Music, vinyl and me: Louis Theroux

You’ll know all about his fantastic documentaries. And, no doubt, about his way of finding the humanity in whatever subject he confronts. But what about his taste in music? We have a chat with Mr Louis Theroux to try and find out…


Hi Louis! So, tell us, what type of record collector are you?
The lapsed kind. Since having kids my vinyl buying has become sporadic, verging on non-existent.

But what do you like about vinyl?
I love almost everything about it – the physicality of the object, its weight and smell, the information it contains in the form of inserts and sleeve notes. I like putting on a record; I enjoy the grit and richness of the sound. The only issue is how much space it takes up. Although, having to get up and take records off and on, and put them back in the sleeve – I’m a terrible one for having multiple records lying around, outside their sleeves and in disarray.

Do you remember the first record you owned? If memory serves, the first vinyl I owned – not counting singles – was a copy of Twice As Kool, a double album of the best of Kool and the Gang. My parents gave it to me as a birthday present. I think the first album I went out and bought was Dig the New Breed, a Jam live album. I got it at WH Smith in Putney.

Twice as Kool_Kool and The Gang Roy Ayers_Mystic Voyage

Are there any records you feel smug to own a copy of?
I own a Roy Ayers album – called Mystic Voyage – which I bought in 1990 at a secondhand shop in rural Vermont for one dollar. A few years later, I saw a copy in New York going for a hundred dollars. Woot-woot!!

Are there any records you’d love to own?
Well, there are many, but one is Here My Dear by Marvin Gaye. His divorce album. I saw a copy of it once – a friend had it and, seeing how impressed I was, he tried to give it to me. He wasn’t a collector, and I’m not sure why he owned it. I couldn’t take it from him, though. I wasn’t sure he knew what he was giving away. I’d also love to own any of Nick Drake’s albums. But I wouldn’t want to pay top dollar for them. For me, most of the pleasure is finding treasures in unlikely places – car-boot sales and yard sales.

Joe Exotic
2016 Presidential candidate Joe Exotic hangs out with one of his pet tigers

On your travels, have you come across any vinyl freaks? Or avid collectors of anything else, maybe?
Most of the vinyl-hunters I know of have been peers in the TV industry. A friend who worked with Mark Lamar, years ago, told me he is an obsessive – or maybe I should say “dedicated” – vinyl collector. Apparently, when he is in a new town or city in America, he seeks out out-of-the-way thrift shops and second-hand stores to comb them for records. I also understand Stewart Lee has a big vinyl collection. I suspect Dave Gorman probably collects records too – that’s based on nothing other than instinct. Vinyl and a certain kind of comedian seem to go together.

As for other collectors – I did a story called America’s Most Dangerous Pets and met a man called Joe Exotic (pictured above). He had something like two hundred tigers, but he didn’t really collect them. They were a by-product of his attempts to make money by offering photos with tiger cubs. At the other end of the extreme, Chris Eubank’s wife (now ex-wife) used to collect antique biscuit tins.

Louis gets a feel for prison life in his BBC documentary By Reason of Insanity

Is there any music that takes you back? Supergrass’ I Should Coco is a big album for us, for example…
I Should Coco was a big album for me, too! It takes me back to my first place in New York; a studio apartment on West 21st Street. The first party I went to – which felt something like an initiation into a different life stage (involving girls and possibly alcohol) – was in 1982 and I was 12 years old. Grand Master Flash’s ‘The Message’ was playing on repeat. I’d never heard anything like it.

I should coco
Supergrass, I Should Coco

Also, the first time I listened to a Walkman, which belonged to a friend, it played ‘Heart of Glass’ by Blondie, and I’ll never forget the majestic power of the song and the weirdness of knowing the other people in the room couldn’t hear it. Certain hip hop songs take me back to when I was leaving school – ‘Paid in Full’ by Eric B and Rakim, especially. At my wedding, we did our first dance to ‘In Dreams’ by Roy Orbison.

Nearly done: tell us your all-time top-five albums…

Marvin Gaye – I Want You


Beck – Mutations


Joni Mitchell – Blue


Neutral Milk Hotel – In an Airplane Over the Sea


Arctic Monkeys – AM


That’s today; it could be a different five records tomorrow.

Finally, what have you got planned for the rest of 2017?
I’ve got a three-part series about crime in America coming up on BBC2. I’m also starting to think about what my next documentary feature might be. But that’s a longer-term project…

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock for the last 20 years, click this link and visit Louis’ website to find out more about his incredible series of documentary films.

In the meantime, if you want to get yourself signed up to Stylus and get access to more great content like this, and receive ‘classic’ albums on vinyl, to your door, just follow this link to find out a little more about what we do!

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