Chris wants to collect every Belgian 7" single

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Collector of Belgian 7" singles (all styles-all languages). Want to have them all (now I possess 13852+ out of the 22600 that are published in Belgium and that I know of)

Stumbling upon this short sentence on the Discogs profile of Chris Vandenbroucke, I decided to pay this man with a plan a visit. Chris is one of the - fully crowd sourced - online database top contributors, having added more than 5000 records. His passion for collecting and systematizing appears to be the story of his life, looking back at a career of 40 years as a librarian, the first half between the books, the second half in the music section. After graduating as a master in Germanic languages, Chris started working at the Kortrijk library. He never left, but the end of this year marks the end of an era. Chris will retire from the job, but certainly not from his passion.

On the first floor of his house in Kuurne, West-Flanders, Chris welcomes me in his hobby room packed with vinyl records and music related artifacts. The whole of his Belgian 7” collection is stocked in there, next to a few favorite artists such as Prince or Talking Heads, his world travelling favorite Arno t-shirt, his audio equipment and last but not least quintessential databasing computer. “How much time do you spend in here”, I ask Chris pointing to the coffee machine near the door. “We have breakfast here every day”, he gets back. Not a bad place to start your day!

Chris has always been a collector. Before he was into records, he was an avid book enthusiast with the rather specific mission to accumulate every book with the name American writer Raymond Chandler written on. This American-British novelist only wrote seven books, but Chris made it his holy grail to hold a copy of every existing translation and edition. He gathered 1400 unique copies, but with the final 5% being too expensive, he put an end to his unique endeavour. “I see myself as a bit nuts, it’s not really healthy but I love it. Everywhere I go and everything I do is connected to my collecting rage. First I was always scouring for books, now it’s all about vinyl records.”

When his employer acquired about 18.000 LP’s and 16.000 singles from national Radio 2 West-Flanders back in 2004, Chris started to fall in love with the medium. He was in charge of importing the records into the library’s database and started to visit a charity shop in town on a weekly basis to dig for 7 inches. Not much later Chris and his wife started to frequent flea-markets, and his collection of records started to grow. He keeps his collection in long excel sheets on his computer, counting almost 14.000 pieces now. His current ambition? “I assembled a list of 24.000 Belgian 7 inches based on various sources, all released before 1993 when the cd started to take over. It’s important to limit the search in order not to completely lose myself. I also only do originals, never re-issues. And until so far I haven’t paid much more than 1 euro for any piece of black gold. All of them are alphabetically organised by the way. I doesn’t take me much time to find a record in here.”

It’s the Belgitude that attracts Chris most. An obscure orchestra from Erps-Kwerps, a forgotten punk band from Schaarbeek, … he sees his hobby room as a museum of Belgian musical heritage and culture. Soccer records, commercially branded sleeves, a Tour De France vinyl board game, Ever Meulen designed artwork, royal speeches or a special record of his favorite beer Duvel, it’s endlessly amusing to browse through Chris’ collection. From time to time he digitizes some obscure ones, in order to share with friends or on Youtube with the world wide web. Did he ever listen to every single record, I wonder. “No, not at all, there is too much rubbish music. I actually listen most to seventies rock like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple or Frank Zappa on my computer. I really collect to collect. After my retirement at the library, I would love to progress even more. But I’m under no illusion, I’ll never make it to the end, that’s just impossible.” 

Want to contact Chris?  vinylatbelgium @ gmail.com

Words & pictures: Koen Galle