Hard times fell on one of my oldest friends in New Hampshire last year. he lost both his mother and father. His father died unexpectedly in May, then on Christmas Eve his mother passed after a quick returning illness.
I can’t imagine what he’s going through and I don’t know how he’s holding it together. No brother, no sister. Any other relatives turned out to be estranged jerks over the years. Oh and his girlfriend, who wasn’t the best to him, left him a few days after his mother died. What a sweetheart!
He essentially has no one now. He’s not married. No kids. The friends he does have moved away and/or have families now. I’ve stayed close over the years because we go way back and I know he needs some good people in his life. People who’ll keep an eye out for him. After all the lousy relationships and buddies who just liked to party with him; he needs some real friends.
Last week he started to clean his parent’s house because he plans to sell it by summer. It's a house I used to hang out at a lot as a kid. We’d watch Celtics games, talk about the girls at the all-girls catholic high school a block away and we’d listen to tons of records as it was hip hop’s glory years; the late 80s (De La Soul, Run DMC, Beastie Boys, Ultramagnetic MCs, Eric B & Rakim, Special Ed, Public Enemy, Kool G Rap & Polo, NWA, Big Daddy Kane, Stetsasonic, etc.). His parents were also big into music so they loved our passion for music. The door was always open there.
So last week, he asked if I could help him out. He needed to move some things, figure out what to sell, what to trash and what to hold on to. Not a fun time for him, so I said, "of course I’ll be there."
Walking up that creaking, faded green staircase, memories were hitting me left and right. I had flashbacks of make out sessions in his room with old girlfriends listening to Janet Jackson and U2 records. I remembered when he bought a tape by MC 900 Foot Jesus and we listened to it there confused as all hell as to what it was. It was a bummer knowing his mom wasn’t around the corner cooking something Polish and enjoying her white wine.
We looked at things and sorted out the good, the meaningful and the worthless. Once we hit the parlor room area there were books and a stash of records down below. I thought, "OK I can help figure out what’s of value here."
My friend is a record guy too, only of sorts. He’s been close to the hip hop world since 1987. He still promotes music in New England. So his record collection (possibly 25,000+) is mostly rap records and singles. Promos from years of radio and working in the industry. He doesn’t know that Get The Knack by The Knack is not a valuable record. It’s a mega awesome record, but it’s not valuable or sought after. It’s common. So very common. He has records but he’s not a “record person."
So I said, "I’ll go through these and tell you what’s good, what’s just ok and what’s garbage." I was cut and dry. I brought them all out and as usual, after I flipped through a few the dust punched me in the face like a son of a bitch. Sneezy, runny nose flat? I must be fingers deep into some records.
His parents loved disco, folk, and easy listening. I skimmed through countless Donna Summer records, Joan Baez, Carly Simon, Donovan and Love Unlimited Orchestra. All kinds of common stuff. It’s always fun to flip though them. Every now and then I’d come across a worthless novelty nugget like, “The Soothing Sounds of Spain” or various belly dancing records with amazing album covers. (His parents had a friend who would come to the house to dance at their parties in the 70’s, which I heard were kick-ass parties.)
I found the soundtrack to Doctor Zhivago, Herb Albert & the Tijuana Brass, Lou Rawls and John Denver. I really wasn’t compiling any great news for him on the value front... then I hit a few. Neil Young, Bowie, The Zombies, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Ok, we have some treats now. Something that might fetch a dollar or two. Nothing major, but something to help him out.
He needs some financial relief. His parents left him with credit card debt to deal with and an unpaid mortgage. He hoped for some ringers, but no go. He was psyched because his mom had Meet The Beatles, but it looked like it had been run over by an 18-wheeler. I felt bad, but I had to tell him that particular lottery ticket was a couple numbers off.
As the “kind of ok” pile grew, I felt a little better for him. In the end, I told him 70% was garbage value wise, but I made a stack he should sell as a bundle. I told him the stack would fetch maybe $50-60. It was a stack of about 75-80 records. Unfortunately selling to record shops who are just looking to flip records to customers; you’re not going to get much for them. If you single out some real gems, then you can work out better things.
Although, he needs money and these records don’t mean anything to him. They meant something to his folks though and records mean something to me. I don’t see them as an investment. In this case, they were history owned by folks I knew well. This is music that should be enjoyed, not just bid upon.
So I set aside about eight records. I told him I’d give him $40 for the small stack. His eyes lit up. He said, “Sure, thanks!” None of the records were “lost ark” type of finds. Just some decent records I’d enjoy. This was a way to help him and keep that music spinning. I scored some Neil Young I didn’t have, Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66, Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Bowie’s Space Oddity album. I already have the Bowie, but this was in better shape and hey, it’s going to help a friend. I bought them for him, for them.
I sometimes look at my collection and I think of the people it came from and realize they’re always going to be with me, listening to this stuff with me. I explained that to my friend and recommended he keep some of the records so he’ll never be alone.