If you can’t stand the heat, don’t buy vinyl.
Hailing from the grim, cold, grey climes of Blighty, I’d always dreamt of travelling to Australia. It was a country I’d painted in my mind in vivid colours, juxtaposed against the sepia tones of a life in England. When I was presented with the opportunity to live in this fine country, I pounced on it like a hawk on a field mouse.
First to be packed up for the 17,000 km journey was my prized collection of vinyl. Raised in a house of musicphiles, this audio enthusiast began accumulating records at a very young age. When CD became the format of choice, I inherited the old man’s lifetime collection of LPs that stretched back to the late ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.
Still in nappies, I was taught to how to turn a record over and quickly learned how to lower the stylus and the dust-collecting roller onto the vinyl. My father’s collection was kept in pristine condition. The sleeves were undamaged and housed in plastic covers, while the albums contained all the original inserts. As soon as a record was played, the vinyl was immediately (and carefully) returned to its inner sheath. Consequently, I adopted a similar approach to maintenance and care with my own records.
Friends would marvel at the size and diversity of this burgeoning collection that contained first pressings of Revolver, Sgt. Peppers, Pet Sounds, and Led Zeppelin One amongst many others. Artists ranged from Television to Joy Division, from Bix Beiderbecke to Gustav Holst. Not every album was valuable in monetary terms, but they all plotted a heterogeneous musical voyage from my youth to adulthood.
In England, consistently warm weather is usually experienced via a two-week holiday booked from the pages of a travel agency brochure. So, naïve to the effects of incessant sun, I stored all of my possessions in an old tennis court pavilion (attached to the house I was staying in) after they arrived following a three-month sea voyage. It was summer, and while I sweated in conditions I considered testing even for Beelzebub, my mind was on air-con, swimming pools and lager. I didn’t even think about my belongings until I moved into a flat the following April.
Keen to impress my new Australian pals with this extensive collection of vinyl, I selected a record and put it on a borrowed turntable. Only then did I notice the uneven revolutions, reminiscent of watching a bumbling friend once try to turn clay on a potter’s wheel into something that resembled a vase. This wasn’t a minor warp; the stylus was leaping like Carl Lewis. Record after record was frantically pulled from their sleeves, and all were buckled.
My heart sank. Of course, the heat! Tennis pavilion. Tin roof. Hilts, the Cooler King in The Great Escape. Plastic versus furnace. Unwittingly, I’d cooked my entire vinyl collection in temperatures that probably pushed close to 50 degrees. Inconsolable for weeks, I began the lengthy, and costly, process of replacing it all on CD.
I still have it, stored flat in a cool cupboard under the stairs. When I buy a bigger house, I’ll pull it all out again and pray for a miracle.