Vinyl Revival

Portraits of locals whose record collections are helping keep vinyl alive

Vinyl records, once thought near extinction, haven’t just had a comeback in recent years — they now rule the music industry.Perhaps the most astounding statistic was one

discovered last December by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism: “Vinyl record sales brought in $221.8 million in revenue between January and June 2015, a 52 percent year-over-year increase, according

to the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA). Ad-supported streaming services brought in $162.7 million during that same time period, according to the September 2015 report ‘News and Notes on 2015 Mid-Year RIAA Shipment and Revenue Statistics.’ ”That story ran with a headline that says it all: “Vinyl Records Are Making More Money Than Ad-Supported Streaming.”

One propellant of the vinyl revival has been Record Store Day, which began in 2008 and occurs this

year on Saturday. While its site (recordstoreday.com) explains that the event primarily exists to spotlight the 1,400 independently owned record stores in the U.S. —

and thousands more internationally — it has played a big role in making vinyl popular again.Record labels use the day to release instantly collectible (and sometimes pricey) limited-edition vinyl recordings — LPs, 12-inch EPs, 7-inch singles — often with colored vinyl or other unusual visual elements.  

This year is no exception. Besides contemporary acts, legacy artists from John Coltrane to The Electric Prunes are getting special vinyl releases. (There are also some special CD releases.)

Participating local stores for Record Store Day 2016 include Black Plastic, CD/Game Exchange, Everybody’s, Mole’s, Shake It, Plaid Room, Torn Light and Sugarcube.

Also, Arnold’s Bar & Grill is releasing a 500-copy run of Arnold’s Bootleggers & Hustlers, Vol. 2, which features such local musicians as Margaret Darling, Ricky Nye and Rumpke Mountain Boys.

As more people buy new and used vinyl records, or rescue their old ones (and turntables) from boxes in the basement or closet, interest is growing in how they go about their collecting. How did they start, what records do they seek out, how do they display their prized possessions? Do they want to show off their vinyl records like artwork?Eilon Paz, an Israeli-born Brooklyn photographer, started the Dust & Grooves project (dustandgrooves.com) several years ago to investigate and chronicle this. His book, Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting, is now in its second edition, evidence of the subject’s popularity.So with all that in mind, CityBeat decided to get to know Cincinnati vinyl collectors. Find portraits of six of them here.
Dustin Bingaman - Photo: Jesse Fox


Dustin Bingaman

Bellevue, Ky.

In submitting a request to CityBeat to feature his vinyl collection, Dustin Bingaman offered a very visually compelling reason: He sent a snapshot of his Nirvana records laid out like a giant magic carpet. There were six copies alone of In Utero, the band’s third and last studio album, from 1993. Most had the familiar pale-yellow covers, but one was black. Also visible were two copies of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged in New York, one with the title lettering in black and one in red.

Another disc was titled Saturday Night Not So Live, and its cover featured a cartoon of the late Kurt Cobain near John Belushi in his Blues Brothers garb and Andy Kaufman playing conga drums. It’s a bootleg that first appeared in 2000.

Wow! This guy is really into Nirvana.

Bingaman, a 28-year-old graphic designer who lives in Bellevue, Ky. is a completist when it comes to that Grunge band whose music defined 1990s Rock. He has 40 LPs, all in some way different from each other, some 20 singles and also 10-inch records and other various materials.

“I try to get any different releases from different countries,” Bingaman says. “They were the biggest band in the world at the time, so their records came out in Australia, Japan and everywhere. And in any country that the record was pressed in, it’s a different version — and I try to have all of those. Those can get very expensive.”

Raised in Mount Orab, where his parents loved Country artists like Townes Van Zandt and George Jones, Bingaman discovered Alternative Rock in high school. “Nirvana was easily accessible for someone living in the middle of nowhere,” he says. “So they’ve always been my favorite band and In Utero my favorite record.”

A frequent visitor of used record stores, Bingaman gets as much as he can there. In one day at Northside’s Shake It, he found three records by the other band he most devotedly collects: Minneapolis’ Cows. Overall, he estimates his collection encompasses close to 700 LPs and 200 singles.

And he’s still filling in gaps in his Nirvana discography. For instance, he just got “Love Buzz,” Nirvana’s 1987 debut single on Sub Pop Records. A cover of a song by Dutch band Shocking Blue, its official pressing was only 1,000 copies.

He’d been looking for it since high school. “There was a guy on the Internet interested in trading it. It cost me quite a few records to get the single copy of that.”

But now it’s a jewel of his Nirvana collection. And he’s proud.
Adam Vorobok - Photo: Jesse Fox


Adam Vorobok

Northside

Adam Vorobok has an engaging story about how he started collecting vinyl records. While a freshman at Ohio University, he purchased Dead Kennedys’ Plastic Surgery Disasters to impress a young woman. “I didn’t know her at the time,” he says. “There was this small store that was half vintage clothing and half knickknacks. That was the only record in the store. The girl behind the counter was a beautiful Punk Rock-looking girl with hair dyed and leather jacket and pins and all that. I thought, ‘If I buy this, maybe she’ll think I’m cool, and then I’ll see her later and ask her out.’ But no, she just rang me up.”

Stuck with the record but without a turntable, Vorobok kept it in storage for years. But while attending the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Science in Columbia, S.C., he became a habitué of a store called Papa Jazz Records. He bought a few Jazz discs and a turntable, but he also bought Patti Smith’s 1975 Horses and The Clash’s 1979

London Calling — two towering achievements of Rock modernism.

“I listened to the Jazz and liked it,” Vorobok says, emphasizing “like” in a way that hints at lukewarm enthusiasm. “And then I put on Horses and immediately changed my idea of collecting — I’m going Punk Rock.” 

Vorobok started specializing in Proto Punk, Punk and early Post Punk records from 1975 to the early 1980s.

Now 33, he lives in a Northside apartment that showcases more than 600 vinyl records by the likes of The Fall, The Cramps, The Damned, Dead Boys, The Heartbreakers, Wire, The Dead Milkmen and Joy Division. He’s especially pleased to have a picture-sleeve 7-inch record of The Clash’s 1977 British single, “White Riot/1977.” He blogs about his vinyl collection at storiesonrecords.wordpress.com.

Recently promoted to a full-time position with the Cincinnati Library, Vorobok celebrated the best way he knew how. “I bought an original U.S. pressing of Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures. It was $60, but that’s my favorite band.”Vorobok looks forward to Record Store Day, whether or not he buys many limited-edition vinyl records. “What really excites me is it’s helping to keep alive a business that most people once thought would be gone. We now can have a holiday about it — I enjoy the community-gathering aspect of it.”
Amy Kurlansky - Photo: Jesse Fox


Amy Kurlansky

Pleasant Ridge

Amy Kurlansky has her priorities straight. Her vinyl records are stored in her pantry, occupying shelves where most people would keep their groceries.“I don’t really need food, but I need music,” says the Pleasant Ridge resident, who works as a lawyer for the nonprofit Pro Seniors and as a Cincinnati Library services assistant. She has several hundred vinyl records, including her first one, which she bought when she was just 10 — Cyndi Lauper’s 1983 She’s So Unusual, which featured “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”As she started buying more, she also started to appreciate vinyl records and their attractive artwork. “Since I had a turntable that functioned, I would buy albums on vinyl,” she says. “I have CDs too, but if I can get the record, I will.”While Kurlansky is an eclectic collector — she has Classical records as well as every Cranberries album on vinyl — she has a special affinity for Hollywood soundtracks and original cast recordings. Among the former are Dirty Dancing, Dead Poets Society and Stand By Me.“When I was 13, I was going to marry River Phoenix,” she says, laughing, referring to the Stand By Me star. “And when Ben E. King sings ‘Stand by Me’ on that album, it’s really amazing.”

Her love of original cast recordings began as a child.

“I grew up listening to a lot of Broadway types of songs and had strong interest in musical theater when I was younger. As a family, we have gone to Broadway series. I still remember the first show I went to was Annie. My parents took me when I was 6 and it was at the Taft.”When she was a child, an uncle bought her soundtracks to some classic Disney animated musicals like Peter Pan. So when Walt Disney Records in 2014 capitalized on the vinyl revival by issuing limited-edition picture discs featuring songs from Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid, Kurlansky purchased them.Among her more interesting vinyl recordings are two early versions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the biblical-based musical that composer Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyricist Tim Rice created before Jesus Christ Superstar.Unlike some collectors of original cast albums, Kurlansky doesn’t seek out obscure musicals. “Most of the (Broadway) records I have are because I enjoy music, so exposure is the key for me,” she says. “I have to have already heard it.”
Drew Bogner - Photo: Jesse Fox


Drew Bogner


New Richmond

Drew Bogner almost has an actual man cave for his vinyl collection. His property contains two separate basements, and his wife agreed he could have one just for himself. Or, rather, just for himself and his estimated 700 vinyl LPs and 500 7-inch records.

“I took everything out of it, painted it, put a carpet in it and filled it up to the gills in records,” Bogner says. “I have cabinets to hold the records, frames on the walls that display records and a bunch of release posters for rare records from back in the day. And I also have 2,000 CDs and a couple hundred cassettes. It’s kind of like walking into a record store when you open the door.”

Bogner, a 40-year-old graphic designer, started buying vinyl in junior high school — moving from the commercial Hard Rock and Hair Metal bands of the day to genres with more edge and less calculation, like Punk, Post Punk and Hardcore.

Constantly rifling through used record bins at stores, he has stayed with that interest more or less since, with a few exceptions. “Whenever I’m bored and can’t find anything else, I look for (those old Hard Rock bands) because their records are really cheap. It’s just so I can have them and say, ‘Hey, I used to listen to that and will never listen again.’ ”

But what he will listen to again and again — and collect with the seriousness of a lifelong philatelist — are uncompromising and influential second-generation Punk and Hardcore indie-label bands like Jawbreaker and Uniform Choice.

“A few weeks ago I went to the Plaid Room in Loveland and they had a Uniform Choice album from the 1980s that I had, but the printing of their name on my record is green and this was yellow,” Bogner says. “I thought I had an original pressing, but I looked it up and it turned out yellow was the first pressing. It originally came with an insert and a poster, and all that was in this record at that shop. That’s pretty tough to find, so I paid big bucks for that.”With time, Bogner has developed a few new interests. He buys whatever old Bob Dylan LPs he can find, and lately has developed an interest in the Grateful Dead. “Back in the day I hated them, and now I’m getting into them. I don’t know why,” he says.

Could it be a “Touch of Grey” is entering a collection mostly devoted to fiercely youthful music?

Joe Suer - Photo: Jesse Fox


Joe Suer

Northside

It isn’t easy for Joe Suer to succinctly mention where he keeps his vinyl records.

“They’re scattered everywhere,” says the 41-year-old Northside resident, a drummer with Ohio Knife and Halvsies as well as a systems administrator at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

The photographs taken by CityBeat were of cases in the dining room. But that’s just part of his collection. “I have some floor-to-ceiling shelving and bookshelves down in the basement with my drum sets,” he says. “I also have a handmade coffee table that houses them, and they’re also upstairs in the computer room. They’re just everywhere.”

Suer figures he has a total of 3,500 records. He started young — he had children’s records — and decided to stay with vinyl and a turntable in the 1990s so he could support musician friends self-releasing singles in small pressings.

And he also started buying records on the indie labels that steadfastly supported vinyl, as an expression of hipness, in those years when the majors had turned exclusively to CDs and cassettes. That helped him form a bond with artists on labels like Matador, Merge, SST and Touch and Go.

“Once I started realizing indie bands were (still) putting out records, it really opened the floodgates,” he says.

Suer also discovered he could buy used vinyl of older acts really cheaply, especially as everyone else was selling their vinyl to buy CDs. “You could go out and buy the whole discography of Talking Heads for $20 — used but in great shape. Why spend $15 on a CD?”

Today his collection has both modern-era indie bands and also older influential albums from the Classic Rock era.

So, for instance, you’ll find Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted, Built to Spill’s Keep It Like a Secret, Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation and the Spacemen 3’s LPs, along with such influential predecessors as Gang of Four’s Solid Gold, The Beatles in Mono 14-LP box and the rare, circular-shaped 1968 Ogdens’ Nut Gone Flake by Small Faces, darlings of Britain’s Mod culture.

Elementz - Photo: Jesse Fox


Elementz

Over-the-Rhine

This collection of vinyl records is a little different from the others in this feature. Rather than being in a private collector’s home, it belongs to the nonprofit organization Elementz that teaches “conscious Hip Hop” arts to urban youth. And its record collection can be seen and admired — like an art installation — by all who pass Elementz’s inviting front windows at its location on Race Street at Central Parkway.

Inside, along a wall in a large room, are hundreds of vinyl records stacked on wood shelves resting on cinderblocks. Some are in piles with their covers up; some are filed library-style with their spines out. There are lots of 12-inch singles, such as Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz’s “Get Low” featuring the Ying Yang Twins. And there are also older R&B LPs like Jermaine Jackson’s Let’s Get Serious, The O’Jays’ Message in the Music and the multi-artist Dancehall 101, Vol. 2 from Reggae label VP Records. A Herb Alpert album or two can also be found.

The vinyl records are still used in Elementz’s Monday night DJ classes, but not the way they once were. Like everything else, DJing — once the domain of “two turntables and a microphone,” as Beck famously put it back in the 1990s — has grown more reliant on digital technology. Elementz DJ instructor Apryl Reign uses that new technology, but also saves a place for the old. “A lot of times our instructor will teach the fundamentals of DJing with vinyl records, and will teach about looking for the break sections of songs back in the day,” says Abdullah Powell, Elementz’s creative director.

Traditionally, DJs learned to look for breaks in songs — often sections with very effective instrumental parts — that they could extend by physically manipulating vinyl records on a turntable. That encouraged dancing.

Many of the records were donations from radio stations. Additional ones came from staff members or others. “What’s cool about it is you’ll get these donations from radio stations that are older Hip Hop and R&B records, so that creates a timeline of music,” Powell says. “So we’re getting a mix of different generations of records.”

Powell refers to the prominently displayed vinyl collection as “an aesthetic wall, one that forms a symbol and connection to the foundations of Hip Hop.” 

Tom Kent, Elementz executive director, says the intention is for them to stay. “They will be there for the history — it’s part of the history of the DJ,” he says.
RECORD STORE DAY is April 16. For details on Cincinnati REcord Store Day Happenings, including
performances and special releases, see this week's “Spill It."

Scroll to read more News Feature articles
Join the CityBeat Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state.
Help us keep this coverage going with a one-time donation or an ongoing membership pledge.

Newsletters

Join CityBeat Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.