Sunday, June 16, 2013

So Why Soundtracks?

So it's no secret by now, I fucking love soundtracks.

I've been collecting them for over 20 years and as of last count I own 76. All on vinyl.

A majority of them are horror soundtracks and that seems to be the genre I gravitate towards. I started collecting them a long time ago before their value as collectors items was even an ascertainable notion. A lot of the ones I have are now worth 10 times as much as I paid for them but even as the collectors market has made prices increase again and again I haven't stopped. I keep buying them. I recently spent 58 Euro (just over $80) on an original 1977 pressing of Goblin's Suspiria. 

I'm 40  years old. I'm recently separated.   I'm a Single Dad. Surely it's time to put these things away and get on with growing up. Right? SO why can't I? And why won't I? and why has something that started as a teenage quirk grown into an adult obsession?
With this post I'm gonna try to explain and explore why. I'm going to try and be as honest as I can, acknowledging some of the things I know which are flawed with it and by association flaws in myself. Also why I'm still obsessed even though the flaws are staring me in the face. Maybe I am just looking in the mirror. Oh!which reminds me of another album cover.

Anyway here goes....

1) I'm chasing a high.

Yes I am. If I'm brutally honest with myself I'm like a junkie trying to relive the first time I got high. I mentioned earlier about finding Evil Dead in the early 90s. It was a revelation. Not just the score itself but the iconic look of the poster on the cover. Stephen King's infamous quote "The Most Ferociously Original Horror Film of 1982" emblazoned in yellow font. The score is a perfect mission statement for the film. Experimental and atmospheric the soundtrack grabs influences from earlier horror film scores but then continues on in new directions  creating some great moments of tension and avant garde brilliance. Finding this and discovering its many layered secrets is something I've never really been able to recapture. Some have come close and some have been new favourites in their own right but whenever I see a soundtrack to an iconic horror film I'm secretly hoping it will be the same experience as discovering Joseph Loduca's score so long ago.

2) Soundtracks are the Underdogs Or "The Little Albums That Could"

Whenever you go into a record store do you know where the Soundtrack Section is? Its Usually down the back if at all. Usuaslly two racks at the back. A-L and M-Z.

Rock, Pop, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s, Male Vocal, Female Vocal  they all take up the majority of the buyers choice in the market, but soundtracks are relegated to the corners. In some instances they don't even warrant there own section. This is the most solid indicator of the Film Score's popularity in the music industry. Next to none.

I know that what I collect has an element of uniqueness. I know that it's an obscure little niche. and its these reasons that also fuel my desire to buy and own these relics. I see them as an extension of my personality. I have a taste for the unique and overlooked and I see this as a reflection of myself. I wanna stand out and the way I do it is by saying "Hey I get my musical kicks in places that other people don't even look!!".
In  that way (and here is another sad truth,...are  you sitting down? Here goes?)I'm no different to any other hipster really. Wanting to stand out by reveling in a unique choice that goes against the grain of popularity. I'm not only into bands no-ones heard of, I'm into a genre you don't even see. Forget Akron/Family, I'm into Fabio Frizzi, Screw Margot and the Nukes, have you heard Richard Band? Fuck Neutral Milk Hotel are they anything like Pino Donaggio??

3) I love the thrill of the chase.

Finding something  of value for a fraction of the cost is always a thrill. Buying  a priceless vase at the local thrift shop for a pittance  or finding out the family heirloom gathering dust in the attic is actually worth a small fortune is a common held fantasy for everybody and with record collecting it's no different.

Every collector is on the lookout for their wishlist item. But being able to then find that item for a song is always an exhilarating experience. Although the internet has made this experience even more of a rarity its still known to happen.

Whenever I go into a record shop and I stream over to the Soundtrack section I'm always hoping that special something is there, Maniac, or The Bird With the Crystal Plumage or another mint copy of Phantasm and that the proprietor having never done much trade in Soundtracks has  put a $10 or hell even $20 sticker on there and left it at that. WIN! All those items fetch at least a couple of hundred online.

It still happens.I found my copy of Elvira's Haunted Hits in Melbourne recently for $20. Near Mint. It fetches $120 plus amongst collectors online.

. Same with Dick Jacob's Themes from Horror Movies

A gorgeous record which i also got for $20 but I know can fetch $30 more.

But here is the sad part, I know I'm not really saving $30 or even $100 for that matter. I've still just parted with $40 for two records. It's like my brain has learnt how to trick me into parting with cash because I know the record  has extra value elsewhere. I'm never going to sell it. I'm never going to make  a profit but knowing I could  somehow gives the purchase more significance. Every collector brags about finding that one a-list item for a steal and in a way it's a badge of luck. Its a secret way of saying

 "I found fifty bucks in a shop the other day, it only cost me twenty"

To which someone (perhaps a non-collector friend) might add

"Really? Thats great, what did you spend the extra thirty bucks on?"

"Oh nothing, I had the fifty bucks sealed in a plastic cover and mounted on my wall."

"Oh i see, next to that other twenty? How much was that? Ten bucks?"

"No that cost me eighty. But it's "never-been-spent-money" so its worth more"

I know!! How shit is that? But we're still suckers for  it?? Or at least I am.

4) They are rare and beautiful objects.

So thats something you can't dispute. Records are beautiful. And they look great. And a horror record is a beautiful thing.
Firstly it's big. The artwork is big. You can hold it in both hands. You can look at it while you play the record. You can read it while you play the record. You can even  hear the record while you play the record.
Its the perfect keepsake for a film. you get some iconic poster art, some incredibly beautiful and strange  music and in a lot of cases some great liner notes in regards to the soundtrack process.

Just check out the back cover to Halloween

The entertainment value is threefold; you've got something to look at, something to read and something to listen to. So it all adds up to  cool little  multimedia package. They are the original "Special Features" if you will and unlike a DVD or CD cover you don't even have to squint to read them.

5) The Holy Grail and Serendipity Tax

The last and final factor is what I call The Holy Grail . It's similar to the chase but it works on a different level.  There are things I am aaaaaalllllllwwwwaaayyyysss looking for. Items which if I saw I would grab instantly. Without question and without much thought to budget constraints. The rarity and desirability  (what i call the I want! I want!-factor) of the soundtrack creates a rare once in a lifetime opportunity. Its there, you've crossed paths with it and you aren't ever going to be able to have it so instantaneously if you walk away. Thats why, even if I'm flat broke, or at least on a "no-credit-card-"month, I will still walk into a record store, especially if I haven't been there before just to have a look. I am in there for one purpose and one purpose alone . I am looking for Holy Grails.

Which brings me to another factor about collecting a term which I call Serendipity Tax.This is when you see something for sale and its a little bit more than the fetching price. I've walked away from lots of records because I know I can get it cheaper online. Or I can get it for realtively the same amount online. When you factor in postage a record sent from overseas can equal what you might regularly pay for something at the store.. Or the other factor is that it doesn't hold much interest for me. Take it or leave it I'll grab it if i see it for cheaper. But then along comes  Serendipity Tax. Where patience and common sense (cents) give way to the notion of Having It Now!!!!! For $10 or $20 more you can do away with postage and you can do away with having to wait for 6-8 weeks. It can be yours!! Do you succumb? Do you give in? Fate has bought you into the presence of your beloved. The planets have aligned to bring you here to this moment,. Do you defy the celestial embodiment of the ether and consult the gods of eBay later at home  or sacrifice some fiscal lambs now so you can hold it in your unwieldy little  fist? Do you dare pay the dreaded Serendipity Tax?

 See why sometimes I worry about myself?

So it's a deeply problematic thing this collecting business. Its fun and rewarding and can be good for the soul but when you're up past midnight on eBay watching a bidding war erupt over an item you're not even buying just because you want to see how much it  ends up selling for, you come to realise you could do with a little persepctive.

A friend of mine recently told me that he thought that my collecting was important. That he saw it as a form of preservation for  posterity and in a way I guess he's right, I'm rescuing these items from obscurity. I do feel precious about them. They are rare objects of beauty and they're mine. Sometimes i think of myself as an archivist rather than a collector and in that regard the description fits. Also it rings with more purpose than being labelled an Obsessive and you've got to be happier with that.

Anyway folks thanks for listening, this has been fun  to write, albeit with a lot of truthful soul searching along the way. Thanks for reading. Catch you next time.


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