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Hackney's Home Visits: Monkee Man

David Miller's record room contained some 13,000 vinyl LP's, until they began to come through the ceiling

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by David Hackney, for outsideleft.com
originally published: October, 2005
Miller has a Duane Eddy LP playing now. It's the first thing I've recognized. I ask him if he thinks he is obsessed.
by David Hackney, for outsideleft.com
originally published: October, 2005
Miller has a Duane Eddy LP playing now. It's the first thing I've recognized. I ask him if he thinks he is obsessed.

David Miller shows me through into a small extension at the very back of the house. This is his record room, home to more than 13,000 vinyl LPs. The records used to be kept upstairs, in what is now the guest bedroom, but one night, while his wife was watching television, a few flakes of paint and a tiny spot of plaster landed in her lap. When she looked up she noticed that the ceiling was cracking and beginning to bow.
"She came rushing up the stairs and she was shouting 'David, David - you're coming through the floor!' " laughs Miller, "I don't know what it was that did it. I hadn't even bought any new records that day"

With his collection threatening structural damage, Miller relocated downstairs. Even though it's a bright afternoon the room is dingy. Shelves of records cover all four walls and obscure all but the very top of the window. It's claustrophobic and cramped, as though one room has been built inside another with the walls made out of LPs. There is just enough room for our two chairs.

I ask Miller when he started buying records.

"The first records I owned were my grandfathers, mostly light classical, Mario Lanza, brass bands that kind of thing. I think the first record I ever bought for myself was Two Little Boys by Rolf Harris. I still have it somewhere. I still have all of my records. I've never sold any of them"

Miller's record collection is large. Other than those of professional DJs there can't be many more extensive collections in England. But it's certainly not the most valuable. Of course there will be rare records here. By the law of averages a handful of these discs will inevitably be highly prized collector's items while others will fluctuate in value as they briefly blossom into fashion and then wilt back into obscurity. But Miller's record buying passion is not fuelled by monetary value. I get the idea that quantity is as important as quality.

"I've never paid more than a couple of pounds for a record. And I'm not too bothered about the condition. As long as it plays." As he talks he has a handful of discs that he's juggling from shelf to sleeve to deck. Playing no more than 30 seconds of each. Bouncing the stylus down onto the vinyl, letting it pop and splutter before whipping it off and laying down another record. It's something that I've noticed a lot of collectors do. It's as if there are so many records needing to be heard that there's not enough time to actually listen to any of them.

"The most records I have ever bought in one go was a 1000. That was at a car boot near Rye. The weather was so bad that the sellers were packing up to go home before they'd even unloaded. I saw these boxes of records in the back of this car and I just offered the lady £100 and she took it. There were some good ones. Some rubbish too!"

Miller has a Duane Eddy LP playing now. It's the first thing I've recognized. I ask him if he thinks he is obsessed.

"I don't know. I don't like the word obsessed. It makes it seem like buying records is an odd thing to do. There is one thing that people find a little strange though"

He slides a wooden box out from under the record deck and flicks through the records inside. I can see that every album is the same. The entire box is filled with copies of the first Monkees LP.

"This is my all time favourite album. Every time I see it I buy it. I have dozens of copies. I love having them. In any condition. I love it when it's obviously been played a lot and it crackles and hisses. Not trashed. Not used as a Frisbee. Just enjoyed"

He takes an album from the box and replaces the Duane Eddy disc. The Monkees TV theme song kicks in and Miller smiles.

"I like to imagine how the previous owner felt when he listened to the record. How it was when the record was put on the turntable for the first time. It's the same with all the records but especially with these ones. I love the fingerprints on the vinyl, people's names on the sleeve, the spindle marks around the hole. I just love them. They're all the same but they're all different. They can take you back to the 1960s even if you're not old enough to really remember them. For me, the records are like time machines."

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