I am a completist.
It’s an offshoot of being a record collector. and not life threatening, but being a completist is like being ill.
A completist has to own everything by a recording act or a label. That makes the completist vulnerable because of the weakness that is inherent.
There are those who will buy anything on, say, Motown, recorded between 1962 and 1967. They keep tabs on foreign releases because some countries release different songs as singles from the parent company. They also know about promotional singles that never made a stir beyond radio. They know what’s in the vaults and hasn’t been released. So far.
There are those who have to have anything on the Vertigo label, but not just any Vertigo release. They want the Vertigo swirl, which can be work as some records are very obscure or not very good, but are rare.
Also, label design tells the completist what year the desired record was released or whether it’s a first pressing or later. Very important.
Me? My urge has been curbed a little by several factors, or maybe I’m getting more practical. Maybe more critical.
I used to collect everything by Elvis Costello. For a time, he was everywhere – on compilations, on soundtracks, as a guest performer or as a producer. Then, Costello started to diversify as though needing to prove something. The results were variable and it got harder to get as enthusiastic as I once was.
Keeping up with Neil Young also has become difficult. He’s been so prolific that he has become almost impossible. I always seem to be one or two records behind and lately, when I do break down and buy, the record is not that good, more whimsical than substantial.
The completist in me can rise to a challenge, but there are limits. The late Lou Reed reached mine with an album he made with Metallica. He’d tested the boundaries with Metal Machine Music, Take No Prisoners and a few other records, but Lulu is awful. Hard to say what he wanted from Metallica but he didn’t get it. Similarly, if Metallica was expecting great songs that would expand its own boundaries, they were disappointed.
As a completist, I had to have it, of course, but was sufficiently alarmed that I knew I’d think twice before buying anything else.
I probably would, just as I have everything I know of by Love, Beach Boys, Byrds, Beau Brummels and many others.
Sometimes I suspect that bands, or their labels or management know this and exploit our vulnerability.
Fortunately, I’m not a big fan of either band as it seems every month there is a new release by Deep Purple or King Crimson that has been discovered in the archives and is aimed at the hapless fan.
Nonetheless, there are plenty of other “new” records by Little Feat, or The Rolling Stones or Bob Dylan, or REM to break the bank.
To be fair, it’s doubtful that the recording act has any control over many of them.
If I’m not mistaken, the copyright law that otherwise would prevent these releases has been relaxed. Suddenly, there is a whole bunch of “live” Little Feat records to make the completist wonder, how many performances of Tripe Face Boogie does the die hard fan have to hear.
The early Stones demos and BBC (and other media) appearances are now available along with several 70s-era live recordings. Knowing how guarded it can be, it’s likely The Stones had no say.
All this does give the completist choices. A few years ago, I had no choice. I simply had to own it all. Now, I’m feeling overwhelmed and have to decide what I want. Mortality has become a factor as has money. There are priorities and considerations .
Makes me wonder if the completist is complete.