I was a pop widow!

When Freaky Trigger‘s editor commissioned this piece, he was no doubt thinking of (or guiltily hoping for) some kind of gender-neutral meditation on the mystery, beauty and sadness of record-rack romance. And believe me, I tried, but no luck. Maybe it’s sheer coincidence that all the contributors to this article were women who’ve been on the receiving end of male vinylmania, maybe it’s not. Further research needed. In the meantime, read on, lads, and blush.

But don’t get me wrong, O presumed male reader – I love music, just like you do. This is not a Boys-and-their-B-Sides bitchfest. I’m not going to talk about exactly what music I do like, though, because that’s not the point, and besides I don’t want Tom’s inbox filled up with e-mails from men who’ve spent five years dreaming about dating someone who likes Bowery Electric. Been there, done that.

Yes, I was a vinyl widow: I loved a record collector. And I’m far from alone. There are a lot of RCs about, after all, and they’re not all sweatily malajusted creeps, far from it – a lot of them are sensitive, sexy, moody, gorgeous, funny, ordinary people who just happen to have every Japanese-issue Clash 7” in a box in the back-bedroom. When your eyes meet across that crowded room, the possibility that Mr.Perfect will make you share your life with crate upon crate of killer import twelves is far from your mind (though not from his): by the time the truth dawns, you’re hooked. Even if record collectors had to wear a used CD on their shirt like a badge of warning, though, you’d probably still bite. As hobbies go, it’s far from the worst: he could be into stamp collecting. Or sport. (Records and sport is the really fatal combination, unless you’re Nick Hornby’s wife, in which case can I borrow a tenner?)

Anyway, if you’re into music yourself, what could be better than a partner who really understands? You’ll never be short of something to argue about, for a start! Actually, there’s a lot to be said for dating a record collector – for one thing they almost certainly won’t be scared of the “weirder” end of your music taste – no need to hide your My Bloody Valentine, Miranda Sex Garden or Pussy Galore albums in the clothes hamper anymore! Similarly, your RC won’t object to provocative album cover art (Country Life, etc), since he probably owns a copy too.

Record collectors know a lot of music, and they like people to know they know a lot of music – that’s their reason for living. So your time together is likely to have a nifty soundtrack, and you can feel like a character from a super-hip indie film, doing the chores to the grooviest sounds imaginable. And of course your parties always have a terrific DJ on hand, though this can be a curse as well as a blessing – “Have you met my boyfr -” you’ll be asking, and suddenly he’s gone from your side, lost to the whirling decks, or he’ll break up an sparkling conversation to ask if the bass is a bit too high. In fact the RC can easily become a slave to his taste. Even the most intimate moments have to have the perfect soundtrack, and there’s no greater passion-killer than waiting ten minutes watching your beloved crouching over a multi-CD changer. (No, actually, there is – having him leap out of bed to flip over an LP!) And holidays are a nightmare – “Come on, we’ll miss the plane!” “No, no, I’m just choosing my tapes….” And the idea of playing an old favourite instead of RC’s latest find is quite intolerable – as for silence, forget it!

Stray outside the boundaries of RC’s taste, too, and you’ll suffer for it. “I remember when we started going out, and I went to a Bryan Adams concert,” says Clare, who despite everything is still with her record collector boyfriend, “He told all his music fascist friends, and I didn’t hear an end of it for five years.” The RC will always think they know your taste better than you do – they might point you in the direction of some amazing things, but they’ll also be forever putting pressure on you to buy certain bands they think you might like, but are actually dreadful. And Heaven forbid you should make a non-sanctioned purchase: RC will snort, scoff and generally make a scene. Clare: “He’s always going on about how he likes me buying any record just because it’s me taking an interest, but you should have seen how he got when I bought a Capercaillie tape. And of course he’s impossible to buy for himself, even though a CD is the only present I know he’ll really appreciate. I usually end up just letting him buy his own presents.”

Record Collectors are all awful with money, for the blindingly obvious reason that they spend it all on records. But despite this they can be generous people, in a somewhat limited sense. Box Sets for Christmas? Fine! Beautiful clothes for Christmas? Not fine! In the RC’s mind, a well-picked compilation tape is a gift beyond compare, and if you want to get the best deal on a record, they’re a Godsend. RC always knows where to find the album you are looking for — and at the best price, and at the earliest possible moment after the album is released. Imports especially. And RC will know which imports have extra tracks and which are just bad-quality bootlegs. The only problem is that such knowledge comes at a price, and like I say, the Record Collector is always broke. The blissful look on his face when he finds that out-of-print album isn’t quite so endearing when he’s buying it with the money you lent him – or even worse, the exchange vouchers he got from selling your CDs!

All Record Collectors secretly want to be in “the industry”, and the sociable ones may well have some excellent connections. You’ll get backstage passes, fly posters, autographed publicity pics, invites to promo parties, set lists, and other coveted ephemera …you may even meet a few bands, and you’ll find yourself familiar with the magic words “plus one”. That’s if, like me, you care about such things: otherwise all it means is talking to really horrible hacks and PR bores at parties.

“The worst thing about record collectors is record shops,” according to one-time RC’s-girlfriend Jane, “Spending two hours following him round some horrible, foul-smelling basement was deeply unpleasant. I wasn’t staying near him out of love or interest, just out of an actual fear for my physical safety!”. Clare agrees: “The worst thing is the endless flick, flick, flick through these thousands and thousands of records. I have no idea which ones he likes so I can’t help – in fact he seems to like all of them, so I’m always losing him while he dashes off to find the Jungle section and I’m still over by the girl groups.”

But there’s no escape – just try walking past a second-hand record shop when you’re out with an RC. They may plead, they may simply ignore you and walk straight in, they may abandon you in a shoe shop and sneak back, but in the end they will get their way. Is it your Anniversary? Doesn’t matter. In fact, Sod’s Law dictates that RC’s best-beloved band will schedule their last-ever gig for that very date. And as for holidays – “getting away from it all” most certainly does not include getting away from those vinyl-laden basements. Travel all round America, Asia and Europe and your RC will manage to ignore local cultural differences entirely, his record radar leading him unerringly to the nearest shop.

I must have endured The Debate fifteen times – vinyl or CD’s? Personally I don’t care, but for Record Collectors there is only one choice. “The sheer weight of all the record boxes is amazing – I used to worry our floor would break,” Jane says, “Every time we moved house I had to carry twelve enormous boxes up and down stairs, and of course that was the only time I was allowed to touch them.” Forget that beautiful minimalist layout you dreamed about – every inch of shelf or floor space that could hold a record will hold one. And Record Collectors don’t just look after their records – most of them virtually worship them.

A love of music may indicate a sensitive, cultured soul, but a love of records most definitely has its dark side. For every Record Collector, LP paranoia eventually sets in and the beloved becomes a monster, desperate to scratch and scuff the poor helpless vinyl. (or even worse, to get it out of order!). You’ll never see your RC so angry as when you’ve laid a finger on those precious discs. Clare is well used to her boyfriend’s obsession – “For a long time I would always make him put them on even if I’d picked them, for fear of hurting these things he loved. Now I don’t care, and I just endure the squeals when I leave them out of their sleeves. He does love them far too much – on one outrageous occasion he claimed he’d give up sex for six months if he could hear some bloody band’s next album early. Needless to say I can’t even remember who they were and he doesn’t play them now.”

With obstacles like that in the pathway of true love, it’s no wonder so many Record Collector romances end in disaster. But even then you won’t be free of your ex’s collection. Every split with anyone means a couple more songs you can’t bear to hear, but when you leave RC, whole eras of music are denied you. If your ex was mad for Nurse With Wound, this frankly isn’t going to be too much of an issue, but break with an RC whose tastes are more mainstream and you’re in trouble. As Jane says, “On the one hand, I didn’t have to buy a single CD for five years. On the other hand, he liked every big band you could mention, and that’s half a decade of my favourite music I can’t stand listening to.”

So there you are, single again, buying your own music again, getting all the CDs he hated out of mothballs. Was it worth it? Well, I can’t answer that: in the end it’s not really the records that make or break a relationship. But even so, next time someone comes up to you at a party and asks you what music you’re into, tread carefully, and if there’s that disc-shaped glint in their eye, Just Say Manilow.

(The names in this article have been changed to protect the guilty.)