Cataloguing my record collection is something I had always veered away from – I didn’t have the time or the inclination, relying instead on my memory and having records filed in a fairly random way under genres, until now. My collection began in the mid 1960s when together with my slightly older sister we began to buy singles and soon after that albums. Amongst the first singles we bought were ‘Help!’ by The Beatles and ‘Get Off My Cloud’ by The Stones followed by The Kinks’ album ‘Village Green Preservation Society’ in glorious mono.  When I moved to London from Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) in the early 70s only a handful of these records came with me, but it wasn’t long before I was buying and collecting records again. A five year stint in the USA meant another collection started, but again not many returned with me to London at the end of the 70s. So I started again in earnest in London in the 80s trawling through second hand record shops and building up my collection. A lot of reggae, ska and independent stuff came into my collection. Then I delved deeply in African and later on Latin music too.

My move to Oxford at the end of the 80s meant that my record collection finally travelled with me and when I started DJing at parties, pubs and other events I was seriously collecting vinyl to play. I would go to

London a couple of times a month and pick up some second hand vinyl that no-one else wanted, or didn’t know. The records travelled with me every time I moved –  all over Oxford, to Eynsham and more recently to Faringdon. The collection now fills a corner of my sitting room.

I was staring at it one day thinking it could be organized better, principally to find records quicker. I had no idea how many records I had either. So for me the obvious choice was through Discogs where I could build an on-line collection, evaluate each record and get some notion of its worth, depending on condition.  I’ve also been very selectively buying choice singles and albums from Discogs for a while. At the beginning of January this year I started on my albums and methodically filled a record case a day and took it upstairs to my work room where a Stanton record deck with its blue tooth speaker sits next to my computer and the on-line database. The first couple of albums I put through were War’s Greatest Hits and The Neville Brothers ‘Brother’s Keeper’. Then there’s the opportunity to find the right release of the particular record, to evaluate its condition – Mint, Nearly Mint, Very Good Plus, Very Good, Good, Fair and Poor – and the condition of the sleeve and finally putting it into a genre. Do I go for era, style or something else? Discogs gives me a few suggestions, but I end up with a mixture of decades, musical styles, labels and particular artists names.

It took about eight weeks of inputting albums, 12 and 7 inch singles to complete every record I have –  just under 2000 in total.  There were some duplicates, three copies of The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’, two of ‘Poetry in Motion’ by Johnny Tillotson and two copies of Linton Kwesi Johnson’s ‘Forces of Victory’ album. A very few were damaged and scratched beyond redemption, they had to go. Every album and sleeve was examined, a track or two were played, cleaning went on where necessary. If they were all in mint condition, and that means pristine and almost never played I’d be sitting on a small fortune, but they are not, some are in very good condition, while others are not. Whatever I have used them, loved them  and sometimes treated them a bit casually, especially in a frantic situation when I only have seconds to put another record on in the midst of a DJ set.

I have several empty sleeves, the records have gone, in some cases snapped in half and in others just disappeared. But what I draw from all this is that I now know precisely what I have got, it’s been exciting at times and the thrill of finding that rare Jamaican pressing of a Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry single is exciting. The other thing that I discovered was that I could locate the picture sleeves covers and print them out again for some singles that only have a blank cover as illustrated here. I will now on treat my records with even more respect than I did and possibly sell a few on that I feel I no longer want to keep. There will of course always be other new ones coming into the collection.

My records are worth much more than their retail value to me – not all in mint condition by any means, but they feel like good old friends after all this time.

DJ Citizen Cane