Coveting Vintage Discs in a Digital Universe
New York Times book reviews on ‘Do Not Sell at Any Price’ and ‘Dust & Grooves’
Snip: "Something unexpected happened to Amanda Petrusich when she set out to explore the “oddball fraternity” of fanatical collectors of 78 r.p.m. records, the increasingly hard-to-find shellac discs that circulated before World War II. At first she was almost repulsed by the avidity of their passion. But when she heard the music of Skip James, Charley Patton, Blind Uncle Gaspard and Geeshie Wiley played in its original format, she fell under its spell, just as the collectors had.
“Eventually, I started to want what they wanted,” she writes. “For me, the modern marketing cycle and the endless gifts of the Web had begun to feel toxic,” its surfeit of always-available music leading to a response that surprised her: “I missed pining for things. I missed the ecstasy of acquisition.” ...
.... “Collectors of 78s, maybe more than any other curators of music or music memorabilia,” she writes, “are doing essential preservationist work, chasing after tiny bits of art that would otherwise be lost.”
Ms. Petrusich’s collectors of 78s view themselves as a breed apart from — and superior to — the people who focus on LPs and 45s, which are vastly more plentiful. For one of her collectors, she reports, “the distinction is acute, comparable to collecting pebbles versus collecting diamonds.” ...
... "The difference between the Petrusich and Paz approaches can be gauged by the way they portray the one collector who appears in both their books, Joe Bussard of Frederick, Md., whose collection of about 25,000 discs is the product of six decades of what Ms. Petrusich calls “boots-on-the ground grunt work, pointedly removed from the estate-sale lurking most contemporary collectors indulge in.” She provides excerpts from a daylong conversation with him and tells us that “watching Joe Bussard listen to records is a spiritually rousing experience” in which he “sticks his tongue out, squeezes his eyes shut and bounces in his seat, waving his arms around like a weather vane.”
Mr. Paz’s photographs, in contrast, let the reader actually see the delight Mr. Bussard feels in listening to his collection, and instead of interpreting what Mr. Bussard says, uses a question-and-answer exchange that allows his clipped and cranky voice to be heard clearly. Here is Mr. Bussard on why he hates rock ’n’ roll: “Don’t like the sound of it, the meaning of it ... doesn’t promote anything meaningful. Idiotic noise, in my opinion.”