How Reorganising a Record Collection Lead to Mockery and Ridicule

Mmm…it’s in here somewhere….

Last week I spent an afternoon in vinyl geek heaven reorganising my record collection. Since moving house (and continent) almost two years ago, they’ve been replaced on the shelf after playing with practically no regard to their position or location.

It got to the point where I couldn’t find anything specific with any pretense of speed. And the reality was that because I couldn’t remember exactly what was on those shelves, I ended up playing the same handful of albums in rotation. A reorganisation was well overdue.

The only reason I’m bothering to tell you this story at all is that since my sort out, my method of doing so has been ridiculed, mocked and generally had the proverbial taken out of it. So much so that I feel the need to justify my decision as my first full blog for the The Huffington Post UK.

According to my serious record collector boyfriend, if you polled a thousand other vinyl geeks, 98% of them would laugh at me and the other 2% would pity my worldview. And before anyone asks, his record collection is alphabetical. Bish bash bosh. No messing about.

To explain my new organising madness in a nutshell, I would tell you that my records are now initially sorted by pretty broad genre. In my collection this breaks down to dub, reggae, punk, Oi!, motown, soul, hardcore and ska amongst others.

Hmmm, I hear you say, dodgy territory to start with, especially considering the blurred lines of musical classification. Let me continue before you fully pass judgement. Within genre, I have taken a very much outside the box approach and organized my records by city or geographical region. Within that level of subcategory, they are pretty much alphabetical.

Let me give you a straight forward example. If you wanted to find Rocket to Russia by the Ramones, you have to go to my punk records. Within that you have to go to ’76-’82 punk bands, and then all of the New York and CBGBs bands are all together. Simples.

The reason that I see Madness, the Specials and the Selecter as logical shelf fellows, rather than Madness being next to Madball is because I am really geeky about my musical history, especially when I’m really into a band. Just ask anyone who’s ever tried to one up me on Clash trivia.

When I love a band’s music and their lyrics inspire me, I want to know who their influences were. I want to know what their politics were. I want to know what bands they toured with, who they were friends with, who they hated, all of that. In my head, the albums they crafted have a context and I want to understand the motivations behind the music I love.

I’m not too proud to admit that there were records that caused me some head scratching, The Aggrolites for example are peerless within my current collection, and ended up with other reggae records. After some deliberation I also came down on the side of locating Chas and Dave along with my Slade and Faces records. If we’ve got to the point in the night where I’m searching for some knees up motivation, there’s a good chance the night also includes some Noddy and Rod.

I should point out that my system currently works because I don’t count myself as a serious record collector. My vinyl probably numbers about 200 in total and I completely take the point that my new system might become unmanageable at some point. I also concede that this method isn’t for everyone, and that my geekery lends itself nicely to this crazy logic.

But despite that, I stand by my new scheme wholeheartedly. Let’s be fair, if I didn’t I wouldn’t be justifying it here. Since the reorganisation I am able to put my hands on any record with ease and speed. And while I’m there, I can follow the same mood and find the next record within the peers and influences of the one currently playing. Which has meant that in the last week I’ve played records that haven’t felt the stroke of a needle since before 2011. I am loving rediscovering my collection and remembering why I loved the albums in the first place.

Completely ridiculous or completely genius? Either way, it’s working for me.

Thanks to Hannah Macfaull of The Huffington Post for this article

How do you store your collection? Is it alphabetical, genre based or do you have another system that works? We’d love to know how you store yours…

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