I bought my first record in 1979. Kiss Alive 2 was a double album and included a sheet of fake tattoos, a bunch of stickers and a Kiss Army enrollment form.
Sure Kiss sucks, I know that now, but to a 10 year old rock fan, this was a big deal.
Albums by Pink Floyd, George Thorogood, AC/DC and the Kinks soon followed.
But I cut my musical teeth on my parents record collection.
They had a lot of records.
My parents were in their 20’s in the 1960’s and the bulk of those albums reflects that era.
Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, Doors.
Simon and Garfunkel.
My mom’s taste ran all the way from the Dave Clark Five to Anne Murray to the Carpenters.
Besides lite pop, she also loved musicals, classical music and opera.
There was a lot of Leonard Bernstein records on Mom’s shelf.
My dad’s shelf was much hipper: Frank Zappa, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis and Pink Floyd.
Ten Years After, Grand Funk Railroad, Eric Burden and War, The Allman Brothers, Guess Who and CCR.
Then one fine day he took advantage of the Columbia House 10 records for a penny deal. Kansas, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat”. Fleetwood Mac, the Star Wars Soundtrack.
He let me pick a couple and I went with cool artwork:
“Red Octopus” by Jefferson Starship. “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic” by King Crimson. Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”. I wish I could remember the rest, but it was a long time ago.
I absorbed all of this music growing up and eventually absorbed more than a few of those records into my collection as well.
But for every record absorbed, one would disappear.
This is The First Law of the Ebb and Flow of Record Collecting.
(Which applies to all tangible formats of recorded music, but I’m of a certain age so I still get to say ‘record’)
For every record that I’ve liberated from a school chum’s older brother or a public library with no sense of loss prevention, one of my own got left behind at a party or somehow ended up in one of my sister’s ex-boyfriends’ collections.
And in turn, my sister’s record collection would assimilate some of her ex-boyfriends’ records which would find their way into my collection and so on and so on.
Also common is the leaving of cassettes and CDs in other people’s cars.
You and your friends love music and your buddies pick you up one Saturday night and in the pocket of your Members Only jacket is a cassette tape of the Beastie Boys or Iron Maiden. It sounds so good blasting from that 1976 Camaro’s sound system, and you get all fucked up and forget the tape when they drop you off at home, but you don’t even bother to ask for it back because you know that in your car are his cassette tapes of Thin Lizzy, The Cult and the Clash.
My friend Teddy Thomas scored 65 good CDs for 12 bucks from a junkie at a flea market and the next weekend, somebody broke his car window and stole a case full of 45 CDs off of his back seat. (Probably that same junkie.)
An extreme example, but a perfect illustration of The Law.
Recently I was forced to invoke the Law of The Ebb and Flow of Record Collecting to an uneducated, so-called collector of fine music. The recording in question was a semi-pretentious jazz rock jam band affair. I acquired said CD thusly…
My man Manny is a serious, obsessive music junkie. He’s got it all on vinyl, 8track, reel to reel and CD. Cassette tapes of every Grateful Dead and Phish show ever recorded and a bunch of shit you and I have never heard of and probably wouldn’t care to.
Manny’s collection has at least a dozen of my CDs and vinyl in it and vice versa.
We don’t talk about it.
Don’t have to.
Manny is thoroughly aware of the ebb and flow.
One day I went to visit Manny and he was rockin’ the CD in question. I dug it the most and Manny told me to take it home
(this is also a common method of assimilation. “You like that? Cool. Go ahead, take it home, give it back to me whenever.”)
So I did and it became a fixture in my stereo.
The thing is, it was acquired by Manny from the amateur and now the amateur wanted it back.
The amateur, who did not understand the Law.
Manny mentioned this to me.
I invoked The Law.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse.
On another occasion, the amateur and Manny were talking on the phone when I arrived at Manny’s. The amateur was aware of the fact that I possessed the CD and he demanded to speak to me. Manny took a perverse joy in being the middle man. Finally he just laughed and handed me the phone.
The amateur asked for his CD back.
I declined and explained that it was really Manny he should be demanding the CD from, not me.
He didn’t understand this either and just kept demanding his CD back.
I explained The Law.
The amateur rejected The Law outright.
I tried to use examples and metaphors to illustrate The Law.
The amateur became angry.
I told him that he too was a part of the circle and a beneficiary of The Law even if he didn’t realize or sanction it.
The amateur questioned my integrity, manhood and sanity and threatened violence.
I have seen the amateur in person and I was not at all moved by his threat.
I told the amateur that as soon as he returned all of the pilfered and ill gotten music in his collection to its rightful owners, then so would I, and hung up.
I haven’t seen or heard from the amateur since. I heard he moved to L.A.