Late 70s Beginnings
In the late 70s when I got my first record player I bought albums. One a week with my lunch money, basically. In high school, I bought mainly albums. Singles were cheaper than albums, but you could get 7-10 songs for the price of 2-3 singles, and that made albums the better deal. Once I found out about used record stores, things really started to get interesting! The best thing about them was not even the lower prices, but the ability to buy older things that were harder to find currently. This was especially true with singles.
After high school, better record stores with heavy import sections began to beckon to me and the notion of buying singles by artists I loved featuring songs not on albums and [gasp] remixes, became to be viable to me. I can be said to have started “collecting” some time in 1981, I guess. But I was on a low budget. It was my job to make the scant funds stretch as far as they could go, and that meant collecting pragmatically. In other words, buying any releases I needed to get all of the artist in question’s non-LP tracks and variations… but only the minimum of titles necessary to do so! And the bands I did this for were still low in number. This was my method throughout the whole of the 80s. Even then, I tended to go with 12″ singles instead of 7″ singles. One, they sounded better. Two, in many cases, the 12″ had the B-side from the 7″ in addition to an extended version. Then ZTT had to go and start making multiple 12″ singles!
80s – Goldmine, Catalogs + Record Shows
Then by the late 80s I had begun buying records by mail order. This is where serious collecting began to spread like wildfire. Especially the usually neglected 7″ part of the record collection. With Goldmine and catalogs, I had access to even more records that I wanted beyond the scope of any of even the best record stores that Central Florida had to offer me at the time. This was when I started buying the clear vinyl 7″ UK singles from Ultravox on Chrysalis Records, in addition to the 12″ singles I was buying. I knew about these thanks to Mr. Ware, who set me straight on them even as he corrupted me with his Goldmine and Jack Wolak’s Rare Necessities catalogs! Then I started buying entire artist’s runs of things that I had wanted but never seen locally. I began the core of a serious Mari Wilson and Rezillos/Revillos collection with recources like that at my fingertips.
Then the occasional record show really opened the vistas of collecting up. I could go to a civic center full of records and buy all sorts of things. The big shows were like a catalog with immediate gratification thrown in as a bonus. The first shows were usually in bigger cities like Tampa or Atlanta, so they were rare occasions, but by the early 90s, even sleepy Orlando started getting some record shows with regularity.
If one bought singles they tended to be available for a much shorter period than for albums. This guided my hand for years in the late 80s as I would eventually opt to buy import singles instead of the album itself that they might have come from. It seemed like the album could usually be bought later, and the longer one waited, the greater chance of getting a cheaper copy. Whereas the singles would invariably rise in price from the point of issue as they became more scarce.
90s – Time, Space + Money Conspire to Make Of Me An Obsessive Collector
If I could be said to have become a collector it was by the early 90s. I remember the feeling I got by having every Ultravox album and 12″ single/EP. And 90% of the band’s UK 7″ singles. I felt like I needed a bigger challenge! By 1993 I had a large apartment and the huge master bedroom was the video/book/music collection room. My career was going great. I was a UX designer before they even had a name for it! I was earning more money than I have for the last 20 years and had nothing better to do than scoop up armfuls of music releases. It was at this time that I began hitting stores like Rock + Roll Heaven and spending a few hours in there on a Saturday just buying desirable records – that I technically did not need for their musical contents!
That’s right, Just seeing a record like the US 7″ picture sleeve of “We Live So Fast” [only a single in America] would make me splash out the cash to buy it. I would spend an unplanned $100-150 on a weekend’s visit…just for kicks! A far cry from the way I roll now. Another factor pushing my “buy” button was the notion that soon I would be able to make my own CDs of material on vinyl only. It was almost a decade into the CD era by then and I had a fair handle on what might not ever come out on the shiny silver disc. Primarily, the many rarities by any number of bands. Non-LP A/B sides, live tracks, promo mixes, 12″ remixes of all stripes and from all nations. Since I was looking to tie up a lot of loose ends, I really started paying more attention to 7″ singles for the often unique 7″ mixes/versions that could be out there if one knew where to look. Keep in mind that I probably did not get online until some time in 1994 and back then, record collecting resources on the web were usually the providence of the occasional obsessed collector who would take their data online with the 10 MB webspace that their ISP gave them for their own personal website.
It was some time in 1992-3 when I found the challenge that I would undertake after “completing” my Ultravox collection. I was at a record show and saw some Duran Duran classic 12″ singles that I had never bothered to buy when they were current. A little voice told me to buy these for the $5 asking price and I did. I soon met new friends out of the Orlando “Old Wave” club scene that played decade old music for dancing to and discovered the Duran Duran collector’s underground. Swept up in the excitement, this was compounded by the release of their 1993 “Wedding Album” with its pair of US Top 10 singles, and Duran Duran just exploded right after I started to may some more attention to them.
I had once bought the occasional CD single. Now I bought everything. It was exhilarating seeing how many variations I could buy of any of their releases. I was finally seeing the band live after over a dozen years of variable fandom and now I had things like the US promo “Liberty” box that I once handed to Nick Rhodes and Warren Cuccurullo to sign in the middle of the night as they were leaving their hotel after a gig in Orlando. I probably dropped $1500 on DoubleDuran in the two year period where the sky was the limit and had over 300 releases to show for it. Then marriage, buying a house, and especially their godawful “Thank You” album brought all that to a screeching halt. Thank goodness. DD were among the most heavily marketed bands of the New Wave era with countless releases the world over. I could have dedicated my life to collecting them and still only would have had a fraction of the total at my deathbed! Fact: Duran Duran are hardly my favorite act!
2000 + Beyond: A Return To Pragmatism
In 2001 we decided to move away from Orlando and have lived in a succession of ever smaller homes; necessitating much downsizing. We bought our current [tiny] home in 2004 and there is a small bedroom with everything I still have jammed in there frightfully. I still like to collect the output of certain bands, but the numbers are down from the peak 90s list which can be found here. That was pretty much every artist I “collected” in the 90s, for what it’s worth. My, how that list has been seriously pruned! I still buy every John Foxx release. He is the one artist that I have almost everything from but there are still rarities that are damned hard to source copies of. I usually skip the pricier items [I am way too practical…] only to have my wife buy them for me!
In 2002, I got more serious about making an upgraded BSOG of Simple Minds rarities, so I bought any single I didn’t already have [even the stuff I’d avoided for ages from the mid-late 80s] but I didn’t buy everything. Only the bare minimum to actually have as complete a music collection as I could. Even that was doomed to failure since in 2002, the band were releasing difficult to source Italian DJ 12″ vinyl of remixes from their great “Cry” album like they were going out of style. I still have none of this material almost 20 years later so that third volume of Simple Minds rarities will probably never happen. A line was crossed in 2013 when I stared selling off my redundant collector’s records that I bought for no good reason to fund concert travel and vacations. I think the profits were balanced out by losses fairly equally, which is nothing to complain about.
The notion is still there to collect but more small scale things. I think a complete Mari Wilson collection is possible. I have a lot of what it would make up. I have quite a lot of Rezillos/Revillos releases in as many formats as I can find. A few years back they were selling modern 7″ and CD singles at such modest prices I bought everything and it cost me less than $30. In my headier flights of fancy, I think about collecting every release by her label as well, as The Compact Organisation had boundless taste [thanks to prime mover/impresario Tot Taylor] and made generally wonderful goods for the dream home that had everything. There’s probably less than 150 releases in total, but I’d have to buy a lot of records from the UK mail order, and the shipping would be a deal breaker.
Another notion I could get behind would be every UK 7″/12″/CD5/Cassette single by the great ZTT label; but only from 1983-1988. After that they barely existed for me. But there are some things that would probably cost me a small fortune there. No, with my advancing age, and diminishing wallet, I think I need to just try to enjoy what I’ve already got. Maybe keep buying a dozen or so artists who have proven their worth over decades, and selectively buy the right “singles” to complement their album releases. Which is actually a challenge in this horrible intangible music era. When music is only streamed [and we’re getting there, trust me]. We’re already in a place where scant physical releases are costing a fortune and I’m priced out of that game. Record collecting is no longer a modestly priced hobby. It’s becoming a playtoy of the financial elite. So now,more than ever, is the time to collect pragmatically. It’s no longer an inexpensive hobby. How do you like to collect? Discuss below.
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