Tea-table* books is an occasional series devoted to the best books for casually enjoying while relaxing with a hot beverage. Usually large format and illustrated (yes, just like ‘coffee table books’), the best tea-table books are of course just as good when read from cover-to-cover, but their real charm is their ‘dip-into-able’ quality. But enough preamble: onto this particular example –
*don’t like coffee
Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting by Eilon Paz (Ten Speed Press, 2015)
As fans of the excellent website Dust & Grooves will know, photographer Eilon Paz is fascinated with record collectors and their collections. The site grows ever bigger, and is a home to some great journalism as well as hundreds of beautiful photographs, but there’s still something special about this book. Necessarily more focussed than the site, if not exactly more portable (enjoyably big and heavy) it’s pretty simple: Paz photographs collectors in their record rooms, surrounded by their vinyl and (along with various writers) talks to them about the music they love and how they collect it. In the second part of the book there are great in-depth interviews with some serious collectors, including Sheila Burgel, Rich Medina, Gilles Peterson, Questlove and Jonny Trunk, among others.
The photographs are beautiful in themselves and are both revealing and extremely tantalising to pore over; what are all those other records on the shelves? What does a launeddas sound like? (the internet can help with that; pretty cool as it turns out.) The people and their stories are hugely interesting and it’s nice that, whatever one’s own musical interests are, the people collecting country or hi-life records (or indeed Sesame Street ones) are just as fascinating as those whose albums and 45s one covets. Record collectors are interesting because people are interesting and music is interesting; and there are always more records to hear and more people to meet, so it is (hopefully) a very repeatable formula. Taste is a strange, illogical thing (I have a vast, unfinished article for this very blog that has so far failed to illustrate that point adequately, but may appear here eventually) and as the stories in this book reveal, for most collectors music has been a journey from one particular passion or field of interest to many, often barely related ones.
Though not a serious collector myself (more an unfocussed accumulator) this is a book that makes me want to collect records. And listen to them of course; it’s heartening that of the collectors in this book,all are first and foremost fans of the music they collect and not collectors and cataloguers of mere (if they are mere) objects. So yes, it’s a good book.