One of the hardest working diggers in the game.
This tape was made in 2009, but is really about 2005, when my basement flooded, destroying over a thousand record covers. Uploading this mix to Soundcloud ten years later. Original liner notes below.
Sometimes, friends come by and glance through my record collection. They see the various stacks of white covers, with type-written labels attached on the upper-left hand corners. Are these all promos? a DJ asked me once. No, I told him, those are records that got hit in the flood. His eyes got real big and under his breath he said something like, Oh…shit.
Probably around 1,200 records and their covers were damaged when my basement flooded in late 2005. A contractor working on the plumbing next door had broke open a pipe and never fixed it, leaving water seeping into my basement for several hours. I came home from work to find my records, which leaned against corners of the wall, sat in crates on the floor or along the bottom shelf, soaking up various amounts of muddy water.
It is somewhat painful to even write about these events. If you love your record collection, then you understand: this is your worst nightmare. I proceeded to move all the wet records upstairs into the kitchen, and over the next few days remove each from its cover, dry it, and place it in a crate. Some of my favorite, as well as some very rare records, were caught in the flood. As I’d inch through the stack and see another classic cover, sopping wet – don’t ever think cardboard can’t soak up hella water – I’d stare at it in disbelief.
There is no room to dry over a thousand covers in a small Brooklyn apartment, especially in the rainy fall. I tried, though. Ultimately, they were thrown out in huge garbage bags. The records themselves – the music – was mostly ok. Many still have a little bit of mud that I was unable to wash out of their grooves. Mint-condition copies – sealed copies even – are no longer in that pristine state. And while I am grateful, and lucky, to still have the music, losing the covers is painful. Not only does it totally wipe away the financial value of a record, it wipes away much of its identity. The cover – the artwork, the typeface, the liner notes, the photography – for collectors, crate diggers and music lovers, this is part of the record. It may have been how we originally became curious about an album, the reason we reached for it in among others in the stack. To me, the cover is tied directly to the music, and when I pull a record off a shelf, just looking at its cover I can recall when and where I found it.
But records must have some kind of cover. So several weeks after the flood, I ordered what I could afford – two huge boxes of plain, shiny, white record covers, 300 covers inside each, plus a box of 500 sleeves. Not nearly enough for all my vinyl, but a start. When they arrived, I shoved them through the door and into the middle of my kitchen, and just kind of looked at them. Then I turned and looked at the piles of naked, sleeveless vinyl sitting in crates against the walls and literally circling my bed.
It all probably could have been totally cleaned up and re-organized in a couple weeks, but the emotional toll of the whole ordeal slowed the re-organization process way down. (Not to mention my lawsuit against the contractor, a whole other story). Over the course of a year, almost all the vinyl made it into brand new covers, along with labels on each.
The music does live on. It’s just inside glossy, somewhat stale-looking white covers now.