were in the best shape when they were handed off to me.

And I am pretty certain I removed any musical value they had left.

If I wasn’t accidentally spilling beverages on them, I was scratching them or breaking them.

I remember someone giving me a bunch of 78s, which is pretty much like giving a kid a box of broken glass because I reduced a lot of them to jagged pieces by grace of being a child.

One of them was a XMas song my mom tried gluing back together and never fails to remind me I ruined, even if she cannot remember what the song was.

But most times, I’d just press the needle down into the groove to try and fix skips or scrape the needle heavily all about the groove if I didn’t like a song.

That drove my father crazy because I am sure there were weeks that he was going to buy new needles almost daily for the monster stereo cabinet I somehow came into owning.

So the memory of those records was about all I retained.

And it would be my parents’ LPs I would have to content myself with if I wanted to listen to music on demand.

Confessions of a Record Collector: I – Where it began

In High Fidelity, the protagonist question is what came first – the music or the misery?

That’s not exactly my question.

My question was where did the interest in music come from?

Did people give me records because I was interested in music?

Or did I become interested in music because people passed off records to me?

I think my interest in music predated having records.

It was something that was always there.

Not just on the alarm clock radio that woke my parents every morning.

It was on their stereo.

It was the jingles on TV.

It was just everywhere.

I couldn’t begin to say what the first song is that I can remember, but it may be this:

I think if I had to try and determine my reaction to it, I was both fascinated and traumatized by it.

Fascinated by it because it was catchy enough that my ears perked up when I heard it and I tried to sing the chorus.

Traumatized because I knew Freda was locked in some grave uncertainty, in the darkness of a lonely room, hoping for a resolution to something I could not comprehend.

Even to this day, I have no idea what transpired in that song.

Lamont Dozier, one of the writers, says it is about two newlyweds working out their differences.

But ‘love me like you tried before’ hints at sexual dysfunction.

None of that would have registered with me then.

It was just something that sounded good, and yet urgent.

I felt for Freda.

I wanted her to be okay.

So I was invested in her well-being, and in the song.

But I also noted that, at a certain point, I didn’t hear that song much anymore.

And that is probably part of what started my interest in records.

Because at some point, it was probably explained to me that songs are only on the radio so long as they are a hit.

When they drop down the charts, they all but disappear.

Well, at the time they seemed to.

And so I learned a valuable lesson.

If you wanted to be able to hear a song on demand, you had to somehow own a copy of it.

And I think that realization planted the seed for collecting records.

I just needed a way to do that as a child.

Fortunately, there were people who would help me get started.