Today I finally got around to cataloging my 234 LPs, purchased between 1969 and 1986. My first purchase as a nine year old was Touching Me, Touching You, a Neil Diamond record. Earlier that year my first 45 had been “Wedding Bell Blues” by the Fifth Dimension.
It was fun going through my old collection, which smelled old (I’ll have to Febreeze and clean them at some point), but still reminded me of the world of LPs I grew up with. Back when I was 9 the price was about $2.99, though sale albums could be as low as 50 cents. I didn’t buy many until I was older. I’ve got a hard rock album called Bloodrock II by a band named Bloodrock from Texas. I remember buying that LP at the Western Mall in Sioux Falls while my mom got her hair done. I’d heard the song “DOA” and I still remember her grimace when I showed her the LP.
Going to record stores was fun. I was the first in Sioux Falls to own “Foreigner Four” (got to the store at opening, just as the owner was opening new boxes of records), and the record store was a hub of activity. When you’d get a new LP the assessment was holistic. You didn’t just like particular songs. Today with Ipods and electronic play sets musical taste is song-driven. Even CDs increasingly are collections of songs that rarely hang together.
I’m not just talking about concept albums (though my list shows I appreciated those). Rather, you’d listen to what songs were on side one, and which ones were on side two. The first and last songs of each side had to have a particular character, and I’d listen to see how the songs meshed musically (even if not thematically). If the album was new, it was also fun to try to figure out which songs would be released as singles.
On Billboard you could follow the album and pop charts easily, and in those days it was more simple. Now with the fragmentation brought by electronic media there are a plethora of charts and gendres, even though albums do still get rated. I still remember Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon in the top 200 LPs for years. (I taped a friend’s LP, which is the only reason why I don’t have that one — I have many more on cassettes!)
Playing the LP was a ritual. I’d make sure the cartridge was weighted properly, the stylus clean, and then use Discwasher to clean off the LP. This was important because a heavy stylus (needle) like cheap stereos had would fuse any dirt on the needle or in the grooves of the album to the album, adding more crackles and hisses. And while some profess a nostalgia for these record album background sounds, in the day those were things to fight against as hard as possible. I also have some “original master” or “half master” LPs. They cost about $20 (when normal LP’s were about $9) and were the ultimate in quality. Of course, their imperfections are numerous compared to a CD (at least after the first play), but I’d put on the headphones and really lose myself to the music on those albums.
By the time I was 16 and buying more LPs the price had risen — $6.99, then $7.99. I’d often get multiple albums from particular artists – Elton John, Billy Joel, Alan Parsons Project, REO, Rush, Styx, Supertramp and Al Stewart are examples. Otherwise a few things strike me about my collection. First, I don’t think any are by black artists (even though my first 45 RPM was by the Fifth Dimension, and “Ball of Confusion” by the Temptations and “War” by Edwin Starr were also early 45 buys). Out of 234, that appears a glaring omission, perhaps worthy of charges of racism. However, I think it’s more my taste in music. I liked the so called ‘art rock’ that involved British groups like Supertramp and Alan Parsons Project. I also was a fun of Midwestern heartland rockers like Styx, REO and their Canadian counterparts Rush and Triumph. These bands were white, hated by critics, and the staple of what I grew up on musically. In any event, the collection is what it is.
Second, I really enjoy the cover art. CDs have it too, but there’s something about the size of a long play album that allowed for beautiful, interesting and compelling cover art. I also was surprised by how many of the LPs I remembered purchasing and where. I could picture the original record section of Lewis Drugs in Sioux Falls (on Minnesota Avenue and 37th, near the door closest to the bowling alley). It was across from my barber shop, just down from Sunshine grocery. I can picture myself walking the mile and a half there and spending a good 40 minutes browsing the albums (or earlier, the 45’s).
Then there was the store on Minnesota avenue in front of K-Mart (considered a druggy hangout), Musicland in the mall, and Woolworth’s downtown (I recall buying Cat Steven’s Teaser and the Firecat there). My dream was to have a large stereo system, rows of record, perhaps even a strereo room. The idea that collections of music that would put my LPs to shame can now be carried on a small device with any song called up at any time would have been unfathomable.
I do plan to make CDs, perhaps a few copies, of each of my albums over time. No hurry — I have to connect the turntable to the computer, though I now do have my Discwisher system ready. I already made CDs of most of my 45s. If you’re interested, click the page link above “My LPs” and you’ll find a list arranged alphabetically by artist (usually ‘the’ is omitted, but I kept in for The Smiths and The Who.) In 1986 I switched completely to CDs and my album purchasing ceased; none of these albums were purchased after 1986. One of my favorites is Joe South’s Greatest Hits (I became a Joe South fan), given to me by my mom because she didn’t like his version of a song (I forget which song, but she preferred a Glen Campbell cover).
Looking at the cover art, the popular LPs and the ones totally forgotten in the music world (Dakota or Glass Moon) I feel like I’ve got a little piece of history, a music collection of a South Dakotan rock fan who appreciated good song writers and lyricists (Bob Seger, Billy Joel, etc.) Don’t get me wrong — I love I Pods and CDs, and would not want to go back to the days of having to store large LPs to clean, turn over and avoid scratches. But I like my collection. Maybe tonight I have time to copy one…hmmm, maybe Captain Fantastic by Elton John…or maybe The Partridge Family Album…