It was a vinyl collector’s dream come true: cardboard box upon cardboard box were laid out in the backyard of a quaint tudor home in Glen Rock, New Jersey. Hidden behind the home’s usually guarded and picturesque suburban facade was a garage sale. The rear of the property featured at least 1,000 records that were owned by the seller’s parents, who had since passed away.
“Ummm,” disoriented and not knowing where to even start, “how much are the records?” I casually asked.
“A dollar each,” the skinny, aging, bearded hippie with the sandals told me.
At that, and with the increasingly hot summer sun beating down upon my back, I vigorously set out to meticulously dig through each carton of records. The woman I was dating at the time understood. Her idea of a leisurely weekend drive rapidly faded. She patiently waited while I began to dig and sweat and attempt to get a game plan together on the fly. Love knows not to get in the way of a collector facing a massive score.
The collection schooled me. The albums looked very special, but I was not particularly knowledgeable about them. However, I love music and if one isn’t taking lot of chances when one digs for records, then one is digging for records poorly. There were soundtracks – some on the Mainstream label – from the 50s and 60s, acetates of advertisements for Paramus, New Jersey’s fabled Bergen Mall, and punk compilations like the rare Rat Music for Rat People on Go! Records.
There were bizarre oddities like Leona Anderson’s Music to Suffer By, and God only knows what else. My mind raced beneath my sweaty brow; even though one dollar an album was very inexpensive, the towering stack(s) I created began to concern me. How would I pay for all of this? More importantly, where would I store all of this stuff once I lugged it home?
It’s times like these, however, that the true digger, the real collecting connoisseur, drowns out the logical part of their brain. “I’ll find some place to put them,” I whispered to myself! “I’ll put them in the bathroom, or the oven if I need to. I don’t care where they go, but this growing stack of records leaves with me!”
I grabbed what looked good, what I was sure I wanted and what I did not have a clue about. Of course, I didn’t have the money in my pocket, but the kind granola-type man allowed me to run to the nearest ATM and grab the $150.00 plus dollars that I owed him.
Thankfully, upon my return, the records were still waiting for me. As I paid for them, the seller said something like, “hey, I wasn’t going to put these out for sale, and they aren’t a dollar, but do you want to see a few more things in the garage?”
“Sure,” I said maintaining my best poker face, “you bet. What have you got?”
Our hippie hero brought out his personal stash: much of it was run-of-the-mill psychedelic fare that didn’t particularly interest me. However, he did have an interesting Frank Zappa box set – Shut Up and Play Yer Guitar – and, of course, the very hard-to-find UK pressing of Jimi Hendrix’s legendary Electric Ladyland album replete with smiling, unclad females gracing the cover.
“Yeah, I’ll take these two,” I said. The hippie knew what he had, he just wanted to unload it. “How much?” I continued.
“I’ll need eight bucks for Jimi and ten bucks for Zappa.”
“Here you go, my friend,” I said while I quickly loaded my booty into a German convertible. I sped away imagining that he might change his mind about the whole transaction and call the police.
What is it about New Jersey? We’re always the left-turn, the quirk, the state full of people who do things differently. That’s fine, that’s the way most of us New Jerseyans like it anyway, thank you very much. We love Bruce, but we don’t want to talk about Springsteen all day and night. We want to embrace music’s shadowy dark corners. Have you ever tuned in to WFMU at 1:00 am on a Wednesday morning? Yes, that’s us. Not all of us, mind you, but that’s what many of us are: explorers; musical and otherwise.
Let’s talk about records in New Jersey: where to buy ‘em, who’s selling, why and where they get ‘em. That’s what I want to know about, and I’m assuming you will too, dear reader. I know a lot, but I’ll need your help because I don’t know it all.
However, I do know that I wimped out at that vinyl binge in Glen Rock all of those years ago. I did buy a bunch of wax, but I should have bought more. I still drive down that street trying to recall which of the nearly identically styled homes held that sale. I wonder if they might be having some last ditch vinyl blow-out in an attempt to unload the records that I didn’t buy those many years ago, but we don’t always get those second chances, do we?
New Jersey has some cool record stores, sure. But there are stacks of vinyl stories in the driveways and the thrift stores that offer themselves up to customers every day here in the Garden State. It is all about the orphaned and displaced discs. The vinyl that some relative thinks, “might be worth a buck.” The records whose owners have died, or grown tired of them, or whatever: the records search for another home. They were made to be played.
That’s what I’m looking for and, if you collect records, that’s what you should be looking for too.