Sections

Spinning the story: Cobble Hill author chronicles rare record collectors

The Brooklyn Paper
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

This book is the vinyl word on obsessive record collectors.

A Cobble Hill music writer has penned a new book chronicling people who collect 78 rotations-per-minute records (or 78 RPMs) — an antiquated form of vinyl that generally dates from before the 1960s. The music on the albums is part of the allure, she said — many of the artists on them have been long forgotten — but people aren’t hunting the records down for their sound quality.

“People will go on and on about the superior sound of vinyl, but these records don’t sound great,” said Amanda Petrusich, author of “Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records. “They sound kind of like the records got buried in the back yard and are being broadcast from underground.”

These records are rare in part because of their age, but also because of the poor quality of their manufacturing, Petrusich explained. Many of the recorded artists were African-American blues artists, and their records were often pressed on the cheapest material possible. Add to the mix the rough quality of record players at the time, and it is easy to see why so few of the albums have survived.

Petrusich began researching 78 collectors after writing a piece for Spin magazine about the more mainstream resurgence of vinyl. Someone she talked to for that story recommended that if she really wanted to find the true vinyl freaks, 78 collectors were the most dedicated of all. She started to do some digging, but initially found the insular community a tough scene to infiltrate.

“Parachuting in as a journalist and as a younger woman, there were a lot of challenges,” she said. “It was really obvious I was an outsider, even though I had been working as a music critic for 10 years.”

In her book, Petrusich explores not just the personal reasons people collect 78s, but also delves into the neurological and biological sensations that makes chasing down rare records so addictive. Part of the allure, she said, is the ability to be the sole owner of a piece of music in an era where millions of songs are accessible with the click of a mouse.

The records are so rare, and often times so expensive, that there is a high bar of entry for anyone wishing to start collecting them. It takes dedication and money — a lot of money. One 78 recently sold for $37,100, Petrusich said.

Petrusich will launch her book on July 11 at BookCourt in Cobble Hill, and two of the collectors she profiles in the tome will speak about their collections and play some of their 78 records. The author said she is excited for the audience to learn straight from the experts, and to hear the records they put so much time and money into finding.

“Even if people are into this music, it’s possible they’ve never seen a 78 or had a 78 played in front of them,” she said. “It’s very spectral and ghostly.”

“Do Not Sell at Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records” launch at BookCourt [163 Court St. between Pacific and Dean Streets in Cobble Hill, (718) 875–3677, www.bookcourt.com]. July 11 at 7 pm. Free.

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at nhurowitz@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Today’s news:
Share on TwitterTweet
Share on Facebook
Subscribe

Get our stories in your inbox, free.

Like The Brooklyn Paper on Facebook.

Reader Feedback

Enter your comment below

By submitting this comment, you agree to the following terms:

You agree that you, and not BrooklynPaper.com or its affiliates, are fully responsible for the content that you post. You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site. You grant to BrooklynPaper.com the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual and fully sublicensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part world-wide and to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

First name
Last name
Your neighborhood
Email address
Daytime phone

Your letter must be signed and include all of the information requested above. (Only your name and neighborhood are published with the letter.) Letters should be as brief as possible; while they may discuss any topic of interest to our readers, priority will be given to letters that relate to stories covered by The Brooklyn Paper.

Letters will be edited at the sole discretion of the editor, may be published in whole or part in any media, and upon publication become the property of The Brooklyn Paper. The earlier in the week you send your letter, the better.