A few months ago, I met through Facebook a one-of-a-kind guy called Vadim. Vadim was born in the 60’s in a country called Ukraine. At the time Ukraine was still a part of the USSR, and this country was everything but easy to live in. Vadim has a story and it’s an incredible one. He told me about his childhood, his record collection and about what it was like to live in his country in the last part of the 20th century. The story of his life is, for us who grew up in a “Free World”, something that we can’t even begin to understand.
This is the moving story of Vadim and his record collection…
Selling and collecting vinyl records in Ukraine in the 60’s
Back in the days, Ukraine was still a part of the USSR. In his childhood, the only records that crossed the border were brought by sailors and rare employees who used to work abroad. To the public, the majority of records from the Western World were prohibited. As a young boy, Vadim had to buy records on the black market while the very same albums were freely sold in record shops across Europe, USA, etc. By doing so, there was always a risk to get caught by the KGB. Buying records on the black market was also very expensive. In the 60s, for example, an album could cost half the salary of an average worker.
The USSR was dissolved in 1991, and since then it’s now possible to freely buy albums in record shops. As he explains, the choice in the albums is still very poor and to him that’s understandable. He started to collect records about 4 years ago and since in Ukraine the offer is not as good as ours, he has to buy his records through online shops such as Ebay, Discogs, etc., and from different countries like USA, Canada, Japan, Korea, Australia, Germany, Italy, England, Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, France…
For the last 4 years, he bought about 3500 records and spent a little bit more than $78 000 USD. He says that he envies the Free World because we are able to buy cheap records from people or secondhand shops for almost nothing. Even if it’s hard to get records, the “old love for good music” is still around! Today he is so proud of his record collection and very happy that his childhood dream finally came true!
As for his equipment (turntable, amp, speakers, etc), he bought stuff dated from the second half of the 70’s. At the time, he and his family couldn’t afford it. For example, in the 80’s, a reel to reel tape recorder Akai 646 was as expensive as a brand new car.
His youth as a guitar player
Vadim feels sorry that his country was denied a full access to the “World Culture” for so many years. For the past 4 years, he learned more about music and artists than in his entire life.
As a teenager, he always loved the music from the Free World! When he was 15/17 years old, he used to play guitar in a band at school. Of course, it was too expensive to buy an instrument, so the school lent them to him and his bandmates. They had the instruments, but they weren’t allowed to perform “foreign music”, strictly traditional music. He has been told that rock music was harmful to the human psyche. The school also showed them propaganda films from the concerts of the Beatles where young fans were happily shouting and crying tears of joy. Their leaders told them: “See! At these rock concerts, people get crazy!”. Then came the Disco Music. Once again, their leaders told them that the rhythm of the Disco Music was harmful to the heart rate and that it was better not to listen to.
To Vadim, it was absolute nonsense and didn’t believe it either. He remembers a time when every year in his city was held a band contest. With his band, they won 2 years in row. For the contests, his band used to sing political songs praising the Communist party, Lenin and other nonsense.
From that time, what he liked the most was when the doors of the school practice room were closed. It was then possible for him and his band to play songs by Deep Purple or the Beatles. He can’t remember any notes or even melodies of the political songs that he used to play 40 years ago, but what he does remember is the wonderful feeling of closing the doors and learning how to play “Girl” of The Beatles or “Smoke On the Water” by Deep Purple.
All of his life Vadim loved Rock music and listen to Disco. It’s only recently that he began to understand that Rock music has multiple styles. And he tries to have in his record collection a little bit of everything, a sort of sample of all the different styles.
Those days are long gone as he says. The USSR collapsed, Rock music lives on! As a conclusion he says: “Everything that is false and foolish is vanishing when sincere and valuable things are staying!”.
His record collection as a legacy
Now Vadim is really happy to listen to Sinatra, Climax Blues Band, Chicago, Chet Atkins, Black Sabbath, Bad Company, B.B. King, Alan Price, Aerosmith, Nirvana and many more. He is also glad that his children and grandchildren will not live in ignorance. They will live with the freedom of thought. As a legacy, he will leave his collection to his granddaughter.
The other day, Vadim thought of how many still sealed records he has, about 900. And 700 of them are an original copy. He always has a shaky hand when opens a record that has been sealed half century ago. To him, to listen to a vinyl record for the first time after a very long silence, it’s an event in itself. It’s like opening an old bottle of wine or whiskey.
So he started a tradition with his family. On each birthday of each member of his family, when they all gather around the table for the birthday celebrations, the person whose birthday is, has the right to choose a sealed record to open. He imagines that his granddaughter, at first, will choose anything from pop to dance music. And year after year, as her tastes in music will change, she will choose hard rock, metal, progressive rock records, etc. Just like his daughter, she now chooses prog rock, hard rock, jazz rock, and he is pretty sure, after many years, she will choose Blues music as he does. And he loves the Blues.
Lately, he picked his favourite album, sealed it and wrapped it in thick paper. He wrote on it: “To open on August 28th, 2062, birthday of your 100 years old great grandfather Vadim who started the family record collection. This is his favourite album. I’d like you to listen to it in my memory”. The album he picked will be about 100 years old too. Every member of his family will be able to choose too a “100th anniversary” album to be opened by their descendants.
How many of us still think of his grandfather or great grandfather on his 100th anniversary? How many of us still remember what we were listening to about a year ago? To Vadim, listening to a vinyl record with his family is associated with a particular event or memory. And if sometime, somewhere, on the radio, tv or with a friend, his granddaughter hears a particular song from a particular album, it will not only be a good music, it will be a part of his family history. And his granddaughter would probably say: “Yes, we listened to that song on my grandmother 60th birthday!”. And Vadim added: “This will be our story…”.
More infos on Vadim and his private record collection