Just about every man of a certain age talks with rhapsodic nostalgia about the records/CDs/mixtapes/8-tracks/Napster archives of their youth. I’m no different. Every record I’ve ever purchased has a story behind it, marks a moment in my life, or connects me with someone or something in a way that few other possessions have the ability to do. Just putting the needle on the record or hearing the opening strains of a song can transport me back in time — to an apartment in Royal Oak, MI. To a flat in Chicago, IL or to a rooftop in Amsterdam. To a version of me that was as cynical as I am now, but not yet proven to be right in his cynicism. It takes me back to a younger person who hid his optimism beneath flannel shirts and Doc Martens boots. It takes me back to when I was a wanna-be renaissance man: Scientist, Writer, Musician, Author, World-Traveler.
Each record I owned had a story behind it. For example, when I see the cover of Liz Phair’s “Exile In Guyville”, I think of the song ‘Never Said’ and the Polaroid photos on the inner sleeve, but I’m also reminded of almost being arrested for committing three moving violations outside St. Andrew’s Hall in my zest to get a good parking spot for that evening’s show. I’m also reminded of how cool she was when I asked her to sign the record after avoiding arrest.
I sold my copy of ‘Exile’ many years ago, and had zero sellers remorse at the time, but now…..
November of 2016 marked the start of my 46th year on planet Earth. It also marked the start of my third mid-life crisis. Although looking at the actuarial tables for someone my size, race and health, it’s closer to a late life crisis than a mid-life crisis
(If you wonder what the first two crises were, my first was at age 30 when after breaking my leg, I sat down with my then-girlfriend and wrote out my top-5 dream jobs like John Cusack did in High Fidelity…
….and decided to transition from a career in cytogenetics — the study of human chromosomes — into the business of professional sports. My second mid-life crisis was when I decided at age 38 after a lifetime of running from even the thought of fatherhood, to have a child with my wife.
Now, the third mid-life crisis was more along the lines of the traditional sports car/plastic surgery/dyed beard type of selfish endeavors, but does not have the goal of attracting a younger mate. I simply want to put my record collection back together. Not by buying new copies of old records — I want the EXACT SAME records I had before.
Over the years, through several moves, I’ve held on to a chunk of my collection, but in the early 2000’s I listened to the music less and less, and real life kept interfering. Needing extra money for a down payment on a house and an engagement ring, I gradually sold pieces of my collection to local dealers and on eBay. I told myself that holding onto Veruca Salt’s ‘American Thighs’ LP was silly since the band broke up after two albums and an EP. The value would surely keep going down if I held on to it, right?
My record collection was a lot like everyone else’s record collection in the 1990s with one exception. Because I was a part-time writer for a local monthly entertainment publication, Orbit Magazine*, and loved hanging out at concert venues and independent record stores, I was able to get a large part of my collection signed by artists as they passed through Detroit. I bought vinyl records at the height of the CD boom because I was more familiar with the format, but also because they were larger and looked much better when signed.
So my copy of American Thighs did retain value. In fact it went up over the years as a new generation discovered Veruca Salt’s music and they reunited in 2015. So my mid-life crisis intensified. I didn’t want to just put my record collection back together. I wanted to go out and get the autographed vinyl from my youth. This would be my cherry red Porsche. My impossible quest. My white whale.
Where do I start with this? Fortunately, since I sold many of the records on eBay, I have an archive of who bought them from me. Thanks to my Gmail archive, I know that I am looking for 97 records and I have a starting point for contact information for most of the buyers. The others will require more detective work. I have a small budget to start this project, but I doubt if it will cover all 97. I’ll post updates on my progress and tell some stories about meeting some of the most talented musicians in the world. Along the way, hopefully I’ll reunite with who I used to be and be able to pass my collection on to my children.