With the contemporary renaissance of vinyl record collecting, now is the perfect time to dive into Vinyl Rewind. Not only has renewed interest in the vinyl record format become more popular since the 1980s, but interest has also made the Internet ubiquitous with numerous music blogs and websites discussing the enduring format. Among the most noteworthy and enjoyable I’ve found is Vinyl Rewind, which is hosted by wax enthusiast Eric Callero, aka the Vinyl Geek.
The Vinyl Geek shares his insight of his latest groove-a-licious finds in an extremely entertaining and informative style. I always learn fascinating tidbits about albums I’ve enjoyed for years (most notably, his in-depth analysis of The Beatles and Prince’s Sign o' the Times double albums), as well as find new items to add to my wish list each time he uploads a new video. So, if you treasure collecting favorite old and new albums on this long beloved format as much as I do, then I highly recommend checking out the Vinyl Rewind website and subscribing to the Vinyl Geek’s YouTube channel.
After habitually visiting his YouTube channel for longer than I can now recall, I’d amassed a handful of questions which the Vinyl Geek was kind enough to take the time to answer for me. His insights were both interesting and beneficial, so I thought I’d share his responses with fellow crate diggers who not only appreciate vinyl, but are always seeking a gratifyingly successful new haul.
My Q&A with the Vinyl Geek:
Eric Allen: When did you first start collecting vinyl and why?
The Vinyl Geek: Records have always been a part of my life, even when I didn’t own any. I used to spend hours just looking at the covers in my family’s storage cabinet. I wasn’t allowed to play them, [because I was] still too young. I first started buying cassettes, Weird Al mostly. When I started getting into classic rock, probably around junior high, I wanted some Lynyrd Skynyrd, so I went down to the local used record shop and picked up a copy of Gold & Platinum. Kind of lame, I know, but it was the cheapest option, as CDs were $20 plus back then. Around when I entered high school, I started shopping at thrift stores for wardrobe, and looking through the records became a natural extension of my shopping experience. I first bought records for funny, strange, and weird covers. I would show them off to my friends, maybe even play them. As high school progressed, I started buying more for enjoyment and for DJing. My brother was big into the electronica/rave scene and still is in some sense, so he inspired me to want to DJ. I did some parties and a wedding; mostly all on vinyl. I bought a lot of 80s and disco music, anything you could dance too. By the time I was in college, I gave up on being a DJ and started collecting exotica, cocktail, mood music, and 50s/60s era oldies. Once I decided to move to L.A. around 2007, I started selling off my collection. I got rid of most of my novelty music: records that I bought for odd, strange or funny covers. I also got rid of most of my pop music. Besides the obvious fact that records are heavy to move, YouTube had finally hit its stride and so much of the music I was collecting for comedy’s sake was on there, no need to own it, just show someone the video. I didn’t see the point in having half of the records I had. What’s funny is that now I’ve started to buy back a lot of what I sold. I’ve even started to think about DJing again. Ha-ha, funny how life will do that to you. I will say that through it all, there was always a sense of a collector’s value in what I purchased. I don’t like to pay a lot for my vinyl, which is why I usually shop at garage sales and thrift stores. It’s the hunt that I really enjoy and if I could get a $20 record for a buck, that’s even better. I love record shops, but I usually only go to them if I’m looking for something specific. I’m the same way with vintage clothing stores. Otherwise, I feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff I want.
I have a collecting personality, but I don’t like to collect things that serve no purpose other than to collect dust on the shelf. Whatever it is that I collect, it needs to have another purpose. Vinyl is great because it satisfies the collector in me as well as the music lover. I love the hunt (dig), getting a good deal and it’s fun to see what something could be worth. I don’t collect because I’ll think I’ll get rich, but it’s nice to know that I could sell my collection if I ever needed the cash.
Another reason I collect vinyl is that it’s a window to the past. Sometimes you’ll get an album with some clues to whom the previous owner was. Sometimes it’s just their name, other times you’ll find a newspaper clipping that they took the time to save. One time I found an invitation to see Josephine Baker in concert in San Francisco tucked in the album sleeve. Stuff like that makes my imagination go wild. Who was this person? Why did they buy this album? Did they cherish the music? What happened to them? Even more personal are acetates, used in the record industry as a test pressing more or less. The technology was also made into a vending machine that [gave] normal folks [the opportunity to] record a personal message to loved ones and send it to them in the mail. Those to me, are amazing time capsules of everyday people. Not movie stars or TV personalities, just regular folks having fun. Those types of records are generally one of a kind because of how the technology worked. Granted, not all of them are that cool, but you get the idea.
Lastly, there’s just some stuff only available on vinyl. With every new advancement in media presentation, a lot of stuff gets left behind. Not every album has been transferred into the digital realm, nor are there plans to do so. So, finding a hidden gem of an album or record is totally plausible and that’s what makes digging so exciting.
How many pieces do you own?
I must have around 500 LPs. I have maybe two picture discs. I might have two or three hundred 45s. I have about one hundred and fifty 78s and about seventy-five 10-inch albums, my favorite to collect.
What are your thoughts on colored vinyl vs. standard black vinyl?
I come from a time when colored vinyl was a rare occurrence. Most of the time it was in the form of 7” records and mostly the color was red. On the one hand, I still think they are cool, especially how artistic many of the multicolor/splatter pressings can be, but on the other hand, it’s becoming a little overkill with some releases. Case in point, the vinyl pressing of the Stranger Things OST had nearly a dozen variants in color, as well as the standard black vinyl. It wouldn’t be so bad, but on the second-hand market, those variants are (were?) going for a premium over the regular black edition; basically, folks are paying extra for a record that looks cool, but can actually sound worse than standard black vinyl. Now, the sound quality isn’t as bad as picture discs and most folks don’t have a sound system sensitive enough to hear the difference, but certain colors and color combinations will be more noticeable (as explained here). At the same time though, a quality color pressing will still sound better than a cheap pressing, as there are many factors that go into making a record than just the color of the vinyl.
Why do you prefer vinyl over digital media?
I actually don’t prefer one over the other. Digital is fantastic because it’s so portable and you can check out a ton of different bands in one sitting. Plus, I love to make digital mix tapes. Way easier than converting vinyl. The down side is that the music is more disposable and you may have the tendency not to care about it as much. Vinyl is awesome because the artwork is massive, the sound is great and it makes you an active participant in the listening experience. The downside is that they are heavy and not nearly as portable. I love the fact that both are coexisting right now.
What tips do you have for someone wanting to start vinyl collecting?
L.A. has a ton of great resources, but your readers may not live in as fortunate of a city, so here are some great places to visit on the web:
A) Needle Doctor for new turntables and parts.
B) Discogs: a great place to go to buy vinyl, maintain your collection, and all-around resource.
C) Vinyl Engine is a fantastic resource for turntables. They have manuals, reviews, and a great forum. Their members are super knowledgeable.
Also check out the Vinyl Community on YouTube. The men and women on there are some of the coolest cats I know and they will totally make you feel like you’re part of a family.
Ultimately, start small. Don’t feel the need to spend a lot of money to enjoy your records. Start with the basics, and as your ear develops, then upgrade your system and records. Records in near mint condition command high prices, but copies in good condition can be had for very reasonable prices.
Have your record buying habits changed since the vinyl trend has unexpectedly become so popular?
Not really. I still love to hit the bins at thrift stores, flea markets, and garage sales. What has changed is what I buy. Before my show, I was happy in my little bachelor pad collecting bubble. I didn’t stray too far from the 50s and 60s, but I did make room for 80s pop. I also didn’t like paying more than a dollar for a record. Since starting the show, my musical tastes have widened exponentially, and I now pick up everything and anything, even stuff I may have heard of, but never actually listened to. I also buy more new records now and I’m willing to spend more than a buck for a used release.
What one LP do you think everyone should own in their collection?
Sticky Fingers by the Rolling Stones, because it really showcases why physical media is so cool. You can’t get that experience from a CD or MP3. The runner-up would be the Velvet Underground’s debut (The Velvet Underground & Nico), plus it’s just amazing music.
What turntable model(s) do you currently use?
Audio-Technica LP 120, Yamaha YP211 and a U-Turn Orbit (I did a review on that one).
Previously, you named Electric Light Orchestra’s Out of the Blue as your guilty pleasure record. What currently is your favorite guilty pleasure album?
For now, it’s Blink 182’s Dude Ranch.
I’d like to give a big thanks (again) to the Vinyl Geek for his insightful answers. And for those who’ve been collecting vinyl for years or if you’re just starting to build a collection, I highly recommend Vinyl Rewind as a significant and invaluable source.