Wow. I really should go dumpster diving some time:
Many times records in the trash belong in the trash—they’re scratched so badly it would be impossible to listen to them. Other times, though, they’re salvageable (just a bit dirty and easily washed, or not in as bad as they look). Judging the condition of records and how salvageable they are is something I could write a whole other essay on. I’ll just say that things are not always as they seem, but with experience one can learn what’s really OK and what’s beyond redemption. Still other times, records are in virtually mint condition, but are not the genre or format that is readily saleable by the person who until recently had them. Typical situation: an old person dies, and their heirs have no interest in the deceased’s music. Thus, one often finds such things as cantorial records, easy listening, big band jazz, ’50s pop vocalists, the Harmonica Rascals, Jerry Vale, and schmaltzy Christmas music in the city’s trash. Much of this is of no particular interest to me, but there is plenty of interesting listening to be culled from it, including lots of what would now be called Space Age Pop. (Easy-listening versions of hard-rock hits of the ’60s are a particular fave of mine.) Classical music is by far the most common thing to find in large quantities, and it’s often in tip-top shape. I daresay that if I started from scratch today, I could have a large and varied collection of classical LPs in less than a year’s time at absolutely no cost. A few weeks ago, for example, I took home about 100 more or less mint classical LPs, many of them on Deutsche Grammophon; I had to make two trips from the Dumpster.
And then there are 78s, which most people don’t have the machinery to play.
The trash has yielded a number of outstanding finds. (Just how, where, when, and why piles of 78s, as well as LP records, 45s, and even CDs, end up in the trash, is something I must keep to myself–but know that they do.) Last winter I actually had to hail a cab, even though I was only a few blocks from home, in order to carry home the stack of 78s I found (book after book of near-mint Artie Shaw records, as well as Mel Torme, 1950s mariachi bands, some other odd Latin stuff, etc.—the fact that they were in such great shape had a lot to do with my taking them). And the other night I found another great stash. This one is mostly jazz—much of it by well-known artists such as Count Basie, Lester Young, and Coleman Hawkins, and some fine work by them indeed. And while I’m certainly glad to have copies of such classics as “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry (Over You)” by Roy Hamilton (Epic), “Caldonia” by Louis Jordan (Decca), and “Santa Baby” by Eartha Kitt (RCA Victor), once again it’s the oddball stuff that captures my fancy.
And I just might find a nice deskchair there as well. Or some original H.G. Kresse pages.
(Via Electrolite‘s sidebar.)