Record Machine: The Community College Comes A’Callin’

Two months ago, a friend of mine who works as a librarian at our local college posted a photo of an “RCA Victor Prevue” record on Facebook with the caption, “This morning the maintenance crew at the College discovered boxes of what appear to be old vinyl records. I need help figuring out who could take a look and tell me if there are any of value that the library should keep. Any idea who to call?” I may have responded enthusiastically.

“MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” I wrote. “Um. I mean, I’d love to look at them.”

I cannot resist a secret record find, not to mention the potential for acquiring some new ones for myself, should the library not have any use for them after I’ve finished my cataloging.

Yes, after I’ve finished — Two months have passed, and I’ve only sifted through around 90% of one box of 45s. There are about half a dozen large boxes to sort, some with 45s, some with full albums, and some appear to be older shellac 78s. Because of my schedule and because of the sheer number of records involved, I’ve only been in to look at them a handful of times, but each time, I’ve stayed several hours. The records stay put in an unused corner of the library, and hopefully they stay unharmed until I’m done working with them.

My assessment process for the 45 RPM singles so far has been thus:

Aretha Franklin - Son of a Preacher Man
I made involuntary gasping noises when I pulled out this one.
  • Write down the song title(s), the songwriters, and the performer. Sometimes the songwriter is someone interesting, even if I’ve never heard of the performer.
  • Assess the quality of the record. Is it damaged? Slightly scratched, but still playable? etc.
  • Anything interesting for one reason or another, I’ve usually taken a photo.
  • Place record in one of the following piles: Good quality/Potentially valuable, Historically Interesting, Scratched (Varying Degrees), Damaged (Varying Degrees), and Of Personal Interest to Sara. (Just in case I want to find them more easily later.)

For each box, I plan on having a spreadsheet that will also indicate an approximate value for each record. My Google-fu Skillz were leading me down rabbit-holes of distraction, and I can do that step at home. Most of what I’ve seen so far appears to be donated from a radio station, with the singles marked as “Promotional Only” or “DJ Copy.” There are scraps of paper with what appear to be page numbers, indicating that the records were also used as part of someone’s class at some point in the school’s history.

I have a long way to go, I know. My friend asked me if she needs to find someone to help me, and I resisted the urge to go all Gollum about my precioussssss system I’ve got going here, and Who will love these records like I do, even the crappy ones? Instead, I say that it’s okay, that I’m happy to do this. Thankfully, she’s in no hurry for me to finish. So far, I’ve written down the information for 156 records.

Today, I thought I’d share some of the interesting/funny singles:

Lillian Brooks -Lead on Mr. President
“Lead On Mr. President” by Lillian Brooks, backed with “First Lady of America”

This single from Lillian Brooks was released to commemorate the Kennedy Inauguration. It’s definitely the most historically interesting record outside the context of pop music that I’ve found so far.

I couldn’t find either song on YouTube, but a 2010 entry on the WFMU blog has the mp3s.

Ben Jack - I'm Entitled to Your Love
 “I’m Entitled to Your Love” by Ben Jack, backed with “Do I Love You.”

I laughed when I saw the titles on this one, which is hard to do quietly in a library. Ben Jack sounds like a real keeper, ladies. YouTube, as far as I can tell, is denying us the humor of listening to his entitlement issues or any other Ben Jack songs.

Manpower - "Please Love Me (Erotica)"
Manpower – “Please Love Me (Erotica),” in both stereo and mono versions.

And here’s the point where I really had to stifle my laughter because this was sandwiched between what appeared to be some pretty standard country songs. Once again, YouTube gives me no results, but I found this gem on an Amazon forum, under the subject “Songs You Didn’t Want Your Parents to Hear When You Where a Kid:”

Please Love Me – Manpower

One day I will have to find the album that one came from. I did hear it once, I can’t remember where, maybe a party, I think I was older by then, and stoned. Very high, indeed. I have the promo 45 on a red Phillips label. Psychedelic guitar twisting and turning with a fast drumbeat providing the bed for a female voice that sounds like she’s writhing while having an orgasm. It was pretty heady stuff when I was young and first heard it. Gotta play that one at a party sometime!

Janette Eden - You Turn Me On (And I Light Up)
Janette Eden – You Turn Me On (And I Light Up)

Apparently, the full title of this song is “You Turn Me On (And I Light Up) Just Like a Christmas Tree.”

Apparently, someone felt very strongly about that, and wrote on the record.

Yes, most of what I’ve shared today is rather strange, but there have been some songs written by Ray Charles, or Johnny Cash, songs performed by The Shirelles, and a whole stack of interesting Atlantic Records 45s. I’m not sure how much longer it will take me to catalog the rest of the collection, but the boxes of 10″ and 12″ records are not as full. This work may be tedious, but it’s my kind of tedious.

By Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

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