Tuesday, November 4, 2008

TVD's 'You Dig!' | ...with Neal Becton of DC's Som Records

My name is Neal Becton and I'm a record digger.

I've been digging seriously since the late 1980's but when I opened my own used record store in 2003, I had to take my digging to the next level. I currently own Som Records at 1843 14th Street, NW in Washington, DC. If you're reading this blog then you probably already know what a digger is, but I will explain anyway:

A digger in record collector parlance is someone who constantly looks everywhere and at all times for new and interesting records. These records can be for DJing, sampling, playing at home, trading for other records, reselling, whatever.

Sitting at home a surfing e-bay and GEMM for records does not make you a digger. Going down to your local record store to buy the latest Belle and Sebastian LP does not make you a digger unless you have to go through EVERY record in that shop before you leave. Getting up before dawn on a cold winter's morning (after DJing the night before) to get to a flea market in West Virginia that may or may not even have records might make you a digger.

Slowing down whenever you see a yard sale and training your wife to spot record boxes at 35 miles per hour might make you a digger. Diving through DUSTY piles of ten foot vertical stacks of records in a shed in the back of "antique" mall in rural Florida while you battle heat and insects to find 2-3 good records might make you a digger. (OK, enough Jeff Foxworthy retreads, let's talk records...)

In this space I'll be featuring a new record every month. I will explain where and how I found that record and what that record is all about. Why I like it, why it's valuable or interesting, where I found it and how I found it. I'll also give you a brief history of the album (when possible) and give sound clips.

Sometimes people ask me in the shop "where do you find your records?" That is a question I would never answer completely. No true digger (no smart digger) would ever reveal all of his secret spots and contacts. "Just go down to the Goodwill on every second Tuesday of the month at 11:15AM. Knock twice on the back door and ask for Willie. He'll show you into the Blue Note storage room where you can grab an armload full for ten bucks."

In these days of e-bay hoarding and record flipping revealing all of my secrets would not be prudent. I can tell you that I shop for records at record stores, thrift stores, record shows, flea markets, estate sales, antique malls, online, in newspapers, at friend's houses, at relative's houses, at stranger's houses, in my own house, at book stores, church sales, library sales, bake sales, on the side of the road (really) and just about anywhere actually. My digging descriptions each month may not have ALL the details you want but will hopefully give you, the reader, an idea of how it all went down. To me there's nothing more exciting than finding a record that you've never heard of that's been collecting dust in someone's basement for over thirty years and being the first person to play that record since 1975. When that record happens to be great and/or valuable then you've struck digging gold. I better stop typing now, there are records out there that need to be found...

Thanks go out to Stefan Glerum for use of his illustration at the top of this post which will adorn Neal's monthly crate dispatches. Check out the rest of Stefan's amazing work here - and he's even got prints for sale!


SnowDove said...

I'm super excited to hear/see what you find! I'm just starting my collection but I want it to be my listening dream.

John Foster said...

This makes me giddy.

That is all.

chet baker sings said...

wow very cool..looking forward to it.. i'm pretty sure i am a digger..