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Old Records Never Die

is a memoir for anybody who’s ever loved their music collection a little too much, who’s convinced that the tattered, water-damaged, almost unplayable copy of (INSERT NAME OF BELOVED ALBUM HERE)—the one that once felt like a life preserver, that kept them afloat through puberty, or too many heartbreaks, or a parent’s death, or stomach-clenching loneliness—might just have magical properties.

I gave away most of my vinyl records several decades ago, which was clearly a horrible idea. Let’s not rub it in, okay? I’m aware that mistakes were made. Prior to unloading it, my collection included around 2,000 albums, spanning everything from Midwestern punk that changed my DNA to cringe-worthy pop that I secretly loved to music I just pretended to enjoy because I thought it made me look cool. I shouldn’t have let it go, but these things happen. If you came of age in the 1990s, you knew two things to be absolutely true: One, with the end of communism, the U.S. had beaten its last global nemesis. And two, CDs were the future.

But things changed. I’m older now, and ostensibly wiser. I’m married, I became a dad, my father passed away. I’m hitting all the big life milestones. So of course, I suddenly want my records back. Not just copies. Not the reissues, or the deluxe edition, remastered on 180-gram vinyl, or high-res digital audio editions in 96kHz/24-bit. I want the original vinyl artifacts from my past. The specific ones I gave away two decades ago. The Bon Jovi record with my first girlfriend’s phone number scrawled on the front sleeve. The KISS Alive II I once co-owned with my little brother (which he defaced with the warning, “Hands off!”). The Replacements Let It Be that I’m pretty sure, 20 years later, still smells like weed.

Why do I want them back? Why go on this ridiculous journey, scouring every flea market and mildewy basement I could find, every cluttered used record store that hasn’t gone out of business yet, flipping through countless boxes until my hands bleed and became callused lobster claws, when the odds are stacked so heavily against me? Everything about it was insane. It’s like trying to find the retainer you lost as a kid. It’s gone. Forget about it. And why the hell are you looking for your old retainer anyway?

But you understand.