ONE MAN’S DISCARD
Can be another man’s treasure. Ergo, a gazillion thriving second hand (thrift) stores. I love thrift stores. Rather, I love what I get out of them, which is every sharp shirt, slacks and jacket in my closet. Truthfully, oddly, they drive me crazy, because I have not mastered them. They have mastered and mindmucked me. The avalanche of choices and decisions buries me. About five minutes in. My wife, however, has thrift store radar and will stride across a new store straight to a rack in the back, reach in and quickly pull out a perfect designer blouse or shirt, for three bucks.
On those rare occasions when I do get roped in to a personal appearance, in that first five minutes, before meltdown, I usually look for the LP section, perhaps paw through it a little, and then throw in the towel. I’m quickly reminded of what I know from experience: there’s no treasure here. No vinyl version of a pair of Manolo Blahniks, or even Nikes. Not even “Louie, Louie,” let alone Louis Vuitton.
If I did come across, say, a Lazar Berman disc, on Melodiya (of course! a recent Russian immigrant discard), my initial excitement would surely evaporate as I slid the record out of its sleeve to discover it apparently was used to steady a short table leg on a busy Russian restaurant floor. Or, maybe, anchored some cat’s scratching post. No prodigious piano pounding from the bear man Lazar in those bins, only pianos by Billy Joel or Elton John, and I never even bought those new.
I LIKE MY VINYL
Like I likes my wimmens — cherished, handled with great care, held only around the edges, still in a beautiful package, like brand new on the inside, and quiet. Heh heh hehheh heh! (I guar-an-tee there will be at least one reader who won’t appreciate the joke, and be feministically ballistic. Not my fault! — Popeye took over my soul as I wrote that. He was created in Santa Monica, you know.)
Seriously, I was always a fanatic about the condition of my LPs. In my single dad days only my son was trusted to put one on the turntable. Girlfriends could possibly qualify after a six-month training period.
For years, the first time I played a record I listened through headphones, pretty loud, and if there was a pop, click, tic or hiss, no matter how quiet, that lasted more than one revolution, the disc went back to the store for exchange. Defective. Oh yeah, they loved to see me coming at the returns counter of local music stores. But most of them understood and respected my high fidelity standards. It got a lot easier when I started working in those stores. “Wow, Charles,” the manager would note, innocently, “looks like we have a ton of returns this week…”
So all these decades later, in my ongoing pandemic-fueled crusade to go through every one of those dozens of jam-packed boxes of… stuff, filled with 95 percent junk, mostly expired paper, but 5 percent crucial life mementos, I have come across a few stashed boxes of albums. Dear God — there may be more. I recently wound up with 141 classical discs and 41 rock-soul-country albums that had to go. They were not… part of the 1800.
I accumulated more than 7,000 albums by the time I moved here from New Mexico in 1980. I can’t begin to tell you how much fun it is to move that many really heavy boxes of LPs. More than once. But my son Chris could have told you, in no uncertain terms. Even though he was also a music fanatic and loved having them around.
Over the years in the LA area The 7,000 were joined by more than 5,000 CDs. And then the terabytes of external hard drives began to accumulate. If you think this is insane, in a condo of less than 1,000 square feet, you have to remember there was a time when not every single song ever recorded was available for play, at that moment when you really needed it, from some platform or another. No, if that voice inside insisted you had to hear your favorite Richie Havens album, or Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Gene Clark or Ofra Haza or Lazar Berman, and nothing else would do, it was so satisfying to know you could walk over to the right place in the library and pluck it out. Funny how technology can make a life’s work irrelevant. Actually, not funny at all, dammit, but whatcha gonna do?
Here’s what. You go tearfully, but with discipline and courage, through The 7000 and you weed out
THE ONES YOU CAN POSSIBLY LIVE WITHOUT
And you sell them. For peanuts. Because you’re right between the windows where Japanese buyers were paying insane dollars to satisfy their yen for every American LP (even though the quality, the clarity, separation and noiselessness of their albums is so superior to ours), and when the hipsters discovered vinyl as a means to enhance their sorry status by surrounding themselves at home with carefully curated LPs. God bless ‘em, but I had already let too many go for a quarter or two. Timing is everything.
So I had whittled it down to only the albums I could not bear to live without. And that final number was 1800. Most people have never had anywhere close to that number of PVC friends and confidants to make them smile and ease their pain, so I guess I am fortunate. But every so often I want to play album x and I go to where it should be, where it was, and there is an empty space. An empty space in my heart, to match the hole in the center of that LP.
THEY NEEDED A GOOD HOME
That near-pristine vinyl, those 141 plus 41, and I did find the right person for the 141 classical, and we had a really good time shooting the breeze about divas and dirigeants we have known, and music and life. I got to watch a friend go treasure hunting in my backyard, and it was rewarding for both of us. Stay tuned! Names revealed! Gossip dished! Tunes hummed! Scores settled! Details to follow.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY !!!
Today! To my dear wife and life partner Diane Michelle. You have brought so much joy through music into my life, and Chirs’s and Nicole’s, and countless thousands, that you can rest assured that you have used your talents to the utmost. The world became a far better place on that certain April 8. Thank you for always giving, “All of Me.”
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 3,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com