Jeff Ogiba is the co-owner of Black Gold Records, a record store, coffee shop, and collector's paradise nestled in the heart of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. And while he is an all-around great guy and neighborhood icon, he's also one of the city's foremost authorities on the art of vinyl. We dropped in one Friday afternoon to get down to the nitty-gritty of what vinyl is all about...
EQ: It seems like vinyl is making a comeback. Do you find this to be true?
JO: Vinyl records have been making a steady comeback since the early 2000’s. A lot of my friends and I were collecting records in the 90’s but I can’t say I noticed any significant growth in culture until around 2003 or 2004. It felt like perfect timing considering the boom in technology around that time.
EQ: So what, then, are the benefits of vinyl as opposed to digital music?
JO: There’s a special nostalgia that comes with the experience of a physical record. Not only do you get to spend time with the record, but you have to take care of it. Taking care of your records forms a new, unique relationship with music for a lot of people. You’re not just pressing shuffle, forgetting artists’ names and song titles, and taking the massive availability of music for granted. If you take care of your records and appreciate them, the rewards you’ll reap are incalculable.
EQ: Well, for those of us just starting a record collection, what basic equipment/sound system would you recommend? How do we get started in this?
JO: The hardest part of getting into collecting and listening to records is getting a system that works for you. Once you have a comfy setup, you’re going to impress yourself with how quickly your collection grows. My best piece of advice is to buy something new and avoid any obstacle that could potentially make you lose interest in beginning a collection. Stay away from cheap, cutesy combo turntables and go for something that costs more than $150. Get yourself some nice desktop speakers and an affordable amplifier. If you need more help, ask your friend who already collects records. Keep it simple and fun to get started. I’ve been messing around with audio gear for a long time and maintaining high-end gear and troubleshooting regular issues still gives me major headaches.
EQ: When buying records, what physically should a collector watch out for? Is there more than just scratches? How should we take care of our records?
JO: Scratches are the first obvious warning sign of a potentially defective record. Your next test of quality should be to eyeball the record for warping. There are few things worse than a record that waves and wobbles on your turntable. It’s also not good at all for your turntable. Check to see if the correct record is in the sleeve and all the original enclosures and inserts are present and clean. Foggy or glassy vinyl means the record has been heat damaged. Records that smell like mold are moldy. Store your records as vertically as possible with their spines out. You can go a step further and keep them in plastic outer sleeves if that makes you feel better. Keep your records in a cool, dry place and keep your paws off the surfaces of the vinyl. Get good at all of this and be prepared to enjoy your collection for many years to come.
EQ: Any tips for good records to start with? What are some of your favorites?
JO: The best way to get started on your collection and ensure that you will continue to have fun with it is to hunt down the records you already like and know. Start simple. Grab a copy of Thriller, The Chronic, or Sgt. Pepper’s. Nearly everyone has an interest in at least one of these records. Ask your parents if they have any of their old records stored away. Hit up your strange uncle and convince him that you are the one to carry on the legacy of his prized album collection.
Then start hitting record stores. Avoid pricey reissues at first if you can find the original pressing for cheaper. Be forewarned of the exorbitantly priced 180 gram record. The only difference between a standard weight record and a 180 gram version of the same record is about $9.00. Don’t fall for the gimmicks. Once you have a few records in your collection, reach out and spend a little here and there. Here are a few personal suggestions:
T. Rex - Electric Warrior
This record is in high demand and has been for years. It’s a party record that appeals to most walks of life. Electric Warrior is exciting from start to finish, and trying to hunt down a super clean original copy of this record is pointless, because trust me, you will destroy your copy quickly if you listen to it properly.
Gram Parsons - GP
The legendary guitarist / songwriter who had a brief but historic stint with The Byrds made some great records. GP is up there with Grievous Angel concerning Parson’s solo efforts, and if you dig rock and country with moving and visual lyrics, check this one out.
The Cure - The Head on The Door
The Cure have been my favorite band since the first time I heard them around 25 years ago. Although my favorite record by them is Disintegration, I always recommend their 1985 comeback crowd pleaser The Head on The Door to those interested in exploring the band’s back catalog. The record is poppy and listenable, but also touches on some of the band’s trademark darker moments.
Ace Frehley - KISS / Solo LP
I wouldn’t go as far as to call myself a KISS fan. In fact, The original name of my shop was “Black Diamond Records”. We canned that idea once we realized that Black Diamond was a popular Kiss song, and "Black Gold" was born! One of KISS’s many merchandising gimmicks was to give each member a collectable solo album. They each came with a poster of each member that fit like a puzzle piece to the other three members. You couldn’t help but to buy them all. The sad truth is that Paul and Peter made terrible solo albums. Gene made a decent solo record, but Ace takes the cake when it comes to the best KISS solo record. There are some cheesy moments... but he is a member of KISS.
Miles Davis - Bitches Brew
Jazz is, was, and always will be a somewhat popular genre that the beginner collector will gravitate towards. Some collectors would suggest an entry level in post-bop (Coltrane, Mingus, Dolphy, etc.), but that era can tend to be a tough first listen concerning jazz. Bitches Brew is a milestone for avant garde / experimental jazz that all in all is an easy, fun first listen. It’s also a record you’ll keep around forever if you dig it the first time you hear it.
The Human League - Dare
Dare by the Human League is hands down one of the best records you will ever find in a dollar bin. The songs are classic and catchy, and since they sold millions of copies, you can easily snag one for a bargain. If you can’t party to this record, we can’t party together.
EQ: The record shop is a pretty universal phenomenon. What are some of your favorite record stores around the world?
JO: I learned much of what I know from frequent visits to the Princeton Record Exchange in Princeton, NJ. From the time I bought hair metal posters in the mid to late 80’s when they were in a closet on Nassau St., to my second round with them 18 or so years ago at their current location, Princeton has always amazed me with their volume and their prices.
Double Decker Records in Allentown, Pennsylvania is one of the best shops on the east coast and I’ve been shopping there happily since the late 90’s. It also helps that the owner, Jamie, is a very nice and knowledgable guy.
Academy Records in both Brooklyn and Manhattan has always done me right as well.
I’ve stood outside the Amoeba shops in California, but had an anxiety attack that prevented me from entering. I had to think about the things I might jeopardize by entering those cathedrals of music. I had to think about paying rent and eating food and how buying records for my personal collection wasn’t going to remedy my situation.
EQ: What do you see for the future of vinyl?
JO: I see a bright future for vinyl and I’m really impressed by how much love the hobby has been given. Collectors, show your friends why it’s so much fun. Parents, teach your children about records. If the love of music and vinyl continues to be shared, there will be no stopping the growing popularity of enjoying records. Spin the love!
Photography by Weston Wells