I am a treasure hunter. A pleasure-seeker. A record finder. Have been for over half of my life. An addict. Yet I am not a collector but a custodian, looking after what are literally records of time. I will pass them on. Records to me are sculptures, carved with meaning and framed by word and image, and I enjoy them as if they were paintings hanging in a gallery space. The sound they have is wonderful, and the crackling thud of the needle as it connects is an inimitable sound that I love. The very mechanics of them is ingenious, from their unassuming appearance to the ever-decreasing spirals of sound that they produce.
Handling records is an experience in itself. Sensual. A record must be unpackaged, from sleeve and cover, and brushed clean before use. The centre label must be read to ascertain which is side one, to then be guided on to a fulcrum that presses itself home. It is seductive. I have always found listening to records to be a ritualistic experience. I kneel penitently at the cupboard and reflect, prayer-fashion, on what I feel like listening to. Like a member of the clergy preparing for communion I hold words in my hands reverently. For me, listening to an album grants me the peace and serenity of sitting in a church, and more.
Records are often truly secular, though. There is sometimes more than just vinyl within the dusky folds. Several of mine are time capsules containing artifacts from previous owners lives. Some objects I have kept, and others not. In an Adam Ant LP I found some half-completed Geography homework, with an overdue library ticket. In a Fleetwood Mac album I discovered a polaroid of a lady achieving what I can only describe as the most gymnastic and pornographic pose I have ever seen (complete with a gigantic grin). My second favourite is a Rolling Stones LP which contained a polaroid of a delighted young chap holding said record, standing next to his birthday cake and surrounded by friends. My all time favourite artifact LP (for sheer weirdness) is a battered old Elton John album with a bite out of it. The first three songs weren’t his best anyway. I remember taking it out and seeing the toothmarks, along with the remnants of a semi-fossilised and completely squashed joint (which may explain the occurence of the bite mark)! I love them, but do also feel sad that these obviously cherished items all ended up in charity shops.
There are youn, glossy rookie ‘new vinyls’ on my shelves, rubbing covers with veterans that are battered and well and truly loved to death. I can barely make out the design or writing on one Joni Mitchell LP, which I bought purely because it looked as though it had been truly loved. I knew when I bought it that it would probably be scratched beyond all playability, but was delighted to find it crystal clear when I tried it, albeit slightly worn.
I have worn out the belt of my record player with incessant use, and it is tortuous that I cannot listen to a special recent acquisition. It is a rare recording of a rare talent, and I long to hear it played. I frequently read the sleeve notes and daydream, imagining what it will sound like. For now, I content myself by thinking that absence makes the heart grow fonder. Or is it abstinence? Until then, I shall simply stare, and listen to the music within my head.