Greg Winter – Highland Park, NJ
Hello again fellow diggers, readers, music lovers and vinyl junkies.
We call this man Mr. Capitol. Some collectors try and run small labels of the funk and soul variety, collecting every release of a defunct label’s discography. Not this guy. He goes for the gold and has a vast archive of some of the best, and worst, Capitol Records’ albums. We bust his chops but Bob here is a local collector who has been coming to the sale since Day One and rarely misses the monthly event in my garage. Sometimes he comes back two or three times throughout the day. He is among the many local collectors and music appreciators who have embraced a space to buy vinyl in the neighborhood again.
Credit goes to my vinyl comrade Tom for scoring this insane record and passing it off to me for my wall in the garage. The title, Special Music For Special People, speaks for itself. It contains a terrible backing band playing traditional and contemporary songs, like The Hustle, for actively handicapped people. Whether you are disabled, confined to a wheelchair, arthritic, or severely ill, this album gives you the chance to let loose without hurting yourself. Take my word, it’s horrendous but inside the gatefold is a legend showing that certain songs should only be played for certain disabilities. Like The Hustle can be played for P.D. (partially disabled) but should not be played for S.D. (severely disabled). Best of all, it was played quite heavily.
A:As a child, I had a collection of cartoon and Star Wars records that I played on my Fischer Price turntable. I started off listening to vinyl on my own when I was fourteen and pilfered my dad’s classic rock records, but my first purchase to begin my own collection was either Pink Floyd’s Meddle or Ozzy Osbourne’s Blizzard Of Ozz (which I later got autographed when I cut high school one day). There was a record store in the town I grew up in and I hung out there every day after school, becoming friendly with the owner and absorbing information from all the old school collectors. The copy of Meddle I bought was the store owner’s original, personal copy as a teenager (it has his name on the label) so it really felt special to have that one in particular to begin my own collection. I remember riding my bike home that day and putting the record on my garage sale turntable and being blown away.
Q: What prompted you to start collecting? What age did you start?
A: I began collecting when I bought a used turntable at a sale and started listening to my father’s collection of standard classic rock stuff when I was about 14 years old. I thought it was great because I was just starting to buy CDs and realized I could have all of this great music on LP for less than half the price of a CD. I was always collecting things as a child. From comic books to trading cards, I had my pack rat tendencies since the beginning. So I saw a natural opportunity to take on a new hobby when I started buying albums.
Q: What was your initial interest in music? Did you get influence from your family or an instrument?
A: My initial interest in music came from my father. Our family would take these 8-hour car rides out to the Pennsylvania/Ohio border and my pops would break out his box of cassette tapes and crank them the whole time. From The Grateful Dead to Phil Ochs to Al Kooper, I got to hear all of these albums over and over again. Fortunately I loved it, unlike the rest of my family, so I was very accustomed to the music of the 60s when I began listening to records on my own. I played the piano as a child but suffered the most god-awful recital experience when I was eight, so instead of that influencing my musical tastes, I think it all it did was make me never want to perform in front of a large audience.
Q: Why vinyl? Is it the sound or maybe the archival qualities? Or maybe other romantic reasons?
A: I never really took a side in the endless debate over vinyl versus CD but I really only listen to records at home so I am used to the warm analog sound. I enjoy listening to music on any medium really, whether it’s a beat up cassette tape from my past or a scratchy WFMU connection on my radio. But there is something magical about vinyl that has kept me building my collection and endlessly searching for more discs. Besides discovering music, I’m really into owning the physical object of vinyl. One of my favorite things is finding an original album from the 50s or 60s and it being in unplayed condition, with the cover looking as clean as it was when it was bought from the record store over 40 or 50 years ago. Finding that album sealed is even more of a bonus. I take pleasure in being the first person to open a sealed record (if its not ridiculously rare) and playing it for the first time. All of that, combined with the enjoymentof dropping a needle into tiny microgrooves that are jam packed with immense amounts of musical information, make vinyl my medium of choice.
Q: Any specific genre? What attracted you to this specific genre?
A: Every day, I listen to a mish mash of musical styles and genres. From rock to funk to soul to new wave to reggae to jazz, my ears are always keen on different music. Since I began selling albums, I buy everything so each week I always have something new to listen to. But if I had to break it down, mid-60s to early 70s funk and soul seems to surface from my collection often and stay on my turntables. I’ve been listening to a lot of funk and soul over the past year from the likes of Chuck Jackson, The Meters, Ike Turner, etc. My wife and I both enjoy listening to samba, bossa nova and Brazilian cuts so the likes of the Gilberto family, Marcos Valle, Jorge Ben, and Milton Nascimento have been heard often in our house.
Q: What is an album that has provided the soundtrack to past break-ups?
A: Whenever I was feeling sad in my past due to broken relationships, or just feeling down because of bad times, I used to always listen to My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless. It didn’t necessarily make me feel happy but the emotional undertones of the music had a soothing effect on my worn down esteem. I’ve been generally upbeat, and happily married, for awhile now so it hasn’t been on my turntable for some time.
Q: What are some of the interesting and unique artifacts you have discovered hidden in record jackets by their original owners?
A: Since I began collecting albums I found items people left behind in their records. A record jacket, especially a gatefold, was a perfect place to hide or leave a photo, letter, concert flyer and even old marijuana seeds. I was digging at one of my spots a few years back and pulled out a Kiss album from the box. As I was checking for posters, tattoos and all that cool Kiss schwag, I pulled out a crumpled up piece of paper. It was a fan letter a young girl wrote to Kiss in the late 70s and never sent. It’s priceless. The record was trashed but I had pay the dollar solely for the letter. I want to track down the writer and show her the fan letter she never mailed over 30 years ago.
Q: Do you travel to find records? Where and how often?
A: I have kept my digging predominately to New Jersey. If I find myself in New York or Philly, or if I am on vacation, I will always keep my vinyl radar up but for the past ten years, New Jersey has produced a wealth of amazing records for me. I have lived, or lived next to Union County, my entire life. Union County, NJ is, statistically, the most densely populated county in the COUNTRY! The supply has been constant and will hopefully continue to be. When I have a full-time job, I go out once a week on the weekends. When I am not working, I’ll go out every other day if I get the bug in me to dig around.
A: I graduated college in 2003 and was all ready to come home to live with my parents and spend my summer at my favorite record shop in town. Lo and behold, he went out of business as soon I arrived. The owner was a family man with a daughter about to go to college and high rent and tough times made it impossible to keep running the shop. So after selling off a lot of the inventory, he was left with about 12,000 total pieces. A deal to buy the remainder fell through at the last minute so he pulled me and another young vinyl patron aside on the last night of the store’s existence. We both had expressed interest in selling records over the past year and were full of optimistic energy. We were told that the records were ours for free. However we wanted to divide them up was between us but everything had to be out of the store by five o’clock the next day. A strange story then took place over the next month that involved backstabbing and thievery from the other person who was given the collection with me but my friend and I eventually claimed half of the inventory and began selling at the WFMU record fair.
A:I lived in Berlin, Germany for about six months in 2006 and had a field day buying records all over that city. Berlin is overflowing with vinyl so if you are looking for a digging spot/vacation destination, hit it up. Besides, it’s an awesome city and it’s cheap! So, during the course of my stay, I bought a load of discs to keep and to sell. I shipped home a box with a few dozen but decided to take my chance at the airport. I showed up for my return flight to NY with about 125 albums packed in various shoulder bags and suitcases, along with my personal possessions. Right away, the ticket counter employee questioned my luggage and said,” I’m sorry but this flight is full and your bags are way too heavy.” He recommended checking the records as luggage, which I quickly dismissed. He then said I was out of luck and could not bring the records on the plane with me.Right before I was about to give up fighting, I turned to the guy and spit out,” Listen, I’m a DJ and I’m flying back to NY for a sold-out gig, where I am the headlining act. And you’re going to tell me that the DJ is going to show up to HIS show WITHOUT records?? What am I supposed to tell the promoters, huh? I’ve already been paid and I have to be there in 12 hours, WITH my records, or I am screwed. There is no way around it, these records HAVE to come on board with me.” A moment of silence ensued. The employee called his supervisor, Tosten, to come over and assess the situation. Tosten was one of those stereotypical looking German men who were clean cut, rigid face, in uniform and just oozed authority. Tosten received the low down of what I was trying to do and denied the records coming on as a carry on. Right when I thought all hope was lost, the ticket counter employee turned to his supervisor and said, “Listen, he’s a DJ and he’s got the big gig back in NYC tonite! It’s a sold out show Tosten. Can’t we give him…. Special DJ Clearance?” I silently mouthed those words as a big grin emerged on my face. Tosten thought for a second, turned to me and said, “Ok, you have Special DJ Clearance! If anyone gives you a problem at the gate, you tell them Tosten said OK.” And that was that… A month later, my friend Dub Gabriel, who I met in Berlin, returned home with records and equipment in tow because he actually had a gig to get back to and was given a real hard time transporting his gear. I don’t know if he mentioned Special DJ Clearance but that might have been a one-shot deal.
Q:Is there an album / 45 that you are trying to find, unsuccessfully?
A: There are some albums I am consciously looking for though I am always on the look out for new artists and discs I discover through blogs, friends, and Wax Poetics. One of them is of the slightly silly nature and the other two I would potentially pay some money for. I have a collection of Mel Brooks’ soundtracks on LP. Warner Brothers released an Australian only pressing of the Blazing Saddles soundtrack, which I would love to have, especially because it’s my favorite movie by Brooks. A record that has eluded me is the follow up to Danser’s Inferno called Danser Revolution by the John Danser Octet on Grapevine. It came out a couple of years after the first and rarely ever turns up for sale. It’s a bit jazzier than his first record but contains all the right ingredients that make it a sought after slab of wax. My collection will always have a hole in it until I can obtain a copy.I am also on the lookout for Fela’s first LP Fela Ransome Kuti and his Koola Lobitos. Someday it may come my way though I am not holding my breath on this one
Q: This is your question. Anything you want to say, add, observe, criticize, compliment, etc.
A: I cannot imagine my life without vinyl. Collecting and selling records has provided me with so much joy and pleasure and I have been able to meet and connect with so many incredible, like-minded people that I otherwise would have never crossed paths with. I feel very fortunate to have found this outlet to tap into because I have met people who are without direction and don’t have something they are passionate about to channel their energy into. It’s very important to have something in your life you can always turn to for happiness and satisfaction and records do that for me. Collecting records is an endless hobby. There will always be something to keep looking for or a new genre/label to start collecting. As long it doesn’t dominate your every waking hour, and you have other positive influences to balance it out, collecting records can be very therapeutic. I can picture myself decades down the line, slightly frail and with a cane, looking like Old Man Winter and still dropping the needle on my collection of discs.
Thanks to Peter Martinez for helping me out with the mix.
The Next Highland Park Monthly Record Sale is Saturday July 25th from 9AM-4PM. If you would like more information on attending, or future dates, you can email me at email@example.com.