Getting Free Records and the Curse that Follows

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<!-- missing image --> Like most KCRW dj’s, I’ve bought records all my life.  This is sometimes referred to as a “record habit”.  Harvey Pekar wrote a piece about this perilous syndrome, with illustrations by Robert Crumb, called “The Record Collector”, in which a jazz record addict suffers a complete meltdown because he couldn’t afford an Allen Eager lp.  Allen Eager, by the way, was a jazz saxophonist.

For me, like so many other vinyl obsessives, it began in high school.  I would go with my friends to Wallach’s Music City in Hollywood or Sam’s and Crane’s on Adams Boulevard.   After browsing jazz titles would come the Sophie’s Choice:  which albums to buy, which ones to put back onto the shelves.  Then the agonizing decision of whether to splurge for stereo versions, which cost a buck more.

So I spent all my money on albums until I was in my late 20s.  After graduate school, two degrees and several teaching credentials but not landing a teaching job, I decided to start writing liner notes for jazz labels, as well as contributing reviews and musician profiles to down beat and other publications.   Promo copies started to come in.  I landed the music director job at KCRW in l979.  While building the KCRW music library from scratch, I also was building my own collection, never imagining that it would mushroom into a colossus.

Today, many years later, my collection has grown exponentially.  I recently realized just how large it was when, after 17 years in the same house, I sold it and moved into a new apartment.  Moving 20,000 records was totally brutal.  I’ve gotten rid of around 4,000 cd’s and 500 lp’s so far.  It feels good to downsize, but there is far more work to be done.  It’s nice that some of those original Blue Note mono recordings that I paid $3.98 for now fetch $40 and more in Japan.  Nice return for those scratched up hunks of vinyl.

For now, however,  I will continue to downsize the collection.  It’s too big, too much of a burden. It’s obscene to have this many records.  It certainly will never become Zen-like here in my new flat, and there were times I just felt like giving all my records away to Reverend Moon’s Unification Church.   That was the Korean super-church where adherents would surrender all their worldly goods before being admitted.    I never could have imagined that my desire to get free records would someday amount to tonnage and a very sore back.  And glares from the moving men. So my current plan is for every cd I receive, I’ll just get rid of one other cd, and that way my collection will be held in check.