Record Collecting ~ Vinyl penis envy?

There will always be a bloke ’round the corner with a bigger record collection than you’ve got, so what’s it all about Alfie?

I get so bored with all the machismatic posturing amongst male record collectors. In the Hall of Musical Kings they brag of their conquests at all night sessions of self congratulatory vinyl stroking onanism, bleary eyed, sat in front of message boards for the middling fat these confirmed left hand mouse users and compulsive disorderlies forget the first law of collecting. It should always be about the music, never about some distorted vision of ownership!

Don’t be frightened of Jamaican music collectors

I remember when I started to collect Jamaican music, all on my lonesome, those first few re-issues via Trojan’s mail order, a few Lps I could find around the place, then a tune from a guy’s website, then another tune, then eBay and all the time finding my own way. It was therefore with some trepidation that I made my first contact with a ‘scene’ and enrolled on a Reggae music message board. There I found a suspicious welcome and a lot of snobbery. However after the settling in period and a while spent merely observing, upon the free admittance that I was a new boy on the block everyone was very very helpful and friendly. I continue to find out a great deal and hopefully now offer some information via this sort of thing, and they aren’t as frightening as you’d think the first time you drop by. The further you climb up to the top of the ‘Reggae Supremo’ charts the friendlier these people get too, with less to defend than their smaller collectioned penised counterparts, those that have experienced this wonderful musical genre first hand are ready willing and able to share their knowledge and experiences. Of course, anyone who really loves a music and all it entails is only ever going to want to promote that music, to whomsoever, whenever.

But why does the madness start?

In a fit of peer pressure induced crazyness sometime in the early 1990s, having turned up on an invite to play some Reggae tunes at an evening friends had organised, I let myself be embarrassed by a group of ‘one up on you‘ vinyl addicts and the result has been that over a decade and a half later I can’t stop buying 7″ singles. I turned up clutching a selection of Cds in my sweaty little novice collecting palms only to be made very aware that if you wanted to consider yourself a real collector of Jamaican music this just wasn’t going to be good enough, only something with a matrix number on would suffice and I have to admit here that for once in my life I bent to another’s will and began collecting vinyl, having listened to it avidly as a young ‘un this wasn’t a great sacrifice, but I’ve never quite forgiven myself for giving in to their playground bullying. Still I can now feel relaxed at the prospect of being faced with their withering looks once gain, because I own a copy of DSR 9142a and other records like jblp 004 and TS-7483 and I know things, things that are so secret that they’ll never appear in a book by David Katz.

Der Blues

Once upon a time, while others were discovering Adam Ant and Antmusic, New Romanticism and therefore Shitemusic I was busy listening to and I guess by default ‘collecting’ Country Blues, at the age of 14 I’m proud to say that I was a musical loner and I guess I will always be disappointed in myself for letting someone else’s bigotry control how I listened and how I ‘collected’ music. Perhaps that’s the real reason for this article… I’m just angry about something.

Why the hell bother?

So many people that I now come into contact with seem to forget why the hell they started collecting, they started, I hope, because it was music they were first and foremostly interested in and the music led them up and down a path of buying records and then putting them somewhere, a record rack, a box, an attic. Later on, someone might turn to them and say ‘hey that pile of records is quite a collection’ and only at this point, with someone else’s qualification did they realise that by some mysterious osmotic process, noted only by others, that they had become a ‘Collector’. Others of course set out to collect and are not led to this moment by a musically enquiring nature. Instead they are led by some faintly mild medical problem, one my wife would describe as a form of mild Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome. She has a theory that all men are mildly Aspergers and that collecting is a trait of the mildly Aspergered, the medical website I’ve just looked at would seem to suggest that’s she’s not far off the mark! Actually to be fair, it’s just that some collect as if it were a game of trophies, often, as a result playing songs that would make a strangled cat having it’s testes minced sound tuneful and others find out that they’ve got a rare tune when that well worn sublimely beautiful single of Lloyd Robinson’s ‘The Worm’ sells for some silly amount to a Japanese collector on eBay.

Dance To The Music?!

Ultimately I have to say that I think the point of much Jamaican music (which is my own collecting habit of the last decade or so) is that it provides a floor upon which to dance… it’s good time music, music to move to and not music to regard under the microscopic tweezers of a beady eye and a database of matrices.  I’ve been to a number of ”Dances” and here I use that term loosely where rare tunes are played and fat blokes stand around scratching their chins to the music instead of moving their feet…

‘oi Dave, is that Lester Sterling’s first cut to Reggae In The Wind? Sounds like a different cut to me… p’raps it’s a Pre-release of it and it subsequently got a remix before the release on GAS.’ (Actually I have to say at this point that having constructed this pretend discussion for the purposes of illuminating the general collectors overall failing as a true music lover, I now find myself more than half interested in hearing the answer to this question!)

There’s nothing wrong with loving records

It didn’t take very long and I was falling in love with the object, as much as the music, the label, the look, the smell, the colour, the muck and oil typically found in the grooves of a Jamaican tune,… but I never let myself forget that the reason I was there in the first place was the music and it was that which was to be pursued. I have rare tunes in my collection but most if not all of them are worth listening to. I don’t keep them in a bank vault, I don’t hold back from including them on my radio show or putting them on a compilation for fear of de-valuing them.

Here are some websites worth checking out –


10 thoughts on “Record Collecting ~ Vinyl penis envy?”

  1. Great write up. I too have been under the Jamaican music spell for quite a long time and for the first 8 years or so had next to nobody to relate the music with. In almost desperation I came across a group of younger boys getting into it. They were very arrogant and had almost the opposite attitude towards it as me. I think the only reason they even talked to me was I actually knew a bit more than them. Also met up with collector from the UK who was THE most arrogant SOB you could ever meet. Very quickly I grew to really hate record collectors. I don’t consider myself a collector I buy the records to enjoy and use not file them like old magazines or stamps. Thanks for the artical I really enjoyed it.

  2. Musics for sharing Mikey, and as Jacob Miller sand ‘Each One Teach One’, I wouldnd know only a fraction of what I do without the information more knowledgeable colectors have shared over the years and even after decades of collecting I am still disappointed if a day goes by without me discovering something new, today its your lovely Muzik City issue of Shufflin Jug, only ever seen it on Worldisc (and much later Coxsone re-issues) until now!

  3. Yes Phil, agreed, that issue of Shufflin’ Jug may be Ian’s it’s not actually mine, I took the scan from our site I wish I’d had your decaes of collecting, I’m only just entering my second really!

  4. You’ve probably got decades more than me to come Mikey and given the number of tunes I’m still chasing, however long wont be long enough!

    Never ceases to amaze me how much info thats new to me surfaces on an almost daily basis on the Pama Forum, the knowledge of the board members is staggering!

  5. cheers,i collect as well but tend to avoid all msg boards.i do get turned off by snobbery .i have been listning to reggae foe 20 years now and collecting .and still dont know whats rare or much more then the basics of whos who.The only thing i know is if i like the tune or not.It is a bit of an obsession as i have plenty that i have not listned to yet as i travel for work alot and just fill my wee bit spare time in differnt places haunting record stores.Oh well .

  6. Interesting article. I’ve always been about the MUSIC…until the past year or so when I dove deep into vinyl collecting. I too treasure the 45rpm 7″ singles over other formats…mainly cause they seem the most authentic. I won’t lie, a big part of the appeal for me is the “Time Travel” aspect. When you drop the needle on a vintage ’75 disc the feeling of connecting to another era is palpable. That said, I rarely encounter other JA junkies in my real life. When I do find a “reggae fan” here in Texas they’re usually strictly into Bob or Beres…Third World, etc. I sometimes feel more like a snob than anyone else simply cause I listen to such a big range of JA music! What?! No Heptones? No Johnny Osbourne? Roots Radics? Maytones? Jazzbo? Billy Boyo???

  7. I completely agree Mikey, although with that crazy photo of me and my giant 7″ single (obviously some Photoshop fun) and the accompanying caption, it looks like you’re implying that I am one of those “machismatic” collectors, which I certainly am not. My vinyl collection is very modest and would probably make most collectors laugh. In fact, I think every bloke around the corner has a bigger collection than me. Perhaps you could change the photo to – well – something without me in it!

    1. hI mICK, DID ANYONE KNOW THAT WAS YOU UNTIL YOU ALERTED US ALL TO THE FACT??Ooops shouterin’ again!! Grrrr.. I can change it, but do you really want me to, it is an amusing photo and one I cherish…

      1. Um, the caption says “Mick Sleeper”, so – yes – people did know it is me, I wasn’t alerting anyone to the fact. While I’m glad you cherish it, I would prefer that you take it down, thanks.

  8. Sorry Mick I had forgot that I had put your name in the caption, so I guess they did know it was Mick Sleeper, I’m sorry that you felt unable to be part of this light hearted look at collecting records, I have removed the offending article. … sheesh..

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