Liner Notes

On Vinyl

by Pete Crigler

When I was a kid, vinyl was dead and that seemed like a good thing. Outdated sound, very hard to store and very retro. It was all about cassettes and CD’s later when I got older. I loved music from as far back as I could remember and I was about 12 when I started receiving CD’s and I just loved them. I started collecting and listening to whatever I could not long thereafter. I’ve always had an affinity for CD’s, the booklets, the sound, everything. But when I was getting ready to enter college, I decided to start looking at vinyl.

The year was 2004 and vinyl was still dead and as a result one could get good stuff for dirt cheap. The first record I remember picking up was Pet Sounds, for the princely sum of $3.00. Cool fact about my copy is it was previously owned by a blind gentleman and there’s a strip of braille on the front cover so that he could determine which record was which. At that time, you could go into flea markets/thrift stores, antique places, just about anywhere and find vinyl for dirt cheap. One of my favorite haunts was a funky antique mall that had a back booth filled with vinyl, most of which could be picked up for $3 or less. I remember walking away with Warren Zevon, the Allmans, B-52's, Dokken, pretty much anything I could think of that I wanted.

This was about the time where record stores where still pretty relevant and so you could go into, say the basement of Plan 9, a record store in Richmond and find yourself a decent copy of Kiss Alive! for about 2 bucks and leave happy. It wasn’t until much later that I started scoping out vinyl on Amazon. This must have been around 2008 or so. Records by the likes of Faith No More, Harry Chapin and Mighty Lemon Drops, stuff I knew I wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. This was fun and exciting but little did I know that things were about to change.

By the beginning of the 2010s, I had built myself a nice collection of things ranging from Jim Croce and Bob Seger to Fishbone and Das Damen. But then vinyl began making a comeback as hipsters and people younger than me began to seek it out and realize its power. Then record companies started noticing the resurgence and started repressing vinyl again, introducing colored vinyl, 180-gram and shit that didn’t interest me at all. Pretty soon, bands like Flaming Lips, Arcade Fire and MGMT were releasing deluxe editions on vinyl which usually meant higher prices for something that I would have preferred on CD anyway.

There were some decent things that came out of this, you had a lot of records getting recognition because of this resurgence, including Love’s Forever Changes and others. But you also saw many labels releasing things that never needed to be released on vinyl like Miley Cyrus and Katy Perry! Just because people felt it was cool and could be collectable in the future. It was probably around 2014 that I started becoming disinterested in vinyl. I would still find stuff but it was mostly limited to Christmas gifts such as Dead Milkmen’s Big Lizard in My Backyard and the Damned’s The Light at the End of the Tunnel. I started only wanting original pressings as it felt more authentic and cool. But I realized if I was to finish my wish list, I would have to get some newer pressings because older versions of these records would get to be super expensive after a while. As a result, I have about a dozen new pressings including Ramones, X, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Circle Jerks, TAD, Faith No More and The Replacements. I’m ok with that because I can say that the majority of my collection are original versions that I didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for. The most expensive records are the Dead Milkmen, which was about 50 bucks and an unopened original pressing of Husker Du’s Candy Apple Grey which set me back about 27 bucks. Asides from that, I’ve managed not to spend more than I think the records are worth. Recently, an original pressing of Circle Jerks’ Group Sex was found for $40; that equates to about two or three dollars a minute on the record. Way too much and I think some of these stores are gouging people on some of these releases based on the overall popularity of vinyl and that’s just wrong.

By 2017 the amount of vinyl that was coming out was getting ridiculous, even for someone like me who loved it. Skid Row’s 5 song EP of covers B-Side Ourselves, new printings of Loudness, Ryan Adams and other unnecessary items were coming out. It had gotten to the point where a ‘new used arrivals’ section was filled with records less than three years old. People have gotten to the point where they buy a new record by say Lumineers, keep it for about six months then decide they don’t want it anymore and fill up the used vinyl section with so much color and 180-gram that I don’t even have fun shopping for vinyl anymore. Even stores that used to be really good for records have gone up on their pricing to cash in.

I was shopping at BK Music, a place I have loved since I was in college. It’s moved to a new location and has seen better days but every once in a while, I can find some good stuff. Looking through the vinyl, I was disgusted as there was hardly any good used to speak of and what they did have was incredibly overpriced. For example, a Neil Young record that ten years ago would’ve been about $7.99 was now selling for $19.99. Thankfully I had already purchased those years ago and didn’t have to worry about it. Looking through the racks, I was steamed. Why would anyone want Rae Sremmurd on vinyl? It just doesn’t seem necessary. Maybe younger people care enough to own Imagine Dragons or Lana Del Rey but for those like me who love finding original pressings of the Replacements and unsealed originals of Husker Du, it has left me feeling disillusioned with the whole thing. I can still go out to record shows and find things like URGH! A Music War and still get excited but for the most part, I’m over it.

Then there’s Record Store Day; launched in 2007 or so, it brings together independent retailers and limited edition vinyl collectables. Some are cool, some are outrageously priced and some are pressed just for the cash grab. Me personally I’ve never been that gung ho about the whole thing. One reason is because the stores are always so crowded I can never just browse and shop, it’s all hurry up, go go go and I can’t stand that. Secondly, people spending 26 bucks and up on new vinyl is just outrageous to me. I’ve done that once and that was on The Dead Milkmen’s Beelzebubba and I was okay with that but I will not spend that much for The Damned’s new album; Spotify will help out for that.  Thirdly, people will buy these overpriced items only to get tired of them or need rent money and then they wind up in the used bin along with original copies of Frampton Comes Alive! and Glass Houses. That’s one reason I think there should be two used sections: one for old vinyl and another for new that way you won’t have copies of Arcade Fire and Foghat intermingling. Maybe you can call me a purist or elitist but that’s how I’ve been feeling dealing with vinyl these days.

At this stage, I’ve even eliminated some that I’m not interested in anymore, mostly hand me downs and things of that nature but I no longer go out shopping and come home with a box full of stuff. Those days are long gone and as it currently stands in April 2018, I have the devil’s number of 666 records and if I pick up 30 more over the course of the year, then that’s perfectly fine with me. Go ahead and have your 180-gram, green speckled limited edition, I’ll stick with my massive collection of original oldies and enjoy every damn bit of it.

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