Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Right Place, Wrong Time?

A few weeks back I visited a selection of my usual West London charity shop haunts in, what turned out to be, the wrong order. After picking up nothing but a copy of an, admittedly useful, reference book (Jazz: The Rough Guide) in an otherwise treasure-free shop, I sauntered into the next store to see a young, pony-tailed guy hunched over a rapidly emptying crate with a pile of some two dozen LPs by his side. How could this be happening? This shop never has anything apart from the usual dust-gathering James Last LPs. I couldn't help it, painful though it was, I had to see what I'd missed out on. After a quick chat, during which I discovered that my nemesis was actually a nice fella who'd just got into vinyl and was trying to build up a collection, I took the plunge and looked through his finds. He had some choice items, but thankfully, most of them I already have, so I'm happy for him - he's got his collection off to a great start. The only album I was tempted to do a runner with, and it was the one I saw him studying when I first walked in, was a mono, first pressing of Dylan's Blonde On Blonde. Bugger! Fortunately, either his taste or his budget didn't stretch to the entire crate as he left me a decent original copy of Quicksilver Messenger Service's Happy Trails and a London Records first pressing of ZZ Top's Tres Hombres for £1.50 each, plus an armful of 7" singles on the Two-Tone label. Not a bad haul, but I'm still gutted about that Dylan LP!


More recently though, I was the one in the right place at the right time. I was digging through an uninspiring and all too familiar crate-full of vinyl cast-offs in another of my local charity shops when some bloke began quizzing me about my taste in music. Now, I love to talk about music almost as much as I enjoy listening to it, but not when I'm in the zone. Give me a plump sofa, a spinning disc and a bottle of red and you have my undivided attention. When my head's in a box of vinyl I'm in my own little world - keep out, trespassers will be shot! Maybe I should learn to be less of a dick, particularly as, it transpires, this guy was getting around to asking if perhaps I might like his ex-girlfriend's record collection which was languishing in the back of his wardrobe - free of charge. Despite his assertion that "it's all crap", numbers were exchanged and, to cut to the chase, I am now the proud owner of said collection of over 50 LPs consisting almost entirely of Bowie's and Bolan's back catalogues. Jesus, did this guy's girlfriend have a thing for Marc Bolan! Some of the LPs are so trashed that I'm considering a sideline in vinyl craft tat, but most of them cleaned up sufficiently well to be worthy of their place in my collection. I have the feeling that offloading the ex-girlfriend's record collection was a therapeutic experience for my benefactor, so we're both happy.

A selection from the Bolan / Bowie haul

You don't half get a glimpse into someone else's head when you dig through their record collection, especially one as focussed and time capsule-like as this one! It's almost as revealing as a sneaky peak at their diary. Much as the former-owner of these LPs had no idea how to treat her records, it's obvious that she loved the music contained in the grooves and every word and image on the sleeves. Posters that would have originally been with the LPs have long since disappeared, no doubt frayed and faded beyond repair after years of being pinned to a bedroom wall. Some of the early Tyrannosaurus Rex LPs had been purchased as two-for-one double album reissues, which obviously didn't sit well with her as she took it upon herself to hack up the gatefolds to create two single LP sleeves to give the illusion that they had been bought as separate albums. Who was she trying to kid, especially as she had used a combination of parcel tape and electrical insulation tape to join the constituent parts together? There is something quite charming about the naive, teenaged fan-ness of her efforts though.

TOOFA becomes one

Tyrannosaurus Wrecked!

A couple of the LPs don't have their original sleeves. Whether this is because they were stuck on a bedroom wall, lost at a party or bought sleeveless from a bargain bin way back when, who knows! Undeterred, the Bolan / Bowie fan created her own customised replacements in a Spinal Tap pre-dating, plain black design, by painting various godawful 1970s easy listening sleeves with thick, black emulsion paint. I wonder if her parents knew the fate of their Klaus Wunderlich LPs?

T. Rex. None more black

I thought I'd stumbled upon a rarity with this gatefold sleeved UK pressing of Bowie's Pin Ups, but no, it's a single sleeved album that has been turned into a Frankenstein's monster of a gatefold with donor parts from another dismembered easy listening sleeve, the Pin Ups album insert and the sleeve from a Bowie maxi single. Creative yes, but what a horrible mess!

Pin Ups gatefold 'rarity'

Inside the custom-built gatefold sleeve

The easy listening innards

And check out this subtle repair job!

Despite some of the horrors described and shown here, I count myself fortunate to have found enough quality items to fill most of the gaps in my less-than-comprehensive Bowie collection (where has the brilliant Station To Station been all my life?) and I now own more T. Rex albums than you could bang a gong at. Random accidents of geography and timing like the one that brought these LPs to me are what make record collecting such a buzz.

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