Do you have obsessive-compulsive disorder? Are you currently collecting comic books, action figures, stray animals, or stacks of newspapers piled to the ceiling? Do you check to make sure that the oven is off five times before you leave the house, and then ask your wife if she’s sure it was off after driving a mile down the road? Definitely sure? You turned it off? Do you pump gas to a specific price point or wait to get out of bed until a certain number appears on the clock? Are you asking yourself right now, is the front door locked?
Record collecting might be a great hobby for you.
Whether you have the kind of OCD where they make a reality TV show about you or just the endearing, socially-accepted Woody Allen kind, there’s room for you in the club. And trust me—it’s a better club than that one you signed up for in the 1990s where you got ten CDs for a penny and a lifetime of vaguely-threatening bills.
Don’t be intimidated by that cool kid in Buddy Holly glasses and canvas sneakers. Or the girl with bleached blonde hair and an official Record Store Day tote bag. It doesn’t matter if you can’t name any post-punk electronic indie rock bands that they only played on college radio in 2005. We also got guys with scraggly beards wearing stained t-shirts collecting Brenda Lee 45s. We got guys wearing tasseled-leather jackets looking for Dokken records. There’s no style points or rules in the club. Unless you don’t dig the Beatles.
Never trust anyone who doesn’t dig the Beatles.
Both OCD and record collecting are characterized by a set of obsessions and compulsions. Some of the categories include:
Hyper-responsibility: In OCD, it is an intensified and inflated sense of responsibility for actions and events in life.
In record collecting, there is an inflated sense of responsibility for the music itself. Because there are those who can never understand it. Those who don’t get the Velvet Underground. Those who like Kenny Loggins ironically. Those who think an MP3 sounds just as good, and that a CD sounds better.
Contamination: Excessive fear of, or avoidance of dirt and germs.
A record is a precious jewel that must be protected from scratches, dirt, gunk, children, and bad mojo. The record, one hundred grams of synthetic polyvinyl chloride, is protected in a paper sleeve, which is encased in an outer cardboard sleeve, then slipped in a plastic sleeve, then stored on a proper shelf, upright side by side and never stacked.
Cleaning/Washing: Excessive cleaning and washing even when no dirt is visually seen.
Dust is war. Don’t be fooled. That pop and crackle isn’t warmth. It’s the never-ending battle between good and evil. Invisible to the eye, hidden in the grooves. First there’s the stylus brush to clean the stylus that has a pesky habit of picking up dust bunnies. Then there’s the wet brush for the vinyl, using a homemade mixture of distilled water, mild dish soap, and isopropyl alcohol. Then there’s the microfiber cloth. Then there’s the anti-static brush.
And that’s for one side of the record, and then you turn it over and do it all over again. The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting.
Saving/Collecting aka Hoarding: Carefully and minutely inspecting household trash in case something “valuable” has been thrown out. Accumulating useless objects, for instance because they feel they may be needed one day.
The record collector is regularly hitting up the thrift shop, the flea market, the yard sale, and the record shop for inspecting, digging, and searching. The record collector may think nothing of picking up yet another copy of Pet Sounds, an album particularly prone to being owned in multiples.
Then there are the “useless” albums — however, they are the very ones that yes, you might need some day. Like the Rocky II soundtrack. There’s no question that Rocky I is essential. And Rocky III has Eye of the Tiger, even if the band Survivor sucks. But there’s no denying the power of fucking awesome montage music while you’re sweeping the kitchen.
But, Rocky II? Really? Well, you might need it some day.
Rituals: The OCD person will often develop rituals such as checking to alleviate the obsessions.
Every music fan has their own rituals associated with the playing of a record. Maybe it’s as simple as lighting a candle and sitting in a certain place on the couch. Maybe it’s as complex as running a humidifier in the listening room for eight hours beforehand to make certain no dry air static will affect playback, and then playing a test record immediately beforehand to get the stylus warmed up. Like the Rocky II soundtrack. There you go.
Ordering/Arranging: People with OCD also may worry about things not being “in order” or “just right.”
This is one of the most important decisions you make not only with your collection, but with your life. Do you go alphabetical? But that’s so boring. Chronological? Do you go chronological as a whole? Or do you add a layer of sophistication and go chronological within each artist? Except your brain will have keep this information handy at all times, knowing Stevie Wonder’s 1973 Innervisions goes before 1974’s Fullfillingness’ First Finale, even though both of those records could be parts one and two of a double record.
Maybe you should just keep it simple and straightforward: sorting by genre, within genre by era, within era by artist, and within artist by preference, alphabet, year, and something you saw in a dream once.
Need for Exactness: An overwhelming need or urge for things to be balanced; for example, needing to hold a cup of coffee with both hands exerting the same amount of pressure on each side of the cup.
Playing a record can easily turn from an enjoyable experience to an anxiety-inducing nightmare. You can start getting into stuff like adjusting the vertical tracking angle, where you’ll be whipping out your micrometric measure to determine the angle the cantilever makes with the surface of the record. The words “cartridge alignment” are enough to strike fear in hearts of anyone with an unsteady, clumsy hand. Then there are three little letters, SRA, or the Stylus Rake Angle, whatever the hell that is, but you better pray it has an accuracy of +/- 0.5mm on a good day.
Diagnosis: OCD. Or Record Collector. One and the same. Welcome to the club.
Treatment Plan: After all the cleaning, humidifying, adjusting, and praying, it’s been said that the only thing you really need to make a record sound good is a shot of scotch. Or some straight-up Xanax.