JAIMIE VERNON – POLY VINYL CHLORIDE, SLIGHT RETURN
I’ve recently been reunited with my vinyl collection. Over 3000 LPs of CanCon-only vintage that I’ve been collecting since around 1980; prior to that I was your average music lover with anything and everything that fell under the guise of popular music – no matter the country.
The albums were being stored – and enjoyed – at the home of Radio That Doesn’t Suck president Todd Miller. My current home isn’t really built for such a collection (nor the 2100 all Canadian 7” singles I also own). Originally I collected these LPs for the same reason everyone buys music – for the music and the artwork. In 2012/2013 I gleaned the data from the album art necessary to complete The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedias Volume 1 & 2 so the task has now fallen upon me to begin purging the entire thing because I cannot bend physical space and I really need the money.
And it pains me to no end. This is an archive. It’s not just a testament to my musical taste and love of Canadian music but it’s the archaeological remnants of 65 years of sound recording in this country. It accounts for millions of man-hours in writing, recording, producing, and manufacturing – all neatly encased in thin pieces of plastic and housed in 12.5” photo sleeves. It’s a museum of living and many long passed songwriters and musicians, defunct record labels and impossible to find non-digitized audio testimonials. There are certainly bigger collections out there. But this is my pocket digest version of a bigger history.
I’ve been off-loading these gems to collectors as a dealer involved with the Lake Ontario Vinyl Collectors Community (look ‘em up on Facebook). It’s bittersweet to watch folks flip through bins looking for that one, unbelievably sweet, find. There’s nothing that can replace the look I saw on the face of a guy from Ottawa when he pulled out a long-sought-after Annihilator album ‘Alice In Hell’ from my batch of Canadian metal releases at the recent Kingston, Ontario record show. He smiled, handed me cash and said, “THIS was worth the 2 hour drive from Ottawa.” And hearing that was worth my two-hour drive from Toronto.
I’ve been approached to sell the collection off in toto. I could really use the megabucks (and my living room back) right at this moment. But, man, that one-on-one of seeing people looking through and getting the prize at the bottom of the musical Cracker Jack box can’t be matched. I’d rather make one guy (or gal – there’s lots of women collectors now too!) happy over and over again than send the entire collection to some darkened basement – or as nearly happened this week – into the hands of another vendor who, in turn, would have broken it apart and sold it in chunks.
The resurgence of vinyl is now organic and is more than just an investor’s stock portfolio; go look on Ebay, Musicstack, Gemm, RateYourMusic, or any of the dozens of other marketplaces beyond the curb-side dumping of Kijiji and Craigslist sellers. Aside from the unnecessary deletion of vinyl by record labels 20 years ago for no other reason than to bring us digital death in a compression chamber, there is something more communal about going to swap meets and collectibles shows to get your shopping jones on. Unlike outings at the mall or the grocery store, vinyl shopping is a matter of luck and timing – you gotta get there early and know what you’re looking for in your budget range ‘cos it’s winner take all.
For me it feels like home. It’s musty, it’s dusty and there’s the slim chance you’re going to come down with some contagion in the form of black mould spores – but that’s only if the albums you’re trolling through were stored in a barn or a damp basement. The vendors are learning to not bring that crap to the shows anymore. Consumers are more savvy – especially with how tight money is in this economy. Prices are also more affordable than the new trendy pop-up vinyl stores where you’ll pay ridiculously high prices on albums that the store employee just hoisted from a garage or street sale over the weekend. A local store near me that’s been downsizing since people stopped buying used CDs is now pawning off people’s attic cast-offs for $6.00 a pop. Not a bad price for a good, near mint condition album with little jacket wear. But they’re not. Most of these records have been used as skeet or to stop piss from leaking out of little Muffy’s litter box.
There’s also this collision of generations too. Unlike the days when I collected music and bought it contemporaneously to its actual release date, we have Millennials back-filling collections based on what they’ve heard on an iPod shuffle, Spotify or [gasp!] an accidental exposure to Classic Rock Radio. A 20-something rock chick at the Kingston show bought 12 Queen albums. To me and my age group these records have been distilled a hundred times on CD, but never touched on vinyl by anyone born in the last 20 years. She was also sporting a Led Zeppelin t-shirt and had already scooped up some Ozzy solo albums.
Vinyl now represents two distinct worlds. The first is new albums as part of the cynical resurgence from the same record labels that decided that consumers no longer wanted vinyl back in 1989. The second is the retro world because, well, Hipsters – who, ironically, buy music from both categories. Meanwhile, long-time, ageing collectors (who didn’t throw their collections out because Steve Jobs told them they should) are desperately looking for that true rare 1976 Japanese stereo pressing of “Beatles VI” or Rush’s self-titled debut on Moon Records (later to be re-issued on Anthem).
Where we once had our record collections handed down from brothers and sisters or Mom and Dad, the driving force behind this current re-birth is two decades behind the curve. It’s as if the human race was in a cryogenic pod and have been thawed out only to find that people have stopped growing food or automobiles are now powered by urine. Those people know of an older, better way; there’s a LOT of catching up to do for new listeners and the generationals who want to re-grow their collections. I expect there’s about 10 years of racetrack ahead of them before something else new and shiny distracts music listeners. And maybe the next resurgence will be 8-track tapes or GMO music embedded in Saltines.
Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 CANADA
Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday
Contact us at email@example.com
Jaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ is now available at Amazon.comhttp://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon