Serendipity plays a role in how Jay Jay French collects records

By Patrick Prince

Regardless if it is intentional, most collectors end up establishing personal guidelines that dictate what they’ll collect and how they build their collections.

Maybe they are Limiters, who collect within self-set limits of space, quantity, budget or quality. Perhaps the are Treasure Hunters, who frequent shows, thrift shops, tag sales and auctions in search of big-ticket records at general admission prices. Maybe they are Minimalists, whose collections are limited to specific artists, eras, record labels, genres or Mint-condition examples, or Completists who want to amass the largest collection they can, or Captain Ahabs who feel like they cannot rest until they capture all of the white whales on their want lists.

Jay Jay French Chuck Berry Chess record

This Check Berry Chess 10-inch record probably isn’t worth much on the collector market, but it means the world to Jay Jay French, who framed it as one of his prized sentimental items after someone accidentally sat on it. Photo by Patrick Prince.

Another thing most record collectors have in common? They love to hear about each others’ want lists, stereo equipment, favorite albums, and, of course, their collections.

Twisted Sister guitarist and record collector Jay Jay French sheds light on these topics.

HOW DOES HE DEFINE HIS COLLECTION?

French takes a serendipitous approach to how he adds to his record collection.

“I’m kind of this fatalist where if it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” he explained. “I don’t need to go out there and own everything. I’m not one of those guys. I’m really satisfied with what I’ve curated, because it kind of comes to me in certain ways. I don’t want to sound spiritually crazy about it. It’s the way it comes to me. And how it comes to me. I never really searched for any of this stuff. It is kind of like fate. And [then] I gotta hold it and look at it, and it’s got to hit my heart. If it comes that easy, then it’s not that much fun.”

“And I don’t care if there are a million other Beatles fans,” French concluded. “I don’t care what other people do. I am completely at peace with how I curate. I curate what I want.”

WHOSE RECORDS ARE ON HIS WANT LIST?

If French had a formal wish list, only one band’s records would be on it. “The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons” LP released on the Vee-Jay label in October 1964 tops the list. “I’d also like to get a copy of a Beatles 78 from India,” he adds, “if that exists. I love to see what that looks like — and not a reissue. I’d be really fascinated by that.”

Twisted Sister guitarist Jay Jay French's audio system. Patrick Prince photo.

Jay Jay French’s audio system has been a work in progress that began when he was 15. Patrick Prince photo.

WHAT’S HIS AUDIO SETUP?

French knows a great deal about audio systems. Between the time Twisted Sister broke up in 1987 and re-formed in 2001, French worked at the high-end audio showroom, Lyric HiFi, on New York City’s upper east side.

“My audio system is the evolution of a system that started when I was 15 years old,” he said. “I don’t want to sound obnoxious, but it’s not a very expensive system relative to what you can buy if you have a lot of money. Do I forever upgrade? I go through spurts. But my joke is, as I get deafer and deafer, will it matter anymore?”

Whatever you choose, French recommends that you choose your cables, cords and cleaners carefully to get the best possible experience. Here’s a peek at his current audio system and accessories (approximate retail value of $100,000):

Jay Jay French Twisted Sister record cleaner

A great audio experience starts with a clean record. Jay Jay French currently favors an Acoustech Electronics Limited record cleaner.

• Record Cleaning Machine: Acoustech Electronics Limited
• Turntable: VPI Super Scoutmaster with Rim Drive
• Cartridge: Dynavector DRT XV-1s
• Phono stage: ASR Basis Exclusive
• Pre-amp: Classe SSP-800
• Amplifier: Mark Levinson 532
• Speakers: Focal Diablo Utopia
• Speaker cables: Nordost Tyr 2
• Interconnect: Nordost Tyr 2
• AC Power Distribution: Nordost Q Base
• AC Power Cords: Nordost Norse 2 & Shunyata Research Viper

WHAT ARE HIS GO-TO LPS?  

French easily could list any Beatles album here, and admits there are really too many favorite records to mention. Here are a few vinyl LPs. Here are a few of his favorites:
• The Beatles, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” 1967 U.K. release, mono album on Parlophone (PMC 7027).
• Pink Floyd, “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn,” 1967 U.K. release, stereo album on Columbia (SCX 6157).
• The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Electric Ladyland,” 1972 Netherlands release on Polydor (2679 029).
• The Jimi Hendrix Experience, “Are You Experienced?,” 1973 Australian pressing, stereo album on Polydor (2486 034).
• Albert King, “Born Under a Bad Sign,” 1998 U.S. reissue on Sundazed Music (LP 5031).
• Neil Young, “Live At Massey Hall 1971,” 2007 Neil Young Archives Performance Series 03 on Reprise Records (43328-2). GM

Leave a Reply