Wednesday, January 27, 2010


'Is it a spiral or a spaceship label?'

'I went to school with Graham Bond, he was a nice chap...yes that's right threw himself under a train at Finsbury Park tube station.'

'I fucking hate you!... I am not a rich man, I live above a hairdressers, here six hundred quid, now give me the fucking record. Thankyou.'

'I have one of the best 'Apple' label collections in the world and I have an acetate of 'Freak Out'... nearly.'

It's official, it would appear that as test subject 1.b so eloquently put it, we truly are all 'cunts'.

On Saturday I spent my morning in the company of men, the likes of whom would no doubt crack old peoples skulls for the right record. Fusty, broken and bent middle aged men who dream of spinning black circles and A.1/B.1 matrix numbers, men who live with their parents, waiting for them to die so that they can turn the family home into more records and downsize. And what's funny is I say this as if I am any different, somehow better. Okay, I don't live at home and I wouldn't wantonly wound or maim anybody for any record...

............STATIC ...........

Okay, that's a much tougher question than I had anticipated it being, I need to park it for now, take it 'off-line' and address it at some point in the near future when I am feeling substantially less 'needy'. Anyway, back to my point, the point I was making when I realized I might consider the life of a vinyl mercenary. I read this back and I sound like I somehow believe that I am better than these trainspotters just because I am at least partially self-aware. Truth is I am here with them, admittedly no, not for the 8.30 'early bird catches the worm' entry but I am there non the less. If I wasn't so helplessly consumed by my obsession right now this would be a downright tawdry place to be, miserable beyond belief. All unpleasant odors and wax jacket and tracksuit pant combinations, sausage-roll snacks and sugar-heavy soft drinks. The entire thing is vinly indigestion, a giant cultural belch. A big fat record burp that smells of the night before, of stale beer, crisps (potato chips) and whatever microwave meal... But it also smells of something else, beneath the initial pungent stench is a very different odor, that of shellac, of the dynaflex, of the carefully stored Garrard Lofthouse card board flip-back sleeve.

Before I move on I feel the need to squeeze out one last 'comparison'. It's like finally coming across a desert oasis, fresh water, palm trees and all only to find it full of dirty hippos, shitting in the water and talking about 'unpeeled Butcher sleeves'.

Fuck it, I am thirsty, I have been walking for days, I dive in and resist as I might, I turn into a hippo.

I actually refrain from talking at these gatherings as much as possible, not just because I am particularly anti-social but because I can never think of anything to say. Too many records, brain focuses all efforts on speeding fingers, cataloguing images with mind...words too difficult bar the occasional 'I'll take those please'.

I stop for a Coke break, for I have fallen slave once again to the mighty caffeine. Merely months ago I had been drug free for almost six years. I deliberately choose a table across from two happy and harmless looking types. Were it not for the encyclopedic babble being spewed from their occasionally foaming mouths I would have had them pinned as 'day release' patients: Both in grey anoraks, v-neck jumpers and brown shoes topped with pleat-front courds. I am guessing at the finer details of the trousers - they are sitting down.

Between them they have two very deep cardboard 7" record mailers, each designed to carry about 100 singles. Inside, what looked to be every single single the Rolling Stones had ever released.

'I seem to remember getting this one off you, yes that's right, Argentinian picture sleeve... lovely... Never played.'

I am caught staring open mouthed, part in adoration and part in wonder at where they live and how. With the hiss of my Coke bottle I get back to my lonely purchase - A mono UK press of Love 'Forever Changes'. Not something I thought I would have in my hands when I woke up this morning and a bargain at 40 quid. As the day goes on this bag will get heavier, eventually multiplying into three gaudy yellow plastic carriers each with the VIP record fair logo and show dates printed on. Eventually they will be flanked by the kind of guilt at over-spending that I try to reserve for particularly well reviewed restaurants.

Now the face of record fairs in the UK has changed a lot since last time I partook. For one the Japanese are gone, no doubt the fair isle of Nippon finally sank under the weight of all the vinyl pillaged from the US and Europe throughout the 90's - Can't say it doesn't serve them right greedy fuckers. Where are you now Tetsuo? What's that? Trade me a water-damaged Mono 'Village Green Preservation Society' for a life preserver? Not this time pal.

The rest of Europe however is here in force taking advantave of a weak currency and air-fairs that cost less than a tank of petrol. Also the prices have gone through the roof - In some cases two zero's added to previous mark ups. Much as I would like a copy I am not about to spend 1250 pounds on Vashti Bunyan's 'Just Another Diamond Day' even if it is 'minty'.

....You do know that 'Minty' isn't actually a word dont you? Unless of course you are referring to the taste of something. It's 'Mint' you fucking moron. You are as bad as the youth who pluralise 'Vinyl' adding an unwanted 'S' to the end.

The second half of my trip down the rabbit hole sees me suck up a very pleasing array of spiritual jazz and rock staples, one dealer in particular is massively helpful. He is selling off a few of his records due to space related issues. Christ only knows how many he has at home. I cruise the remaining stalls aghast at some of the prices, yes these are rare records, but unless you only come here for bragging rights and a hard-on shaped like a Wings 'Back to the Egg' picture disc then really, what's the point?

I also stop by the only store to have multiple copies of the one record I really wanted to come away with Fairport Convention's 'Unhalfbricking' - car boot sale fodder not ten years ago and now touching three digits for a decent first press. I examine all three different versions of the record. Exactly when did EX start meaning Good Plus? I heard this guy banging on about the importance of grading not an hour ago. Would love to see what one of his 'Mint' records looks like... 'Minty' probably.

So, finances at an end and buckling arms I bid a sub-concious farewell to my fellow hopeless chiselers and leaving them to their trestle tables and over-stuffed cardboard boxes I head in the general direction of the bus stop, more than aware that I could have bought a shitty but used car with the money I just spunked up the wall.

Oh the horror.