Hollywood writer and producer Alan Swyer with some of his vintage vinyl, including Ike & Tina Turner, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Ray Charles, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Jaques Brel and the Velvet Underground.
Film makers often take their viewers to far away islands, back to the future and, perhaps, to see what life would be like if we were visited by aliens. Helping our imaginations run wild is their 9-to-5, so I couldn’t help but wonder what they do to “check out” of their own reality.
I caught up with Alan Swyer, writer and producer of films such as “The Buddy Holly Story,” HBO’s award-winning “Rebound” and the TV series everyone loved to drool over, “Baywatch.” He explained to me how he often takes a walk down memory lane, one song at a time . . .
RH: Working as a film producer, I was surprised you weren’t a collector of vintage Hollywood. How did you become interested in collecting vinyl?
SWYER: Interestingly, I never actually thought of myself as a collector, since initially I was buying records simply because I loved them. And in the days before downloads, owning something was the only way to be sure they could be heard on a “whenever the spirit moves you” basis. And to me, to be able to hear early Ray Charles or Thelonious Monk or Jacques Brel—not to mention Solomon Burke, Billie Holiday, Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Nina Simone or Sonny Rollins—whenever I’m in need is far more important than having vintage movie posters or some other piece of nostalgia.
RH: Where have you found to be some of the best places to find vintage vinyl?
SWYER: Since once-upon-a-time there was no sense that vinyl would one day disappear—or be worth something—I used to find amazing stuff in the “cut out” or discounted bins at record stores (when there was such a thing). Later, the best source was thrift shops, particularly in what’s now known as the “Inner City.” And those places always have occupied a special place for me, having grown up in Newark, then Elizabeth, New Jersey.
RH: Is there a proper way to store vinyl? Can it become damaged if not stored properly?
SWYER: Vinyl should be stored in a sleeve, standing up, in a place with cool temperatures.
RH: How many albums do you have in your collection?
Swyer says he didn’t set out to collect vintage records. He was just looking to records so he could listen to his favorite artists. The collection grew around him.
SWYER: More than a normal or sane person would allow!
RH: Only a diehard collector can appreciate that! Do you have a favorite piece in your collection?
SWYER: In one sense, my favorite is “At Home with Screamin’ Jay Hawkins” because it’s one that my friend Michael Ochs—who claimed his collection was definitive—didn’t have. But then there’s Ray Charles “Ingredients in a Recipe for Soul,” which carried me through some tough times.
And “Jaques Brel ’67,” which has the great “La Chanson Des Vieux Amants.” The copy of “Ike & Tina’s Greatest Hits,” which Ike inscribed for my two sons, is very special. I also have the original “Velvet Underground & Nico” produced by Andy Warhol. Finally, I still have the first album I ever bought; “Elvis” from 1956.
RH: Is there a rare item you have been wanting to add to your collection but have yet to find it?
SWYER: Like every other lover of jazz, I’d give anything to find any recording at all of Buddy Bolden!
Maybe one of our readers knows of a historic and hidden Bolden track that might be reviled just for you, Alan. Thanks so much for talking to us!
Alan Swyer is wrapping up his latest documentary about how boxing becoming a Latin-dominated sport. For more information, visit the “El Boxeo The Movie” website. Also, watch for a new reality series about Marine wives that will premier soon. Stay tuned!
Reyne Haines is an appraiser with an expertise in 20th Century Decorative Arts. She hosts “The Art of Collecting” on KPRC in Houston, a weekly program spotlighting trends and news items in the world of antiques & collectibles, is a repeat guest on CBS’ “The Early Show” and can be heard on Martha Stewart Living Radio on Sirius Satellite Radio Network. She is also the author of the richly-illustrated book “Vintage Watches” published by Krause.
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