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Vinyl love affair


- Leighton Williams

Bunny Goodison, record collector and music connoisseur, points to his special collection of vinyl records at his home in the Corporate Area.

THEY travel thousands of miles and spend thousands of dollars to get it - that rare piece of vinyl - a record collector's dream.

It's a hobby that they love because it brings joy to their ears.

Record collectors all share a common bond - a love for music. Such is their love that they collect just about every genre of music, ranging from reggae to even Japanese music. They have music by people such as Don Romano, Kenny Shepherd and Markie Richards, which sounds unfamiliar to some of us.

"Record collecting is a very interesting hobby and you have fun doing it. You'll travel thousands of miles looking for the record of your choice," said Richard "Billy T" Elcock, a collector.

Mr. Elcock, a 50-something-year-old collector based in Miami, has in excess of 25,000 albums and 75,000 singles.

He's not the only one who will go thousands of miles to collect records. Most collectors would leave Jamaica, the United States and Canada to buy records from places as far away as Australia, Japan and Europe, or vice versa.

"There are Japanese that love Jamaican music and come here just to buy it," said Michael Barnett, who has been collecting records for more than 30 years. He boasts a catalogue of 12,000 singles and 3,000 albums.

The rare recordings don't come cheap. For example Jimmy London's 1974 version of A Little Love sells for US$25. Bob Marley and the Wailers' He Who Feels It Knows It, Hold On and The Sunshine On Me each cost US$375. Collectors claim that there are more expensive Bob Marley tunes.

"The rarest Bob Marley I have is One Cup of Coffee, which costs several hundred U.S. (dollars), but the earliest, which is Judge Not, costs roughly US$1,000," said Richard "Richie" Clarke, who has been collecting records for the past eight years.

Other collectors also spend huge sums to acquire a record that very few people in the world have. Take for example "Billy T", who has bought a single for US$400 and sold one for US$1,000.

However, while collectors claim they have bought a 45rpm record for as low as U.S. five cents, many were unable to say how much they would spend to get a particularly rare record.

"I don't know how much I would spend at this point as the thrill and passion for collecting records is gone," said broadcaster and record collector, Bunny Goodison.

Still there are some music lovers who are driven by passion to find the rarest music. They collect records going back as early as the 1930s to the present. The thrill doesn't come from hearing a modern vinyl record. Somehow, it sounds better with age and in the end it also fetches a good price.

"You may collect a new record but you don't play it until it gets older. The real value comes when it is 20 years or older. Then it becomes a vintage record and people will buy it," said Donald Campbell who has been collecting for more than 30 years.

"Sometimes a lot of these old records got overlooked when they were sent to the disc jockeys to get played. So while they may be good enough to be number one they never became popular. So because of this it is hard to get and that also increases the value," he added.

Passion

While pleasure is derived from playing a 45rpm or LP of more than 20 years old, the fuel that drives the passion to collect records is the vinyl itself.

"The value of a record is that it is on vinyl," said Mr. Barnett. "The (compact disc) CD has no value to the collector."

The collectors take their hobby seriously. "Billy T" purchases records over the Internet. He and some of his friends once travelled 8,000 miles in three days looking for a piece of music done by Don Romano. He also puts out a listing in various collectors magazine for pieces that he needs.

Mr. Goodison catalogues his records that he keeps in a room at his house built specifically for that purpose. He even has 78rpms, an earlier form of record that would break if it fell to the ground. He recalls some of the things that he went through to get his records.

"When I was younger I couldn't afford to buy records. So what I used to do was pay down on the records on a weekly basis when I got paid - I've bought records at garage sales and travelled to the United States to purchase soul and jazz records," he said. Barnett too has pulled out the stops to find his vinyl love. "I've gone into basements and come out with white dust all over me for records. I've travelled through 25 cities in the United States visiting numerous record shops to get records," said Barnett.

Conflict

As if the problems to collect the records aren't enough, at least one collector has had to ensure that his two loves do not conflict. "My wife feels she's in competition for my time. So I have to come up with skilful time allotments. I wait until everyone's asleep then I play the records for about two hours before going to bed," said Mr. Barnett.

The collectors all use one word to describe their precious items - priceless. The money doesn't matter and they refuse to put a value on their collection as the thrill they have knowing they have so much music at their disposal is fulfilling enough.

"Often times I wondered if I died what would happen to my collection. Some people suggest I offer them to some institution but that is far from my mind. I'll probably let my daughter have them. She loves music just as much as I do," said Bunny Goodison, who adds that his family all loved music so he didn't have the problem of his family feeling left out.

To ensure that the vinyl lives on, even with the increasing popularity of CDs, the collectors plan to have an annual vinyl spin-off where they will play songs from their collection.

"Many people thought the vinyl would have died, but the vinyl will live on," said Mr. Barnett. "It has been around for a long time and will go on. It survived the cassettes and it will survive the CD."

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