One Man’s Quest For His Vinyl and His Past

 

Eric Spitznagel | Old Records Never Die: One Man’s Quest for His Vinyl and His Past | Plume | April 2016 | 8 minutes (2,029 words)

Motivated by a potent mix of seller’s regret and old-dude nostalgia, a journalist sets off in search of the vinyl of his youth. And not just copies of albums he loved—Eric Spitznagel wants the exact records he owned and sold. It’s a premise that musician Jeff Tweedy describes as “not… entirely insane” in his preface to the book. Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter of Old Records Never Die. You decide.

I’m going to back up.

I’m a journalist. An “entertainment” journalist, if you want to get all specific about it.

This wasn’t my choice.

When I was coming out of college, my first intention was to be a playwright. I would move to Chicago and write hilariously profane and poignant plays for the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. I’d be like a modern-day Christopher Durang but without the religious hang­-ups, or an August Strindberg who watched too much porn and too many Woody Allen movies. I stumbled into journalism by accident. The father of my writing partner was a columnist for Playboy, and after meeting several silver-fox editors at social functions, my friend and I were paid way too much money to write funny stories for the magazine about Baywatch and lesbians.

For lack of any other options, I stayed with the money, and within a few decades, I was writing regularly for publications like Vanity Fair, Esquire, and the New York Times Magazine, mostly interviewing celebrities like Tina Fey, Sir Ian McKellen, Willie Nelson, Stephen Colbert, Sarah Silverman, and (as of this writing) approximately 213 other people you’ve probably heard of.

When you talk to famous people for a living, it all starts to blend together after a while. You remember meeting people like Buzz Al­drin and John Cusack and Isabella Rossellini, but you have only a vague recollection of what you discussed with them. But that wasn’t the case with Questlove, the coolest neo-soul drummer in the universe. I can remember everything about our phone conversation. It was an assignment for MTV Hive, a website offshoot of MTV. Quest had a new memoir out, and I was tasked with getting a few ridiculous yarns out of him. For the first twenty minutes or so of our conversation, it was more or less as expected. We talked about the time he roller-skated with Prince, and ran out of a Tracy Morgan toe­-licking party. But then the topic turned to the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rap­per’s Delight.”

We both laughed as we recounted the brilliantly weird lyrics. “I said a hip, hop, the hippy to the hippy I To the hip hip hop, you don’t stop….” If you were alive in the early eighties and didn’t identify as a grown-up, you can probably remember where you were when you first heard “Rapper’s Delight.”

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