My Vinyl Record Collection Obsession

This is my first post. It’s taken a while to decide what it should be about, but the logical place to start is where our collection started, with my very first record, and how I got into collecting vinyl.

I’ve been a collector of things all my life. These were not things of great value, or things that other people might covet, but things that were of great significance to me. When I was a small child, I wanted nothing more than to have a cat. Desperately. However, my mother was allergic to cats, so that was never going to happen. Instead, they placated me by buying my little cat figurines and cat related artefacts wherever they went. I became obsessed with this collection. I would tend to it, meticulously clean each piece, place them in new positions, and always, ALWAYS want more.

My obsession turned to music when I was about 9 or 10. I had a brother who was much older than me. He was super cool. It was the late 90s, one of the greatest times for music that has ever been and likely will ever be (what? I’m allowed to be dramatic), and the sounds that were emanating from my brother’s room, sounds from The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, Nirvana, Blur and more, had me completely spellbound. Since then, I started hording his CDs. He would storm into my room with a rageful look on his face demanding I give him back his favourites. I did, but…I couldn’t stop myself going back for more. CDs were expensive, and I was small child! Where else was I supposed to get my fix? He started buying me CDs to, and with his guidance and financial backing, I started my first music collection. I enjoyed his suggestions, but, like a true teacher, he let me discover my own tastes as well, things he would never dream of admitting to like, like Savage Garden and the Spice Girls. My core values, however, remained – and still are – entrenched in grunge.

As a side note: at around the age of 12, I also became obsessed with Nirvana and Kurt. I read all of his biographies, owned every CD I could find, bought copious amounts of posters, trawled through music magazines for articles, any shred I could get my hands on, and I have the beautiful copy of his journals. One of my favourite records we own is a first pressing of Incesticide to honour this obsession.

When I was 13, my family decided to move from South Africa to Australia. This was an extremely emotional time for me. I had just finished my first year of high school and was starting to make friends and find myself as an actual person. Moving my CD collection was the bane of my mother’s existence at the time. I was adamant that they wouldn’t go by cargo ship, that they would come with me, in the plane, so I could have them immediately when we arrived. This was definitely not going to be possible, she said I could take a few with me to tide me over until the container of our stuff arrived a few months after us. I curated that list of CDs within an inch of its life. Going over it again and again until it was just right. I catalogued the remainder of my collection to ensure that nothing was lost in the move.

When we arrived, I was extremely depressed. I would spend the entire day in my room with my music, as you would expect from a moody teenager who had just been uprooted against their will from all their friends and familiarity. My CDs were my only solace. I hated everything else. (I eventually grew to love living in Australia, and Australian music played a big part in that, but that’s a story for another day).

My brother didn’t actually move with us at the time. So the main investor of my CD collection wasn’t around to fund my addiction. But luckily for me, this was the age of digital music. I had Winamp in my favourite Matrix skin playing my LimeWire downloads around the clock (I’m sorry Metalica, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails, I promise I pay for all my music now!). There was now no limit to what I could get my hands on. I had to have every band’s entire discography, their back catalogue, their live performances, everything that was available. I didn’t fully understand the concept of limited computer space, so we had multiple external hard drives. I would burn all the albums onto CDs and try to keep them in some semblance of neatness and order. But those burnt CDs never filled me with the same pride that my actual collection did. I didn’t get that same rush from looking at them, organising them, playing them.

Eventually I lost interest in collecting CDs. I hated the plastic cases that would crack and break, the lyric books that were hard to put back in and would sometimes tear (that nearly killed me), the little plastic teeth that held the CD in place would break off and the CDs would no longer be secure in their cases, getting scratched and falling out when you opened them. I was fed up with it, and no longer wanted to spend my money on them. Luckily, the iPod had just become a thing, So I bought the biggest one available, transferred the music that mattered to me to it and that was that. Streaming services like Spotify eventually started and I could have my fill of any music from anywhere at the touch of a button. But I missed that feeling of having music in some kind of physical form. That hit of dopamine you get when you see the cover art of one of your favourite albums, that you can actually hold in your hand.

Somewhere between the iPod and Spotify (the mid-2000s, which was in all honesty, aside from a handful of bands, a bit of a musical wasteland), my very good friend gave me my very first vinyl record as a gift. It was a reissue of The Pixies, Doolittle. A band and album that had cemented our friendship in high school, where we were pretty much the only two girls who knew who they were. I didn’t have anything to play it on, but it was one of my most prized possessions and always had a special spot in our house. In fact, it’s still one of the jewels in our collection for me. This record reminded me what it was like to desire collecting music, and this feeling simmered inside of me for a few years before I was ready to act on it.

By this stage, records were everywhere again, and gaining still in popularity. Almost every new album was being pressed on vinyl, and you no longer had to hunt for classics because they were being reissued every other day. In a way this is a good thing, easily available albums mean you can have almost anything you want pretty easily, the internet facilitates this even more. It obviously has its downsides, increased popularity means increased prices, not to mention the loss of that niche coolness and counterculture vibe. To be honest though, being able to share this experience with so many people who are as excited as I am, and having most of my favourite albums easily accessible, is definitely worth the loss of cool status and the slight increase in price. There will always be those collectable items, the first pressings and special editions, to satisfy the need to hunt and add that extra cred to your collection, and you can still get lucky and find some goodies for a bargain while crate digging in your local vintage shop. And those are the moments that really make you feel like a collector.

Like my collection of cat figurines, our record collection doesn’t have that much value to anyone else. It’s mainly filled with new albums, and reissues, not many actual collectables in there. Its real value is only known to us. Its real value is that increased heart rate you get when you go to choose a record, its real value is that tingling skin feeling when the needle drops and the first few notes of your favourite song start up, its real value is the pride you get when you gaze lovingly at your collection and think, I did that, that’s me on a shelf.

There’s no feeling quite like it.