Not long ago, while trawling YouTube, I discovered the music of Slade, a band that dates back to the late ’60s and yet somehow I’d never heard of them. Absolutely floored by their tunes, I consulted with Bill Lepack, a fellow who lives in Livermore and who I consider an expert on music, the obscure and popular. What do you know, I asked him, about a band called Slade from way back.

Bill Lepack Submitted photo

I thought maybe I’d slumped him, but no. Within minutes, Lepack had responded with photos of not one, not two, but three Slade albums in his possession. Along with that he sent a list of Slade songs, some trivia about the band and recommendations for some ’70s-era bands that I might also like.

It turns out that Lepack has thousands of old-school albums in his collection, so stumping him about anything musical isn’t easy. I finally figured I’d quit trying to do that and just ask him some questions about his collection, instead. While he fired off his answers, Slade’s “Mama, Weer All Crazy Now” thumped in the background.

It seemed fitting enough.

What was your very first album? My first records were 45s given to me by a friend of my mom’s. We lived in Oakland, California, in the late ’60s and that era is mostly what I collect. My first 45s were “They’re Coming To Take Me Away” by Napoleon XIV. The other side of the record was the same song backwards, and “Snoopy Vs. The Red Baron,” both in 1966.

By 10 years old I had about 150 or more 45s. I let a friend talk me into using them for Frisbees off of our balcony in the apartment building we lived in. I sure regret that. There was a LOT of good music destroyed. We moved to Maine in 1970 and a girl I went to school with asked me to join her record club so she could get a few free albums. I did the “13 RECORDS FOR A PENNY!” deal (offered then by a record publisher) and the first albums were “Aquarius” by The Fifth Dimension, “Disraeli Gears” by Cream, “Aftermath” by the Stones, and a bunch of filler albums. After that, I kept all the albums they sent and never paid. They kept sending, I kept keeping. After a year of threatening letters, I never heard another word. So, in my enterprising young mind, I thought the best bet was to rejoin. They accepted my penny and we started all over again. My mom dated a disc jockey for a while. We visited his apartment and it was wall to wall with albums. He told me to take a few hundred and I did. I also did it the legitimate way and spent real money on a few from K-Mart, Woolco’s, W.T. Grant’s, Rich’s, Viner’s in downtown Bangor, most stores had at least a few albums. I bought hundreds of used albums from Bob Richards of The Record Connection in Waterville. We are good friends to this day. Excellent place to buy albums.

Bill Lepack’s stereo system. Courtesy of Bill Lepack

How many do you have now do you reckon? I believe I have over 2,000 albums, but I’ve never counted them all. I put them in plastic sleeves to protect the covers. Albums used to come with posters, cards and goodies, and if I have the album, it probably has the inserts, although some are extremely hard to find. (Zappa’s “Freak Out” album with the official “Freak Map.” I don’t have the map). Speaking of Zappa, I have most of his releases, over 60 albums. If I like a group, I try to collect all their albums. Canned Heat, Guess Who, Cream, Blue Cheer, ZZ Top, Willie Nelson, The Who, Steppenwolf, I can go on and on.

Where do you get all the albums? Lately, I look in Goodwill for albums, but that is a crap shoot at best. I still go to Bob’s when I’m in the area. I used to hit the record shows, but I’ve been priced out of the game. I don’t buy online yet. The prices are ridiculous for the new re-issues so I skip those.

On what do you play your records? I bought a Pioneer receiver, a Technics turntable and a pair of Sansui speakers from Value House in 1973, and I still own all of them. I added a Realistic graphic equalizer from Radio Shack in 1975 and a Teac cassette deck. The cassette deck was a great addition once I got my license and a car. I made my own 90-minute tapes and cranked hell out of the sound system I put in my car, a 1972 Cutlass Supreme. I installed 12-inch speakers in the deck lid and Pioneer tune-up speakers that sat on the dashboard.

Bill Lepack’s album collection. Courtesy of Bill Lepack

The cassette player eventually died and I replaced it with twin Onkyo cassette decks so that I could record tape to tape. In 1988 or so I bought a five-disc CD changer when that technology came around.

Do you have a favorite record? I can name a few favorites: Pink Floyd “Dark Side Of The Moon,” Jethro Tull “Benefit,” Frank Zappa “Apostrophe,” ZZ Top “Tres Hombres,” Led Zep “3,” “ZOSO,” “Physical Graffiti,” Beatles “Revolver,” “Rubber Soul,” “White Album,” I can go on and on. All the usual suspects.

Do you prefer the sound of vinyl over other forms? I don’t really like calling them “vinyl.” They will always be “‘albums” to me. I don’t prefer any format over another. I started collecting CDs for a while. I probably have 200 CDs, but downloading became my listening choice due to the convenience of random playability. I mostly listen to my phone with an SD card. My son bought me a JBL bluetooth speaker for Christmas a couple of years ago and I use that outside quite a bit. (Thanks, Trevor!) I can also hook the phone up to the stereo to listen in the house. I mostly built my home, so while building I ran speaker wires to different rooms as well as speakers outside, over our deck.

What do you do when you’re not spinning tunes? I enjoy fishing, flying my drone, playing guitar, building plastic model kits, gardening, four wheeling, snowmobiling, terrorizing squirrels and Pabst Blue Ribbon. My sign is Taurus and no, I don’t kiss on a first date. All right, that’s a lie.


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