A few years ago I went to Austin, Texas, for Owner Summit which a great event for where folks from smaller agencies can get together and share advice about the ins and outs of running said agencies. It’s deftly put together by the Bureau of Digital folks, and I highly recommend it. When it’s in Austin, you have the added benefit of it being in Austin, one of the most party cities I have ever visited.
Plus, there’s House Park Barbecue. Don’t bother going if you don’t eat meat unless you have a hankering for slaw, white bread, and a shitload of okra.
The day after the summit ended, I went for a wander along South Congress with some friends to have a look at clothes because I am a fancy lad. I had a trip to Allen’s Boots in mind, where I dropped a bunch of money on some beautiful pearl snap shirts for me and a Scully shirt for my mate Northy that in the end I wish I had kept for myself. That shirt is a thing to behold — like the Bayeaux Tapestry if instead of showing Harold taking one to the eye, it had an army of skeletons getting into a pretty rambunctious melee with a phalanx of rhinestones. There are also roses on it.
(After that we went to Triple-Z Threadz, purveyors of some of the wildest shirts around. I dropped money there too.)
But because I was there with my friend Mike, we had to make a stop and look at vinyl LPs. I can’t remember the name of the place, but how many record stores can there be on South Congress?
Mike hunted through the shelves of vinyl like a monkey combing its baby for nits, flipping quickly, pausing, continuing to flip. I didn’t own a record player so I just wandered around aimlessly and hoped that my body knew what to do with all the meat I had eaten in the prior few days.
Then behind the counter I saw a copy of the only Beatles LP that matters (Revolver, thank you very much) on red vinyl. In mono. From Japan. It was bloody ridiculous. I had to have it.
It was the start of my record collection.
It only took me purchasing about 20 LPs before I realised I’d need something to play them on.
People get lost at this point because the choices are overwhelming and everyone who has a record player talks to you like they’re trying to lure you into some kind of sex cult for bald guys. Listen to them and you’ll be buying vintage turntables, valve amps, and artisanal sex wax before you know it. I didn’t want to be party to the lubed-up chrome-dome brigade, so I just bought a Rega P1, hooked it up to a friend’s very old and basic amp, and a set of speakers I lifted from my parents’ shed.
My setup sounded just shitty enough to be legit, with a turntable that was fancy enough to stop vinyl-heads from looking down their bifocals at me. Job done.
A wonderful thing about buying a record player is that everyone knows what to give you as gifts from now on. One friend gave me his milk crate of old 80’s compilations and Meat Loaf records. Another very good friend scouts for Billy Joel, Kenny Rogers, and recordings of trains whenever he’s at op-shops in the country. Sometimes he buys bad stuff too. My girlfriend came home from America one time with her suitcase full of with her dad’s Stones, Faces, and Fleetwood Mac records.
My collection grew. Most of it was very much pre-loved. Some of the records looked like they had been previously used mostly at dining tables, doing service as place-mats. They sounded like shit.
Into my life, again by way of a gift from some wonderful friends (I recommend having good friends if you’re considering it) came the Spin Clean Record Washer. It’s a deceptively simply little contraption that promises to get all the schmutz off your vinyl without doing any damage to the precious music trapped General Zod-like inside the platter.
You mix up a little cleaning solution, pour it into the reservoir, and slide your records into the assembly. Inside there’s some magic brushes and a couple of plastic rollers, but that’s it. You spin the records by hand clockwise a few times, then not-clockwise a few times, wipe them down with a special cloth, and then move onto the next one. I recommend doing about 25 at a session, which is enough time for three beers each if you work out a way to make it a job that two people do while talking about the explicit connection between Johnny Horton and Reverend Horton Heat. As one most certainly does.
As an added bonus, if you do it as a solo task, it’s astonishingly relaxing. It’s hard not to be mindful when you’re focusing on turning vinyl records by hand. Yes, the records get cleaned. No it doesn’t scratch them. Yes, I have joined the sex-wax vinyl cult. I was kidding myself to think I could ever avoid it.
The Spin Clean is available all over the place online. Tell them I sent you. Tell me what happens next.