Vinyl is the real deal. I’ve always felt like, until you buy the vinyl record, you don’t really own the album. And it’s not just me or a little pet thing or some kind of retro romantic thing from the past. It is still alive. -– Jack White of the White Stripes
My record collection tells the story of my life better than I could in words. Records are a moment in time and act as documentation of who I am. My collection displays a wide array of bands with which I was obsessed, genre rabbit holes I fell down like UK ’82 punk, tours I went on with my bands or others, relics from my travels, gifts from friends and lovers, and so many aurally-triggered memories. If there’s a single with which I become obsessed then I had to track down the 7” or 45 and make it part of my collection. Once I get that uncontrollable urge, whether it’s a noisy punk song or a polished pop hit like Berlin’s The Metro, I have to track it down and make it mine.
I feel like the songs that capture me need to be in my hands in order to consummate the love affair. In a way, it is almost like a snapshot of who I was at that moment when the music moved me. What I was fixated on a few years ago is very different from my current obsessions. Every record I own represents me and showcases the many sides of multi-faceted Ramona Ryder over the years. Music has always been a huge part of my life. Growing up as an only child, the radio was one of the ways I found to entertain myself as my mother would rather read the Sunday Times (or anything, really) in bed than deal with me. I’d make mix tapes and get obsessed with bands, especially on the late-night alternative station. When the internet became a thing, I’d research bands like Nirvana obsessively and learn everything I could about them.
So, if you haven’t already gotten the impression that I am a bit obsessive when I get fixated on things, well, I am a bit obsessive when I get fixated on things. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of gal and my record collection shows it. When I was a teen I found the punk scene and I was off and running. Music basically gave me a reason to wake up in the morning. Attending basement shows led to me getting heavily involved in making punk happen, as I tend to do when I find a passion. The first bands I saw became my friends and we’re still in touch to this day. As I got older (and more organized) I got heavily involved in punk community. I was involved in all aspects from booking shows, being in bands, organizing tours, distributing releases, writing for underground publications, interviews, and hopping in tour vans. Yes, I have definitely been that token cute merch girl on tour!
When I moved from Brooklyn to San Francisco to work at a music magazine I chose to drive cross-country because the thought of shipping my records filled me with dread (as does trusting the postal service in general). What if they got damaged, lost, or stolen? So over the span of five days, I drove across America with my rental SUV filled with black clothing, leather, and vinyl records. I am hopelessly devoted to my records! My materialistic priorities in life are pretty obvious by now but I will say that I tend to give away books. If you’ve ever moved with a serious vinyl record collection then you know that it is a real pain to move them as they are fragile and heavy. I’ve even had nightmares about fires and have woken up in a state of panic trying to decide which records to grab. Basically, my collection owns my heart. I have an emotional investment in my vinyl even though it’s not ideal being so attached to material items. I find a deep solace in hanging out with my collection. I love being able to put on a record, look at the album art, read the lyrics if there’s an insert, and feel that visceral connection. It makes it worth the hassle.
Sometimes people question my love of vinyl as archaic and obsolete and try and point out that it is not a good medium for sound quality. In response, I really like this John Peel quote about the superiority of vinyl records, “Somebody was trying to tell me that CDs are better than vinyl because they don’t have any surface noise. I said, 'Listen, mate, life has surface noise.'” My thoughts exactly, John! How I feel about the analog sound of vinyl records is how I feel about life. I’ll take a first pressing in VG+ condition or better over a digitally remastered MP3 or CD any day. All quotes aside, I am a big fan of John Peel for his support of early punk in the late 1970s in Britain and his insight into music. He had his finger on the pulse on many underground music movements and gave so many incredible bands a platform to reach out of the underground. I definitely own many “Peel Sessions” of my favorite bands from the 70s and 80s (recordings of bands from his show on BBC Radio) on vinyl.
Sometimes I feel I was born too late like I’m not of this generation. I have a landline, I don’t own a television, I read books, and I have my modest record collection. I’m also not on Facebook and I won’t ride a motorcycle or drive a car that I can’t work on myself or have someone explain to me what they are doing in a comprehensible manner. And yes, I drive a stick shift. I also abhor GPS when driving locally. I am a firm believer one should know their way around their own city or town. Does this jumbled list of anti-millennial proclivities make me a Luddite? Or maybe just a hipster (gag me)…whatever, I’m not looking for cool points because I’ve been like this my whole life.
My vinyl obsession even led me to have a record label of my very own for a few years where I distributed internationally. When I decided to end this time-consuming project after ten 7” and flexi releases I had very little inventory to purge and sold it easily. That obsession wrapped up very nicely and it’s another dream that I got to make a reality. My desire for the tangible and tactile is not a new desire for this lady. I guess we both share this passion if you’re reading this. Many of you have driven hours or flown me to you in order to experience Ramona in the flesh. There’s nothing like feeling what you desire in one’s hands, especially when it makes you feel so good.