Alan Garth’s record collection is too big to fit into his North Park row house. For now, he keeps his 2000 or so discs in storage. Garth’s living room is without television and instead is organized around a couple of turntables. Retro record cases with “I Buy Records” stickers on them sit on the floor; a vintage turntable-speaker combo is playing a reggae single from the ’60s.
“I think there’s still appreciation for the vinyl,” he says. The proof, he thinks, lies in the numbers who attend his quarterly San Diego Record Shows.
“There’s a young crowd that comes every time. That’s a good indication that for every generation there are people who appreciate the sound, the feel, everything about the record.”
Garth has collected vinyl since 1991. A former record buyer for Tower Records, Garth took over stewardship of the San Diego Record Show after its founders, Marvin Gluckstern and Larry Bowers — known in the trade as Music Man Marvin and Stereo Larry-o — decided to call it quits. A crate-digger’s fest, the show convenes four times a year in Hillcrest.
“It’s been around,” Garth says, “for maybe 20 years.”
Of the show’s 20 to 30 vendors, he says, “There are a couple of guys who bring CDs and concert DVDs, but it’s mostly vinyl for sale.” Sought after are ’60s and ’70s funk, jazz, and soul titles and progressive and psychedelic rock. “I don’t see a lot of country. The vendors don’t bring it. Same with classical. For the most part, it’s not the crowd for that.”
Is vinyl undergoing a resurgence in popularity? Garth thinks yes.
“And I think there’s a lot of mom-and-pop shops that cater to records. They actually sell some of the newer bands. The record comes with a little MP3 so you can throw it on your iPod. I think a lot of indie bands are doing that (releasing vinyl) because they know there’s still demand for records.”
But, really, does analog sound any better than digital?
“That’s debatable, but I think if you ask any vinyl guy, he’ll say yes. I’m not gonna say that I don’t listen to MP3s. They have their plusses. But records have a whole different feel. The sound is a little bit warmer. I think the analog sound is more natural to the way we [would] hear it if we were there in person.”
Thrift stores and swap meets and craigslist are Garth’s sources for collectible vinyl. He also networks with other dealers and collectors.
“The ideal thing is when someone calls me with a collection that they’ve had for a long time and I can make them an offer and take it all. That makes it a lot easier than going to thrift stores every day.”
He points to a recent acquisition framed and hanging on his living room wall, Vampires of Dartmoore.
“I’ve been looking for it since ’91.” He says he paid close to $400 for his copy. “I might keep it around for a year or two and then sell it, or trade it, for something of equal caliber.”
The next San Diego Record Show is this Saturday, January 23. For more info, go to sandiegorecordshow.com.