What was once an antiquated sport of the nebbish and the meticulous has now become a widespread phenomenon. No, not chess. We’re talking record collecting. Gradually, the disappearing species of music stores evolved (or revolved) into vinyl creatures with needles so pristine and true. Audiophiles rejoice! Your time has yet again risen!
But in this jubilation and celebration of the musical record comes peril, too. On a recent record-hunting trip to San Diego, Calif., with her boyfriend, writer Melissa Bobbitt discovered some definitive pros and cons of the wax quest.
PRO: Everything Old Is New Again
All the David Bowie, Heart and Cheap Trick records you meant to check out as a youthful music fan can now be yours for a fair price. Slightly or heavily used albums run at chains like the fabulous Thrift Trader for under $6 and include gems such as The Swing Era: 1936-1937. And 45s are aplenty at today’s record stores. You have to be willing to battle dust, torn sleeves and a lot of no-name prints, but there was much elation when at Off the Record we found Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do) and Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds.”
CON: Everything Old Is Cool Again – Which Means Higher Prices
For every record store in SD that charged cheap prices for classic used albums, there were three that siphoned the wallets of aspiring collectors. Taang! Records in Hillcrest was especially gouging. We get it— they’re the brick-and-mortar version of the company that brought us Adicts and Lemonheads releases, so they’ve got a punk attitude to uphold. But the employees were aloof and rolled their eyes when we audibly complained about a $30 used copy of something like an Aerosmith album. It wasn’t rare, and it certainly wasn’t in good condition. What could possibly justify a price that high? At least with new vinyl, the companies include download codes so buyers have digital versions of the songs. These relics? You get the “pleasure” of supporting an independent store and hearing all those pops, crackles and… lots and lots of skips on your find.
PRO: Cheese Is Good
Everyone has his guilty pleasures. And record shelves are now chock full of them. Pay 99 cents on iTunes for one awesomely bad song by Men Without Hats or pay 99 cents at a Goodwill for the entire album— that might just unveil even more delicious cheese? The choice is obvious. We visited multiple Goodwills in San Diego and revealed in Engelbert Humperdink (the magic is in his name).
CON: Too Much Cheese Will Give You Gas
As novel as Goodwill’s and Thrift Trader’s vinyl offerings are, too many of the same albums show up. We thumbed through endless Bread, Mel Torme and Linda Ronstadt records, suggesting everyone’s grandmothers had the same taste in tunes. Record and thrift stores ought to have a limit on artists such as these. Sorry, Ethel— nobody under the age of 70 wants your Carousel soundtrack.