Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2018
Images from the Internet
Records Collecting Dust II
Written, produced and directed by Jason Blackmore
Ralph Wayne’s Vintage Backyard Films / Riot House Pictures / MVD Visual
78 minutes, 2018
The subtitle for this DVD is “…a documentary film about the music and records that changed our lives.”
In the original film from 2015, which I have yet to see, the focus was on 1980s West Coast Punk. For this sequel, we are switched to the East Coast punk scene of that period. In the pre-digital world – including CDs – the early 1980s was the last great hurrah for records in the pre-Marshall McLuhan-esque “replaced technology comes back as art” (paraphrased) world of new vinyl. Bands started labels or just put out their own stuff. I still remember heading down to Disc-O-Rama on Eighth Street in Greenwich Village to see the new indie recordings coming out and pick the ones I wanted. Thanks to FFanzeen, I was also sent many by the labels directly to review that I would never have seen, from both East and West Coasts, as well as in-between.
I firmly believe that record collecting is both an art and an addiction that can catch from one to another (e.g., I learned from a high school friend, and passed it on to a FFanzeen reader back in the day who has never really forgiven me). However, I will add that unless one has the collector “gene” it’s a moot point. Here is some of my record collecting philosophy called “Reflections on Being a Record Collector.”
The focus of the film – well, the first half anyway – isn’t really about collecting, but more about what the subtitle posits, the song that sparked interest in music. Lots of Beatles, and even odder stuff like Kay Kaiser’s “Three Little Fishies” (I knew that song from a Zero Mostel LP, which I still have). Along with the Fab Four, the most common mentions are Led Zeppelin and KISS (spelled both KISS and Kiss in the captions).
Most of those interviewed, which we hear in bursts of two or three sentences at a time, are mostly musicians, primarily in Boston and the Washington DC area, in groups like Mission of Burma, Agnostic Front, Helmet, the Cro-Mags, the Freeze, the FUs, and so many others. It’s definitely a hardcore roll call.
One of the subtle accuracies of this documentary is that historically that I have noticed is that while there are women who are collectors, the overwhelming majority are male. The Yin side of the equation is presented here by Amy Pickering and Cynthia Connolly, both of Dischord Records. Even many women I know who have encyclopedic knowledge of the music, most of them are free of the collecting virus, which I totally respect.
There are sort of different chapters, including “your first record,” “who was a key influencer” (usually an older sibling or cousin), “the record that changed your life,” “the last record you purchased,” and “if your house was on fire, what three records would you save?” Personally, I think that last one is a ridiculous question only because there are too many I like and by the time I chose, I’d be a french fry. What I find interesting is most of the answers are along the lines of “here is this rare record so I could sell it to either buy more records or fix my house.” My guess the point of the question is what are the important records to you as a metaphor, not as a reality. I have rare records, but in this context I would answer differently; that being said, Ian MacKaye gives my fave answer.
Overall, this is an incredibly fun film, with strong nostalgia strings to pull at your heart. “Oh, yeah, that’s a great record,” or “Wow, I hate that one,” will shine through, though there is bound to be some “Oh, Jeez, I didn’t even know that existed, and now I want it!” All bound to bounce around your noggin as you’re watching. There’s not a dull moment.
The bonus material on the DVD includes the original trailer and 20:57 of additional interview footage. While it’s totally understandable why this never made the final cut, the first third is a load of fun as those interviewed show off their prize possessions. For the next third, it’s kind of a mesh-mash of different ideas, which is also interesting. The last third, though, is one long rambling interview that really doesn’t say that much by someone I strongly admire, FYI, and if it was someone else it probably would never have seen the light of HD day.
I did have one issue with this: every single person interviewed is either connected to the music industry behind the scenes, or are musicians (one who even admits he doesn’t collect vinyl, but only digital…does that even count?), but what about collectors who collect for collecting’s sake, i.e., love of the music alone? There are so many fanatical record collectors who I find absolutely fascinating that never played a note in their lives. I know some “hopelessly obscure” collectors, and they are much more interesting because they didn’t create the music, but their devotion is just as – err – hardcore. Perhaps that can be film Number 3?
Finally, I realize this has nuthin’ to do with nuthin’, but the subtitles are a bit psychotic. For example, it states “The Monkeys” (though it’s spelled correctly later on), “Cool and the Gang,” “Henry Rawlins” (Rollins), and then another early one has a collector referring to “Corvette’s”; for those of us old enough to know, it’s EJ Korvettes, a department store where many of us did our initial mainstream record shopping. Here’s my totally unrelated Korvettes vinyl story: When I was in high school, I was with someone who bought the Woodstock soundtrack; when we got it home we found it skipped, so we brought it back to the store. Of course, they had to test it to prove it was actually defective. The sales clerk put on the record just as the phone rang, so she ran out, not realizing that the turntable was connected to the store’s PA. All of a sudden, through the entire store, you heard Country Joe yell echoing, “Gimme an F…, Gimme a U...,” Good record collecting times.