Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Regrets, I've Had A Few

How many things in life have you seriously regretted, wishing there was some magical way to go back and change events?

I don't have many (really what's the point?), but I have two related to music.

The first I've already mentioned. I lost my large scrapbook of tickets, passes, music mag clippings, photos etc. during a move. Why wasn't I more careful? I don't really know what happened, I just know that I don't have it anymore. I assume it got tossed out by accident (here's a tip, don't pack valuable stuff in black garbage bags). Probably by me - I certainly don't blame anyone else. The photos are what I miss the most.

The second is entirely my fault. I threw out my records. Yes, that wasn't a typo. I threw them out in a moment of insanity. I had 100s of records. Some ultra rare, collectable, autographed, the majority imported, you name it.

I had been lugging them from move to move over a span of 10 years - the whole time I had no turntable to play them on. They gathered dust lined up against a wall, sometimes used as a shelf, eventually forgotten about.

I had just finished the first year of my extremely unsatisfying graduate degree, had a full-time, stressful hospital admin job to pay for it, exams, essays, stressing about what the hell I was supposed to do about my future when I hated my degree so much. Then came the panic attacks. Seriously debilitating, I had to be off work, I had to hand essays in late, I eventually had to go on medication. And on top of all that I had to move when I didn't want to.

I looked at the stacks and stacks of records that I hadn't been able to play for a decade with some indifference...I was going through a "don't give a shit about music" phase in the mid 90s - bored stiff with most of what was out there and, for a good three years, too exhausted from working and going to university to even care. The memories of all those great concerts and bands never surfaced in time to stop me from doing the deed.

So on July 1, 1997 I made several trips down to the garbage room and put the records near the bin in case anyone came across them and wanted them before they were tossed in the dumpster by the maintenance guy. My roommate's boyfriend at the time thought I was nuts (well, yes I was) and took my Led Zeppelin albums. The stress of the move meant I didn't give it a second thought.

I remember the moment when, after I finally got myself and my stuff settled and out of boxes, I was standing in the middle of the room feeling such overwhelmingly deep and utter regret for throwing those albums out that I just started to cry. What had I done? Why?

I thought of all those 45s, 12" and albums and how the majority meant so much to me - I worked such shitty jobs to feed my music habit (records and concerts). Most of the bands I loved were from the UK, which invariably meant imported records. I made weekly trips to the Record Peddlar on Queen Street East, thumbing through the stacks and trying to control my excitement when I found what I was looking for. Or browsing just to see what was new. I often found out about a band just by taking a chance and buying a record soley based on the cover or by chatting with the staff. I was rarely disappointed.

I loved the smell and feel of a brand new record. I wouldn't wait til I got home, I'd peel off the wrapping and read the liner notes on the long bus ride home. When I got home I'd put the headphones on, shut my eyes and just take it all in. I was fairly antisocial, listening to albums on the headphones was a way for me to escape and shut others out to some degree. I could daydream and lose myself in the music. I'm still like that. Listening to my most favourite music has always been a very personal act for me.

I spent a lot of money on imports and rarities (I get ill thinking how much some of them would be worth today). I also had a few autographed albums. I didn't even think of those when I threw the records out. What a low point standing in the middle of that room.

Every July 1 the date reminds me of that stupid act that only took a few minutes but the effects have lasted so long. I know the records are just objects but I suppose they symbolize such great times in my life, ones that were relatively carefree and happy. What I wouldn't give to be able to pull out one now and then and just look at it, relive some good memories and - because, of course, now you can get a turntable easily - play them again.


  1. I decided to sell about 80 percent of my collection from the late 60's to the mid 90's. British pressings of Beatles, Stones, Hendrix all sold for $2 an LP. Tons of punk from the UK, US, German bands. Several thousand LP's. What I missed most strangely was the album art and liner notes. I was able to find a lot of the tunes on the net but that art..... the world of music has turned into something ephemeral for me since CD's. Now its MP3's and it's all an illusion.

    Sorry about your "moment"

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