Records are so hot now. Burning hot. Paycheck blowing hot. Obsessively hot. Get a life hot. Stacks of platters. Analog, baby. People lining up on record store day and they don’t even know why. U2 just downloaded their vinyl only album onto an old Big Country LP I didn’t even know I had. Weird.

I liked it better when CDs were king and no one bought vinyl. CDs were everything. Digital baby. It’s the future. Box sets. Booklets with really long dull essays. You could play CDs in the car and not have to listen to Jim Ladd at all. Records were sad. They scratched. Surface noise. You had to get up off the couch to flip them over. A drag. Analog. Unhip as unhip could be. Unhipper even than cassettes. And that is unhip.

I’d stopped buying albums, too. I was getting rid of them. Giving them away. Dumping them at the thrift store. No one was buying. I was into cds. Digital. The future. Then one day Rockaway Records here in Silver Lake was having one of their huge sales. I wandered into the room in the back. It was full of records. Out front the CD bins were a desperate struggle and here was nobody. Literally nobody. Not one customer. It was hushed. Untouched. Archaic. A window into a ridiculous past full of styluses and RPM’s. I wandered along looking at one of the dozens of shelves. I realized I was looking at hundreds and hundreds of jazz LPs. And this was the $3 and under room, and everything was 75% off…..which meant the most I could pay was 75 cents. I pulled out a Sonny Rollins LP priced at twenty nine cents. At seventy five percent off that would come to, umm, seven cents.

I’d found a new hobby.

I’d find incredible stuff, walk out of Rockaway with fifty or sixty records for twenty or thirty dollars. The sales went all weekend so I’d do that on Saturday and Sunday. Get me a hundred records. A month later there’d be another sale. The record room would be full of more albums than before, and was just as empty. I’d be there for hours, leaving with another fifty records. I’d be the only one in line buying vinyl. People eyed me suspiciously. The clerks rolled their eyes. Maybe they’ll be valuable someday, I said. Yeah right. Meanwhile people are fighting over the CDs.

Since even record collectors hated jazz back then the pickings were mine. All mine. And there was world music, all kinds, platters from everywhere. And impossible as it is to imagine now there were amounts of soul and sixties stuff that people were buying on CD only. They wouldn’t touch these. You had to get up and turn then over. Talk about a buzz kill. No one had to get up and flip a CD over. So all this sealed, or mint, or as close to mint as near mint vinyl could be went ignored. Except by me. For maybe five years it was heaven. I ran out of room. Too many records. Some I’d never played. Some I didn’t even remember buying. I was beginning to worry.

Then suddenly vinyl was hip. I was saved. Damn.

The good thing, though, was that I resold most of the records at more than I paid. All that fire sale vinyl paid the rent a few times. People pay ridiculous money now for vinyl. Some guy will show me a record he paid thirty dollars for. He’s thrilled to death. Maybe I picked up the same record a decade ago for a buck, say, or six bits, or even a quarter. Seven cents. I never tell them that, though. It’d be mean. Though no one would believe me anyway. So I just say cool….

You know, you can get amazing CDs for fifty cents now. Find them everywhere. Thrift stores are overwhelmed with them. No one buys them. I have way too many. It’s embarrassing. I can’t even read the tiny print in the booklets anymore. They’re a drag, compact discs. Digital. Unhip as unhip can be. Unhipper even than cassettes. And that is unhip. I should know. I have too many cassettes, too.


Where the rent money went.

Jazz album covers

Just saw a photo of a bunch of jazz musicians–some of the very best in fact–making silly faces. I was taken aback. I mean is the serious jazz picture phase is over? Did someone kill it? I don’t have a jazz column anymore and don’t keep up with these things. I can never keep track. There have been so many phases. I have records from the fifties with these old time musicians grinning like happy drunks. Which they probably were, bombed. A little reefer. Meanwhile the bop guys are all serious, way serious. Suits too. Matching. A little too big but matching. None of them ever cracked a smile. Too many changes. Wild tempos. Pawned horns. Suits were out by the angry album cover era. Dashikis, even on white guys. With their dashikis, long hair, and horn rimmed glasses, the white guys always looked like engineers on acid. The black guys looked angry. Man, were they angry. Scary angry. I once looked at a Pharaoh Sanders album and hid under the bed for three days. I was never comfortable with the 80’s happy jazz picture phase. Sonny Rollins happy was weird. Chick Corea disturbing. I’d listen to the albums but try not to look at the covers. My favorite period was the jazz musicians in bell bottoms and sideburns and leisure suit era. You’d see them on their album covers trying to look like hippies but always looking like heroin dealers. Then there was the everyone dressing like Sly Stone period. Huge hair. Huger flairs. Heels so high they created their own weather patterns. And bling baby, bling that made Isaac Hayes blanche. Sometimes, though, the players looked less like Sly Stone and more like Elton John crossed with an electric chicken. Which wasn’t actually the intended effect. But I digress.

A lot of those albums sure were great, though.

Herbie Mann saving money on clothes.

Herbie Mann saving money on clothes.