9 years old, I was mowing lawns and buying 45s," says Scott Turner, recalling the beginning of his lifelong zeal for record collecting. Like several

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Fans or Fanatics

Local collectors break records with their record collections.

9 years old, I was mowing lawns and buying 45s," says Scott Turner, recalling the beginning of his lifelong zeal for record collecting. Like several local collectors, Turner has turned his hobby to professional advantage, opening the doors to his library to serve other record fans. His store, Sound Waves Records in Burien, specializes in unusual, hard-to-find items—as do most collectors' shops—and a knowledgeable staff keeps customers' selective but voracious appetites satisfied. Jeff is one such consumer. He has a $100-a-week habit, acquiring 50 to 100 CDs a month. When he's not reading Progression, a prog-rock publication, or Syn-phonic, the genre's mail-order catalog, he's picking up imports of core acts such as IQ, Pendragon, and Camel. His collection of 3,000 LPs and the same number of CDs are full of Yes, Marillion, Genesis, and ELP. Jeff (who didn't want his last name printed) actively listens to music three or four hours a week, and discusses it with a group of fellow devotees. Neal Skok has amassed a basement full of psychedelia to the tune of 20,000 LPs and singles. Alan Wright gears his 4,000 records toward '70s punk, R&B, and "obscure, weird stuff." Hugh Jones specializes in Led Zeppelin, with a collection that's grown to 500 items—especially remarkable for a band with only 10 releases. Sound Waves' Turner pared his private stash from 6,000 to 2,500 on vinyl, mainly focusing on Brian Eno, Talking Heads, and the Nits, a band from Holland. "All I did back then was deliver newspapers and collect singles for 69 cents," recalls Al Milman, who has a personal collection of 2,000 mostly vinyl discs. He co-owns Bedazzled Discs, which concentrates on roots records. "We trace it back to the source, where rock 'n' roll came from—secularized gospel and country-western," he says. "We're very eclectic, from jazz to the entire Trojan label and Dove from Jamaica." For many collectors, even 34-year-old Wright, the bug bit first with the Beatles. Fab Four magazines, cards, and promotional paraphernalia fueled their interest, which eventually mushroomed into other acts. "The Beatles wrote the book," says Jones, who works as marketing director for Cellophane Square Records. "I became obsessive about the Beatles and the British invasion in second grade. They remain the single most-collected act, with new goodies still coming out." Skok gravitated more toward the Rolling Stones, but it was the hot local Northwest music scene, with acts like Paul Revere and the Raiders, that captivated him as an 11-year-old. "The period from '64 to '68 was a renaissance, with politics, war, drugs, sex, and car design," he recalls. "I was knocked sideways by the odd, strange permutations of music." Skok's most recent deal was trading a Sonics record for a disc by La Shakers, a psychedelic band from Uruguay. Since he almost has it all—including a $2,000 Easy Chair EP—he now pursues obscure Greek and Icelandic psychedelic music. His enduring infatuation, he says, makes him feel young. The '70s golden age of $1 bargain bins is well over, and the mark-up to $100 or more for a record in its original jacket can result in sizable profits. Nostalgic middle-aged fans with hefty sums of disposable income have inflated the market. For some, there's sentimental value in the music; for others, it's more about obsessive speculation; and others must have every bootleg of every Dylan concert. They could no more part with that coveted copy of Blonde on Blonde than Aunt Doris could toss her Franklin Mint plates by Norman Rockwell or Dad would give away his first-edition of Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. Jones, for example, considers his 20 editions of "Stairway to Heaven"—one from every country where the song was released—to be irreplaceable personal mementos. His highly organized Zeppelin shrine shows his devotion, yet Jones has a life, a wife, and two kids, counteracting the stereotype of record collectors as Trekkie types whose discs are their best friends. So what's the difference between an average person's rack of CDs and a collection? Completism is the key, explains Dave Voorhees of Bop Street Records and Tapes in Ballard: "Even if they don't like it, a hardcore collector has to have everything—by a band, on a label, of a genre. It's like the rookie card with baseball." Voorhees' specialty shop is stuffed with 300,000 LPs and 45s, and 10,000 CDs stacked on shelves and in piles on the floor—an "accumulation" he began when he was a teen buying up old 45s from a jukebox dealer's backroom, then selling them out of his parents' house. Handmade signs indicate the blues or funk section. There's a mound of surf punk under a glass case. A Hightone rockabilly compilation plays. "It's a reissue from Ronnie Weiser's Rollin' Rock label," clarifies Voorhees. Spinning off this type of erudition comes with the territory—collectors know who played on what when. "I've more than enough," admits Jeb, a regular Bop Street customer, of his collection of 4,000 records. He rummages for treasures to trade for the box full of records he picked up at a swap meet. Voorhees checks out the assortment, looking for cool covers and picture sleeves. Dealers and collectors from as far away as Japan come in to pick through Voorhees' inventory. "I like when a guy comes in with a list I can pull—Steve Miller's The Joker, the Doors' LA Woman." he says. Searching for that elusive item that will complete a collection is part of the appeal, but the collector's job is never done. "I'm looking for Ike and Tina Turner's series on Sue Records—if anyone has them, let me know," requests Milman. Wright seeks the uncensored gatefold copy of the MC5's first LP pressing. Turner is looking for a mono copy of The Who Sell Out. "It's a strange archaeological dig that I'll never get to the bottom of," says Skok, who runs his own business, which allows him plenty of time to "chase down music." "I can't buy it all," admits Jeff, who works as a salesman. "I have to rein myself in." However, many enthusiasts gain access to material by becoming involved in the music business or working at a record store. "My job was alphabetizing my dad's 15,000 records" recalls Matt Vaughn of his start at Easy Street Records in West Seattle. The basement of his shop, open by appointment only, was recently depleted of its '70s hard rock, Cuban jazz, and aerobics-instructionrecords—all snapped up by Beastie Boys Mike Diamond and Adam Horowitz. When you have access to anything, though, acquisition can lose its thrill. Vaughn has stopped adding to his Bowie collection, and Voorhees turned his attention to aiding his patrons in their feverish quests for out-of-print stuff. "I know a guy who likes spoken word," he says, holding up an album of Carl Sandburg reciting Lincoln's speeches. "The new vinyl craze with teens today comes from never experiencing the romance of record shopping and handling a 12x12 piece of plastic," Vaughn opines. He also points out that the LP aesthetic attracts young graphic artists, who gobble up old Blue Note covers and the like. Compared to CDs, warmer, less synthetic-sounding vinyl is more personal, containing every scratch and skip. Vinyl purists persist in collecting, even though many of them won't even touch—let alone play—their records. "A massive break in collecting came about with CDs," explains Erik Flannigan, editor for the online music site Wall of Sound (and a Seattle Weekly contributor). "With vinyl, the collector wants the first version released, but with CDs, they want the latest. It's based on quality, and since the technology constantly improves, the most recent is best." Of course, scarcity increases the value of any collectible, so imports, promotional copies, or items that won't ever be reissued (like Tori Amos' first record, which goes for up to $200) are at the top of most collectors' wish lists. Although progressive, '60s, and metal are the most popular genres to collectors, every genre has its special acts. In the techno arena, according to Turner, it's the Orb. Among new artists, he says, one of the most sought-after is Tori Amos, who includes lots of unreleased tracks on various versions of her albums. Another example of a recent collectible is an old record by Green Jello, which changed its name to Green Jelly after being sued by General Foods. The record's worth tripled. The first Nirvana single, which sold for $2.95 when it was released, now can summon $400—or more. Goldmine, the record collector's bible, offers auctions that receive bids worldwide, but the process requires patience—unlike the Internet, which keeps collecting alive by attracting teens to the field. "The online world is the biggest boon to collectors," says Jones. "They can connect instantly with others who share similar interests. There are thousands of Zeppelin sites." Jones, who publishes the Zeppelin fanzine Proximity, recently printed the lively guide, "Building a Collection: Tips, Philosophies, and Observations from a 25-Year Veteran of the Game." His suggestions include buying two of everything, arriving early at junk shops and yard sales, and collecting for love not money. Jones claims he'll never sell his records, though he may donate his collection to a museum or will it to his kids. "They could get a lot of money for it, but it's not an easy process," he says, before wondering aloud, "Is it going to be a burden?"

 
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