Cartoonist Robert Crumb knows a bit about what’s creepy, and he’s got a great take on the strange obsession of record collecting (which I admit I have!):
“Collecting is creepy. Record collectors put each other down for their various fixations. Everybody is convinced that his way of collecting is superior. They look down on casual collectors, who are just accumulators – the kind who’ll just pick up anything and let it pile up. A true collector is more of a connoisseur, and that’s the good thing about collecting. It creates a connoisseurship to sort out what’s worthwhile in the culture and what isn’t. Wealthy art collectors in this country have sorted out who the great artists are. If you’re collecting a lot of objects of one particular kind, you develop a very acute sense of discrimination.”
“Any of the younger guys who get into collecting are quirky and oddball types, pretty maladjusted people. They’re not into hanging around in bars and picking up chicks or nothing. If they have a girlfriend at all it’s amazing. And the older collectors I know, a lot of them just have their little room down in the basement where they go and listen. They don’t share it with anyone, and their wives don’t know anything about it. So when they die, the vultures start descending.”
“78 collectors have almost nothing to do with LP or 45 collectors; prewar collectors have nothing to do with postwar collectors. They don’t avoid each other, but they bully and pick on each other. That’s the problem, it’s lonely collecting records. You can share it, but there’s a vicious undercurrent there, the only person you can ever impress with that rare record you just got is another collector who’s looking for the same record. And the average person, I can show them the rarest record in the collection and they’ll say, ‘Yeah? So what?’
“I did try to share it with the world, I did comic stories about old musicians because I thought it was far superior to anything being done currently. In this case, I had done a comic story about Charley Patton, one of the great fathers of the blues, and the guy who published it was over at my house. So I took out one of my favorite 78s, Charley Patton’s ‘Down the Dirt Road,’ and I put it on. So I’m sitting there, having this great experience listening to this record, and he’s sitting there quietly, patiently. And after I took it off, he looks at me and says, ‘So, what did you like about that?’ I mean, he wasn’t trying to be insulting, just curious, but what can you say to that? So I don’t try to convert people anymore.”
Chicks Don’t Dig Collectors
“Picking up chicks? Forget it! It never gets them hot, they don’t give a shit about collectors. I wouldn’t say that collectors are antisocial – that would imply that they want to do something harmful to society – but it’s not very sociable either. Very self-obsessed, kind of asocial. That’s why the world looks down on collectors, it takes a certain kind of personality. There is nothing sexy or glamorous about it. Women aren’t attracted to people because they collect. You can go up to them and say, ‘I’m an outlaw bandit’ and they’ll like that. But if you say, ‘I’m a collector’ – no chance.”
Unfortunately, I think Crumb’s take applies to guys that collect gear, too. Ouch.
Robert Crumb, artist and 78 record album collector, talks about the “creepiness” of collecting in Vinyl Junkies: Adventures in Record Collecting by Brett Milano.