April 11, 2016 – 4:31 am

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I would argue that when it comes to records, there is no such thing as critical mass. No matter how many are leaning against walls next to shelves that long ago reached their capacity, or find themselves in locations where they are rediscovered weeks or even years later, they never classify as clutter. The owner of all these records could never be tarred with the epithet “hoarder.” Records, no matter how many or where they are stashed, only enhance an environment.

I never met someone with a lot of records who wasn’t at least interesting.

I have also reconciled myself to the fact that I’m a vinyl fetishist. I thought the Vinyl Fetish record store on Melrose was not only a great outlet but also aptly named. In the 1980s, I would go in there, buy what I could afford, stare at all the other records I wanted and absorb the attitude that often radiated from other shoppers and some of the people behind the counter. I didn’t care. I liked being around the records.

I have a weak spot for records I like that they are released in different colors. I think it’s the coolest thing. I have emancipated myself from the tethers of redundancy! If I have three copies of the same record but they look different, there’s just more to play.

I don’t know how many different color variations I have of Sleep’s Dopesmoker, but they all sound great to me and they’re all good to have around. Being surrounded by records just means you have a lot of listening to do. And seeing how easy it is to waste your time as you edge up on death, you might as well fill the hours with tunes.

There will come a time when every single person who ever knew or saw Jimi Hendrix will be gone. The only thing that will keep those records from disappearing into the mists of obscurity is people, driven by whatever reason, pulling them off the shelf, putting them on and keeping the party rockin’. That’s our job.

One of the difficulties when you don’t thin out the herd now and then is that you might have records that you don’t like all that much but still can’t turn loose. You never know, that all-but-unlistenable Lightnin’ Hopkins record with the really badly overdubbed trombone might be just the record you need next weekend.

I have records that, after I played them, gave me no idea why I had acquired them in the first place. I shelved them for what I thought was going to be forever, only to hear them years later, in a different context, and conclude that they were amazing. It occurs to me now that the records were always great and just waiting for me to evolve.

It might be a strange way to regard time and the ageing process, but I think it makes life dynamic. I have always been fascinated by the way music, preserved in the grooves of a record, allows you to revisit your past, thus providing at least one true reference point. When you put on a record you used to love and, upon listening again, have no idea what it was that grabbed you in the first place, this is when life becomes mysteriously complex. The record has kept its part of the bargain and hasn’t changed. You, on the other hand, are all over the place. What happened? Those are vapor trails I like to chase…

…The point I’m making is that we’re all temporary and that music has a far greater shelf life than we do. There will come a time when every single person who ever knew or saw Jimi Hendrix will be gone. The only thing that will keep those records from disappearing into the mists of obscurity is people, driven by whatever reason, pulling them off the shelf, putting them on and keeping the party rockin’. That’s our job.

Note: The complete article is here. Look for your weekly music fix from the one and only Henry Rollins at the LA Weekly (click here) every Thursday; and click here for the playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.

What does collecting records, CDs, tapes and cassettes mean to you?

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Your No B.S. comments will earn you a pass to free music.


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  1. 29 Responses to “THE MORE B.S. CONTEST No. 11”

  2. Collecting is the constant search for the next dose of enlightenment. Every record tape or CD has an element of magic in them that can take you away, remind you of times past, make you laugh, make you cry and have you shaking your head in amazement at the incredible talent contained in an album, a song or lyric.
    Its about the smell, the touch, the look, feel and physicality of the art in your hands, something downloading will never replace.
    Its an addiction for which I will never seek a cure.

    By Crack on Apr 11, 2016

  3. Collecting is really, just a fun thing to do. That’s why I do it: it’s fun to near new sounds, to discover new artists and to dive deep into styles and genres I don’t know anything about. Back when Goodwill was still open around here, I used to buy all kinds of stuff that looked interesting, sounded vaguely familiar or just felt right in my hands. Found a few duds that way, but also some great tunes, too.

    By M Milner on Apr 12, 2016

  4. I always thought collecting music (and books) was one of the best ways to invest my time and money. Through them, especially the liner notes, I learned a lot not only about the artists but the times in which they created their music. I must admit it angered the women in my life who thought my collecting was frivolous and a waste of money and time. But I found joy and satisfaction in owning music and especially having a particular song ready when I needed to hear it. You never cease learning from the best music and books and you never know when or how a line or musical phrase may hit you differently. We are better people for the libraries we keep.

    By Tony on Apr 12, 2016

  5. I never buy things just to have them. For me, it’s all about hearing the music. Owning it can create a deeper connection but space and budget demand that I be selective. That said, I’m proud of my collection, now beautifully displayed on custom-built shelving. Everything is accessible so I can come home and slap on vinyl without a thought. That means a lot!

    By Jeremy Shatan on Apr 13, 2016

  6. I like to think that my sons will value my collection long after I’m gone. And that they’ll think of me when they listen. I’ve taken them to a few shows when they were younger. Dylan was their first concert, when he was touring minor league ball parks with Mellencamp. They are developing their own tastes now and I like to think that I had some influence there as well.

    By steve22 on Apr 14, 2016

  7. Today I was listening to a B.B. King album from the 1950s, not on vinyl, but on digital download, sent by a friend as a zip file. Prior to this, I wasn’t the biggest B.B. King fan, but I liked this particular album so much that now my estimation of B.B. has gone up several notches. For me, it isn’t about collecting per se, it’s about having a constant supply of new music I can enjoy, and being able to keep it around, in whatever format, so that I can listen to it again if I feel like it. Of course, even in the span of a long human life, none of us will ever hear everything that’s out there, but this means there will always be something new to discover, whether it’s a brand new recording or a neglected treasure we come across. I’ve always had a big collection of music, and I haven’t reduced its size unless I’ve had to. I think for those of us who enjoy music, books, movies, baseball cards, comics - anything you can amass - the nature of our collection has more to do how much we can keep around than anything else. But if I lost it all tomorrow, I’d still be glad I heard it, and I’d just go looking for either replacements or new stuff.

    By Jim Kneubuhl on Apr 14, 2016

  8. For me, there are 2 sides to collecting: one is the sheer physicality of the medium, the other is the experience itself (and, yes, they’re connected). After hauling around thousands and thousands of albums, cassettes & CDs for close to 50 years - just because my “stuff” makes me feel safe - I’ve been able to focus more on the pure experience of the music itself. I love revisiting the old & equally love discovering the new & am more than grateful for both.

    By Tom Jackson on Apr 14, 2016

  9. I have a lot of records and a lot of CDs but it was never about the medium. It was the excitement of the hunt! I didn’t frequent used record stores (I was always worried about skips & scratches), but I loved used CD stores. I used to make the rounds (in Toronto) searching through stacks looking for something interesting. Now-a-days it is all MP3. I love the convenience, but mostly because there are so many places to find new music. BigO here is a great example.

    Sure, Sturgeon’s Law applies (90% of everything is crap), but that 10% makes it all worthwhile. And there is something of value in nearly everything - even if only to be able to say that such and such is not to my taste.

    Looking at the gigabytes of mp3’s I’ve accumulated over the years, I’d have to say that I’m a hoarder! :-)

    By RisingRunner on Apr 14, 2016

  10. I bought my first record aged 9. I am now 61 and I am still buying music in vinyl, cassette, CD and DVD formats. My passion is to seek out any music that I have not heard of – I visit flea markets, charity/goodwill shops, car boot/garage sales and look out for people selling collections. In reality, I spend pence on these and the enjoyment I get when I listen to each and every one ‘new find’ is indescribable. Not all purchases are a success, I admit, but when I do come across an artiste or band that is new to me that is a real corker I am over the moon. Some of the ‘finds’ have been amazing and I will then seek to complete those artistes’/bands’ back catalogues. It is a very rewarding hobby and my collection now numbers over 19,800 albums.
    Today I bought 13 CD albums for less than £5. Tomorrow, I will be listening to them all – can’t wait!

    By Daijj on Apr 16, 2016

  11. Collectors will soon be the only people outside of corporate labels, who will be able to archive for future generations, the achievements of musicians of the last 100 years. There won’t be money in it, so don’t expect too many labels to archive anything slightly esoteric

    By Liam on Apr 16, 2016

  12. I am so glad I read the article above by Henry Rollins and all the comments above! I now know who my brothers are! All of you. [I feel a little more normal now]. I only have about 10,000 records. But I’m going out to look for some more LPs today. And I can’t wait to see what is out there! Keep on keepin’ on Brothers! And thanks to Henry Rollins for telling me that I’m not a hoarder but a collector! And thanks Big “O” for all the live concert downloads! [You helped me find “The Miles Davis Radio project” last year. So cool!].

    By swishsweeney on Apr 16, 2016

  13. Mr. Rollins, I hope I fit your definition of interesting. He has run the gamut. As a “Librarian” with a 2000+ Vinyl, 2000+ CD Library and God knows how many Cassettes, .MP3s, etc., I happily share my collection with Family and Friends and will pass everything down to my Daughter some day. ” Pull… Them Off The Shelf And Keep… The Party Rockin’!”.

    By Britinvdon on Apr 18, 2016

  14. Despite Mr Rollins’s erudite explanation of what motivates him I fear he is, despite the protestations, a hoarder. A collecting hoarder, yes, but a hoarder nonetheless. That he possesses multiple copies of one album leapfrogs him into that next category.
    I sympathise, I really do. Anyone with seven different editions of Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selborne would HAVE to sympathise.*
    But I class myself as a hoarder too.
    Is it BAD to be a hoarder? That is an interesting point.
    In a world of finite resources, and extinctions driven by disregard for nature, for the future, by greed and avarice, possession of more than one copy of anything is not, to my mind, automatically a “bad thing”.
    Many of us, I think, would despise those affluent fools who surround themselves with an excess of trinkets - two Ferraris, five Rolexes, 73 bedrooms where three would do. In the world those people occupy and destroy, the hoarding of resources and the acquisition of “more” when “enough” should suffice is definitely Bad.
    But salvaging and rescuing useful and worthy things that already exist should not arouse as much - or any - disapproval. Waste is as bad, in a world of finite resources and capacity, as excessive consumption.
    Collectors and hoarders alike can often be of value in mitigating the damage done by those who consume to excess.
    There’s a problem, however - collecting is often driven by avarice - and hoarding is often driven by (and a sign of) mental illness of one form or another.
    Each of us is different. Each of us is likely to have different reasons and methods of collecting or hoarding, some of which may be morally justifiable, some not. I don’t need Mr Rollins to validate my habits, and I do not need to sit on judgement of his circumstances.
    That said … I fear he verges on hoarding, more than collecting, and I believe any man who possesses at least five decent quality sound systems [see ]is not helping the planet.
    But he’s an aesthete and has a conscience and I believe he is a very decent human being.
    I’m happy to cut him the slack I could never offer the turd Trump.
    *In mitigation, too, it could be argued that Rollins and I, and other discerning collectors, are creating a far more interesting future for the archeologists of the 100th millennium than the mindless hoarder fucks who just fill their homes and the garbage tips with McDonald’s takeaway wrappers.

    By (the real) Tony on Apr 24, 2016

  15. Collecting vynyl is great, but it’s the listening to so many different genres that gives the value…whether it be on vynyl or in downloads. I love the downloads because they last forever as long as you don’t space out and lose them…and I have.

    By GOLDminer on Apr 26, 2016

  16. Hi,

    I’d really like to get hold of a few of the recording you have…do you sell or provide downloads please?

    Many thanks


    By James Haslam on Apr 27, 2016

  17. I have rediscovered vinyl after many years of CDs and mp3s. I love collecting all of them but my wife thinks it’s hoarding.

    By Phil on May 5, 2016

  18. 900g and counting. Streaming sucks. Own your music. And pay the musicians that make it

    By captaintraps on May 14, 2016

  19. “It occurs to me now that the records were always great and just waiting for me to evolve.”

    Exactly. Perfect.

    By JB on May 14, 2016

  20. Collecting records is a delight, as Henry says. Whether it’s vinyl, CD, or downloads. I also have a lot of records collected over the years. I do find less time to go exploring through the collection and relisten to some of the records that I may have only listened to once. Time is the resource that we have that is in limiting supply.

    By Steve on Jun 4, 2016

  21. “It occurs to me now that the records were always great and just waiting for me to evolve.”
    Looking back at those records I bought when I was younger, Mansun’s ‘Six’ or Radiohead when they changed sound for example, Rollin’s words are spot on. I hope I live long enough to appreciate Metal Machine Music!

    By tony aston on Jun 8, 2016

  22. Thank you BIGO! PLEASE DON’T STOP!

    By JamWel on Jun 14, 2016

  23. Records often sound better than digital and have a “warmth” to the sound. Sometimes you feel like the artist is right there. Records are also art and artifacts. Record art completely blows away cd art, even if just by size alone. It’s irritating to have to find a magnifying glass to read liner notes on a cd. I dig holding an album from long ago on some obscure little label and just try to imagine the history behind it and the journey it’s been on. It’s also funny to look back on certain albums that you actually had to replace because you played them so much!

    By Elvislives on Jul 2, 2016

  24. Records or CDs: enough platform cork-sniffery - do like Hank and keep the music going, regardless of how you listen to it.

    By Fez on Jul 7, 2016

  25. i agree, but the internet sadly, is where i go to find new music nowadays

    By Liam NSW on Sep 9, 2016

  26. I get collecting records and all, but at the same time so many of them are mastered and recorded digitally, so I think I’m hearing the same zeros and ones as I hear on a CD and whatever “warmth” a vinyl reissue against a CD reissue is all in the listeners head.

    By M on Oct 29, 2016

  27. I collect music from all sources - blogs, what I hear, what my friends hear. Albums are great, but the convenience of digital wins out 99 out of 100 times.

    By Dave on Dec 4, 2016

  28. The music doesn’t change, just our state of mind and perception. Music will always take us back to a thought, a feeling, an experience, but can evolve over time as something more…as we continue to evolve

    By BGS on Jun 12, 2018

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