Parnassus Blog

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Record care - continued...

First I must apologize for the lateness of this post. The rapid appearance of my column in Classic Record Collector took me by surprise, as I usually have two or three columns in advance at the magazine. In the future I will prepare any supplementary posts when I submit the column!

Obviously no one person will think of every relevant issue on a topic, and I'm sure that is true with record maintenance or any other topic I write about. Thus I invite correspondence at and will add all useful suggestions to this blog, with credit to the contributor.

LP record jackets are designed to protect the records inside, usually with good effectiveness. I find it very important to maintain the integrity of the jacket in order to safeguard the record. For example, if there is a substantial split in the top of the jacket, and the inner sleeve's opening faces up (as it should), dust will eventually migrate inside the inner sleeve where it can cause damage to the vinyl.

My preferred maintenance for LP jackets is acetate-based tape (Scotch Magic Tape or its many equivalents). Do not use cellophane tape (ordinary Scotch Tape) as it dries out within a few years, comes loose, and leaves a stain on the paper it covered. At one point in my record-collecting career I used to line the edges of every LP jacket I acquired with acetate tape as a preventative measure, which was a sensible procedure. I know some collectors have aesthetic objections to tape on jackets, but I have a more serious objection to damaging LPs.

Acetate tape is usually available in ½ inch and 3/4 inch widths. The 3/4 inch width is easier to use and, since it covers considerably more area, sticks more securely. The ½ inch width is somewhat less noticeable when applied to the jacket but a bit more difficult to apply well. This is a matter of individual choice. I usually use the 3/4 inch width.

In more extreme cases, where there is truly serious damage to one or more edges of the jacket, I have been known to use two-inch transparent packing tape for repairs. I have also used this kind of tape to repair the spines of LP set boxes, where it is often the only sensible choice. There is no question that this tape is more noticeable and intrusive than other types. And it has to be applied very carefully or it winds up with folds and creases where it sticks to itself. Still, it is sometimes the best choice in difficult situations.

I am not the world's leading authority on 78 storage and I will particularly welcome suggestions from readers on this topic. I do know that, being heavier than LPs, 78s need even more regular support dividers on shelves than LPs do. I don't think you should store more than a foot of 78s in individual sleeves without a divider for support. Even 78s in albums should not be allowed to lean very far off perpendicular. And my comments in the column about the temperature tolerance of LPs do not necessarily apply to 78s. Excessive cold can certainly make them brittle. Sometimes it can even make them crack. If 78s are cold, they should be allowed to warm gradually before they are played or handled.

No recorded media should ever be kept without protective covering--not LPs, CDs, DVDs, laserdiscs, or any kind of tape format. This is equally true of 78s, and no sensible collector will ever keep an unprotected stack of 78s. Since individual 78s don't often have printed outer sleeves, I think they should be kept in some kind of double sleeve arrangement, perhaps a paper inner sleeve covered over with the kind of plastic outer sleeves that I don't recommend for LPs. They probably won't stick to paper 78 sleeves until the temperature becomes hot enough to warp the records, in which case the problem of the plastic sleeves becomes unfortunately irrelevant.

Vinyl 78s can be treated pretty much like LPs. They won't be damaged by cold, but all other strictures regarding the care of 78s also apply to them.

--Leslie Gerber

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Fall of Tower

The collapse of Tower Records did not come as a surprise to me. I
was only surprised that it took so long.

Here's an illustrative anecdote. When Tower first opened in New York
in the early 1980s, a friend of mine who was a specialist in early
music took a trip from Woodstock to New York just to shop at Tower.
She came back filled with enthusiasm. She had spent over $300 (a lot
for her, especially in those days) on LPs she had never seen before.
She told me Tower had the best early music section she had ever seen
in a record store.

Six months later she went back. She was really disappointed. There
were a few new releases, some of which she bought. Otherwise, she
said, the early music section had just the things she had left behind
six months earlier, and the records she had bought had not been

That was Tower in a nutshell. The business always seemed to have an
institutional policy: throw as much stock at the customers as
possible, and don't bother about the details. Stock control was never
a strong point at Tower. They were more interested in sheer quantity.

I used to shop the Tower Annex whenever I was in New York. It was a
large store around the corner from the main Tower Records shop (the
first one, on 8th Street) filled with remainders and used records. I
would look through a bin of remainders and often find 20 or 30 copies
of the same record. That's a hideous waste of expensive retail space,
but apparently it worked better for them than to have only one or two
copies in the bin and replace them when they were sold. That was too
much trouble. Things were sometimes better in the regular retail
sections of the store, but not always.

Tower wasn't very good with special orders, either. (Too much
detail?) The sales staff wasn't usually very well informed. The
classical section I visited was usually staffed by pierced people who
were listening to rap music on their headphones while they rang up

Here's another illustrative Tower story. More than ten years ago I
was recruited by a magazine editor I knew who had been running the
classical music section of Tower's free in-store magazine Pulse! He
had talked the management into trying a new all-classical review
magazine, Classical Pulse! The magazine was designed for quick
reading. Reviews were brief, and they were headed by a one to five
star rating.

Classical Pulse! ran for several years. It was obviously a success.
Paid advertising was abundant. Records reviewed favorably in the
magazine sold very well (but there were also plenty of unfavorable
reviews, although writers were asked to recommend alternatives when
panning a CD). Eventually, management pulled the plug on Classical
Pulse! because, they said, the advertising was not covering the
entire cost of publishing the magazine. That had never been the plan
in the first place, and the increased sales the editors had been
hoping for had materialized very impressively. But that was too much
thinking, I guess.

I'll have some fond memories of Tower. I got plenty of interesting
material for my collection there. Because Tower had a branch in
Japan, it was able to purchase many Japanese CDs and (my favorite!)
classical laserdiscs which were never issued here and bring them into
the U.S. Among many other things, I still have my original Toshiba CD
of The Beatles' "Abbey Road," the first Beatles CD ever issued. It
was meant for domestic Japanese sale only, and it was deleted when
Toshiba realized how many copies were being sold outside of Japan.
Mostly by Tower.