[Abby's Road] Collections live on, and that's okay

I’m truly disappointed.

Ne’er did a sentence scar as deep as that one. I can still hear the words coming out my father’s mouth when I did something particularly stupid as a teenager. Disappointment: one of the miseries of life. Be it a result of the loss of a favorite t-shirt or when the surprise birthday party you’ve been carefully planning is carelessly revealed to the once-unknowing celebrant, we’ve all been there.

Several months ago as I descended the stairs of my favorite basement record shop I was met by a mountain of (mostly UK) magazines and newspapers. Boxes and boxes arranged chronologically, some spine-up, some not: Musician. Q. Melody Maker. NME. Select. Uncut. Guitar. Decades of musical history could be accounted for on the yellowing pages. All of it ripe for the picking…all for me.

There is a method to perusing such a goldmine. When faced with a delicious media treasure, I first search for the name of my all time favorite band. The chronology of said periodicals made this very easy. Scouring 1985 through the present I was unhappy to find zero about my hero, Kevin Shields (and entourage), but soon moved on, made a second pass and selected a few gems featuring stories about the The Stone Roses, Madchester and battles between turntable brands, all at the low, low price of twenty-five cents a piece. Still salivating, fingers dirty, I looked at the whole of the collection once more and stopped. I turned to the owner,

“Somebody died, didn’t they?”

He nodded affirmatively. The surviving loved ones gave everything to the shop. They unloaded it. This changed the situation considerably. I looked closer.

I learned that he (I imagine a ‘he’) was a John Lennon fan. Not the Beatles so much, as there were newspapers from all across the globe dated December 9, 1980 lovingly protected with a layer of cellophane food wrapping, yet virtually nothing chronicling the British invasion. Elvis Costello seemed a favorite and the collector (or someone he knew, I’ll bet) wrote a DIY ‘zine, the name of which escapes me now, though I recall typewritten pages, several copies of the same issue, being Xeroxed in black and white, stapled and dated 1970-something. His collection was well-worn, not meant for a museum. I couldn’t help but think there had to be someone close to him who could, who should, inherit it; someone to care for it, add to it, keep it alive. Looking down from that pearly-gated, invite-only gig in the sky, he had to be disappointed. Truly.

I bought the magazines. I broke up the collection. Flipping the pages slowly (and a little sheepishly) over time, the adverts about the newest latest in hi-fi, the dawning of the Compact Disc and a new LP review of Pills’N’Thrills And Bellyaches before we knew it was going to make history were highly entertaining. It all made me happy, joyful even.

The music lover’s abandoned collection is still in the shop, or should I say the remains of it are. Every time I visit it is smaller and smaller and I always give a look-see to check if something special was missed the time before (or the time before the time before). His collection does live on – in the collections of many other people, including my own, and is still growing. At one time I pictured him shaking his head in disappointment at the mishandling of something he cherished so very much; I now like to believe he’s quite okay with it. I would be.

3 comments to [Abby’s Road] Collections live on, and that’s okay

  • Lovely post. It’s funny you should write about such things, because only a few months ago the same thing happened to me.

    I walked into an old magazine shop, and there was a whole collection of magazines spread out on a table from a deceased Stones fan. Everything from when they first started out to the late 90’s. How you can keep check on a band that big for so long, for every issue, is beyond me. But it was still a bit sad to think that’s where their collection had ended up. At least we got something out of it, though, eh?

  • It’s no secret I love when Abby writes.
    I always start out reading and wonder, ‘where is she going here…’
    But you never let me down :)

    Also you’re writing always stirs up similar instances with others. So thank you for making us think and remember (hopefully) fond memories.

    Mine was of the time I was working for a property services company as a teen. My job: go and clean out all the trash the people left behind in their home. What did I find? Piles after piles of records left behind. Some damp and mildewy, but some were perfect. I spent the next hour digging through these records only to find out the woman who sold the house did so because her husband (the record collector) had passed.

    I trashed what was useless and past the point or playability. But I still file through my record collection and smile when I find a record that reminds of the day I began collecting records as a teen.

  • richard

    from across the water…another lovely piece from abby made me smile…
    i must admit over the last 10 years or so i’ve come across 1 or 2 collections from family members, thankfully not deceased…just disinterest…my cousin jason god bless him is a funny chap…from 1986 to 1988 he regularly went into record shops and blindly bought whatever was in the uk indie chart top 20…these days apart from having the bushiest beard i have ever seen ( which i am envious of ) he also has 4 kids…i was visiting him one time 10 years ago when i asked about his vinyl…”i haven’t got a turntable anymore everything is in the garage…you can have them if you want”
    i had no idea what treasures he had…some vinyl was in the cellophane unplayed…the real treasures being my bloody valentines “sunny sundae smile”, biff bang pows! “50 years of fun” and primal screams “all fall down”…all in all 200 records which i lovingly gave a new home…
    i hope cassette players are still around when i kick the bucket…because someones going to have a field day with what i leave!