Monday, November 22, 2004

Don't Trash Blanky!

Tom Cox, a correspondent of The Times Guardian, tells us why he's sold his vinyl collection to make space for an armchair. That's Right wants to know - has he Souled out?

ONE of the odd things about moving house a lot is that you expect it to make you more likely to get a hernia, but the truth is exactly the opposite. The fact is that if, like me, you’ve heaved your whole life into a van eight times in six years, you can’t help but get an instinctive, self-preserving feel for the weight of objects. These days I can glance at a chest of drawers and tell in a second how many balding men with bottom cleavage are needed to lift it. A neat skill to possess, though sometimes a bit of a dampener on impulse purchases, it has made me look at material goods in a new light. It also led me to sell my record collection.

Actually, the living hell that is moving is not the only reason that I’ve decided to discard, with the help of eBay, the three or four thousand vinyl albums that catalogue my musical life; it’s just a very big one. Records are the most belligerent of transient objects: unnaturally heavy, unaccountably multiplying as you move them off shelves and into boxes. So far, none of the friends and professional removers who have assisted me and my wife in our accidental nomadism have complained about the huge trunk that serves as testament to my grandfather-in-law’s wartime travels, although plenty have grouched about my exhaustive collection of Sixties psychedelia. But there is more to it than that.

All this time I have viewed it as an essential part of me, as if I would melt into a heap on the ground, Wicked Witch of the West-style, if I didn’t lug it from house to house. But it has occurred to me that I might just, ever-so-slightly, be kidding myself. Certainly my favourite songs define who I am to some extent, but let’s face it, as someone who has written a book and countless newspaper articles about rock music a good third of my collection is intrinsically of the own-it- because-you’re-supposed-to kind — Sun Ra’s Space is the Place. I mean, get real.

You wouldn’t exactly call my vinyl furniture — although a couple of my cats have an unaccountable fondness for stretching out on top of ABC’s Lexicon of Love, but over the years, I have tended to deploy it in the same way that more sophisticated people might a Picasso or an Eames recliner.

Sure, it is essentially there for my personal use, but I can’t deny that I’ve enjoyed the way guests drink in its majesty. The look of all those spines together has good associations for me, leading back to the joss-stick fuelled living rooms of my parents’ hippy friends in my childhood. The sleeves, with their often wonderfully pretentious cover art, are much more aesthetically generous than their CD equivalents and much more responsive to the touch. Leave them lying around in a heap and they still look great.

That’s the way I used to feel about them, anyway. Now I’m not so sure. These days, as I stare at that heap of wax and cardboard in the corner of the room, I can’t help but think that armchairs might look better in the same place. Perhaps it is the mark of a male kind of growing up that hits you as you gradually stop pinning culture so firmly to your chest as a badge of character, but I don’t find it depressing. I am, after all, using the proceeds to fund something as exciting as any number of rare first-pressing Jimmy Webb albums: a fully-integrated system based on the iTunes programme on my Apple Mac. It will let us listen to 40,000 songs, at random or in an order of our choosing, in nearly every room of our house, with a few taps of a keyboard.

In a few weeks, as the walls come down in my new Sixties house and speakers disguised as wall hangings are installed, a whole new space-age retro interior fantasy will become reality. The music will all still be there (though possibly not Space is the Place), the only difference will be that you won’t be able to see it. And if, by some twist of fortune, we have to move again, I find it reassuring that the whole lot can be packed into a box no bigger than a briefcase.

HMK: All I can say is that my albums are the closest thing I've got to a security blanket. I take pride in the fact I can tell folks that I still own most every LP I"ve ever bought or borrowed. I'd like to ask TRom this - Do you really want to spend the rest of your life saying "Man, I used to have that album".... Do you? So Tom, Dude, please don't trash your Blanky!

That's Right,