Setting records


I just built some new shelves for my records. I spent all evening doing it, my records are now on those shelves and now my records feel like someone else’s records.

I’m scrolling back and remembering the significant record arrangements of my life so far. Most recently, up until this afternoon, my records lived in two remaindered Habitat shelving units which were stacked on top of one another and slotted into an alcove in our dining room with my stereo bits and bobs slung on top. I’m pleased to say that these had become packed to bursting and, since what goes around comes around, are suddenly in high demand for storage in someone else’s room where they will fit rather conveniently, thank you very much.

Prior to this I had them in the same units side-by-side upstairs. And prior to that, I reckon, I had them in the same shelves alongside our bed in our two-up-two-down in South Manchester. My records and the means to play them were, for what now seems like a brief period in sunlit uplands, within arms reach as I slept.

And prior to that? Let’s think. I can’t recall shelving of any variety. Steve and I lived in a flat in Didsbury for a year or so. I can remember little about the layout of my room, but I’m assuming my records were stacked on the floor. I do recall that at one point the heating system began to leak and a pool of water spread from the centre of the flat out to the periphery over the course of a number of weeks, eventually forming a perfect circle of dank, essentially stagnant carpet. I must have moved my records outwards to keep pace with the moist advance.

I have photos of shelves full of CDs from our house in Rusholme. Whilst my records are permanent, undislodgeable features, I have thrown away, or ‘decluttered’ in modern parlance, almost any other relics of my past, including bin bags full of letters and photos. Unsurprisingly, one of the shots I think I opted to keep and which I’m sure, is lurking upstairs still 20 years later, is of bedroom bookshelves shelves full of CDs. I was pretty sure that if we were burgled and they went, no insurer would believe I’d actually had as many as I would inevitably have to claim for. So I took pictures of the shelves, assuming that would be enough. Later that year we were indeed broken into and my collection remained unpilfered. Months later, when we moved house, I realised one of the reasons why. It would have taken 10 men to lift the whole lot.

Prior to that? I was at home briefly having returned from University, where my records were stacked on the floor. In my final year, they extended out next to my bed from the head end. If I woke up on my left side, my eyes would be flicking up and down the row of album spines before I’d fully registered that I was awake.

I’m not sure exactly when they became alphabetised, but I know it was relatively late. Prior to that, there was a topography to the collection, a joy in understanding the terrain of what was ultimately a random ordering. Arriving at one record, I would know what was next and the trail would unfold in my mind’s eye and my finger’s touch. Looking for a specific album I could intuit its position and almost reach in and grab it blindfolded.

Now I have more records, and now I also have more shelves. For the first time in a little while my records have some room to breathe, although not enough in their 13 by 13 compartments, to be properly flicked through. Still, I can now pull them out without having to pinch the spines, and push them back in without having to first pull out three or four neighbouring albums to force back in with them in a brute force attack.

The whole thing looks different once again and seems, somehow, new. In a literal sense, this is a dream come true. Surely all record collectors share that dream of finding that the collection that they thought they owned actually contains hidden subsections, albums by their favourite artists that they’d never heard of and whole new annexes of music to explore at leisure. My collection feels opened up in some way by this rather small change,


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