The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Friday, June 27, 2008

Birdwatching and Record Collecting

6-27-08 Birdwatching and Record Collecting

Leisure activities, hobbies – call ‘em whatever you like – I am interested in birdwatching and I am a life-long phonograph record / music collector.

The big difference between these two hobbies is that I am an expert at one of them, and a geeky novice at the other. Cards on the table: I do not know what hardly any birds are called – I have a few books – but – I think I have only successfully identified one or two birds at most – exotic stuff I saw at the San Diego Zoo (Lady Ross Turaco and Asian Fairy Bluebird). From my back-yard, I think I have nailed down that it’s a Mourning Dove that I thought was an owl (by it’s coo-ing). I saw an Egret at the South Coast Botanical Gardens…at least I think it was an Egret! And that’s about it, for my bird expertise.

Oh, I have owned some BBC bird fancier LP’s for decades – “Woodland & Gardens Birds” (a double LP!) and “Wildlife of East Anglia”. I think I have them because of getting a BBC Record catalogue and being told by an exporter, “We can get anything in this catalogue for a very good price” or thereabouts. At the same time, I got some of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop LP’s (which are now very highly regarded!).

I started collecting phonograph records about 40 years ago. I had heard the Bee Gees on the radio and liked them – so one of the earliest purchases I motivated was of “Bee Gees’ First” – my dad bought it for me (at Wallach’s Music City). It was probably a year old when I got it (1968, I guess). The Thrifty Drug Store had a “cut-out” bin with really cheap LP’s in it – 47 cents, or 59 cents or 2 (3?) for $1. I found the next two Bee Gees LP’s (“Horizontal” and “Idea”) in the cheapie bin. As these were U.S. pressings on Atco – we all know by now that the inner-sleeves had little photos of the other LP’s on Atco – mysterious records I’ve never even seen – “The Best of Chickenman”, “Tom Sankey Sings Songs from ‘The Golden Screw’” etc.

My brother had Schwann record catalogs (he retained 2 per year, starting in 1965); I sat in my living room on the floor and wrote out on a yellow legal tablet a numerical Atco Records catalog, beginning with 33-101 (“The Coasters”) – then I numbered the next 300 or so lines – and what I couldn’t see on an Atco inner-sleeve, I tried looking up in a Schwann record catalog. For some reason, generating a numerical discography was very interesting to me. If there had been a book that one could’ve bought with this information already assembled, I was it’s intended audience – but, of course, no such book existed then…or now (But one can look at the Both Sides Now Publications website, where they have a dandy Atco discography posted!).

My other favorite discographies that I worked on were Sire Records SES 97000 series, Elektra Records EKS 74000 series, Deram Records DES 18000 series, Probe Records CPLP 4500 series, Atlantic Records 8000 series, Reprise Records RS 6000 series etc. A music geek was born! But I didn’t have computer. I had pens and pencils, yellow legal tablets, a Smith-Corona typewriter and Rolodex cards.


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