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Why Henry Rollins Collects Multiple Pressings of Certain Records

Story by: Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins discusses his reasoning for collecting multiple pressings of the same release. We can all learn a thing or two about what makes a quality pressing when searching for the best version of our favorite records.

I think it is fair to say that it’s possible to get a read on someone by looking at their record collection. All of their peculiarities or sad lack thereof are on display, the id is revealed. If I, as an informed stranger, were to walk into my record room, within a few minutes I would determine this person to be an obsessive in the extreme.

While I am hesitant to reveal names, I will say that the records of first-wave punk rock bands have fascinated me from the late-1970s to now. If there is a band that I like, I want all the pressings from all the territories it was released in, and any test pressing or acetate. I find the slight differences in label copy, styles of in-house production in different countries, mistakes, matrix information, etc., to be of great interest.

I’m fairly certain that this kind of thing is completely boring to most and I can understand. It is this search for information and perpetual hunt that I document in my book series Stay Fanatic!!!. As to the quality of pressings, I have found that, at least with the records I am after, pressings from Germany and England seem to be of the highest quality. Other territories, I notice, seem to shy away from mid-range and lower frequencies, like they’re afraid that maybe the listener will rock out too hard and cause unrest.

Something that I think is worth mentioning is that when vinyl made a comeback several years ago, the rush to reissue often brought the quality of the sound down. In the haste to get to the marketplace, source masters were not always used and the sonic integrity was greatly compromised. A label, that I won’t mention, on at least one occasion, mastered off a CD. This is not why you buy vinyl. On a more superficial level, the cover art of records seem to go missing with great frequency and a scan of an original is often used.

The reason I bring this up is that, over the last few years, there have been efforts made to locate source masters and reissues are sounding really great. As well, original cover art has been found and used, giving someone who can’t pay a lot for an original pressing can still get the great potential of the vinyl listening experience at a price they can afford. In my perfect world, tons of records would be reissued from source masters with the highest level of care with well-written liner notes, extra tracks if possible, and make them available for lots of people. Music makes human existence, which for me, is often a tough haul, much better.

To track back to having up to 20-plus copies of a single record, I have no defense for this as I don’t think one is required. That being said, I play them all. I think it’s cool to plan on listening to the South African pressing of The Idiot on a Friday night and then do it. It gives me something to look forward to.

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