Every guy with a record collection and a girlfriend should read Brett Milano’s Vinyl Junkies with her as relationship therapy. The book follows die-hard collectors from different walks of life—from R. Crumb’s country and blues 78s to several vinyl addicts in Milano’s native Boston, where he writes for the Boston Phoenix and the Boston Herald. The book presents an engaging look at a diverse subculture—from the rabid nerd completists to the musicians and industry types you would expect to have a serious relationship with their records (including R.E.M.’s Peter Buck and Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore). But Milano also writes about “normal” people with jobs and relationships and whose fashion choices range outside jeans and obscure punk T-shirts.
Anyone who has a shelf full of Journey and Foreigner albums and considers himself a collector will probably feel ashamed after reading about the lengths to which Monoman (of Boston’s The Lyres) goes to obtain a rare Tony Jackson EP from an overseas dealer or the description of George Stone’s apartment, where—except for a couple of folding chairs—his collection has taken over the entire space. But Milano’s subjects are all human, and even the most eccentric collectors escape stereotyping— though at times the author enforces such notions (for example, a particularly passionate speech about the merits of the Partridge Family or a record considered a personal holy grail, a 1957 pressing of Scythian Suite by Prokofiev).
Milano strikes a balance between more serious scientific research and light-hearted self-examination. Someone who flies to Japan to pick up a rare jazz album might deeply love the music or they might have an issue with their seratonin levels. Some people like the grooves on the record, while others believe in a scientific argument for the warmth of analog versus a cold digital sound. He gives both viewpoints their due, but always with a knowing smile, noting they equally bring out the inner geek, making the details almost irrelevant. Collecting, after all, ultimately isn’t a logical pastime, and that’s part of what makes it worthwhile.