Growing up, Andrew Daly started collecting records at around eight years old. What started as a habit of collecting cans on hot summer days, leading to a few dollars to spend at Rock and Sports Collectibles for used records, turned into a deep love that sticks with him.
He’s been crate digging for over 20 years, and went through the painful, unfortunate process of having to start his collection from scratch, losing almost 1,000 records in the process. Thankfully, he’s been able to recoup most of what he lost, and then some.
Despite his hardships, Andrew and his 1,500+ collection are featured as February’s Collector of the Month.
Modern Vinyl: Growing up, what were some of the things your family listened to? Did they end up having some influence on your habits as a collector today?
Andrew Daly: Growing up, my Dad had this old Chevy Impala, and I think that’s where my earliest musical memories are. It had one of those old radios with a glowing orange center, and the posts knobs: one for tuning and one for volume. He used to listen to a lot of oldies; mostly Elvis, and Dion and The Belmonts on cassette. At a very young age I was super into that kind of stuff. Even at age four, I appreciated analog, mostly cassettes at the time. Somewhere along the line, I guess I was about 10 years old, I discovered an old Kiss cassette – Love Gun. It was a relic from my dad’s teenage years, and that’s when my passion for music really began. From there on out, I wanted to listen to music, and a lot of it. Early on I developed a love for older music. It began with let’s say — ’50s through ’80s rock. You could have definitely called me a child music snob. I always have felt I was born in the wrong time, and the wrong country. I should have been born in the U.K., during the British invasion.
MV: Do you have any unique tales of digging through record crates, looking for treasure growing up?
AD: Like all collectors, I have all kinds of stories; it’s tough to narrow it down to just one, or even a few. I do remember being around 12 years old, and literally digging through garbage cans and dumpsters with my buddy. We used to go out for about six or more hours a day (in the summer), and collect heaps of cans. We would haul them on our bikes in the hot sun, down to Waldbaums and cash them in. If you can believe it, we would make anywhere from ten to twenty bucks a day — that’s a lot for a kid. Most of that cash, if not all of it, was used at the local vinyl shop. I look back now at what may have been in that store…what I may have left behind. We were young and uneducated, and even though we didn’t know it — we were digging.
MV: What is so appealing about record collecting to you, and how did you first get hooked?
AD: Since I was a kid, I have always enjoyed having music in my life. With a record collection, you can very literally surround yourself with music. I like the idea of having my favorite songs, albums, and so on, around me. It’s fun to curate an entire collection; to hunt down certain pressings. It’s kind of comforting knowing you have tuned into what these artists have created, taken it and created something of your own, as a larger whole. I think you need to be a tactile person to enjoy records. You need to love the way clean grooves look. You need to dig the way lighting plays on black vinyl. You need to be able to appreciate the idea that music wasn’t made just to be heard, that there is also a visual aspect to it.
All that said, the reason I began collecting wasn’t for the sake of collecting at all. In the late ’90s, CDs were the primary way most people listened to their music, and for a 10 or 12-year-old, the idea of shelling out 10, 15 or even 20 bucks for one album wasn’t going to work for someone like me. I needed bulk, and records could be had in bulk. Back then you could get records for pennies compared to what they cost today; this was in a time when people no longer cared for them, so the pickings were prime.
MV: What was it like having to rebuild your collection after leaving it behind in Kentucky?
AD: Rebuilding my collection has been interesting and very different. After I left Kentucky (for personal reasons), I had to rebuild everything, and that included my record collection. I had to fit only what I could stuff into a small Chevy Malibu, and having nearly 500 records wasn’t going to work. At the time it didn’t seem like a big deal, but it wasn’t long before I realized it was. If I could go back, I’d have probably left my clothes there, and taken the records. I mean, the very idea that I left a mint condition, first pressing of the Sex Pistols’ first album there — that’s just criminal. I still wonder to this day, what happened to all those albums. I hope that whoever has them is loving and appreciating them the way I did.
For about two years I didn’t even think about buying records; it just stopped for me. I had no turntable. I would drive by my local shops here in New York, and I would feign disinterest. I’m not sure why, or maybe I just can’t recall now, but my wife (fianceé at the time) started to encourage me to buy records again, and from there the rebuild was on and the passion was back. It was hard at first, because I found myself stuck between trying to recoup what was lost, while balancing that with new interests and finds. My first time around there was no Discogs, and my style of record collecting was very archaic. I had my one shop I went to, and I never used the internet. This time around, I found that there were more shops around than I ever imagined, and there was eBay, Discogs and so on. What I also found was that during my hibernation the price of vinyl had skyrocketed. It’s still so strange to me. Ten years ago, I know for a fact I paid 75 cents for Hotel California, and I paid nearly 10 bucks for it this time around. Yes, I do know how much I’ve paid for each of my records.
MV: What’s still missing from your collection, post-rebuild? Are these now your white whales?
AD: Tough question, because someone with my disposition may never feel their collection is complete. I think today…it’s more complete than it was a year ago, if that makes sense. I can, without a doubt, say that my collection today is light years ahead of my previous collection. I am more educated today on quality of product than I used to be. I do think that the price of vinyl has forced me to be that way. I mean, there are a lot of things I still would like to add to my collection. For example, I am looking for a first pressing of the Stone Roses’ Second Coming. In terms of white whales, I think a legitimate first press of The Black Album by Prince would be fantastic to have.
To be fair, I have checked off a lot of my white whales. Just recently, I finally found a U.K. first pressing of My Generation by The Who. I was pretty excited about that one. One other one that I absolutely would love to find, and I know I am going to have to mail away for this one via Discogs, is The La’s self-titled and only album. That is simply a fantastic album, and it’s just so influential. I don’t know if it even exists here in the States, but I do know of a few copies that seem to be perpetually for sale in Ireland, and other various U.K. spots online. One of these days I will have that album.
You mentioned in your introductory email that Kiss Alive! is one of your prized possessions. What’s the story behind that, as well as why Kiss is so important to you?
AD: Kiss is such a polarizing band. I’ll be the first to admit they’re one of those bands you either love, or you hate. I happen to absolutely love them. I can totally appreciate their gimmick, you know, the make up, the pyro, the costumes and so on. All that being said, I do love their music. I am not going to sit here and say they are musical savants or anything, but they just make good rock music, and that has to count for something.
My dad was probably the person who really exposed me to music early on. He’s not like one of these super music-obsessed type guys (like I may be), but he always had great taste and he imparted his likes and dislikes on me for sure. Kiss was one of those. My mother hated Kiss, but Dad and I used to sneak over to Tower Records, and he would buy me Kiss cassettes. Alive! was deemed essential, and if my memory serves, it was the first one he bought me. The album itself is total class. It’s probably, at least in in my opinion, the best live album of all time. It’s just so influential. What I love most about it is the rawness. You can hear the fire these guys have. It’s just four guys in their 20s, from NYC, trying with everything they have to make something of themselves. I think in that regard, for anyone of a certain age, or perhaps in general, [you] can relate.
At the end of the day, that’s what music is about right? It’s how you relate to it. How we perceive it. It’s like with anything, music is a language, and everyone speaks, hears and feels it differently. Present day, I have managed to snag a blue label first pressing with the booklet, from just before Casablanca Records changed to a full-on disco label, and had camels with palm trees on their records. It’s pretty sweet.
You also have a first UK pressing of Abbey Road. How did that come into your possession?
AD: This is one of my favorite records in my collection. Over the years, I have probably owned five or six copies of this album. Abbey Road is probably my favorite album of all time, and I don’t think it would be farfetched to say that I have been searching for the perfect pressing my whole life. I hail from the South Shore of Long Island, but I have always been a U.K. guy at heart. I love U.K. culture and music in general. Thus, I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to British music on record, you must have the first U.K. pressing. I mean, at the end of the day, it’s all subjective right? Regardless, that first pressing of Abbey Road sounds absolutely mint. I love how the U.K. jackets are shiny and thinner. Some call them flimsy; I call it authentic. I don’t subscribe to the theory that you must replace the inner sleeve with that anti-static jazz. No, I keep it as it came, and my Abbey Road still has its perfectly intact, if not slightly yellowed recycled paper inner sleeve.
The way I came into possession of this copy isn’t so glamorous. I have Discogs to thank for that, before that I had a very nice pressing — a first press U.S. version, but the U.K. is certainly an upgrade, to me at least. It’s crazy to think that years ago, I never would have found the copy I have today. The internet has opened a whole world of possibilities.
Besides the two aforementioned records, are there any others in your collection that have great meaning to you?
AD: Oh yeah, for sure. This time around, I have also found a great love for jazz, but not in a snobby way. I managed to find an awesome first press of Bitches Brew by Miles Davis. Jazz is kind of insane to me, because there is such a large divide between early bob, and later fusion. I think Bitches Brew is maybe the official bridge between the past and present. Another album that I absolutely cannot get enough of, and actually have to keep myself from playing it, so I don’t wear it out is Sam Cooke’s Live at The Harlem Square Club, 1963. What a hell of an album. Sam Cooke was such a great performer, and that album is everything that was amazing about him. When he died the world lost such a special performer and talent.
Do you have any interesting stories about how you acquired some of the records in your collection?
AD: I mean, like any collector that takes it seriously, we all have these stories of traveling far and wide to check out possible hot spots. I have the usual tales of going out early to garage sales, and checking out stores in other states based on word of mouth. One fun story I have actually occurred not too long ago. This past November, my wife and I were in coastal Connecticut for one of my oldest buddy’s wedding. We had some down time and decided to do a bit of antique hunting. We were driving around the back roads and stumbled upon this sort of junk shop that was set up roadside. It was basically a two-car garage, and small barn next to it. Within the garage was a treasure trove of classic rock records, which was cool enough, but in the barn is where the real gems were. Apparently there was a local college radio DJ that lived in the nearby town, and he had recently passed away. His entire collection of jazz and indie records were in crates in the side barn. I was able to take home a really nice haul that day. The funny thing is, I’ve been to record stores hundreds of times, but my favorite memories and some of my best finds are usually with my wife, and she’s not even a collector herself. One notable mention from this haul is Heavy Sounds by Elvin Jones. You may also remember him as the drummer for most of John Coltrane’s work.
I mentioned white whales earlier. Are there any that weren’t in your original collection that you’re still seeking out today?
AD: This is an interesting question. I am a very different collector and person today than I was years ago. As a result, my collection has taken on a totally different identity than it had in the past. I think in life we are shaped by experiences. The things we love, and are interested in are also based on our experiences, and they evolve as we evolve. If you had told me 15 years ago that I would have so much jazz or metal in my collection, I’d have called you crazy, but the almost 30-year-old version of myself loves metal as much as jazz [and] as much as rock. Such is life. With that being said, yes, I have checked off a lot of white whales, but taking into account that this record collecting habit of mine seems to be ever evolving, I don’t doubt a new white whale will present itself any day now. I will say this: I find myself buying less these days than I used to. I’ve checked so many titles off my list, that these days I am more about quality over quantity, and I would say that is probably the biggest difference between myself today as a collector, and the past.
Your first setup was an old Sony Media stack, that you rigged into a small epiphone amp. How does your setup differ today, from its early start?
AD: Thinking back, I really do have my dad to thank for my early education into music. That introduction has really shaped me as a person, and of course my listening habits to this day. In our house growing up, we had a record player, but it was never used. Somewhere along the way, the speakers were tossed out, but the media stack remained. I can still picture this thing so vividly; it was one of those things you remember being in your house growing up, but really it had no purpose. One day, my dad gave it purpose again. I had gone out and purchased some records, thinking we had a working record player, but all we had was the stack, no speakers. I was upset, so my dad somehow managed to wire my little epiphone guitar amp into the media stack, and suddenly, I had a working turntable set-up.
I remember he made little Sharpie marks on the gold overlay, where the treble and bass settings were in case I messed about with the dials, so the best possible sound could be achieved, from a very imperfect set-up.
Today, I have a totally different situation. I am not the kind of guy that really needs the absolute high-end set-up. I think my early experience got me into the vintage kind of mindset. Today, I have a mid-grade vintage Technics SL-BD20 table, with a p-mount Audio-Technica AT92ECD cart, and I honestly get fantastic sound. I paired it with an Onkyo TX-82 deck and a vintage Bose four-speaker set up. It’s kind of a Frankenstein setup, I’ll admit, but it all came together for a sweet sound, and it honestly all looks properly paired together as well. The aesthetic is important after all.
If you had to ask our next Collector of the Month a question, what would it be?
AD: My question for the next collector who’s up is: What is your preference in a record shop? Do you prefer a well-organized, more mainstream shop? Or do you subscribe to the theory that a mess of shop breeds buried treasure?