If It Were All About The Money, I’d Peddle Tumbleweed

I’m not much of an Elton John fan. It’s easy for me to flip any of his titles. Usually.

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Tumbleweed Connection though. That goes back to the day when it was relatively new and I had entered into a new pastime with my friend Steve Galloway (if you’re in Florida and know him, tell him I’d like to reconnect). On Tuesdays and Thursdays when my girlfriend had some college night class, Steve and I would get together and commandeer Paul Humpal’s decent stereo system while Paul was in a closet developing film, and we’d listen to records and play games and smoke little bits of pot (not necessarily in that order). The girlfriend and the law both agreed we shouldn’t be doing that, which made it more exciting.

It was handy that Paul had good records because Steve and I didn’t. I’m not sure I had even taken the few I had with me to college that year. I DID have a few two years later when I managed to rent the same room but at the time, I had a couple of Doors albums and a Simon And Garfunkel and whatever else the Columbia Record Club had sold me, not more than 20 albums all told probably.

We liked Tumbleweed Connection and kept it in rotation, which was one of my first forays outside of the stuff I had bought from the record club. My OTHER friend Steve, back in my home town, had a spectacular record collection so I had my listening requirements covered during the summer months that I went home between school years.

By the time the 1972-73 school years came along, I had Humpal’s room, no more disapproving girlfriend, a grade point that would carry me through a year’s worth of beer drinking (a new development) a little turntable I’d bought from Gambles, and I had figured out where the record stores were in Iowa City. But I had also discovered the Grateful Dead, and that’s what I bought. That’s still my passion even though they weren’t particularly known for even caring about making records.

Years passed. I moved, a career happened. Kids came along. I had bought a house, had money coming out of my ears, and forty miles away, a good record store to shop once a month. Rolling Stone Magazine and a local friend told me what I HAD to have. It never occurred to me to acquire some of the stuff I’d heard in Humpal’s room. My collection grew, not to the mammoth size of some of my friends’, but hey, I’m sort of conservative (that’ll come as a surprise to my political acquaintances, but I’ve always maintained that nobody’s one dimensional).

Eventually, the decent record store forty miles away closed and I accidentally revived it. I suppose if you own a record store, you might squirrel away a lot of stuff, but not me so much, because, hey, I’m conservative. Yeah, I bought some new stuff but I had bills to pay (more than I realized-I didn’t do my own bookkeeping) and most of the used stuff I bought went back out the door again.

The record store had a nice run, but out of its fourteen years, records existed for basically four of them. There was an avalanche of used records to buy since almost everybody bit into the industry myth that CDs were cooler, but toward the end, those got sort of hard to flip. That dragged me to the Internet, which was just fine with me, since I’d always liked computer stuff and usually had a mild regret that I’d dumped an education in programming to chase down that college degree in beer drinking.

I’ve sold some records on the Internet and honed my grading and identification skills. Elton sold millions of records but of course many of them acquired little problems at the hands of clumsy people with cheap turntables, and naturally a high percentage of those were not the original pressings-they were reissues.

There’s a bit of a trick selling records on the Internet since they made millions of them and out of every million, nine hundred thousand wound up in either charity stores or garage sales, where they were priced at a dollar or a quarter, respectively. From there, for a long time, they were fed directly to eBay at the hands of eBay jockeys who had no clue about supply and demand and only knew whatever they knew about pricing from books that were about eighty percent wrong.

If you wanted Elton’s Tumbleweed, there it was-scads of ’em, usually with no identification, and grading was always “looks pretty good” (which is not a grade) and pricing was based on some reality which has always eluded me. So I’ve been slow about acquiring stuff I wish I would have bought in the first place at the first time.

I buy some accumulations, and bought two last year, somewhere between eight hundred and a thousand records. They were not well cared-for accumulations and cleaning them up, identifying the pressings and recording samples of them (I do that) has been slow going and mainly a matter of which stack is in the way at the moment.

Today I came across a Tumbleweed Connection. Right, I thought, I don’t even have to look, I know what’s in that cover. But I did look and it was a decent early pressing (if not original, I haven’t gotten that far yet) with the booklet, the correct UNI inner sleeve and a beautifully preserved textured gatefold cover.

I slapped it on the turntable. It meets my personal standards. If it’s not “near mint”, which it probably isn’t, it doesn’t make any noises that make me jump up and charge over to the turntable to find out WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?

Oh, good, a copy I can sell for a premium. But hey, wait a minute, what about all that fun we had in Humpal’s room? Surely, somewhere along the line, I HAVE acquired a copy of this one, haven’t I? Answer was: yes, I have one and while it has the booklet, it’s in the wrong inner sleeve, a slightly beat cover and a later pressing that’s been through the wringer. I suppose when I saw that copy I also thought “hey what about Humpal’s room”?, and put it in my stack thinking it would work as a placeholder until I found a better copy, perhaps one without a booklet, and I’d eventually make a nice Frankenstein copy.

Now we’ve got a no-brainer. I’m not flipping this record. I’m out whatever it’s worth, and when I sell myself something like that it doesn’t even make me rich because I don’t pay me, but it connects me with a memory.

That’s record collecting in its purest form.