Friday, October 4, 2013

Greetings from Ohio (an Interview With Geoff Burkman)

Vinylhound and record shop  raconteur Geoff Burkman

I've been meeting other collectors in the most weirdest of ways lately.

I recently got my tax return and so I was feeling like splashing out on some wax (as you do) and so I had my eye on a few things on eBay but they weren't up for auction yet so I put them on the watchlist and waited for them to go under the gavel. In the meantime I also  get a daily email from Discogs telling me when items on my wishlist are up for grabs elsewhere. Always handy to get the internet to do the cyber-digging for you when you're not able to do it yourself.

So my email arrives and the first item on the list is BAM! A mint copy of Joseph Lo Duca's Evil Dead! Now I know that you know that I already have a copy of this record but mine has a distinct warp in it which makes the needle jump out of the groove on side 2. Right in the opening of "The Dawn of the Evil Dead" which is by far the most iconic track from the album.

So I was feeling a might flush and the price seemed right so I didn't pay a second thought I pressed the "Purchase" link. I gave a little fist pump in the air and that was that. Done.

A few minutes later and I got a message from the seller saying "I'm sorry but I don't ship outside the US!" Curses!! I thought. Pipped at the post! Oh cruel fate why was I on the other side of the globe. Then the email said "If you have someone I can send it to I can send it there otherwise I'll have to let it go and put it back up for sale. I'll put a hold on it for 3 days.

Darn it!! I needed to find and intermediary! Someone on the inside.  A middle man. A go between. A vinyl interagent. I needed to find someone and fast. Within 3 days at least. But where?

You see I had tried this before. I'd asked a few overseas friends, a few facebook aquaintances, even a few sellers on eBay whom I had had brief conversations with,  but for the most part they all said the same thing. "Too much hassle", "Too busy" or "how did you get this email? Stop contacting me!!!" This was gonna be hard. I badly wanted that record!!

So I took a chance and contacted my friend Lisa Sumner of Just Cool Records again. She is becoming quite a regular on this blog here. She's cool. She stocks good stuff and as it turns out incredibly helpful.

I sent her a tweet asking if she was able to have the record sent to her and then sent onto me. She was more than happy to help out! SWEET!!

I contacted  the Seller on Discogs and he was more than happy to send it to Lisa across state lines. We got chatting. He was from Dayton Ohio (the home of DEVO- correction DEVO are from Akron Ohio- thanks for the heads up), he was a Robert Crumb fan and he once owned a record store. We exchanged a few emails and low and behold he was totally geared up to be interviewed for the blog. I asked  him a few of the old staples but also asked him to elaborate on his shop. He was more than happy to answer and throw in some photos to boot,\.

Name:  Geoff Burkman, often referred to throughout my record-dealing days as Mister G, a character I created for my radio and TV ads.


Age:  This is a state secret, but I can tell you that I'm over 60, and under 62...

Location:  I currently live in Kettering, Ohio, USA, named after the man who rescued us from having to crank our automobile engine each time we want to go somewhere.

How big is your collection and do you collect from any specific genre (i.e. soundtracks, jazz, rock or pop) or do you collect other kinds?
My collection has, at one time or another, delved into most every musical niche imaginable, although the core of it has always been rock.  My tendency has always been to collect by artist, thus the swollen roster of albums by The Beatles, Blondie, David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Devo, NRBQ, The Plasmatics, The Stranglers, and Frank Zappa, among others.  When I liked an artist, my tendency was to amass a complete collection of their albums.   My Discogs roster tells me I currently own 1600+ Lps and 12" singles.  I'm sure the total would be at least double that if I'd kept every album I ever bought, but the switch to digital media forestalled that.  I also own a couple-three hundred or more 7" singles, which I have yet to organize and catalog.  Shame on me, I know.   

How long have you been collecting?
Somewhere in the vicinity of 45 years, I'd guess.  The first album I ever bought was the soundtrack to "2001: A Space Odyssey."  The second was Led Zeppelin II.  The collection began to swell throughout my college years, with an emphasis on hard rock/heavy metal, yet still spanning much of the "scene" at the time.  I hate to think of how many artists I followed and then swapped off their albums for CDs.   A very large chunk of my collection went to provide inventory for my record shop when it opened.  As the business grew and thrived, you can bet I began rebuilding that collection. 

What's your most favourite record?

Wow!  That's just about impossible for me to nail down.  At this point, I'll go with my autographed copy of the "Dawn of the Dead" soundtrack.

What's the most valuable record you own?

Pretty sure that would be my copy of the second-state "Yesterday and Today" by The Beatles.

Do you have a  holy grail?  Is there a record you've been looking for  everywhere but still eludes you?

In a word: no.  Truthfully, I don't much collect records any more.  For one, I've got more than I could ever possibly listen to in the rest of my life, plus my collecting mania shifted a while ago to center on movies, and to a lesser extent, board games.
You used to own a record shop is that right? Tell us more about that?
I did, yes.  Renaissance Records in Dayton, Ohio (1979-2002), which I renamed Renaissance Music Media when I started carrying CDs in the early 80s.  I'd managed a used record shop for several years prior, and when the owner sold the business, I wasn't part of the deal, so a friend and I decided to open a competing shop.  We operated in the black pretty much from Day One, and after I bought my partner out when he graduated from college in '81, there was no turning back.  I hopped on the CD bandwagon from the get-go in '82 and dominated the local market for a good, long run until the big box stores finally wore me down and the rise of the Internet polished me off. 

 But buying and selling used (oh, sorry, "pre-owned") albums and the like, and providing the local market with the best selection of Euro and Japanese import vinyl was always the core of the business. Video was a sideline venture; VHS was always touch-and-go because of durability issues, and Laserdisc was a tiny, niche market at best.  Towards the end, one of my best profit centers was totally non-music related---golf discs; the sport was on the rise locally throughout the 90s and I made it a point to carry a wide selection of styles and brands, since I was quite near a local course.  Oddly enough, I never played the game myself.  At any rate, I had a good run overall, with a lot of good memories, and was able to raise a family while doing something that, for all its headaches, provided a lot of people at least some small measure of happiness.  I really can't complain too much about that...")  
This LP cover was one of my favorites in the wall display I had for many, many years

Do you still make your living from selling records? 

 Sadly, no, I do not.  I left that behind when I closed up shop.  I pursued professional acting for several years (not really a good idea in Dayton, Ohio) and then (briefly) being an insurance agent (I hated it) and for the past number of years have settled into the food service industry.  My sales on Discogs are strictly to generate spare cash while finding good homes for my beloved collection.

What was the first record you ever bought and do you still have it?

 See above, and no, I no longer own either of them.

You're only allowed to take one record to a desert island, Which one is it?
Wow, again!  I honestly don't know what to tell you.  Probably a Bettie Page picture disc...")

Throughout your collecting career have you lately noticed an increase on prices for collectible items now that Vinyl is apparently on the comeback?
I would have to say that certain collectibles have definitely appreciated in value, mostly the truly hard-to-find material in prime condition, at least from what I've been able to glean from sites like Discogs and CollectorsFrenzy and the like.  The vast bulk of vinyl has, however, essentially lost value in that there simply isn't enough demand for it to drive prices to keep pace with inflation.  I see tons of stuff going for the same price (or less) that it did a decade ago when I bailed from the biz.  That's sad, but at the same time it means that current collectors can still find some real treasures out there at pretty reasonable prices, and occasionally walk away with a real steal or two!  And for music lovers who prize their vinyl, that can't be a bad thing at all!   

So there you have it folks.  More adventures in vinyl from far off lands. Make sure you check out Geoff's vinyl on Discogs  and make sure you drop by Just Cool Records etsy shop and yes if you are asking it did make it to me, it arrived just the other day. It is flat and clean and plays very well.

I just might wet myself these both look so fucking good.

Til next time

Luke Pencilneck


  1. One small correction, Luke. DEVO is from Akron, not Dayton. Dayton is best known as the wellspring of a number of fine soul and R&B bands (Roger Troutman and Zapp, Sun, Heatwave, The Ohio Players, among others), Robert Pollard & Guided By Voices, Kim & Kelley Deal (The Breeders, The Amps), punkers Toxic Reasons, and many others. Dayton has always had a lively music scene of one type or another, with varying national attention paid.

  2. Oops! I should mention that I just discovered that, yes, I do own a copy of the "2001:ASD" soundtrack, although it's assuredly not the original copy I bought back in the late 60s. Just thought I should mention that...