I wish I could pinpoint the exact day I picked up my first record. All I know is that it was in the spring of 2009, when I was just shy of turning 15. Since I’m celebrating a decade of record collecting, I figured what better time to walk you guys through how I first got into the hobby. So, let’s get right into it!
Growing up, one of my favourite “toys” was the 1973 sound system in my grandparents’ basement. It was a 3-speed console with a built in 8-track player and AM/FM radio receiver, so I used to enjoy playing with all its knobs and functions (and playing records at the wrong speeds). It was long abandoned and only a few scattered, uninteresting records lingered around the listening station. However, at that point in time, I didn’t care so much about the content on the discs as much as the discs themselves.
Many years passed before I developed a relationship with music, and to explain how I got into record collecting, I first have to explain how I fell in love with music. I consider music to be my greatest passion and it has been my life’s driving force for the past 10 years. I can trace it back to an artist I’m sure you’ve heard me speak about before: Queen.
I don’t really remember how I first got into Queen, and even if I wanted to, I don’t think I could ever fully explain the connection I feel to their music. What I do know is that their music sparked something deep within me—it was my musical awakening. My first memory of Queen was hearing Bohemian Rhapsody on the radio in the car (think Wayne’s World).
Late 2008 was a time when the vinyl resurgence was just gaining traction, and compact discs still reigned supreme in the world of physical media. This was around the time I was getting into Queen, and like you’d expect from a typical 14-year-old of the era, I illegally downloaded their Greatest Hits Vol. I-III off LimeWire and listened to the compilation repeatedly on my green second-generation iPod Nano. After a while, however, I felt like these downloads were just not doing it for me anymore, so I took a trip to my nearest music shop.
Headed straight for the Queen section, a re-mastered copy of Queen’s A Night at the Opera (a 2005 reissue released for the 30th anniversary of the album) immediately caught my eye. To this day, I can recall the exact moment I picked it up and leaving the store with the biggest smile on my face. Once I got home, I immediately imported the CD into my iTunes (which was immaculately organized to where I used to take the time to import and album art and track listing for all my legally and illegally acquired music). I didn’t even own a CD player, but I really felt compelled to own a physical copy of the music from the band I loved most. I think it was my way of deepening the connection I felt with the band, which I could not achieve with downloads. I wanted something to hold and look through…I think you can see where this is going!
For the next little while I went to every book and music store in my area intending to get anything Queen-related I could get my hands on: books, DVDs, CDs, t-shirts—anything featuring the famous Queen crest. It was an exciting time in my life, as I had never really felt passionate about anything before, at least not like this. What I didn’t know was that this was just the beginning, and there was no way of preparing myself for what was to come.
In spring 2009 I visited the now-defunct HMV Megastore in downtown Montreal. It was the biggest music store in Montreal, so naturally I wanted to go to look through their Queen CD selection, hoping to complete their discography. I visited just around the time that Queen had begun re-releasing their entire catalog on vinyl (I remember they did it in 3 phases, 5 albums at a time—note: my memory is correct! Here’s a 2008 press release I found!). In the basement level, right next to the CDs was a display stand with recent arrivals, one of which was Queen’s News of the World. The cover caught my attention right away as it’s one of my all-time favourites, and I think it is beautiful rather than horrifying as most people seem to think (I’ll have a post on that later!). I loved the album artwork so much and knew that it opened to reveal the full artwork, so I picked it up for display. Next thing I knew, I was setting up the long-abandoned stereo in my grandparents’ basement in my bedroom because I finally had something to play.
Once the needle dropped, I was captivated, and so began my now 10-year journey into record collecting. I quickly got the urge to visit a real record store, and before I knew it I was visiting Montreal’s Aux 33 Tours the following weekend. Walking in there for the first time was unbelievable. I left that day with 5 records: Queen’s Queen II, Sheer Heart Attack, A Night at the Opera, and Led Zeppelin IV and Jimmy Page’s Outrider. Once I had those, there was no stopping me. I visited record shops every chance I got, much to the chagrin of my mother who had to drive me to all these places that were far and had limited parking space. But she did, and for that I am grateful, because I got to build up my collection relatively fast. This was still before the peak of the vinyl boom, and $2 bins were everywhere, which is pretty much all I could afford as a 15-year-old.
My interest in vinyl was somewhat comical to my parents, who informed me they still had their record collections in the house somewhere. It took a while, but I finally found them. I found about 2 boxed of my mom’s collections, which included a lot of 60s-80s pop, including everything from The Beatles to Madonna, which I had grown up on.
A little while later, I found my dad’s small collection tucked away in a closet in my grandparents’ basement that had not been opened in years. Funnily enough, this was the closet right next to the record console, so they had been there this whole time. Anyway, I found the box by reaching my hand into the closet and feeling what I thought to be record spines. Once I got the box out, I discovered a small but mighty collection that helped me kick-start my own collection. This cardboard box of wonders contained Led Zeppelin’s entire discography, Queen’s records up until The Game (no Hot Space love, unfortunately), classics from Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, and Alice Cooper, and a lot more KISS than I cared for. It was a true 1970s time capsule.
I completed my Queen vinyl discography (studio albums) on August 26th, 2010. I remember this date because I created an eBay account just so I could order a copy of Queen’s last album Made in Heaven from the UK, released by the band as part of their third and final wave of their re-mastered catalog.
Over the next few years, I continued spending all of my free time at record shops. I dug up this December 2011 photo of my collection, to give you an idea of how quickly it grew, and how much it has grown since! I can see a copy of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper and Blondie’s Autoamerican. Please admire that 2011 laptop webcam quality!
The years since then have been an absolute joy. My love for music led to my love for writing. After watching Almost Famous, I decided I wanted to be a music journalist (I think every music fan goes through this phase, haha). However, this was a short-lived dream once I realized that what I actually wanted to be was a music journalist in 1970. Regardless, my love for music led me to pursue university studies in English (Cultural Studies). During my time there, I took all the music history and theory classes I could. At the end of it, I think I actually had enough credits to have a minor in music. I also challenged myself to include music in all the essays I wrote. To give you an idea, here are some of the topics I came up with:
- In my American Film of the 1960s course, I wrote about the importance of the Motown soundtrack in the film Nothing but a Man.
- In my Introduction to Women’s Studies elective I wrote about the importance of Poly Styrene (of X-Ray Spex) in the punk scene.
- In my communications seminar on disability and technology, I wrote a 25-page paper on disability and record collecting.
…the list goes on!
Additionally, in a non-academic context, my love for music and records led to my love of everything vintage, including fashion and home décor. I’m not lying when I say everything in my life can be traced back to Queen!! They are and forever will be everything to me.
I’ve been adding to my collection virtually non-stop for the past 10 years, with the occasional break. My most collected genres are glam rock, psychedelic rock, and punk. If you’re wondering, I now own over 100 pieces of Queen vinyl, and my full collection is somewhere around the 1700 mark, but it’s not about quantity or variety or whatever else, it’s all about what makes you happy.
So that’s the story of how I started collecting records. I’d love to hear yours! Also, let me know what topic you’d like to see me cover next. ⚡