NOTED ROCK MEMORABILIA COLLECTOR DAVID SWARTZ OPENS HIS VINTAGE VINYL VAULT
By Eric Grubbs
For David Swartz, it started with the Who. Then it became about the why.
Besides making him a lifelong fan of the band, hearing the Who’s 1971 album Who’s Next for the first time sent Swartz on a journey that has resulted in one of the greatest record collections in the world.
Over the past three decades, the New York-based collector has amassed thousands of pieces of music memorabilia, including a trove of vintage concert posters and a jaw-dropping assortment of rare records. The treasures in Swartz’s vinyl collection run the gamut from white label promo copies meant only for radio station DJs to limited-run pressings on colored vinyl, with records by the likes of the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and a festival’s worth of other music luminaries.
But the Who is who started it all.
“The music of the Who resonated with me with their visceral sound,” Swartz says, “which was balanced with lyrics that connected with the daily struggles of youth of the time, but that are timeless.”
Growing up in Andover, Mass., about 30 miles from Boston, Swartz would spend hours scouring the used record stores of Harvard Square, looking for the Who’s live records or collections of unreleased studio material (official or bootleg, it didn’t matter). He later branched out to other artists and other genres, adding rare R&B and jazz records to his growing rock ’n’ roll library.
This month, Swartz will give other music lovers a chance to enhance their collections when he opens his vintage vinyl vault for a two-day event at Heritage Auctions.
The March 12-13 David Swartz Vintage Vinyl Collection Entertainment & Music Memorabilia Signature® Auction features 365 items from Swartz’s impressive collection. In addition to rare recordings by Bob Dylan, the Beatles and other headliners, auction highlights include the original, uncensored version of David Bowie’s Diamond Dogs from 1974, the controversial artwork sleeve proof originally made for the Rolling Stones’ 1968 “Street Fighting Man” single and an ultra-rare copy of the 1962 Tony Sheridan and the Beatles 7-inch “My Bonnie” single.
And, of course, there are plenty of recordings by the band that first took hold of Swartz’s eighth-grade soul and never let go, including four of the Who’s rare Japanese-only LPs: I’m a Boy, Sell Out, My Generation and Exciting.
“In all my years of buying, selling, trading and consigning vinyl, I have never seen such a diverse amount of rare vinyl,” says Garry Shrum, Heritage Auctions’ Director of Entertainment & Music Memorabilia. “Some of these items I’ve only seen once at record shows behind glass cases. My mind was blown when I saw all of these records in David’s collection.”
Even better, as Shrum notes, these decades-old records remain in pristine condition.
For Swartz, even though he is letting go of a few hundred of his treasures, the hunt continues. “I’m still trying to get a complete set of the Who’s singles from Japan in promo form and a copy of ‘My Generation’ with an obi [strip], also from Japan,” he says. “For memorabilia, finding a 1960s Rickenbacker formerly owned and played by Pete Townshend would be a holy grail item.”
ERIC GRUBBS is a pop music cataloger at Heritage Auctions.