Record collecting has many multiples. You can choose to collect anything and everything from a particular artist, a record label, producer, musician, city, state, region, country, era, mono-only, genre, whatever. I was going to say “it’s endless” but there are thousands of ways to collect what you want, and never enough time or money (unless you have a lot of it, and if you do, please send some to my PayPal account, thank you) to get what you want.
Collectors tend to have their own level of expertise, things they specifically want or at least are knowledgeable about. I tend to dabble in a little bit of everything, I know a good amount about The Beatles (as discussed here) but always willing to know more. If people want a superrare funk or soul 45, there are a number of collectors, dealers, and well known hip-hop DJ’s people can track down to find the right pressing.
Another thing that collectors like to do is to find different pressings of the same album, and there are variables of what constitutes “multiple pressings”. I’ll read articles and blogs about people who will go through thrift stores, yard and garage sales and they’ll end up buying a Helen Reddy album even if they’re not a true fan of hers or her music. Somehow, they’ll post a note saying “I have 20 copies of Love Song for Jeffrey, including the quad 8-track, and I don’t know why”. Generally, what you’ll often hear about are people buying the same album multiple times from the same country. I know I have multiple copies of Cecilio & Kapono‘s first album, Loggins & Messina‘s Sittin’ In, but other than being able to buy and organize a few copies of the same album, there’s no really good reason other than to be a collector and play a game that no one really participates in, let’s be honest about this. UNLESS you are amongst a community of collectors who do the same, then it’s appreciated, or at least you can all murk in your disgust of the foolish game.
If you’re a hip-hop DJ that still uses vinyl, then you may want multiple copies of the same record for that reason alone. You place one record on one turntable, then a different copy on the other, and you can “juggle” beats, do a routine, or create a live mix on the spot. That has always been the case for hip-hop DJ’s, but the advances in CD and MP3 technology has made it possible to manipulate songs without having to have the physical record there. DJ’s no longer have to lug boxes and crates of records from gig to gig, hell they don’t have to carry it to a recording session, nor do you have to go to anyone else’s recording studio. Everything can be done digitally, you can have a rapper send you their vocals with a click track, and you can assemble it an ocean away.
Of course, records aren’t solely the tools of the trade for fans of hip-hop music. Having multiple copies of the same record is a different level of madness in record collecting, and it’s a madness that has been going on for decades. As an example again, let’s touch on The Beatles. If you are an American who loves the Revolver album, you have a lot of options to choose from. Let’s say you discovered their music in 1981 and went to the store to pick up a copy of Revolver. If you bought the album brand new/still sealed, you would have the album on Capitol Records in the purple label variation. You then discover that Capitol Records pressed up the album with different labels, as they would rotate the look of their labels every few years. In time, you find yourself with the original Capitol rainbow swirl, both stereo and mono. Then you buy the lime green label, the one on Apple, and the orange one that followed. Same album, same songs, not much difference in any of them. You also have an album that had only 11 songs, which you discovered was shorter than the proper UK version that contained 14. The UK version was not available, but you went to a record store and saw a Japanese pressing or a French pressing, both equal to the 14-track UK album. You buy the French one because it’s cheaper, but hope to buy the Japanese one someday because you had read the sound quality is incredible. You bring home the French pressing and say “wow, this sounds as if if was mastered different.” Or maybe you don’t care, you just want to have your favorite album from as many countries as possible. You know that The Beatles phenomenon was worldwide, so you’re going to go out of your way, within your budget, to get as many world pressings as possible. You are able to do that.
There are reasons as to why one would do it. Some enjoy doing this to be able to hear how an album was heard in the country it was pressed in. In the digital era, the idea of hearing a different mastering in each country is almost a non-existent concept since everything comes from the same digital rip. The songs/files are cloned, so with the exception of the quality of the bit-rate in each file (i.e. an MP3 ripped at 128kbps) will not sound as good as one ripped at 320kbps), what you hear in Atlanta will be the same digital file you’ll download in Paris. In the analog era, a master tape was sent to each world division of a record label. While that master tape may be the approved mix of an album, a mastering engineer in one country may not have the same equipment as the engineer in another country, or an engineer might feel the need to tweak the audio a bit without permission. A pressing in Japan will sound great while the one in Germany might be better. Collectors will often have a select list of preferred countries to buy record pressings from due to their reputation from other collectors, such as U.S., UK, (West) Germany, and Japan. That’s not to ignore a pressing of an album from Australia, in fact some collectors will tell you that a pressing done in the country of the artist’s origin are often preferred because the level of quality control is higher. In other words, wanting multiple copies of albums is very much an audio issue.
One of my favorite albums was one that was a favorite of my dad’s and one I would grow into, Ramsey Lewis‘ Sun Goddess. I have two copies of the album, but also have the 1990 CD and a Japanese pressing from the late 1990’s that sounds incredible. However, there are two other pressings that I would like to have: the Japanese pressing:
and the U.S. Columbia Half-Speed Mastered pressing:
It’s the same album as the one I already have four copies of, so why would I want two more? It’s a chance to hear the same seven songs mastered slightly different than what I’m used to. I love the sound of Columbia albums in the 1970’s, but I’m curious to know if it was mastered differently for Japanese audiences, and if that master is different from the Japanese CD (most likely it is). Even if I obtained the Japanaese LP, why would I now want the album yet again, in Half-Speed Mastered form? Because it was mastered differently, and this matters to me because I want to know, hear, and experience the differences, however small. Half-Speed Mastering was done at a time when perhaps record labels stopped caring for quality control so much, so having to create something with a specific slogan was their way of not only making more money, but letting the public know “we have created a better pressing which we think you will prefer.” Arguably it was the Deluxe Edition of the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, where the public had the option to buy the same set of songs again, but perhaps with slightly different graphics on the cover. To the casual music fan, this means nothing to them. To the serious music listener and audiophile, it’s all about variations, and I wnat to hear them. I also know of a British pressing of Sun Goddess on CBS with an orange label, and just to be a completist, maybe I’d buy that too but right now my goal is to get the Japan pressing and the Half-Speed. Are there Australian, French, and German pressings? Was there an inferior Taiwan pressing? There might be, but I don’t have too much interest in them.
There are two albums in my collection that I am a bit fanatical about, and while it’s not an urgent collecting game, it’s one that I play. I am looking for different world pressings of Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s Welcome To The PleasureDome and the 1970 Woodstock 3LP soundtrack album.
Then there’s the Woodstock soundtrack. I fell in love with the movie in 1979 or 1980 when it was shown on HBO. I clearly remember the promo on HBO with Casey Kasem, and as they showed that shot after Jimi Hendrix‘s section, Kasem did a voice-over which said “Woodstock: where it all began.” I grew up with a good amount of rock’n’roll and heavy music that came from what my dad and uncles listened to, it wasn’t “classic rock” just yet, just “the good shit”. I was born a year after the festival, and the idea of going to a concert in some large, random farm in upstate New York, surrounded by over 500,000 people as people passed around wine, weed, and granola was something that moved me. C’mon, a 3-day festival with all of this great music, funky ass smelly people, and a trippy mud slide? I would’ve been happy with the granola, but if I was alive when the festival happened, you know I would’ve not only had smoked weed, but I would’ve been in the forest trying to survive the brown acid that Chip Monck told me was not specifically too good.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood might not be on the list of mandatory artists to collect, definitely not up there with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or Elvis Presley, but I got into them primarily because of the sound and production, done primarily by Trevor Horn. I also loved what Paul Morley did with his level of superhype, created with incredible liner notes and myth creation. It was never “oh, Frankie Goes To Hollywood are from Liverpool, maybe they’ll be as big as The Beatles” or “they’re kinda new wave”, it was always about the music. I love Welcome To The PleasureDome, and it’s an album that I think saved me from complete mental hell when I had moved from Honolulu to the Pacific Northwest. I also liked how their record label, Zang Tuum Tumb, would release a single but not just the standard 7″ 45 or the 12″. There would be an alternate 12″, maybe a 7″ and 12″ picture disc, the cassingle, the shaped picture disc, or maybe two promotional mixes made exclusively for radio. I loved the ideas of multiples (which sounds like something you’d hear in a porn video but that’s another topic, perhaps another time), so I would find myself getting records from different countries. I wanted to explore that with Welcome To The PleasureDome and I have to a small degree. I have the US, UK, UK picture disc, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Yugoslavian pressings. In the US it was released via Island Records, which at the time was a WEA-affiliated label. In Japan it was released through Island/Polystar, and in New Zealand through Festival, and it’s cool to see the variations, however minor. Since FGTH were not as big as The Beatles, being able to find other world pressings should not be difficult. As I look at the page for the album at Discogs.com, I see that there are pressings in Greece, Israel, Portugal, Scandinavia, France, Italy, and Spain. I want them all. Were there pressings in Hong Kong? South Korea? I want to know. But as you can see, the list of countries isn’t big. Compare that with a Beatles album that was released around the world. I could easily complete my collection by the end of the week.
One day my parents and I went to the Kamehameha Super Swap Meet one weekend, something we always did, and after falling in love with what was the longest movie I had ever seen up until that point, I saw the soundtrack album. Three records, and the cost? A massive three dollars. I begged and pleaded, and told them “get me this, and you will not have to get me anything for Christmas” or some stupid shit just so I could get the record, take it home, and listen. They gave me the pitiful look, but once I saw the hand reaching into the purse, I smiled and ran to the man who had the album. Gave him the three dollars, wanting to go home right now. I either played Santana‘s “Soul Sacrifice” or Ten Years After‘s “I’m Going Home” first, and I just put myself into the music and got lost. 1979 was the year I discovered The Beatles and hip-hop, and I believe was the year I found Woodstock. I was set for life. Well, I wasn’t prepared for losing a parent, good friends, and bills, but still.
Woodstock became a worldwide phenomenon, now every country wanted to have their own gigantic festival and a lot of them failed. But the myth created behind the movie and soundtrack was what I lived for, for the simply fact that it looked and sounded good. As a kid I would say “if I had a time machine, I’d want to go to 1950 so I could experience The Beatles and Woodstock in real time”. As I got older, I still think it would have been an incredible thing to be a part of, but that’s a very naive me speaking as a pre-teen. Someone like me with my ethnic mix might not have been able to live outside of Hawai’i or California, either I would be a statistic or fighting for the civil rights of all but… it would have been interesting.
Nonetheless, the soundtrack album moved me and I was always curious as to how the soundtrack was perceived. I don’t have as many pressings of Woodstock as I do of Welcome To The PleasureDome but I do have them for the U.S., Germany, Taiwan, and Israel. The album, a 3LP set, was originally released in 1970 on Cotillion Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic. Back then, the double album was considered “the event” but a 3LP set? Even The Beatles didn’t have a 3-record set, and now there’s one for a damn music and art fair? Anyway, as is the case with Atlantic-related albums in other countries, sometimes Woodstock would be released not with the Cotillion label, but with the Atlantic label, such as this pressing from Venezuela:
Or labels that have absolutely nothing to do with Cotillion or Atlantic, such as these pressings from South Korea and China respectively:
The album was also released with different covers. Uruguay pressing? Sure:
In India, the album was not released as a 3LP set but as three individual records with a different color scheme for each one:
In South Korea, there seems to be a few counterfeit pressings, which seems to have been customary in Asian countries that didn’t have proper record label affiliates. Somewhere down the line, there was an official pressing, and that had a completely different album cover as well. I can use eBay and other sites to find out which pressings are out there, it’s much cheaper to do that than it is to fly there and look for any stores or collectors, but that’s all a part of the fun of being a collector. There’s no really good reason to do it, other than to do it, and it’s not mandatory or life threatening. It’s merely a hobby, and I try to make it fun. It may be as corny to the outsider as it is for someone who attends Happy Meal toy conventions, but perhaps it’s a way to spice up a hobby that at times can be boring. It’s nothing but dust collecting on an archive I can’t really do anything with unless I’m interactive with it, which means taking the record out of the sleeve, placing it on the turntable, and lowering the stylus onto it.
As record companies started steering away from actual records and into cassettes and CD’s, many countries didn’t bother pressing up vinyl for a lot of titles. Or in the U.S., where vinyl was king, you would only be able to find cassette and CD, and had to hunt down an imported pressing, sometimes 50 to 100 percent more in cost. If you were lucky, maybe the labels pressed up promotional copies for radio and DJ’s, but as the compact disc became the king in the 1990’s, records were pushed to the side. In 2010, it’s rare to find any new album pressed in more than one country unless it’s someone very popular. To make things worse, new record prices in 2010 are often tagged with “import prices”, and add to that that labels will also press them up at 180g or 200g, making them “of audiophile quality”. Sound may not crystal clear, but the record is thick and heavy enough to give them a chance to add an extra ten dollars to any new release. Unfair, sure, but they’re also taking advantage of the vinyl revival/renaissance of the early 21st century. For the 40 dollars you might spend on the new Neil Young, you can buy 40 records from the dollar bin, which is why record collecting is still fun for me, the exploration aspect of it. If I want to get different label, cover, and pressing variations, I can choose to go that route.
Now for my question. How many of you do the same thing, and for what albums? Post your replies.