The exhibition at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise that depicts the record collection of hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa is a work of genius.
People’s record collections are always a source of fascination. Searching through some MP3 files hardly has the romance of flicking through stacks of scratched LP’s.
The site of those battered sleeves in cardboard boxes or in plies on tables, takes me back to my teenage years when entering a friend’s bedroom meant inevitably crouching down and gently flicking through each album.I can still remember sensing that inward wince of the owner when you discovered those awkward ‘tasteless’ albums that had fallen out of fashion (or were never remotely in fashion) and the pride in the revelation of colored vinyl or limited edition gatefold sleeves. I still find it hard to believe that such an activity has only recently been revived.
After all, record collections perhaps more than even book collections tell us so much about a person. Ethnicity, age, taste and personality type are all laid bare for the viewer. Half an hour with a record collection can have us identifying a potential friend or enemy.
Can you really ever befriend a man with an Iron Maiden album? Is romance truly possible with a woman who displays a passion for Jethro Tull?
Can you ever trust an unashamed possessor of A Flock of Seagulls single? All questions for the ages.
Judging by his collection, Afrika Bambaataa strikes me as man I’d probably get on with, as it’s full of odd and original curios.
Before now I had no idea an album called Arthur H Leeks called ‘They hear me now’ even existed but now I know it’s out there I desire it.
The same is true of something called ‘Super rhyme’s Rap’ which was playing on the turntables when I entered the exhibit.
The cover of Alphonse Mouzon’s ‘The Man Incognito’ also encouraged me to find out more, if just for the comedy value of the sleeve.
Some others are as familiar as old friends you haven’t seen in an age like Gil Scott heron’s Free Will or Trouble Funk’s ‘Drop the Bomb’
Though there’s always that sense that if you were to reacquaint yourself you might walk away feeling you had nothing in common any more, but that is the risk I’m willing to take.
In a sense your record collection is one of your most important relationships and the careful curation of vinyl is like the love of parent for his only child.
The very fact that the records like Space Cadet ‘Solo flight’ or Mandingo Brass ‘Ultimate Mash Up’ have not been thrown into a bin or left on the street for passers by to salvage is strangely touching.
What we are witnessing in this exhibition is nothing less than true love. These battered sleeves are in fact like a sprawling portrait of a favorite lover.
And let’s face, these days how many relationships last for decades?