Matthew Glass – New York, NY
Matthew Glass lives in a beautiful apartment in the east village of New York, has a little dog named Jack and owns a weird eclectic vinyl collection. He also loves to take photos of beautiful girls holding his vinyl. Need to know more?? read on!
A: Cleveland, Ohio. New York City.
Q: What was your first album? How did you get it? At what age? Can you describe that feeling? Do you still have it?
A: The first record that I remember having was Roger Miller’s “King of the Road”. I must have been about six. Before actually having my own records, I went to sleep every night with my transistor radio on next to my bed. “King of the Road” was on the radio all the time, I think I learned the words in my sleep. I don’t think I listened to the song again for about 30 years, then I found a copy of a great “answer song” by country singer Jody Miller called “Queen of the House.” That brought back memories and got me to pull out the LP again.
My first record – Roger Miller’s “King of the Road” I was 7 when I got it. We did move around a lot come to think of it.
Q: What prompted you to start collecting? What age did you start? Was there a specific event in your life, an era, which signify your transition from music lover to a collector?
A: I guess my collecting records started when I “inherited” about 30 singles from my brother who is five years older than me. Then I asked for and got as a gift one of those cool psychedelic little carrying cases with the plastic handle and index cards to write the names of the songs and artists. I still have these and they are the songs that form the basis for my earliest musical taste and the foundation for a lifetime of listening. Luckily, it was the Sixties and that box included bands like the Stones, the Beatles, Otis Redding, CCR, the Loving Spoonful, the Turtles, Sam and Dave, Cream, Laura Nyro, Stephenwolf, Donovan, etc. Collecting LPs began when I entered the Columbia House Record Club and got to pick 11 records for 99 cents (and an agreement to buy one a month for the next year at full price). This was 1969. Shortly after I got these records, my family left the country for a year and all debts and memberships and fees behind!
Q: What was your Initial interest in music? Did you have any influence from your family? Or perhaps your best friend?
A: My brother wasn’t a collector, but his roommates in college were and they used to take me to used record stores in Columbus, Ohio (Moles) and in Cleveland (The Record Exchange). These initial visits to those jam-packed stores with “real collectors” opened up a world of musical discoveries and shared stories. After that initiation, I was hooked and got a job working in a used record store as soon as I got to Boston (In Your Ear Records). Then I started buying and selling records on my own on campus to support my full-blown collecting habit.
Q: Why vinyl?
A: I’ve never stopped collecting vinyl. Not only is it the format that the music I love best came out on originally, but along with my love of the music came my passion for the albums artwork and liner notes and inserts and labels even. The culture of record collecting that I grew up in was equally about the interesting cover graphics and photos and the stories and variations of the different releases. In fact, early on in my collecting, I began collecting LPs for their covers too and that aspect of my collection has continued to grow into specialized area of interest.
This is a nice memory and valued piece from my collection – I had Etta James sign it to my then 3 year-old daughter Caroline – “To Caroline, TELL MAMA! Etta James”
Q: You started the website LP Cover Lover. tell us more about it. when did you start it? what for?
A: Not only was the music of the fifties and sixties a period of amazing creative freedom and invention, so was the graphic design, photography, illustration, typography and art that went into packaging it. From a young age, I was a fan of cover art – not just the beautiful and sophisticated styling of some, but the fun, funny, witty and downright goofy covers that in many cases offered more value than what the vinyl inside delivered. And then of course there were those amazing rock and roll and rock covers that portrayed the bands we loved and visually showed us the energy, defiance and psychedelic equivalent of the music. By the time I was an adult, I had collected thousands of records that I kept primarily for the cover art. I started my website in November of 2006 as way to share my passion with like-minded fans.
Q: What’s the deal with the healthy girls in tight shirts?
A: A slice of my collection focused on the many records sold with sexy girls on the covers, and I’ve always been a fan of those great pin-up and cheesecake covers of the Fifties and early Sixties. So I thought it would be fun to bring some of that vibe to the site by posting pretty girls wearing LP Cover Lover T-shirts. There’s also a “Chicks Dig Records” category which pulls together images of girls with records. There’s something sexy about girls who like records.
Q: It looks like you can collect just about any record but not like any other collectors I’ve seen, you can actually justify almost any one in your collection.
A: On the contrary, my friend and partner in LPCL and I are quite discriminating in which covers we collect and post. It’s subjective of course, but we have our own code and criteria for what makes good great. And sometimes a cover may not be interesting alone, but might represent a rarity or variance that’s worth noting or be the work of a famous artist, feature a famous model or actress or be part of a notable series for example.
Q: why do you collect?
A: I can’t help it. I collect because I’m still excited when I find something I haven’t seen yet. Finding unusual records from countries around the world means you’ve never seen everything!
Q: You have an impressive collection of really weird LPs? with some really odd titles. some of them actually define new “genres” in music. name a few. where do you get them? how did you start collection these?
A: I have many “weird” or “incredibly strange” records. There are so many out there! These include “DIY” or self-produced records by outsider artists that just aren’t that good musically but important non-the-less; sex and drug testimonial records; records created for very specific audiences like for big company sales meetings or people with diabetes or bug collectors, on and on; records by people with only four-fingers or on life-support systems; there are so many bad records that are strange – many celebrities got to make records that failed famously (Sebastian Cabot reciting Bob Dylan or Mae West singing the Rolling Stones); homemade or unusual instruments; short people, fat people, funny looking people and of course, people with awful clothes, big hair or tales of addiction or love for their dogs.
I collect my favorite illustrators and photographers work on LP Covers. Here’s a series by Don Martin – who did many covers (in addition to his contributions to MAD Magazine and many ads in the sixties).
There are three Bettie Page LP Covers – they are all on budget labels like this one on Halo Records. The record here is Fats Waller done as schlocky background music. The other two are also covers for bland, background music. When I started collecting these were the kinds of finds you’d see in the dollar bin. Then Bettie-mania and cover collecting became a “thing”. Also here is a cover on Tops with Mary Tyler Moore modeling – she did many before the Dick Van Dyke show. On the right is Tina Louise a pin-up star in the fifties long before we knew her as kids watching Gilligan’s Island.
Q: Can you tell me the story behind all these series of “music to …. by”
A: One of the categories in my collection is “Music for …” this or that. For example, “people to eat pizza to” or “for cleaning the house” or “for people who hate classical music”. It’s crazy how many of these concept records were put out in the fifties and sixties. I think a lot of people must have just been oblivious to the music and musicians of their time – I mean to buy a record of background music programmed for your chores?
Q: Do you listen to them?
A: I’ll check them out when I get them, but the majority of them are really lame. On the other hand, some great music has been released or repackaged with cheesy covers.
I have a whole section on LP Cover Lover for “Music to…” and “Music for…” records. Here are a couple fun ones, “Music to Read James Bond By” and “Music for Heavenly Bodies”. Seems there was a time when a segment of the record buying public needed to told what to listen to when. And it seems to have music for EVERY occasion no matter how mundane. I have one “Music to Clean the House By” for example.
Q: How do you organize your collection?
A: My collection is divided into those records that I do listen to and those that really just here for the covers. My listening records are organized by type (mostly jazz and soul), my covers are organized into many categories and sub-categories such as “Cheesecake” and “Chicks with Guitars” and “Starlets and Pin-ups” then I have a “Smoking Section” and a section of “Real People with Real Problems” and “Crazy Christians”. The website has about 75 categories to search by. Even one dedicated to “Big Heads”!
Q: Tell me a useful record storage / shelving tip!
A: I had a 10’ x 8’ wall of shelving built for my apartment. It’s modular though so I can move when I need to. Unfortunately, due to Manhattan rents, I can’t afford to have my whole collection of covers together and available so I store many of them in those white storage boxes with tops. Many are framed and on the wall too. Nice to see them. Switch them out.
Q: What do you look for in a record?
A: I used to be crazy about getting first pressings of my records – especially the jazz collection. They cost a lot more that way of course, but there’s something about the heavy vinyl, original sleeves, deep grooves, etc. that brings you back to the time it was made. But that said, I wouldn’t pass up a great second pressing to have the music. Most of my records were bought as pieces in large collections that I bought. I’d sell most and keep the ones I liked. What do I look for in a cover?! The weirder the better but it has to be old – I’m not into covers from the 70’s and newer really. I mean there are many oddball releases after 1970 but it’s different. Also I love beautiful old covers – the girls, the musicians, the photography, the fashions, the illustrations, the typefaces. So much style.
Q: Do you have a record collecting philosophy or routine when you enter a store?
A: Of course, I love going into used record stores still, but truly the heyday of finding valuable records in a store is gone. eBay took the best stuff off the walls and out of the racks to a large degree. To the point now, where if you’re a serious collector, you have to ask the store owner if he can show you “the rare stuff”. Even covers, once the province of dollar bins, have been discovered as valuable to a generation of cover collectors. After scoping out the covers on the wall and behind the counter, I will usually go to the “Recent Additions” box if there is one – to see what’s just come in.
Q: Out of your collection, there must be a record that you like going back to at any time. your comfort record. What makes it so special?
A: I am still always looking and listening to new discoveries. Not new music really, but older stuff I haven’t heard. I’m a real sucker for soul music of the sixties but when I want to hear something familiar, I tend to go back to those albums that I loved as a teenager. Those are my comfort records. Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Isley Bros. My favorite growing up was Laura Nyro. I can listen to her anytime. And Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Stones of course. Too many to really limit my answer! I think it was John Updike who said that the music that means the most to a person throughout their live, is the music that they heard when they lost their virginity.
Q: Can you name a few of your favorite album covers?
A: I always loved the great photograph of Dexter Gordon by Herman Leonard on the Dooto Records cover “Dexter Blows Hot and Cool”; The Shaggs “Philosophy of the World” is pretty awesome; There’s an amazing jungle, exotica cover of a Chaino record on Spectre Records, most Blue Note covers from the sixties are brilliant. But of course, the covers that housed my favorite music growing up will always remain filled with emotional and nostalgic power – from Laura Nyro on the cover of Eli and the Thirteenth Confession to Bob Dylan on the cover of Freewheelin to The Stones Sticky Fingers and Let It Bleed.
Ahhhh, the Shaggs. This is one of a handful of original Shaggs records known to exist. Mine is framed and on the wall. The ultimate outsider, DIY, family band. So bad it’s good. I heard that they’re making a Broadway musical about The Shaggs! Find the Susan Orleans article about the record in the New Yorker.
Q: Any favorite cover artist?
A: Many of my favorites are also the acknowledged giants of cover illustration and design – Jim Flora, David Stone Martin, Jack Davis, Reid Miles.
One of the many David Stone Martin illustrations on Mercury, Norgran, Asch and Verve records.
I collect the illustrated record covers of R. Crumb. Here’s a nice 10” one.
A cool German collection of James Brown recordings. Nice illustration!
Q: Did you have any covers that scared you as a child?
A: I’ve always been scared of Christian ventriloquist records. They still freak me out.
Q: Bad album cover that hide great music inside of it?
A: Lots of great music was re-released on cheap budget labels that featured exploitive covers that often had no connection to the sounds within. But the big surprise comes from those rare DIY or outsider, small private pressing that look common and are easily passed over and you dropped the needle to discover some great shit. One example is a record by two brothers – Donnie and Joe Emerson and a record called “Dreamin’ Wild” – there a couple of funky, soul, psych songs here that really hold up. Soul Sides recently profiled it and I think it’s been re-released!
Q: Tell me about a dollar bin record you would never part with!
A: There was a time when the dollar bin is where I lived. Finding lost, forgotten, discarded treasure in the trash heap. In addition to the discovery of great underappreciated music there, as a cover collector I found many beautiful, funny, curious and valuable covers for dirt cheap because the vinyl might have been beat.
Joe Pesci, long before Good Fellas and Casino! Recording as “Little Joe” and singing Beatles covers and other songs of the sixties. I collect celebrity records – this one’s a real Golden Throats classic.
Ghetto Reality on Folkways Records – looks like a hundred other generic recordings of a school choir. But this one is funky, especially the cut “James Brown” and another called “Purse Snatchin’”
Q: what about digging buddies? Do you share or you go solo?
A: I dig digging solo unless I’m going with a friend that collects stuff I don’t dig. Tony, my partner in LP Cover Lover, collects pretty much EXACTLY what I collect (plus more!). I love going to shows and sales with him, but we tend to head in different directions and hope for the best. I hated it when he’d scoop that amazing piece from right under my nose.
Q: Tell me about the most unlikely place/occasion where/when you found records?
A: I have some fond memories of the personal collections that I’ve bought from inside people’s homes. For many of my records, I can remember who I bought them from and the experience of discovering and buying their collection. I’m sure you know what I mean. There’s a privilege to being invited into someone’s home to see their collection. Buying someone’s record collection seems to bring with it a responsibility to acknowledge and respect the records. It’s part of the aura that surrounds second hand records, who had them before, where they, when were they bought, etc.
Bob Marley’s Rastaman Vibration – a promo only copy in a burlap cover. I paid $100 for mine.
Q: Tell me about a closed down record store / Flea market you will grieve all your life!
A: I sold (and bought) records for many years at the flea market on 24th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan. It was magical. The early mornings of opening boxes, sharing new finds, long days talking records with friends and customers. Today there’s a high rise grave stone there. The old crew has scattered, retired, passed away. But the memory is alive.
Q: Tell me about a record that’s too weird to believe, even for a die-hard record fiend?
A: I collect the weirdest records that I can find. That being said, I’ve always been blown away by some of the “Adult Only” records never sold in record stores, but only available by mail order as advertised in the back of men’s magazines from the 50’s and 60’s. These could also be bought “under the counter” in magazine shops in Times Square and the like. Some of these covers and what’s on the wax are just insane – “Sounds of Pain and Ecstasy”; “Case Histories of Sex Starved Women” and even a series called “Cities at Night” that provides a guide on record to the hookers, sex shops, Sin-emas and strip clubs of international cities. Many of these are posted on LP Cover Lover in the NSFW section “XXX”.
This is one of my strangest records for sure. “The Gift of Tongues” – actually live records of people being saved and speaking in tongues – unintelligible sounds from beyond. Glossolalia or speaking in tongues is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables which lack any readily comprehended meaning as part of religious practice It is most prominently practiced within Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity, but it is also practiced in non-Christian religions as well. Glossolalia also sometimes refers to xenoglossy, which is speaking in a natural language that was previously unknown to the speaker.
Q: Tell me about a record that has healed heartbreaks! Name one that made them worse!
A: Music has the power to break your heart and make you feel like dying and at the same time it can give you the strength to carry on. Sometimes the same record that you once put on to get yourself pumped up can get co-opted by a dramatic experience with someone else and from then on it’s never the same. You want to put them away because they hurt to hear …and yet. One that heals me is “Sweet Thing” by Rufus or “Love and Happiness” by Al Green.
Q: What are the most records you bought in one go?
A: I’ve bought many big collections – the largest being about 3,000. But I’ve bought hundreds of records from some really interesting people – including jazz critic and writer Dom Cerulli; bachelor pad and lounge maestro, Richard Hayman; and Tony Schwartz, who recorded many sound effect and other records for Folkways, etc. and others. Amazing to meet these interesting and accomplished people in their homes, hear about – and then take over! – their personal collections honed over 30 – 40 – 50 years!
Q: Tell me about a record you still regret not picking up?
A: I passed on a drug record with a cover by Andy Warhol, that has since increased in price ten-fold. Worse yet, those I had in my collection and sold only to regret it! I remember, among others, selling my copy of the first Parliament LP in mint condition and a beautiful Blue Note 10” by Clifford Brown that I’m still looking for. I also had a handful of the first Kinks LPs from the UK – mint and original issues. Just didn’t realize what I had. Now I’m a big Kinks fan and wish I still had them.
Q: Who is the weirdest character in the world of digging?
A: Oh, my…there are some real characters out there at the flea markets, house sales and record shows! “Stinky” Stevie who lived and dealt his records out of his car was always a trip to deal with, especially when he was off his meds. But damn, he came up with great stuff at times. He used to cruise around and park in front of my offices over the years – I’d run down and flip through boxes in his trunk. But the real king of the scene in New York was Jack Brown who passed away some years ago. Honor among record dealers can be hard to come by, but Jack was a real gentleman who only dealt in the best, high-end stuff. The scene hasn’t been the same since we lost him.
Q: Who would you like to be feautured next on Dust & Grooves?
A: I’d love to see the collection of Matt Dillon, Fred Schneider, QTip, Vernon Reid, Thurston Moore. I’ve sold records to all of them over the years and they’re all really into their collections.
The best unseen collection that I know of is Tony Valenti in Woodbridge, NJ. He’s my partner in LPCoverLover and is still digging and finding the MOST outrageous records I’ve ever seen. His is a hidden treasure of thousands of the rarest and coolest records.
Q: A message to the new generation…
To all young collectors, find your passion niche and focus on building a great collection within that genre or label or group. Invest in what you love, not what you think has market value. Don’t lose sight of the music in your focus on owning the records. Enjoy and share your collection, don’t just put into away on a shelf.
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