Dear Vinyl Agony Aunt

I have a problem.

It’s a space and time problem. Yes, I know, I should just call Dr Who but I’ve lost the piece of psychic notepaper with his mobile number and you’re my next best guess. Also, you have helped me before. Being such a busy virtual confidante you won’t remember, but I once asked you about whether to buy the rather expensive Can vinyl box ‘The Lost Tapes’. You said ‘Buy’. I bought. Brilliant.

I also asked you about the 2009 luxury re-issue of Tubular Bells with CDs, a DVD, assorted memorabilia and a small plastic zip-lock bag of Mike Oldfield’s fingernail clippings. You were unequivocal.

‘Don’t buy. You don’t even like Tubular Bells apart from the guitar riff bit.’

I bought anyway. (You were right, by the way. Although the DVD is a live TV performance and provides a delicious who’s who of British progressive musicians circa 1973).

Today I need your help with a different conundrum.

Last weekend I bought a copy of the Graham Nash album Wild Tales. I already have a US copy with a nice textured sleeve but this one was a smooth gatefold cover. No, it doesn’t matter what’s inside the gatefold.  It’s the gate that’s important, not what’s inside. What’s that? The music? No idea. It’s probably more than twenty years since I played the album and I don’t recall being very impressed. And don’t even think of asking the obvious question. Really. If you need to ask why I bought a second copy of a minor album I never play then you shouldn’t be doing this job.


I know I haven’t articulated the problem yet, but you need more background.

And the background problem is that of space.

Most of the changes in the music room have been increasingly desperate measures to expand the volume of LPs and CDs this very finite space can hold. I’ve gone as close to the ceiling as a tall-ish person can reach and as tightly packed as a lover of elbow-room can tolerate. But somehow it’s not enough. It’s never enough.

A solution is in train. Some more efficient shelving units have been purchased and are awaiting assembly and the strengthening necessary to avoid any catastrophic outcomes. You think I’m jesting about the reinforcement? Just another example of vinyl neurosis? Ha! Check this out:

Expedit collapse

And what’s even worse is that the turntable is under there somewhere. Glad it’s not my pad.

Stopped trembling yet? Then let’s continue.

Back at Chez Vinyl Connection, you have to wiggle a new album into its allotted alphabetical spot on already crowed shelves. This involves pulling increasingly pained ‘don’t damage the record’ type faces as you do. It’s a problem.

So one way to decide about the Graham Nash would be to simply keep the thinner of the albums.

One quick trip to the garage to grab the micrometer later…

There is approximately one millimetre difference between the gatefold version and the US edition. Not even this delusional record collector can convince himself that this is a significant space saving.

There must be other criteria.


An obvious one is the condition of the record. Which one sounds better? But this, dear Vinyl Agony Aunt, involves listening to the album not once, but twice. When you have a very significant number of un-listened-to albums, time is of the essence. Or at least at a premium. In sum, I don’t really want to spend precious listening time with an album I might never again listen to before the entire collection becomes a problem for my next-of-kin.

So I’m stuck.


Unless I can somehow find another criterion that justifies the space and time…



Although Wild Tales has a diversity of styles and songs just like its outstanding predecessor Songs for Beginners, for this listener it just doesn’t gel. The main reason for this is the prevalence of pedal steel guitar. It’s not an instrument I really appreciate; just too country I guess. So I struggled with Side One of Wild Tales because three of the five songs feature pedal steel.

Having said that, the side opens strongly with the title track. David Lindley on slide guitar is great and the song rocks. We slide straight into ‘Hey You (Looking at the Moon)’ where Nash’s harmonica wheezes an everyday solo. It lopes along OK enough for a country-ish song. ‘Prison Song’ goes for some worthy social relevance and is fine; it doesn’t soar like ‘Chicago’ from Beginners though.

‘You’ll Never be the Same’ is pure country.

David Crosby makes a welcome appearance on the side’s last song ‘And So It Goes’ which, if Stephen Stills had added electric guitar instead of the pedal steel might well have been a CSN classic. Oh well.


I wonder if my overall disappointment with the album would have been less if the sides were reversed. Because I like Side Two. Opening with the chin-jutting anti-war ‘Grave Concern’, it jumps to Dylanesque anti-war folk with ‘Oh! Camil (The Winter Soldier)’.

‘I Miss You’ evokes the previous album’s ‘Simple Man’ in a pleasing way and ‘On the Line’ is a strong enough song that the pedal steel sort of slides past. As the title suggests, ‘Another Sleep Song’ continues the intimate concerns of Beginners ‘Sleep Song’. Nice bass playing by Tim Drummond and Ben Keith moves from pedal steel to dobro, complimenting the acoustic wispiness. Those with sharp ears might detect Joni Mitchell contributing backing vocals to this last song, though her presence is easier to detect in the back cover art work: a colourful portrait of singer-songwriter Nash which contrasts strongly with the sombre cover photo. Perhaps the album could have used a bit more felt-pen vibrancy (and less pedal steel guitar).



Graham Nash ‘Wild Tales’ [Atlantic, 1973]

Graham Nash ‘Songs for Beginners’ [Atlantic, 1971]


Dear Vinyl Connection

Use a TARDIS for your music collection.


Your Vinyl Agony Aunt



  1. Whoa – when did that collapse happen? I feel your pain, genuinely. I’m lucky I’ve got a whole series of very sturdy shelves built across an alcove next to a, redundant, fire. I’ve got about 4 years space left, unless my financial circumstances alter rapidly in either direction.

    I rather suspect you’ve got the collecting bug worse than I, two copies of an LP I wasn’t that bothered about wouldn’t happen – there’s too much I do like out there still to buy.

    Me too on the pedal steel by the way, apart from exceptional circumstances where it might be merited. Or you could put a cap on the number of times an artist was allowed to use it in his/her recorded output, everyone could have a quota.

    Doesn’t solve your problem though does it? You ever sell? I’ve been pretty ruthless over the years in weeding some dross out.

    Great post.


    1. OK. First, a clarification: that was not my Expedit shelf. I found the pic on the internet and have seen similar catastrophes on Facebook groups. The photo caption has been duly amended to avoid my blog friends having heart attacks on my behalf.

      Yes, I do cull periodically. In fact I take a stall at a Melbourne Record Fair once, maybe twice a year and try to sell more than I buy! Interestingly (and this is one for my therapist, I fear) I find it easier to part with books than music.

      Love the quota idea on pedal steel. Wonder what other instruments should be rationed?


      1. F-ing banjos – without any doubt. Any non-old time revivalist types should be allowed to use one once and once only, EVER. On pain of execution, no appeals process, no extenuating circumstances permitted.


        1. I hearby appoint you, 1537, Chief of PISS. The Prohibited Instruments Sound Squad. You have a mandate to Search and Destroy.


          1. Thank you. I swear by almighty Bob to do my duty impartially and ruthlessly.

            Hear that Mumford & Sons?! I’ll be watching you!


  2. The Prudent Groove · · Reply

    Space… the collector’s nightmare. My buddy is going through the “gotta build more shelves” stage at the moment, and I fear his solution will only buy him a significantly short amount of time. Do you own? Is there room for an extension onto that, or another family-shared room in the house? (May be an unrealistic option.) I wish you the best of luck and I look forward to hearing your solution.


    1. Yes, I thought this post might strike a slightly discordant chord with fellow addicts.
      And perhaps provide some insight for their long-suffering partners!


  3. Good stuff.

    Interesting tint/tone differences in the two LPs: one B+W and one that looks sepia-ish/oid.

    Might I add the tin whistle/penny whistle to the PISS Squad’s target list? I know it doesn’t appear much in the music about which you wax so eloquent here, but still….

    Question from one unfamiliar with the various and sundry pearls of vinyl collecting: are gatefold covers especially desirable? Or only in instances when there’s another non-gatefold offering extant?

    Is TARDIS a Dr. Who reference? (Forgive my unenlightened state!)


    1. With the photos, you are entirely correct. Given Nash was living/recording on the West Coast at the time, my fantasy is that the sepia-tinged ‘olde world’ version was the official/original and that the clearer high-contrast one was some zealous art director in another country ‘improving’ the photo. But that’s just speculation of course.

      Consider the penny whistle duly banned for all but fair-isle-jumper-wearing bearded folkies.

      I’d have to (and probably will) tackle the vexed issue of different pressings/covers again, even though I sidled up to it once before.

      The TARDIS is Dr Who’s transportation. Outside, a simple UK Police telephone booth; inside a labyrinth. The basic point is that it is bigger inside than outside.

      Phew! Ready for the end-of-term test now?


  4. I’ve determined that the only way to have enough space is to open a record store. Think about it, it solves two problems. First you have a reason to buy records everyday and second you have a place to put them. However as I haven’t had to sell any yet I not sure how I am going to deal with the separation anxiety when I do.


    1. You have nailed the pleasure/pain tension there! I guess I’m not the only one who has fantasised the step you have taken.
      If I’m not mistaken, the store is called ‘Mill City Sound‘.
      Good on you and Good Luck!


  5. Dear Stuck,

    Wake up and smell the mellow seventies slow jam coffee. You don’t need more Graham Nash because, lest we forget, he is the low-down betrayer of The Hollies. That wasn’t cool. So unless the new copy comes with Stephen Stills’ authentic nail clippings, ditch it and pick up The Hollies’ Greatest Hits. It has “Carousel” on it, and that alone is worth ten namby-pamby Nash records. Oh, plus “Bus Stop”. Okay, fifteen Nash records.


    Vinyl Agony Aunt


    1. The algebra appears to run like this: Aunts are scary. Agony Aunts doubly so.
      Guess that makes VAAs scary to the power three.

      (and if I was brave enough to contradict, which I am most certainly not, I’d propose King Midas in Reverse as Nash’s finest Hollies moment.)


  6. Maybe take some lessons in drinking, smoking and the minimal use of lp’s from Rebus.
    Ian Rankin has a lovely collection to choose from.


    1. The Scots detective, yes? Don’t know the works, I’m afraid. But my experience is that excessive drinking and smoking do not result in records being maintained in good condition. Nor livers, for that matter.
      I do recall that friends who enjoyed a greener kind of smoke seemed to be satisfied with certain records played over and over again. Guess you’d need less titles, eh?


  7. Yes, Rebus is a fictional detective (and a kind of puzzle) and I was hinting that there could be worse obsessions than collecting vinyl. Also, music is used, sparingly, in the Rebus stories (mainly Rolling Stones). Rankin (the author) writes while listening to music and probably wanted to be a rock & roll star. You and others might be interested in his last fm efforts.


  8. […] well-read posts featured Yes, Wooden Shjips and the travails of Record Storage (or perhaps it was the Graham Nash album […]


  9. […] Life moved on. The guitars were put in cupboards and the singer-songwriters replaced by Return To Forever and King Crimson. I picked up a couple more Graham Nash solo albums, but didn’t spend much time with them, despite what you might have read. […]


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