So many people with collections can’t bear even the thought of parting with their books or records or vintage toys or sneakers or whatever it is that makes up their fixation…
But sometimes it’s a necessity.
I trade records all the time. I’ve done swaps, I’ve taken crates of records to the secondhand stores and swapped them for a big old credit-note in order to ‘buy’ new albums. I’ve exchanged the music I no longer listen to or need for cold hard cash. Because we always need that.
But I’m ready to get rid of my collection – almost entirely. My collection of records, that is.
I’m keeping the soundtracks, the things I love loads of jazz, ambient, some rare records too I guess. And anything signed to me, and anything I really value and play often. I’m keeping collections of single artists that I’ve worked on over years (Bob Dylan, Prince, Joni Mitchell, Ry Cooder, Little Feat) and I’m keeping a few random things that have sentimental value to me. I think it’s hard to even give away comedy records now – and some of them are ones I really love. Ditto anything spoken-word (I have Sam Hunt reading in a bar, I have Gerald Murnane reading from his tiny hometown, I have Ernest Hemingway reading from his typewriter).
But the thing is – I really don’t have time in my life for records anymore. And I really don’t need to be defined by any sort of collection anymore. At least not a record collection.
Things have changed and I see it more clearly now. But I’ve basically wrestled with this from back in the days of being a CD “collector” – if there was ever such a thing.
Look, the opening poem in my book (The Death of Music Journalism – released in October last year) was about this very thing. When I first sold a few CDs – to help pay the power bill, or phone bill, or both – I was a nervous wreck. I panicked. I was sweating. I stopped to smoke a cigarette. And then I returned to the room and started adding things to the pile with far less of a delay. Something clicked. I no longer needed this music. And/or I needed the other things (including, ironically, power, to um play music…)
This has been an ongoing thing ever since. Here’s another poem about that exact subject (this one didn’t make the book – and fair enough eh).
Music has defined me – I’ve allowed myself to be defined by it, wanted to be defined by it, for my entire adult life. And for most of my teenage years. (Though I was once very nearly a sports star. True. Just a sports-star-in-the-making that travelled everywhere with a Walkman and a collection of tapes).
I’ve got a lot of records to sell. I’m not quite giving them away. But I’m going to work out a few different ways to ditch these records. I’ll trade some, I’ll give some away. I’ll go to a record fair again perhaps (I did that a while back and it worked out pretty well).
Music – these days – is free as the breeze. We don’t need the double vinyl gatefold to enjoy the latest and greatest. We can find more of the old-old stuff online now than was ever the case digging in stores. And I’ve always been across as many of the formats as I can be. A part of my soul was given away years ago when I started writing about music. A big part of it corrupted by receiving ‘free’ music when it was some sort of currency. Now I trade in it still by offering recommendations.
I’ve still got some CDs. I’ve still got some DVDs. I have my books – and continue to buy and sell some of those, to thin the collection from time to time. I’ll keep some records, and will probably buy a few new ones too. But for now it’s time to say goodbye to the bulk. To the things that were just there to fill the shelves. The things that were there to announce I was any sort of collector. Like that’s any sort of thing to ever be.