Jamie Dyer, as part of the Vintage Millennial blog, writes about his experience of collecting vinyl, and how it has changed over the last two decades. In this blog, he details what happened on his journey from 2003 to 2008.
It is hard to believe I started collecting vinyl records twenty years ago. When I look back, the general attitude towards them has shifted dramatically. In 2003, they were viewed as old hat; CDs were the dominant format with cassettes hanging in there, and MP3 was just around the corner. This meant that the 45s and LPs were essentially old household items that people no longer wanted, and so would dispose of them in many ways. I’m sure many loads were dumped, while others found their way into car boot sales, markets and charity shops; I have fond memories of walking around these places and having an endless supply of reasonably priced titles to choose from for tiny prices. They were a road of musical discovery that I’m still walking down today.
How It Started…
I recall having an interest in the format from around 11 or 12 years old when my dad took me into the loft to show me his collection. He had heard a new song on the radio which he was convinced sampled something. This being in the early 2000s, there were plenty of popular tracks that utilised samples; As such I can’t remember what the track was. Anyway, I watched him place a 45 onto the turntable and heard the sound of the needle drop; My Dad said something like “That’s it, definitely”. While he was getting a victory in a quiz nobody else was participating in, I was impressed by what I had just seen. Obviously, this wasn’t the first time I saw a turntable, but it was a moment I remember quite vividly. My Dad then put on a Geoff Love Orchestra compilation of TV themes, then showcased his instinctive ability to skip the tracks; He did it so quickly, that I wonder how many times he changed his stylus a year. I was impressed with its simplicity, as a militant rendition of the Match of the Day theme tune blared from the speaker.
It would be the end of 2002 before I would think of vinyl again. I had just turned thirteen, and I stayed over at my Dad’s place to see in the new year. He was creating a mixtape of various things, including some of the more eccentric parts of his collection. I had many questions, but the main ones were “What’s a Pigbag, and why is that trumpet so loud?!” I would be exposed to the likes of Star Trekkin’, a 12″ boogie-drenched version of Hale and Pace’s The Stonk and an extended cut of Paul Hardcastle’s The Wizard. Being 13 and a bit naive, I think I just assumed vinyl had different music to CDs; Like there was a whole other side that I had yet to explore. Little did I know that much of what he played me were huge hits that just hadn’t carried over the years to Radio or current compilations. In later years I would discover the intrigue of picking up old compilations and picking out the tracks lost to time.
The 2003 Step Towards Collecting…
Fast forward a few months to the middle of 2003, and I find myself at a car boot sale. It was one of those huge affairs that featured a market with traders, and food stalls. I remember spotting a (I think) Sony hi-fi with a turntable at the top. I would say the unit possibly originated from the early 80s, but I’m unsure. I hadn’t let on my interest in the format, so it came as a great surprise to my family when I asked to buy it for a small price. I think it may have been £4 with four or five 45 records chucked in for an extra quid or so. I remember elder members of my family feeling like they missed out on the chance to do me a good turn, as they had given away their collections a year or so earlier. While I would have appreciated this kind gesture, I am glad in hindsight that I had the chance to build up my own choice of records.
When I got the turntable home, I was incredibly excited. It was set up for me, and I wore out the few that I had very quickly. The first few 45s I picked up were Elton John’s Crocodile Rock, Kin Wilde’s Cambodia and Keith Harris and Orville’s I Wish I Could Fly. These were a nice introduction to the format, I had begun. It is fair to say some of the younger memories of my family were less than impressed by my revelation, as it was seen as something their parents did. I didn’t care because I felt unique and it seemed a big adventure.
Over the next couple of years, I amassed quite a collection. It was a mixture of cheap car boot sales, £5 buys at markets, charity shop finds, and records bought for me by relatives. It opened my world to a whole array of music at an affordable price. I will try and cover a few stories of how I came to own a few memorable ones.
“It’s not the ORIGINAL RECORDINGS!”
The late 90s / early 00s was something of a boom for cheap CD compilations. I used to pick up compilations from Morrisons and realise pretty quickly I had been tricked by re-recordings. I have no problem with them per se, but there always seems to be something missing. They also had a knack for not being clear unless you read the fine print. Vinyl records, as I discovered, were not so secretive if you knew the signs. I had an LP of Shorty Long And The Nashville Ramblers singing Country Greats, which featured such names on the cover as Jim Reeves, Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold and Patsy Cline. As a thirteen-year-old, I bought too fast to notice the name of the actual band, or the line “Hits made famous by”. I assumed I was getting genuine Country recordings from the off, as I was not yet accustomed to the idea of a sound-a-like or a different interpretation.
I didn’t mind so much in the end, as some of these albums had some feel to them. I wasn’t averse to the idea of studio musicians having a crack at a song, especially if I didn’t know the song to begin with! I had a Reader’s Digest album of “Eurovision Hits” from 1977, which contained (I thought) passable renditions. The same couldn’t be said for the “Top of the Pops” series that wasn’t connected to the TV show. The artwork would feature a lady on it, and popular song covers on the actual record; These ranged from passable to “What on earth have they done.” After picking up a few of these, I pretty much vowed never to touch a sound-a-like album again. Some of them were fun, but they seemed pointless in the 00s.
Starting My Status Quo Collection!
My collection at this point didn’t just comprise compilations and sound-a-like albums, I did find a few gems from original artists. One artist I was keen to collect, was the British Rock band Status Quo. I had been a fan since 1997/8 and wanted to pick up and listen to their albums in the originally intended format. By 2003, I was still pretty much a novice in all things Quo so wasn’t always sure what I was looking for. I think the first thing I picked up was a copy of The Wanderer on 45. The track is okay, it isn’t one of my favourites, but the B-side was killer. It was Can’t Be Done, taken from their Back to Back album, which was absolutely new to me. As everyone must have done, I truly wore out the flip side!
I was in a market in Long Sutton when I stumbled upon a copy of Status Quo’s Blue for You album. I hadn’t heard it at this point and thought it was a steal at around £5. I took it home, placed it on my turntable and marvelled as the first few thrashing bars of Is There A Better Way entered my speakers. I am not sure I understood it then, but there was a definite warmness to the sound I was hearing. Part of that would’ve been the production, the other the format. I would slowly add to my Quo collection over the next few years, including a time I picked up a copy of at least Hello (1973) and To Be Or Not to Be (1983) for under £5 altogether at a car boot sale. I would later pick up these albums on CD, but they sound at their most pure on vinyl.
Finding Compilations of Actual Recordings
Although I tried to steer clear of compilations, there was one series which I began to collect around this time. I was at a market in Ford, and I had one of the biggest record-buying days of my life. It was still very early days, and everything was incredibly cheap. I remember picking up the album Classic Rock by the London Symphony Orchestra, mainly because my Dad told me how big the album had been; It’s fair to say I wasn’t a fan when I actually heard it! Another big purchase that day was the second volume of the Now That’s What I Call Music series.
I knew of the popular music compilation series, as it was still going, but I was fascinated by this early incarnation. There were many songs on it that I was familiar with, along with some I wasn’t. I recall the moment I first put it on, and the drums of Queen’s “Radio Gaga” started; I was hooked. I’ve always felt the intention of these albums was to document the pop culture soundtrack that occurred for a few months in any given year; To me, it became the soundtrack to the latter part of 2003. I would continue to pick up other entries in the series for the next few years, with the intention of buying the first fifteen to twenty. I finally achieved the first fifteen in 2021!
Why is DJ Casper on Vinyl?
In the mid-2000s, I bought a new pressing for the first time. I was in a music shop in Skegness, which sold a huge amount of niche CDs. It was in this shop where I picked up a copy of Status Quo at their Best on CD, exposing me to the 60s material. I then noticed a stand in the corner with much larger imagery. I walked over to have a look and realised it was new pressings vinyl. From what I remember it was mainly 12″ versions of relatively new songs, although I do remember a 7-inch picture disc of Quo‘s The Party Ain’t Over Yet behind the counter. Anyway, I saw a copy of DJ Casper’s Cha Cha slide, which included the song and various extended mixes. I picked it up for £5.
Due to the fact that new vinyl is quite rare to me at this point, I saw this purchase as a novelty. I later realised that DJs were still using the format in their sets, and so it made sense this thing existed. My half-brother and I would play this record over and over again, probably surprising the 30-year-old turntable! I had been used to vinyl having a certain quality about it, but this one sounded fresh. I still play it from time to time, and it reminds me of fond memories of that Summer.
The Changing of Equipment
As the decade progressed, I moved on to new turntables and broadened my horizons. In the space of three years, I was given two vintage amplifiers to play with. The first one was a lower branded model, which I connected my cheap turntable up to; This was a 45 size one where LPs looked oversized! It was offered I get a bigger one, but I stuck with it.Does anyone remember the bypass button on those amplifiers that basically destroyed things? I rarely pressed it, but when I did, the room was rocking!
The second amplifier had a tape deck and turntable built in. It was all branded Technics, and I guess it originated from sometime in the early 80s. The turntable was one of those with the stylus in the lid, which I thought was awesome! I only had to drop the lid, and I could easily guide the stylus to any point on the record, without ever touching either.
I used the Technics turntable so much that I began to see problems with it. I would often play an album of Showaddywaddy’s Greatest Hits, and began to notice a lower pitch during playback. I disposed of the player, and got a comment of disapproval from my Dad. “The belt was slipping you ****, it just needed replacing”. He was right, but this was something I had to learn.
Andy Bown, a Cassette and a Radio Show
In the summer of 2008, I was given a radio show on Community Radio station Stump Radio. It was an unsigned bands show, but I pushed the envelope a bit. On one such occasion I connected a tape player to the mixing desk, and played it out on air. The tape had a song by Andy Bown entitled Rock ‘n’ Roll Baby Blues on it, a track I had recorded from my vinyl copy.
I remember being incredibly proud of the steps I took to get this record to air. My producer asked me “What is that”, to which I explained. The only issue was it sounded otherworldly not because of how good the track was, but because my turntable played it back a little too slow! It didn’t matter though, I had shared a piece with the audience.
I was actually sent the Andy Bown album Good Advice by a member of the Status Quo message board. I had shown an interest in the album, and they gave it to me because they didn’t envision themselves playing it again. I really liked it when I heard it, and it made it even better that I had something not available on CD. This would influence my thinking for the foreseeable future.
The End of Part 1
This blog was originally intended to be a one off. I still have lots of stories and memories to share, so I shall be writing a part 2 very soon.
When I look back over the first five years of collecting, I realise the amount of things I picked up on very quickly. The world of vinyl was an adventurous place that could open up the floodgates to forgotten music. It was also a place where you could pick up a sound-a-like if you didn’t look carefully enough. Equipment was a challenge at times, but it was magical when it all came together.
Three Album Recommendations:
- Survivor – Eye of the Tiger (1982)
- Status Quo – Blue for You (1976)
- Now That’s What I Call Music 2 (1984)