As long as he can remember, Victoria record collector Robin Elworthy has been fascinated with all things related to records. So far he’s collected 2000 CDs and at least 6,000 45s and 33 1/3 LPs plus some old 78s and a few 16 2/3 LPs. (Kids, ask Mom to explain these antediluvian terms. Ed.) The LPs stretch from floor to ceiling against his living room wall.
The voice on his first record is his father’s. “… he was in New York City, about 50 years ago,” says Robin. “He recorded it on a special piece of paper – they had these tiny recording studios set up like little photo booths at Woolworth’s – and a short recording would be printed out right on the spot.”
“My grandmother gave me my first turntable with a boxed set of Elvis’s 45s that my Dad bought for her,” he says. “I also remember having a little kid’s book that had a hole through the middle of it; the entire book would slide down a spindle and the cover of the book had a record pressed into it that you could play.”
Although his very first LP — Ghost Riders in the Sky by the Ames Brothers — was purchased in 1964 when he was 13-years-old, what really got him started was a Sadie Hawkins dance in grade eight. Robin won a few 45s by a band called the Beatles. Nobody had ever heard of them but Elworthy played She Loves You, Twist and Shout, and Love Me Do over and over, then he bought Beatlemania and was hooked. Elworthy figures his most valuable album is Paul McCartney’s Russian Release. Only 20,000 were produced. He paid $50 US for it in 1988 and it’s worth about $XXX now. (His entire collection is worth about $100,000).
Fast forward a few decades and Elworthy’s collection is in demand. Even though LPs were going the way of the dodo, he kept buying vinyl. For friends all over the world, like float tank operators in Victoria and fishermen in Iceland, he recorded requested selections and compilations on cassette tapes. Elworthy gravitated toward a musical career for a while. He worked at the Victoria Jazz Society for several years and managed The Alhambra, a local live jazz and blues nightclub.
Many of the record jackets contain articles Elworthy clipped from newspapers and tucked into the sleeves, such as the deaths of John Lennon and Ray Charles, and many are autographed. It was mainly from his time working at the nightclub that Elworthy added autographs to the collection: Pat Metheny and Taj Mahal, Dr. John and Chick Corea, to name a few.
There’s a certain lore to album jackets and indeed, every album cover tells a story. Some collectors are interested only in album jacket art. Other die-hard collectors argue that vinyl has better quality sound than reel-to-reel or CD. “The day will come when jackets are worth more than the records,” Robin predicts.
He says that regular records in good shape are getting $12 – $18 US in European swaps. Even record stores such as A&B Sound now have vinyl sections. “CDs are more convenient, but records will always sound better,” says the collector as he picks a disc from the shelf and spins it on the turntable, studying the jacket as he listens to Bob Dylan.