A constant source of contention between my parents stems from my father’s love of music memorabilia, and my mom sort of has a point. This is the man who has a three-foot square poster of R. Crumb’s artwork for Big Brother and the Holding Company’s ‘Cheap Thrills’ prominently placed above their bed. (I think my mom is most opposed to the image of Janis Joplin splayed out on a bed, nipples fully erect.) The most common debate in our household, however, has to do with my dad’s ever-expanding record collection. When you walk into our living room, you are greeted by bookcases teeming with vinyl, flanked by dozens of milk crates strategically placed to catch the spillover.
These records have been a strong presence in my life, so I have a hard picturing my dad with fewer than the 3,000 albums that currently comprise his collection. However, he is quick to tell you that his collection had very modest beginnings. My dad’s freshman year college roommate had a nice stereo system, and my father wanted to capitalize on it. He went home for Thanksgiving break and returned with three albums: the 3-album Woodstock set, Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Cry of Love’ and Black Sabbath’s eponymous album. By the time he went off to business school in 1985, his record collection had reached a couple of hundred, and he had also purchased his own stereo system. But with the move to New York City came the need to pack up his records and his turntable, and he left these boxes sit in storage for the next eight years. At this point, it seemed like the record collection that he started as an undergraduate was destined to be little more than a relic.
The turning point, though, was 1993. By this point, my dad had graduated from business school, met and married my mother, and started to raise the most wonderful daughter named Maxine. They also made the move from the gritty streets of New York to a quiet home in the suburbs, so my dad dug up his stereo equipment to fill the empty space in the living room. Take this new set-up and add in the emergence of CDs, and you’ve got a perfect storm since my dad absolutely abhorred CDs. He is a self-proclaimed audiophile and maintains that CDs sound metallic. They sound thin. They just hurt your ears after a period of time. LPs, on the other hand, have a much warmer sound since they are not digitized (I happen to agree with my dad on this point, by the way. More proof that I am, in fact, my father’s daughter).
Fortunately for my dad, everyone else jumped on the CD bandwagon and dumped all of their old vinyl on secondhand shops. The basic principles of supply and demand took hold, and there was suddenly tons of vinyl available for super cheap. My dad started collecting albums by the armful, and he would go to record shows and pick up forty LPs at a time for no more than $5 and album. His proudest find from this era was a stack of twenty or so jazz records that were imported from Japan that he purchased for $8 a pop. According to eBay, they’re now worth between $40 and $50 a piece.
But my dad didn’t start this collection to turn a profit or as a monetary investment. He has told me that his favorite part about building his collection is finding ‘lost recordings.’ Certain recordings like early Bob Dylan demos or even studio albums by obscure bands like the Beau Brummels are impossible to find on CD. And now that vinyl is making a comeback, my father has started discovering modern artists. He recently purchased Arcarde Fire’s ‘The Suburbs’ and Broken Bells’ eponymous album, both on LP. I love calling home and hearing that my dad has been really digging the newest Modest Mouse release on vinyl. So my dad will continue to purchase vinyl and to trek to musty record stores in order to keep on learning and keep on discovering, despite my mother’s best efforts to thwart him. As for me, this record collection has helped me discover music for myself and form my own musical tastes, which are some of the most valuable lessons my dad could have ever taught me. So keep on discovering, Dad, and don’t be too surprised if I raid your collection when I get home for Thanksgiving.
Maxine Builder is a sophomore majoring in International Relations, now featuring a minor in English. If you want her to serenade you on ukulele or just know someone who is a music fanatic that should be featured in this column, shoot her an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.