As you know, I've been continually preaching that vinyl records are the absolute best way to hear music. All other music formats sound flat, sterile, and dead. Vinyl is "Alive!" Which brings me to the reason I wrote this article. Recently on eBay, I saw one of my all time favorite records for sale: Pearl Jam’s Live at Benaroya Hall limited edition, quadruple vinyl box set. Only 2,000 were pressed, each individually numbered by hand. The four LPs are a "Deep" "Blood" "Red Mosquito" color. This record is the Holy Grail for Pearl Jam collectors. The auction said it was "mint" and in "great condition." Wow! That grading was music to my ears. I had been saving up money for many months, so I felt comfortable typing in my highest bid, and rolling "God's Dice." Let me state, eBay has been my main avenue for buying hard-to-find records over the past several years. I never had a single problem buying LPs on eBay, so I assumed this auction listing would be no different. While I was staring and salivating like an "Animal" at the eBay item photo, I had an audio epiphany: Can a vinyl LP record ever be in "mint" and "great condition"? Vinyl is a delicate, thin material. When handling an LP, the slightest miss touch can scratch a record. LPs also have static, which attracts dust and smoke particles, that can cause crackles, pops, and distortion in the fine grooves. This is especially true of new vinyl which seems to be so full of static that it tends to attract factory and packaging scuzz (ewww!). The way the vinyl is packaged when it is slipped into its inner sleeve also has occasionally left what looks like brush smudges on the record. Hell, every time you play a record, it can wear down. Why can't something so great last forever? Ugh! My head is revolving like a 45 even thinking about all of this!
So back to the story: "Hail, Hail!" I did indeed win the eBay auction, and received the set in the mail days later. Unfortunately, my disappointment hit me like a "Surprise Left." Two of the eight sides of the LPs were scratched up, and you could hear the defects. It kept going "Krickle, Krackle," and was lacking an “Even Flow” of sound as it should have. Listen, I’m not some sort of whiner who is normally “Given to Fly” off the handle about a slight scratch, but this record was damaged! "Rats!" The vinyl was also missing the poster insert and smelled like tobacco smoke. The grade I would give this LP set is “C - Average.” Since I had a legitimate “Grievance,” I was able to send the records back for a full refund. This Vinyl Vagabond wasn’t going to be treated like some “Jeremy”! A better copy will have to remain on my “Wishlist.”
In conclusion, I don’t think a vinyl record could ever be in mint condition, or close to it. Every time I look in the “Rearviewmirror” I realize that music perfection may be just an unreachable dream. All audio formats have their downsides, but as a total experience, vinyl is still my favorite. Like all the audiophile elites out there, I will never stop spinning that “Black Circle.”
P.S. Just as soon as the seller got his record back and I got my refund, "Off He Goes" and offers to sell it back to me for half the price. Not that I wasn't tempted, but having seen/played his copy in the condition it's in I know it's not even worth half the price. I'm not an "Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town," or her "Daughter." I'm going to be the "Better Man" and hold off till I find the copy that is right, but this an experience this Vagabond won't "Soon Forget."