Do talk to strangers

Exactly four meters below me, there are two piles of LPs, sitting on a shelf in our basement. If the floor of my office suddenly opened up, so that I’d fall straight down, and then through our hallway floor as well, I’d land on a photo of three dogs in the backseat of a limousine.

Those two piles of vinyl were a big part of t my teen years, which were my most active music listening years, and what seem to have defined my musical taste for the rest of my life. Every once in a while, when I go downstairs to look for something, I stop to look at my old records, and my old turntable sitting next to them in a plastic bag. Every time, I realize that I have most of those LPs also in other formats: First CDs, and then those imported onto my laptop as mp3s, and now somewhere in a Spotify cloud, as “The Only Playlist You’ll Ever Need”.

(That, in a word, is pathetic).


I think the last new band that I discovered was The Feeling, a fantastic British pop group, that was recommended to me by a Virgin Megastore employee in London five years ago. I went in, not looking for anything particular, but because when I go shopping, I always go to book stores, sports stores, and record stores.

These days, even with the Internet’s infinite opportunities, I find it hard to find new music by accident. Or on purpose. This year, I even made a New Year’s resolution to look for new music, so I’ve tried. I’ve searched for The Feeling on Spotify, and then hopped from one related artist to another, but I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.

Yesterday, I was walking up Sveavägen, the main street in downtown Stockholm, listening to hockey podcasts – another reason why I don’t find any new bands – when I suddenly saw a pile of old Donald Duck comics for sale. I grabbed a few for Son, and went inside to pay.

Behind the counter, there was a gray-haired man, maybe in his 60s, wearing a black winter jacket.

“Hello, I’d like to pay for these comics,” I said, and put my six magazines on the counter that was made of a desk and several huge piles of books.

“Sure, sure,” he said, and pulled up a small notebook and a pencil. He then examined each comic book, and wrote down the issue number and year.

“These are from the 1970s,” he noted.

“Really? True classics,” I said, and was reminded how I, in the 1970s, was thrilled to find boxes of 1950s Donald Duck comics under the bed at a friends’ cottage.

I told that to the man behind the counter. He smiled, and when he was finished with writing, I gave him 40 kronor and he gave me two five-krona coins back. Just as he dropped them in my hand, he said:

“You wouldn’t wanna buy a record? Half price. Ten kronor.”

I looked up, and I looked around, and that’s when I realized that the small store was packed with plastic boxes that were packed with records so that there were just two narrow alleyways from the door, and the counter, to the back of the room where a 1940s radio/turntable was standing.

“That’s, uh, quite a few records you have here,” I said, gesturing to the general direction of his collection.

“This is just a third of what I have. I have a back room there, and a lot of stuff in storage,” he said. Then he came out from behind the counter.

“What kind of music do you like?” he said.

“Well, you know, basic … 80s rock, I guess. But you know, I don’t even have a turntable anymore,” I said, and just as I said that, I saw his face turn a little sad, so I added:

“Or, actually, I do have one, but I think the needle’s gone.”

He opened the door and walked out, and told me to follow him. I was still holding the two 5-krona coins in my hand.

“See here, see if there’s anything interesting here,” he said, and pointed to one of the boxes.

And I did. And I saw old singles from the 1980s, some 1970s Swedish bands, some records with no cover, and some Christmas albums. And then I saw some old singles, some Peter Gabriel, some 1970s Swedish bands, some records with no cover, and some Christmas albums, because I was now going through the albums a second time.

I had made up my mind. I was going to buy a vinyl record. An LP. Why not? When was the last time I had bought a vinyl anyway? It was going to be a fun thing to do, but I didn’t want to buy just any old – old – record. I was going to buy something that I might like.

So, no Swedish 1970s bands, or Christmas albums. No Culture Club, no T’Pau, and no Bucks Fizz.

My fingers were dancing on the records, going through them one by one. Finally they stopped, and I pulled up an album. I flipped it over, the way I used to do, and I showed it to the owner of the store.

“I’ll take this,” I said.

“Excellent, excellent,” he said, and walked in.

I followed him in, and put the album on the counter, so that he could write the name and the year in his notebook. Then I handed him the coins back.

He put them in his pocket, and then, carefully, slipped the album inside a white, plastic bag.

“Here you go. Hope that turntable still works,” he said.

“You know what? I think it does, actually,” I said, and proudly walked out with my new album, Rick Springfield’s “Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet”.

It went platinum in 1982. And today, it went to the top of the pile in our basement.

I already had the mp3.

How does that make you feel?