Digging up nostalgia, dust, and sexy Santa at the VFW record swap

by Amanda Push

“Are you looking for the record swap?” a patient staffer at the Veterans of Foreign Wars asks us, likely prompted by the look of confusion slapped across our faces as we make our way through the thrift store at the VFW.

We nod, relieved that we won’t be wandering helplessly about much longer. She points us in the right direction of the record swap, sponsored by the Four Corners Vinyl Record Club. In the upper level of the VFW building is a treasure trove filled with snapshots from another time, a time when you could hold your favorite artist in your hands, when album sleeves were an awe-inspiring piece of art, not just a photo slapped on the cover. Elton John croons in the background as our guide as we launch ourselves into the hunt.

We’re here this Saturday afternoon to flip our fingers over the dusty texture of nostalgia: records from genres that range from classic rock, soul, and punk rock to what some may refer to as the most annoying pop groups of the ’70s and early ’80s. We soon find ourselves squealing in delight over the 1979 “Voulez-Vous” album from ABBA. (Please stop your eye-rolling).

There are endless boxes to be rifled through, and vendors are eager to talk records. There’s the More Music Store booth, a new buy, sell, trade vinyl records shop in Pagosa Springs, which we learn just opened a few weeks ago. There’s also Gregg, a private collector who decided after decades of amassing a massive collection of vinyl and music memorabilia that it is time to share his finds with the rest of us.

Sensing our enthusiasm, Gregg demonstrates how collecting records can, in many ways, be like piecing together a puzzle. Literally. What he means is that there are collections that, when pieced together, create art. If all nine covers of The Capitol Disc Jockey Christmas Albums, released in 1969 by Capitol Records, are put together, it reveals a very regal-looking Santa Claus smoking a cigar amongst a gaggle of sexily clad women. The ultimate record puzzle.

“It makes collecting records fun,” Gregg says, as holding up two of the covers for us.

We are stoked to come also across vinyls from Styx, Stevie Nicks, Pink Floyd, Cher, Jethro Tull, Madonna, and Jefferson Starship, too. We drool over a 1969 Led Zeppelin album, which we respectfully place on top of the bin, and it is almost immediately snatched up by a fellow shopper, who’s balancing an ever-growing stack of vinyl in his arms. We return to ask a different vendor about a Pink Floyd album we’d seen earlier, only to find out that it was been purchased it mere seconds before we returned. At this record swap, it is every music lover for themselves, it seems.

By the time we leave, our hands are covered in dust and grime, but our spirits are full in only the way that seeing and hearing your favorite musicians on vinyl can make you feel. Durango may have just lost its only music store, but it’s clear we still have a love for nostalgia and wax…and Pink Floyd albums.

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