Vinyl Retentive 

File by name? How to store? Welcome to the practical side of record collecting.

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In the movie "Diner," Daniel Stern upbraids Ellen Barkin over two infractions: putting James Brown under "J" and for filing him in rock 'n' roll instead of rhythm and blues. Quoth Barkin, "It's just music, it's not that big a deal."

Ahem.

This is serious stuff, how a collector files and stores his vinyl treasures. It's the difference between owning a record collection and just having a bunch of records.

For example, do Nick Lowe's albums get filed with his old band Brinsley Schwarz or with Rockpile? For that matter, does Brinsley Schwarz get filed under "S" for guitarist Schwarz, or "B" since it's the name of the group as well?

I've found myself sometimes preferring to nod to the most prominent member of a group when filing, for instance putting Neil Young's records under "Y," and Stephen Stills' under Buffalo Springfield. Sorry, Steve. A little farther to the right, under "C," I line up "Déjà Vu" next to Crosby, Stills & Nash. Those two LP spines look quite regal side-by-side, not unlike "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," though, perhaps, with less blood between the covers.

I've never thought it practical to file by category, but I do put classical music by itself on the shelf. Johann Sebastian Bach and Bachman-Turner Overdrive must be kept separate. An indignant gent once stormed out of a record store I worked in, Peaches, because we filed an artist he considered a jazz pianist in the new age section. Just music indeed.     

My own history with the LP started in the mid-'60s with "Herman's Hermits on Tour." I'd spent my pittance of an allowance on a copy, only to have my parents sit me down and tell me what a waste of money it was. I originally started working in record stores because I found out you could often get records for free.

Unfinished pine bookcases are perfect for LP shelves, but I must salute the utilitarian Peaches Records crate, which has served mankind well for lo these many years. The wobbly things are great for records, provide plenty of splinters, and already are packed for transport when it's moving time. I found out the hard way that when you stack crates more than three high, it's no good trying to get the top ones down without first removing all the records, unless you have a forklift. Then, however, the problem is how to get a forklift filled with vinyl out of the room.

  Lately, those trusty crates have been used increasingly for transporting LPs back to the growing number of record stores that are selling the shiny black jewels to younger buyers, as well as to older die-hards like yours truly. It's heartening that records are making a comeback. Something was lost in the rushed, corporate-driven change from vinyl to CD.

About the LP there's a long, rich history, which encompasses not merely the music, but those arts involved in the covers and liner notes. For some of that history lesson look no further than Atlantic or Blue Note jazz LPs from the '60s. These are works of art, not merely packaging. In other words (sorry Ms. Barkin), it's a pretty big deal.

Buzzy Lawler is the vinyl-loving host of "Shake Some Action" on WRIR 97.3 and a longtime local musician. He's worked as a manager and buyer for many of the city's most prominent music stores, including Plan 9 and Peaches.

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