Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Collectors

I've rarely read so much instant comment to a Guardian Blog as to Jon Wilde's piece yesterday on him buying records/cds rather than a house. Here I am, surrounded by similar piles in someone else's stately pile, and I can't go as far as regret. Brighton, as he acknowledges, was once world capital of second hand record shops, but is suffering a bit these days. I kind of think its gentrification rather than demand - though over a period of time as less stuff gets released on vinyl (or indeed CD) - less stuff is available via the second hand market - and then there's Amazon. I'm not a vinyl fetishist in any way; I bought my first CD in 1986, ("Brotherhood" by New Order) and they've given me a fair share of thrills as well as disappointments. The recent Domino reissues of albums by bands like Pavement have been as lovingly packaged and compiled as any vinyl. I still prefer the 7" or 12" single to the abomination that is the CD single - and if its, say, "The Smiths", or "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" or "Hejira" I've never replaced or augmented my vinyl copy with the CD version, yet there's a whole world of albums that CD has made available to me - particularly the old soul that Jon Wilde so loves - that I'd just not have got hold of otherwise. I miss the "2 sided album" that you only get with vinyl (ok and with cassettes, but since machines learnt to play both sides after each other that kind of got ruined) and still find it temperamentally impossible to play side 2 first, without playing side 1. Yet, having just been listening and loving an album by Tricky, "Vulnerable" from 2003, I realised I was sorely in need of the rest of his collection, and for a tenner, thereabouts, got the CDs from EBay. I reckon for certain people, certain types of music, CD, as it disappears into download, will have its own intriguing cachet. Remember how shiny and modern they looked back then? I was speaking with a friend at the weekend as she offloaded most of her books to the charity shops - feeling that she was just carting round these musty volumes from spare room to spare room - and for what purpose? She's 2 children now, and I guess her priorities have changed. I explained that in some ways my books, records and CDs were my "footprint", a sense of self that I can't even begin to explain away - the whole is bigger than the parts. And, yes, something of that is the fact that I still buy these things, and grew up in a house where books were generally absent, records were rare. And, as jobs and careers and relationships haven't quite worked out as I've hoped for, this has been a one constant. Last year, spurred on by the "Hacienda Classics" CD that came out, I thought I'd digitise some of my own favourite house records from that era. I ended up with 10 CD worth of house music - almost all from 12" and 7" singles, or from "Jack Trax" type compilations. It felt utterly pointless and yet at the same time absolutely right. I've begun to inherit collections from friends now; records and books, and sure enough, as my friend pulled up at the station she said, "have a look in the boot, see if there's anything you want." I liberated the poetry books, of course, glad to give them a good, appreciative home - even if I still don't own my own place either.

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