What’s Your Dumbest Vinyl Record Mistake?

Marc HenshallCulture & Industry19 Comments

This Christmas, I made a school-boy level error when listening to some records with the family…

Being the holiday season, we were enjoying a few drinks while sorting out the living room decorations. I have two turntable setups in my home (one in my office for uninterrupted listening, and another one in the living room to enjoy with the family). The latter is a much more relaxed setup that, due to space restrictions, doesn’t exactly adhere to all the usual Hi-Fi best-practice you’d expect for the best results.

One less than ideal element is the shelf directly above the deck, which on this occasion, proved to be fatal for the unlucky record spinning below…

There was a Christmas candle placed on the shelf, and you can probably see where this is going.

Yep. Smash. It fell off the shelf, hit the turntable below and rudely interrupted the festivities.

Doh!

Incredibly, the candle appeared to narrowly miss the cartridge, and I was lucky enough to get away without any costly stylus damage.

I was angry, to say the least, and I felt pretty stupid at the same time. Why didn’t I check the shelf before I started spinning!? We all make mistakes, of course, and it could’ve been worse. The record could’ve been rare, and my stylus could be completely destroyed.

The record in question was Santana Festival. The copy I had was nice, but it cost me under $10 and was easily replaced after a quick search on Discogs. I consider myself lucky I wasn’t playing a rare first pressing of any kind.

If anything, I take this as a gentle reminder of the perils of clutter near your deck (particularly anything above the turntable), and of course, the dangerous of drink-vinyling. Yep, I just made that last verb up – I’m coining it.

Over to you:

Many of us have stories of fatal errors while collecting and listening to vinyl records. It comes with the territory. If not, well, what can I say, you’re a better man than me. Let us know your story in the comments below; we can all commiserate together.

  • Terence says:

    I was enjoying the sound of my newly purchased Ortofon Quintet Bronze but, when lifting a record off the platter, the sponge mat came with it, then detached itself and slid across the underside of the cartridge. I looked, and looked again, but where the previously, delicate stylus resided there was now … nothing!!!
    Ouch, you might say.

  • Ross McEwan says:

    So my dumbest mistake only happened yesterday. I was playing a copy of “YES SONGS” which I purchased new in ’76 (or there abouts). When I put on the third record of the triple album the needle started jumping all over the place and the record itself looked really warped. As the record was clearly not playable and only fit for the bin I made a vain attempt at a rescue bid by flattening it with a hot iron, nothing gained? right? Of course it didn’t work and destroyed the record. When I played my next record the needle was jumping about again and the record again looked warped. At first I thought I had stored my records too near the radiator and ruined the lot. Panick stations set in until I realised that the counter weight had fallen off the arm cradle and was lying on the plinth. I was placing the records on top of the obstruction preventing them from lying flat. I felt stupid but relieved on behalf of my collection.

    • Oh no! That’s a great album too. I’ve fallen victim to the fallen counterweight before, but not on the platter itself – I just nearly had the stylus skate across the surface a couple of times until I noticed the weight wasn’t attached. I too am relieved for your collection. Did you find a replacement Yes Songs?

  • hurdy_gurdyman says:

    About 25 years ago I bought an anti-static carbon fiber mat to place on the platter. I put a brand new record on to try it out. After playing side A, I lifted the record up a bit and the anti-static clung to the bottom of the record, so I pulled it off. As the record pulled loose, a tiny lightning bolt arced from the mat to the record with a small zip noise. I then examined the record to find a tiny hole burned into the grooves of the next to the last song on side B. That hole would cause the stylus to keep in the same groove every time I played it. It was a hard to find record that I finally found another copy of 24 years later.
    Dave

  • Paul says:

    Ironically enough, I dropped a record as I was taking it off my Record Doctor V cleaning machine one time! It caught the corner of the machine (very sharp) and put a little nick in the record. Even more ironic was that I was stone cold sober. Happy New Year, Marc. All the best from San Francisco.

    • Oh boy! That’s a shame (and yep – ironic given you were in the process of restoring it). Happy New Year to you too. Let’s hope it’s a better one. Enjoy the music.

  • Stephen Baumann says:

    In the late 1970’s there was a fad for using a device like a Watts dustbug that tracked the record while dispensing fluid in the grooves. (Made by LENCO if I remember correctly.) When used correctly the result was less surface noise. Of course the fluid was expensive and difficult to get so we used distilled water when we ran out of “the good stuff”. Every one of those records, some of them now rare direct to discs, are so noisy they’re useless. Even those LPs that were played with the correct fluid are “difficult” to listen to even after cleaning with a variety of modern cleaning machines.

  • Jordan says:

    A couple of years ago I was gifted my sister’s vinyl record collection. A real mix of stuff from the 70’s – from first pressings of Bowie and Elton to Donna Summer, Hall & Oates, the Village People, Wings, Chicago and many others. Maybe about 100 records all in very used condition.

    I had them stored on the bottom shelf of a small IKEA unit while they waited to be cataloged and cleaned. On the shelf directly above I happened to have my record cleaning supplies. Most notably was a gallon of distilled water with some alcohol and Tergitol mixed in – my stash for the ultrasonic cleaner.

    A few weeks later I notice that the veneer on the front of the shelf until seemed to be peeling away. Then I notice that the plastic gallon container was EMPTY! Somehow the bottom of the gallon split open and leaked down onto the records below!

    Luckily only about half of her records were affected. All of the vinyl was safe, but I did lose a couple of covers and many others are permanently damaged. It could have been much worse but it was completely avoidable. I should have used the same logic I use in my kitchen pantry – dry goods up top, wet goods on the bottom.

    Lesson learned!

  • Paul Leonard says:

    Another Kind of Blues by UK Subs, on treasured blue vinyl, which i loved and played all the time when bought in 1979. Being diabetic i often inject insulin etc whilst listening to LPs. Last week I thought that I’d put it on for a listen but as I leant forward to place the arm on the run in groove I over stretched and, you’ve guessed it, managed to hand carve a perfect groove across the whole of side A. I nearly cried and swore a lot. My search for a replacement original has begun.

  • Sean Flynn says:

    I’m thankful that I don’t have a story to add but will take in all of the others as cautionary tales – you all have my sympathies.

  • Mike H. says:

    My faux pas was eerily similar to Marc’s, minus the candle.
    After feasting on a copy of the first J Geils Band LP a case of butterfingers — or more accurately buterrpPALMS — let slip the disc, which hit a corner of the cabinet on its’ way to the carpet. Now the first three cuts, from “Wait” to “Cruisin’ for a Love” are now toast.
    I can kick myself.

  • […] What’s Your Dumbest Vinyl Record Mistake? This Christmas, I made a school-boy level error when listening to some records with the family… Being the holiday season, we were enjoying a few drinks while sorting out the living room decorations. I have two turntable setups in my home (one in my office for uninterrupted listening, and another one in the living room to enjoy with the family). The latter is a much more relaxed setup that, due to space restrictions, doesn’t exactly adhere to all the usual Hi-Fi best-practice you’d expect for the best results. One less than ideal element is the shelf directly above the deck, which on this occasion, proved to be fatal for the unlucky record spinning below… There was a Christmas candle placed on the shelf, and you can probably see where this is going. Yep. Smash. It fell off the shelf, hit the turntable below and rudely interrupted the festivities. Doh! Incredibly, the candle appeared to narrowly miss the cartridge, and I was lucky enough to get away without any costly stylus damage. I was angry, to say the least, and I felt pretty stupid at the same time. Why didn’t I check the shelf before I started spinning!? We all make mistakes, of course, and it could’ve been worse. The record could’ve been rare, and my stylus could be completely destroyed. […]

  • Paul says:

    I was trying to put a record back in to it’s sleeve it missed it completely & it landed behind the table the TT was on thank god nothing bad happened to it., The 2nd was a put a new shelf up in my closet not think about the Verizon box that was in the closet well it warped 4 really good albums so I moved then over the the other closet

  • Daddysvinyl says:

    LOL! When I was a kid I was soooo excited about my new Go-Go’s album that I took it for show and tell…..on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year! I stopped on my way home to watch some other kids playing ball…..the record suffered for my dalliance. Luckily, it was just a sight warp, and did not affect playability. At least not that my immature ears could hear.

  • I left a crate of records in my car after a night of DJ’ing and the next day the hot Florida sun melted them. I still think about those tunes I lost!!