Sunday, April 15, 2007

Vinyl Archaeology

Before my big move away from the old home town, for something like eighteen years (eek!) I volunteered with their local Friends Of The Library. They'd put on regular fundraiser book sales, primarily using donations from the community. A great cause.

My jurisdiction was to process, sort, price and maintain the 'records & tapes' section, which also included videos, CDs, and books-on-tape, and it all kept me busy enough over the many years. Depending on the flow of donations, it could be sedate or a crazy crunch to keep on top of things. 'Spring cleaning' season was always busy.

Like anything else, much of the task was tedious and repetetive. Organizing, checking condition, seeing many of the same titles come in over and over and over again. But that's okay, I tend toward that sort of obsessive behavior anyway, and I like records.

It was solitary work, and as so much of the task became like second nature, I would get lost in my thoughts and began to find my enjoyment where I could.

The part of it that I probably grew to enjoy the most was the inevitable 'archaeological' aspects of digging through a box of old records that someone had donated, and piecing together a picture of that person.

Here are some examples.

Let's start with the LPs in this one big cardboard box over here...

- Hmm, so these were all the 'family' records before the divorce, but these 3 or 4 came after.
- Right, and these well-loved few are the remains of Mom's teen-heart-throb fixation from when she was young.
- Here's the beat-to-shit kiddie records...
- The 2 or 3 beat-up Xmas records and the other unfavored clean ones.
- Here's that trip to Portugal in the '60's.
- Here's the autographed steelband album from the '70's Caribbean cruise.
- The incongruous batch of old rock albums that the kids left behind when they went off to college.
- The incongruous batch of old Mario Lanza and Mantovani records from clearing out Granma's house.
- The incongruous Huey Lewis album, because '...our Kenneth went to high school with him.'

Alright, those are sorted, let's see what's in these other random grocery sacks and plastic shopping bags...

- Yep, oddly worn bad late '70's jazz-fusion: The 'too much coke' years.
- The fingerprint-laden disco 12" singles with the owner's name written on them in sharpie from when she taught that aerobics class.
- The big stack of showtunes and complete Streisand & Minnelli catalogs in pristine condition, with specially-purchased 'V.R.P.' inner sleeves, inserted newspaper clippings, and a sheet of typed notations; oh, we SO know his story.
- The self-help cassette series where the final 6 tapes are still sealed in shrinkwrap.
- The unopened gag-gift Slim Whitman album.
- This person was very proud of their Greek heritage.
- Somebody here had tried to learn to play the flute.
- That dude loved to party, maybe a tad too much - - and especially to Willie & Waylon.
- I'm guessing this woman lived alone.
- Yikes, this guy needed to get laid.
- This person wrote their name on the back of every LP cover, just in case anyone ever wanted to borrow the album. But no one ever did, did they? Awww.

- Okay, you've just sold off all your good albums and these leftovers are only the dregs the store wouldn't take.
- You've replaced your old audiophile classical LPs with CDs.
- You've been upgrading your old video collection to DVD.
- You used to summer in New England in the '80's, and would frequent the same little used record shop, with an eye for the bargains.
- You'd buy 'local flavor' cassettes for the car when you were on vacation.
- This artist with the release on the tiny independent label - - He's your cousin, right? And does he know you're giving this away?
- You were a little drunk at that night club when you bought the opening band's CD and had the cute singer sign it, weren't you?

- Yeah - - we don't really have a use for empty jackets or broken records, but thanks...
- ...And I'll bet you had a hard time ever finding what you wanted to hear when you'd put MOST EVERY DISC away in THE WRONG album jacket...
- ...And likewise, y'know it's great that you enjoyed listening to books-on-tape in your car. Really. But, uh, like, if you wanted to pass them on for someone else to enjoy - - ? Just a thought: Some people aren't interested in a book where the middle part is missing.

- Hmmph. Your basement is damp.
- Feh. Your attic is dusty and has spiders.
- Blecch - - Somebody smoked big nasty-ass cigars.
- Ick! You've got rats! Eeew, eeew, eeew, get it off...! Now I gotta go wash my hands...

- Okay, I'm stumped. Why would anyone need 3 identical sealed copies of the same Leo Sayer album?
- Huh. Don't know that I'll be able to find an appropriate price for your boxed and catalogued, personally-recorded, oddly-spliced, reel-to-reel collection of city council meetings from 1964 - 1966. It's a shame, really...
- Jeez, that's a lot of Poco albums - - What, were you IN the band??
- Your Aunt guessed wrong at Xmas again. Nice of her to keep trying, though.
- Aaghhh!! You're a bad, BAD person for not taking proper care of these amazing original jazz albums from the '50's! Are you even ashamed??

...mutter, gripe, wheeze... why i oughta... mutter, mutter... if it was ME... shuffle, mutter... piece of my mind, grumble... Okay, back to work...


Anonymous said...

Brilliant! Just caught up with with post - missed it earlier somehow. These are all the things I think as I go through records at the thrift store.

The In Crowd said...

Thanks Swankola! So relieved to know it's not just me.

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