December 21, 2016


One of my life-long hobbies is music. I started playing guitar when I was six or seven- about the same time I got my first grown-up record and portable record player. My dad was working as a sound engineer at the time and my grandmother was busy teaching flute and playing as principal flutist for the Greenwich Symphony. I spent time between each of their houses and my ears filled with Debussy and the bluesy sounds of our "house" band, the Twinkies (starring family pal Chance Browne/Hi and Lois). In my room, I enjoyed watching records spin around as the music punched its way out of the single speaker in glorious mono. That first record? The Beatles Help! A family friend eventually gave me her entire collection of first US pressings and I was quickly immersed in a record hobby that continues to thrive today. I have fond memories of searching for Beatles cards and memorabilia at flea markets and tag sales, which my dad and I frequented on weekends. You could still find treasures on a $5 allowance back then. I once bought a massive scrapbook from a family (I think their daughter got married and moved away). The pages were filled with newspaper clippings from the band's early visits to the US. It was thrilling to look through the images, and at the album art itself, as I listened to my growing collection. Ever dedicated to promoting cool culture, I made cassette tape mixes for kids at school. The Beatles remained the center of focus, and even became a social activity when my childhood pal, Alec, and I would lip-synch to their records in his downstairs studio/playroom. We used badminton rackets for guitars. Below: a great photo that engineer Steve Hoffman put on my radar today of a gal shopping for The Beatles Help!. I love the go go boots in the background!

With all of the live music being created around me, my interests also expanded to collecting other genres besides rock. The love of Blues records fed back into my own guitar playing, so the whole passion came full circle. Why is record collecting so vital? I think the key ingredient is curiosity. Walt Disney said that creation comes from curiosity. And if you have ever flipped through stacks of vinyl, you know the thrill of that moment when a cover design, batch of song titles, or an ensemble of musicians ignites your imagination. It is the pursuit of Art! There is nothing like the sound of vinyl. The music moves through the air with warmth and round tones, and it just has a human quality. I'm excited to see records are returning to the mainstream. Many of my students are collectors and musicians, and I see local shops being revived by Record Store Day events. For those Spy Vibers starting out, I urge you to look for used stereo components and speakers, rather than buying a cheap portable player. You'll notice quite a jump in sound quality! I also recommend looking for original pressings rather than new re-releases. Although there are exceptions, original pre-digital pressings usually do a better job capturing the magic vibe of the live performance in the studio. I created an archive of Vintage Vinyl images on Pinterest. Here are some highlights below. George Harrison was such a record fan, he even had a record player installed in his Jaguar XKE! Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds sign autographs at a shop. Like the old movie palaces, some record stores (like HMV) were designed to stimulate both eyes and ears with artistic care. These places were like cathedrals! Dig those listening booths! Want to find your local record stores? Check out the Vinyl District App and happy hunting! Great record collecting stories: Desperate Man BluesVinyl Junkies, and the Tower Records documentary, All Things Must Pass. Spy Vibe's post about the 8-Track Museum here. Family trivia: My dad produced a strange variety of albums that included DJ/comedian Don Imus and Bach recordings by Anthony Newman. My grandfather was also a composer/musician, who created work with Roger Sessions and Poet Laureate, William Meredith. One of the most interesting things I've been able to do as a musician was to create a re-mix for a song by Yoko Ono and the Plastic Ono Band. Things do come full circle! Enjoy!

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