Reorganizing Records: A Particular Insanity?
So I got up at 6:30 last Thursday morning and decided, on somewhat of a whim, to reorganize my records. By 6:45 I was hauling piles of records between one room and another, climbing ladders, aching my aging muscles, wrenching my aging back. For me, it was the usual: I go through this type of exercise at least once a year, maybe even more frequently. And often, there is no rhyme or reason to what I’m doing, just a desire to physically handle my records and pore through them to once again remind me of what I have and where it is located. Before I get into the details of what I did and why I did it, I am curious to ask: Is this just me, or is it a common affliction of the vinyl collector? Do any of you out there go through an organizing/reorganizing jag on a regular basis?
Anyway, so here’s my latest story.
It starts with a simple reality: I have far too many records. More records than I can ever listen to, more records than I will ever want to listen to. But getting rid of records is not the answer. I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work so well. Discerning long-time readers will recall that I once embarked on a project that I inaptly dubbed The Great Jazz Vinyl Countdown. During that period, I probably got rid of maybe 100 records and then started buying again in droves, hundreds, even thousands at a time, i.e., the Irving Kalus and Baltimore collections that I wrote about often here at Jazz Collector. I did get rid of a bunch of records recently at one of the record collector shows in Brooklyn, but those were all duplicates, nothing to detract from my actual collection.
Anyway, the problem with having too many records, as many of you can surely attest, is that they take up a lot of room. Way too much room, if you ask my wife, The Lovely Mrs. JC. And I do tend to agree with her. At one point I owned a very large house and had floor to ceiling shelves built across my entire living room, at least 25 feet across, with very high ceilings. These shelves must have held 8,000 or even 10,00 records. Still, I needed many more shelves in a separate room to house the entire collection.
Now, I rent a small apartment in Manhattan and own a medium-size house in The Berkshires. Altogether, in my two spaces, I have six rooms, not counting kitchens. At this stage five of those six rooms are stuffed with records, the only exception being my bedroom in The Berkshires, where The Lovely Mrs. JC has been a staunch holdout in entreating me to leave her at least one space where she doesn’t have to feel compressed by the sight and smell of records. I have been compliant to this point, but I have filled just about every available piece of space in the other five rooms, so I think we both realize it’s just a matter of time before record shelves are gracing the walls of our bedroom. I, for one, am looking forward to the day and I’m pretty sure The Lovely Mrs. JC has also come to grips with its inevitability.
Now, one of the problems with having this many records in this many rooms in two separate cities is deciding what goes where. And this has been a conundrum ever since I moved from my large house in the suburbs and bifurcated my life. In the city apartment, I decided to keep the core of my collection, however you define that. I defined it by my most treasured and rare original pressings, almost all from the 1950s through the mid 1960s. I may have a record in the city that was recorded after A Love Supreme, but I’m not 100% sure I could identify it. But it’s all my original Blue Notes, yellow-label Prestiges, most of the Riversides, Norgans, Clefs, Verves, and other collectibles. You get the picture. The problem is that the apartment is small and there was room for only about 1,500 records. So I really had to cull and make tough choices and split up my collection willy-nilly. For example, my Cannonball Adderley Mercury and Riverside records are in New York, the Capital records in The Berkshires. All of my Blakey Blue Notes are in New York, the rest of my Blakey’s are in the The Berkshires. It’s not an ideal situation, but I’ve made the best of it. When I ran out of room in the country for my 10-inch records, I convinced The Lovely Mrs. JC to let me put two bookshelves in our very small bedroom in the city, so now all of my 10-inch LPs (not the 78s) are in the city, which is very nice because they are now with the core collection.
Okay. If you’re still following all of this, I have 1,500 12-inch LPs in the city, plus all of my 10-inch LPs. Which leaves about 1,000 78s and at least 10,000 more LPs, not to mention the collection of Downbeats and the collection of jazz books. I’ve had custom cabinets build in The Berkshires house in two rooms, one in the main area with high shelves and a steel library ladder to access them. Which, in a somewhat roundabout way leads me to last Thursday morning and my lingering backache. I won’t get into all the minute details of how the records are organized here in the country, because they are spread across three rooms and it’s a bit of a puzzle, the solution to which is only known to me. The basics are this: In one room is a whole collection of traditional/big band records; in another room are all of the original pressings – the Blakeys, Cannonball Capitals, Swingville, Moodsville, Brubecks, et al – thousands , that are rare and potentially valuable, but were not, for whatever reason, deemed worthy of a place among the top 1,500 records in the collection; in the third room are all of the records that were issued from 1970 and later. Don’t ask why I have divided the records as such. I just have, and it somehow works for me.
So this was the problem that I was having. I spend almost all of my listening time in the living room, so that is where I put the original pressings, which I would listen to most often. The problem was that these records were all on high shelves and only accessible by ladder. It was a pain in the ass to get to any of these records, and standing up high on the latter to browse was not only difficult, it was dangerous. So I wasn’t getting to see and touch and feel these records, which was a waste. On the other hand, the post-1970s records were in a separate room, where I write, and they were much more accessible. I could touch them and browse them and easily pull them off the shelves. The problem was that they were much less interesting than the original pressings. Anyway, yada, yada, yada, the original pressings are now in my office, easily accessible on their shelves, while the post-1970s records are sitting high atop the living room, accessible only by ladder. And I’ve had several pleasant days poring through the original pressings and being pleasantly surprised at the wonderful records sitting on my shelves that I can now browse and play and admire. Which will probably last for another few months, before I wake up at 6:30 again one morning and decide to re-arrange them once again.
I know I have probably shared more details about this aspect of my obsession than is necessary, but I am hopeful to find out that this is a somewhat common affliction among vinyl collectors and not a reflection of a particular vinyl insanity suffered only by me. In either case, it won’t curtail me, so thanks for paying attention.