Monday, 7 September 2015

Haunted By Vinyl Ghosts

On Saturday it was the annual street sale 'round my neck of the woods: a chance for local residents to set up a stall outside their home and sell, well, whatever takes their fancy, so long as it's legal. It's an opportunity to wander the streets, say 'hi' to a few unfamiliar faces, pick up that jar of homemade jam that you never realised you needed and let your kids root through the piles of Nerf guns, Horrid Henry books and loom bands that other people's kids have outgrown. It's a pleasant way of spending an hour which, ordinarily, finds me stocking up on DVDs of films that I've never got around to watching and am too tight to pay proper money for. This year I didn't find any DVDs I wanted. This year I found records!

The kids had got their Nerf guns, Mrs Shelf-Stacker had her jam and, just when it looked like I was going home empty-handed, a box of vinyl appeared, perched on a wall outside the local church. Any fears that I was about to spend a fruitless sixty seconds flipping through James Last and Tijuana Brass LPs were quickly allayed by the sight of Dylan's Blood On The Tracks peeking over the end of the box. It happens so often: I spend ages hunting for an LP, then when I find one (during our holiday to the States in the case of the Dylan classic), another crops up almost immediately, in pristine condition. Still, it had to auger well for the rest of the box, right? Too right!

Unless I needed an upgrade copy, I ignored albums I already owned, and grabbed LPs by artists including Captain Beefheart, Tim Hardin, Jimi Hendrix, The Band, Julian Priester, Jan Garbarek, The Ramones and Bob Marley. Seventy quid for seventeen albums: not give-away prices, but what's that, just over £4.00 each? Even before I got home and checked what Record Collector's Rare Record Price Guide had to say about the Artwoods' Art Gallery LP that made up part of my stash, I knew that it was quite a find. Irrespective of value, I was excited at the thought of hearing an album featuring Ron Wood's older brother, a young, pre-Purple Jon Lord and Keef Hartley. As it happens, I'd landed an extremely well-preserved first pressing of an album that, in mint condition, is worth £700.

But that's just half the story: by a weird and heart-warming coincidence - one that makes me think these LPs were destined to come home with me - it transpires that the gent who sold them to me, lived, some twenty years ago, in the house that I now call home. To think that the sounds on each of these records reverberated around these exact same walls all those years ago! After two decades of having been boxed up and moved from house to house (both here and in the USA), like wandering spirits these LPs have returned to haunt the very rooms where their sonic spell was first cast. It's enough to make me believe that every record has a soul. I'm listening to Jan Garbarek's Dansere as I type this - one of the most haunting and achingly beautiful pieces of music I've heard in a long time - and imagining the bricks and mortar of my man-cave welcoming the vibrations emanating from the disc like long-lost friends.