Less than two years ago, I went to Amnesia, on Valencia between 19th and 20th, and heard Vinnie Esparza spin records with his friend who I currently only know of as Chris. They have incredible taste in music and I highly recommend you check them out. They also own a record shop on haight called Groove Merchant that only sells gold.
On that night at Amnesia, I heard them play this crazy funk track, and I had to know what it was. I got on stage and asked the DJ what he was playing. It was a 45 by Lou Courtney called Hey Joyce. I was happy to get the name because I thought I’d rush home and ask my friends back in Philly if they can find it for me. But turned out, I already had the song on my ipod. This was embarrassing and a little depressing. I’ve had this music for so many years and I didn’t know about Hey Joyce; who knows how many other gems were hidden in it?
This was the first major step towards my entry into the vinyl scene.
The second step was more of a giant leap. It happened about nine months ago. That’s when I traded my entire digital music library with a friend.
(Side note: If you are working for some copyright legals department and you are thinking of filing some case against me then you should realize right away that (1) there is actually no proof that I did this and (2) there is a non-zero probability that this entire post is fictional.)
Anyways, it wasn’t my idea and I was reluctant to do this. I was willing to share music but just not my whole hard drive, and especially not all in one go. Something felt off about doing that, almost like I was giving a big piece of myself away. But we traded music nonetheless and just like that, I went from having 60 gigabytes of music to having 120 gigabytes. In sum, I doubled my music collection in less than five minutes.
And that’s when it hit me. A feeling I can only describe as a complete disillusionment with digital music. How worthwhile was my collection If I could double it with a push of a button? And what is keeping me from deleting all of it with the same effort?
60GB is worthless under this mentality.
But it took me years to get to that 60GB mark. And yet I did not listen to the majority of it. Otherwise I would have known about Hey Joyce long ago. The reason I did not know about Lou Courtney’s song was simple. I had no connection with the majority of the songs in my library. For years I’ve been dancing to music; I thought I knew music. But I couldn’t be farther away from the truth. I had no real grasp of my collection. And that reminded me of an important discussion I had with Skeme Richards (world famous, Philadelphia bred, Dj of the legendary Rock Steady Crew and Sesion 31).
Skeme and I had a working relationship when I was in college. And, I think in 2007, while I was helping him carry his equipment back to his car we chatted briefly about what music means to new DJs. His contention was that the DJs he saw in the scene now were all playing digital music. He claimed that many of them didn’t own a single record and that they have no connection with their music. He said that when you buy a record, even before listening to it, you begin to build a story. You see that “this cat on the right side has this crazy afro, and this black girl on the cover looks hot as hell in those bellbottoms” and immediately you connect with the artists, the musicians, just by looking at the album cover. At the time I did not own any records and I did not truly understand what Skeme was talking about. I could not fully appreciate what he meant by “forming a connection” with the music. But his message rang loudly in my ear on the night that I doubled my library. To reconnect, or more accurately, to truly connect with music, I would need to follow his advice. I would need to go analog and step as far away from digital music as possible.
And that’s when I walked in to Rooky Ricardo’s Records on Haight street, between Fillmore and Webster, and bought my first 45 record. There are probably many more reasons for why I went to Rooky’s and not any of the other half dozen record shops in the vicinity. The most important reason being that I had a strange fascination with the 45 rpm record that would quickly develop into an intense love. But later would be a better time to explain myself.