"I used to know Brian Howard well - a dazzling young man to my innocent eyes… He was consumptive but the immediate cause of his death was a broken heart."
- Evelyn Waugh on Brian Howard.
Jamie Principle at the Powerhouse
Danny Rampling at Shoom 1988
Chubbed Up. The Singles Collection.
DistroKid.com download bundle
Jason from the Mods has kindly sent me this collection and the new album Divide And Exit (out at the end of April). My review of the latter should be in Record Collector soon but they don’t review download-only releases at the moment, so…
Austerity Dogs has been followed up with four singles in four different countries, which are combined here. It leads off with Belgium’s KRAAK label’s version of Jobseeker, not quite the equal of the original but preserving the lyrics. It is a hugely evocative portrayal of that under-recorded-in-music English set-piece which most of us have at least some experience of. 14 Day Court (one of the Jobseeker B-sides) is an old-style funky Sleaford rant and for me the weakest track on the set, not quite as tight as the other material but no slouch either. Black Monday (the other) has excellent lyrics, which have been reworked into Air Conditioning on the new album. The long-awaited Mr. Jolly Fucker (Fourth Dimension, UK) has been one of the tracks that have broken the duo. Riding an especially mean punk bassline, Williamson is on particularly vicious form, addressing self-promotion, pampered teens, junkies, Job Jail and the EDL: “Blood on the hands of working class rage!”. B-side Tweet Tweet Tweet has proved successful enough to get included on the new album. It starts with distinctive Lunatics Have Taken Over The Asylum-esque wordless vocals and attacks political extremism again: “St George’s flag on white van/This is the human race”. Bambi (X-Mist, Germany) has a heavy Sex Pistols vibe and lyrics like the Enigma Code, although the music biz features heavily. Routine Dean (Matador, USA’s subscription series) would be right at home on Austerity Dogs: “I hate what you do/And I don’t like you”, form-filling and social media damned. Bambi B-side Scenery is less manic, the populace funnelling in and out of low quality jobs: “Sunbeds half price at the end of the till/And shit staff shuffle/They all look really ill”. Routine Dean B-side Pubic Hair Ltd is as catchy as the A, deriding old pop stars: “It’s not a pyramid/Yr not a fuckin’ Pharaoh”.
This is a refreshingly brief compilation packed with the duo’s usual whirlwind of thoughts, humour and rage and named from one of Divide And Exit's catchphrases. Hopefully like the album it'll reach CD before the year is out. Phil Smith
20th anniversary of Patrice Lumumba’s death. 1981. Cuban poster.
Not On Label (CD)
The Drop-Out Wives
Voting For Gloss
Must Die MDR 036 (CD)
Both of these bands arose from the same Blackpool collective in the mid-noughties. This group managed to kick-start a scene in Blackpool guitar music generally agreed to have been the most creative and lively since the days of punk. Sadly a variety of reasons led to it all simmering back down as fast as it came up, but originals CSOD are still going strong and The Drop-Out Wives are the longer-lived descendants of The Side-Show Sirens.
Barring the odd track on compilations, this self-released mini-album is the first CSOD release I have owned. There isn’t anything on it as iconic as their noughties Blackpool classic Wasted Again but it is a worthy addition to the canon. They straddle the punk/metal divide. I always thought of them live as very much a punk band but it is some time since I have seen them live and this current release is more obviously metal-orientated. I am notoriously bad at picking out metal styles, so it was good to see that they themselves mention Metallica online, as that band came to mind alongside Slayer and Iron Maiden. Coming in a muscular recording by Ronny Bomb, the six tracks are gruffly barked out by Ligzig, accompanied by some quite varied guitar solos from Cuffi Love and arrangements that don’t all stop at one riff. The songs cover a variety of topics, from politics to prisoners. Good sturdy stuff which any fans of punky metal will appreciate.
The Wives CD follows up a previous EP on Blackpool label Must Die and some self-released material. I saw them live recently and they delivered much the same scuzzy, charismatic garage rock as they always have. We talked, however, about some current influences, which are making themselves known here. These include Stormy’s beloved bubblegum pop and heartbreak country. The always-talented Pook on production has rounded his sound out to the fullest now and does an appropriate job on what the band were after with this style-wise. Personally I find that some of it doesn’t gel as well as their previous full-on garage stuff and whilst Lola fronting a cover of The Stooges’ I Wanna Be Your Dog provides a twist to that tune, it is not an entirely original one. Nevertheless, there is much to enjoy here, with Stormy’s songwriting as evocative as ever (State Of The Nation is one of his best) and a macabre Sonic Youth vibe spiralling around Lola’s tunes. I don’t know the Hammerhead cover (Camaro) but it feels like it could be some sort of tribute to Drunks With Guns, which I like. This is a well-rounded album, the best parts of which will one day combine with previous pieces to make for a superb best of. Phil Smith
I’ve always been keen on charity shops but since the record shops have largely died out, I’ve gone back to them in force & on an industrial scale. At the risk of harming my on chances of success, benevolence has kicked in, so here is my guide to amassing a hot record collection from the chazzers, which is largely provided for those of us only just getting into the record collecting and maybe don’t know where to get started.
1. For The Collector, Not The Dealer
I do prospect for collectables at charity shops and have had some success with this in order to defray the costs of my habit, but once you’ve factored in barren days, time, petrol and all the ones you’re just gonna keep, there isn’t much evidence left of a secret gold rush hidden just behind the doors of Scope et al. You need to be there because you enjoy music & looking for old records, any profit is extra.
2. Broad Not Deep
There is no point expecting to walk into the first charity shop of the day & come away with a full run of mint Vertigo LPs & an original Vashti Bunyan. Those sorts of finds are gonna be once in a lifetime if at all. To get the most out of charity shop music collections, you need really to be into a broad range of music, have no shame about your tastes & be happy whether it is a music hall album or a soca tape that you come away with.
3. Go In Them All, Look At Every Record
The records might in some cases supposedly be in sections, but does Betty the dog lover from the PDSA really know what genre Albert Ayler plays in? “File it under Classical, Deidre!”. I’ve got a lot more out of the charity shops in the last few years since I started on classical stuff & hence started looking at all the records, not half of them. Also, however paltry the selection at Muriel’s Cat Hospice week in week out, it isn’t Tesco where a ready supply of what you need comes in on a regular basis – unless you know they don’t stock vinyl as a policy, go in every shop every time, you never know when good stuff will randomly appear.
4. Be Prepared For Defeat
Charity shops are many & varied. You should expect to leave some empty-handed. Don’t feel you have to always buy something. I can visit two towns in a day & leave with nothing, happy to have looked and knowing I probably don’t need to go back there for a while. If you start buying stuff you don’t really want or overbuy in a genre you only have a passing interest in, you can lose confidence in your divining powers & risk a setback!
5. If It Seems Right, Ask!
More & more charity shops have no records on display or they only have out a selection that’s obviously part of a larger collection. Sometimes it doesn’t feel right asking if they’ve got any stuffed away in the back – if it is really busy, if the shop assistant is a bit of a battleaxe, when they look at you like you’re a conman wanting to do the charity out of millions – but most of the time they’re only too happy to just say “No – but do ask again”, tell you which of the chain (or which other chain) they send them all to, bring out a bag that they didn’t feel they had room to display (on one occasion including an ace Jean-Jacques Perrey album) or let you rummage around in the back/shed. I’ve had the latter a few times now, sometimes with quite a substantial extra stock being opened up to me. I would advise extreme politeness to allow this to happen. Another tip – don’t use jargon. Much better to ask if they’ve got “any more of the little ones” than if they’ve got “any 70s roots rock reggae on 7” 45, Jamaican release only”.
6. Don’t Believe The Hype
People will tell you all sorts of claptrap about record collecting – You’ll never get a copy of X, This is worth Y etc. Ok, if you want a very specific pressing of something you may have to pay proper money for it, but you really would be amazed how much stuff does eventually turn up cheap if you look long enough & you’re not obsessed with condition. I mean, I got the first Robert Rental single in a charity shop in Fleetwood not that long ago! Some people would have you think that all the copies of all the best records are already in private collections. Just think about this – most charity shops are still filling with 50s-70s easy listening records presumably bought back then by people who were 30+. By that reckoning, the music of the Elvis era onwards (ie most of the stuff most readers will be after) was bought by people still alive now, not all of whom have sold them (the fair-weather easy listening dudes kept theirs) & hence is yet to reach the charity shops.
7. Easy – Cheesy?
A high percentage of charity shop stock, as mentioned above, is the stuff we have thought of as ‘charity shop records’ for many years. The titles change at glacial pace, but anything highly accessible & pressed in large numbers will continue to bow the shelves for years to come: Classics For Pleasure, Bert Kaempfert, The Bachelors, Level 42, Bros… Younger foragers in particular should remember what older ones have long known: a ‘bad’ sleeve does not a ‘bad’ record make. I’m not one of the high percentage of collectors who claim to buy some records on sleeve design alone, but it can give you a guide (as can the credits, year, label etc) & absurd sleeves can mean joyfully absurd music. To get that broad chazzer experience, you’ve got to be willing to don many caps: What would a 60s beat fan be looking for on a record? A 70s punk? An 80s raver? Design is really just an element of fashion & helps you date & place things. Older collectors should also lose their cool. Many’s the record I’ve passed up many times over the years before eventually being given one & finding it is ace or I had even been looking for it, not knowing the title. Why not take some chances in a shop here they’re cheap (10p is not uncommon) – you can always swap em on or even redonate them if you don’t like them, & you might even land one or two you can sell. By the way, also in connection with the point about holding out & not buying titles, sometimes you do eventually stop seeing things, just as you were gearing up to finally buy one…so don’t presume there’ll always be a copy around cheap.
8. The Genres You Don’t Buy Yet
It is finally getting into classical music properly that has got me back into the charity shops big-time. The shops are still awash with it & it is possible to relatively cheaply put together an extensive library, although even single composers have sometimes written enough to keep you occupied for a lifetime. I haven’t seen a great deal of evidence that charity shops’ attempts to price vinyl accurately extends to classical ones, although you do occasionally see absurd prices creeping in. Whereas with popular music I often find myself looking for the more obscure labels, with classical the valuable stuff & best recordings are often on the major labels, recorded during the boom following the invention of the LP, back in the 50s & 60s. This is another world entirely & I am still getting my head around the intricacies of it. I initially bought a lot of the excellent EMI ASD series, for instance, thinking I would make some money back against all my other purchases, but it is only the earlier ASDs, with different label designs, that are pressed well enough to sell well. Sometimes the releases go through a variety of pressings, sometimes the sleeve changes, sometimes it stays the same. Sometimes reissues on other labels are meant to be just as good, sometimes beyond contempt. Condition is very important (presumably particularly so with classical due to the dynamic range) & they only really seem to sell on eBay, not Discogs (which I use in the main), probably due to the latter’s database being a bit late opening up to classical. There are some guides to help you find the best stuff online. There are a small selection that are worth a mint & some of the ones in the revered series (Living Stereo, Living Presence, SXL etc) do really repay the trouble in finding them, with almost shockingly good reproduction and performances.
Classical led me on to some of the other genres only the die-hards would do more than dip their toe into. Choral music seems to split into a handful of absurdly common budget releases & a plethora of local releases you will see few copies of & would seem to sit in the category of stuff that might take a while to sell on but should get a decent price when it does, presumably to singers’ own families or others local to the group. The Abbey label deserves its own blog entry another time. Other seemingly barrel-scraping genres include brass & military and Christian pop & rock. The former seems pretty worthless until you think about the current increases in ‘cool’ brass bands, who version the funky. This was always the case & there are similar records from the 70s. Christian stuff I’ve still not dared to try to get into, but I’d love to post a list of tips if anyone wants to provide one. I’ve always been the guy who’d rather flick through the spoken word & comedy sections than the rock in record shops & I’d stick with that now – OSTs, ethnographic stuff, all well worth taking a few punts on.
There has been a definite upsurge in that much-hated subgenre, the charity shop that thinks it is a serious record shop & uses the Record Collector price guide to price everything. As is well-known amongst collectors & seemingly completely unknown amongst well-meaning old blokes who work in the back of charity shops, the price in the guide is for mint copies in mint sleeves, not for a scratched copy in a sleeve held together with string (for £25 – this is pretty much a real example). If they can get people to pay those prices, fine, but I presume such occasions are rare & in the meantime, all the other records are sat there looking like round black plastic lemons, going nowhere fast. Harsh though it may seem on the charities, the only thing to do is spurn all such prices (unless you see something unbelievable - & let’s face it, those ones will be always be 50p). Barring exceptions that prove the rule & noting that I pay more & higher in charity shops than many friends would, £2 should cover the vast majority of individual records.
Relatively speaking, I don’t buy many tapes in charity shops. Vinyl quality is a bit easier to judge see below) & I haven’t really bought tapes for more than 20 years anyway unless that is the only format. In terms of charity shop cassettes, I’m looking for oddities on the whole. OK, you’re unlikely to find anything on Betley Welcomes Careful Drivers, but you might see the odd rave tape or even tape pack (with the traditional one tape missing!). For these, look out for very simple, bold spine designs – DJ RANDALL in red on green etc. The other decent category (apart from self-released local stuff) is foreign tapes…brought back from abroad by well-meaning relatives, played half-through once & then dispatched to the charity shop. By the way, older readers will know this, but I know from experience that younger ones may not: When you look at a tape & the two holes at either end on the top spine have been covered up/filled in in some way, that means it has been recorded over…that tasty-looking Kool G Rap tape is now panpipe music, avoid!
I blow hot & cold on charity shop CDs. There’s a lot more than there used to be, often quite varied selections & enough to seem like a little shop in itself. However they’re sometimes only marginally cheaper than off the net & as with tapes, you can’t really tell if they’ll play alright or not. I often don’t look at them at all, being in a mad rush to see all the vinyl in a town, but if I do it’s again local oddities, people’s now-spurned, barely-played obscure genre impulse buys that I tend to go for. Now I’m into classical, I sometimes look if there is a decent classical CD selection as well, as the contemporary classical stuff is so much more likely to be on CD – this turns up more often than you might expect.
12. Vinyl Condition
Teaching some of you to suck eggs here, but for the others… You can’t be certain about the condition of a record but there are some big hints. I’ve briefly checked near enough every record I’ve bought for decades now but I look more carefully in charity shops now I lean on them so much. Get the record in the light – if it is shiny & there aren’t really any marks except the track the needle follows, it is probably as good as it is going to get, although not all jumps or crackles are immediately visible. If there is a lot of dust, lint etc on the record, give it a gentle rub on your sleeve & look again. If you’re still not sure, hold the record & rub your thumb flat against it & round the grooves to take off more of the dirt & then look again. Unless you’re a super-collector who wouldn’t risk such rash behaviour, most of any manky, sticky, dirty stuff still remaining at that point on the record will come off with some water & a soft towel (although obviously record cleaner & a cloth is better). If there is something that looks like a scratch, gently rub your finger back & forth over it (firmly enough to feel the surface accurately) – if you can feel the mark, it is raised above the grooves & will probably prevent the needle taking its usual course, hence causing a jump. If it is just a light mark that you can’t feel, something has just briefly rubbed against the record at some point & it will usually be fine. It probably doesn’t need saying, but if there is a big patch that is a lighter colour that is roughed up, it is toast. If it has a crack or a bit missing from the disc, it is toast. Only buy these if they are the Quarrymen acetate. If the record is heavily warped (close one eye & look at it from the edge – is it flat?), again you’re unlikely to want it. By the way, reggae records very rarely come Near Mint. Jamaican pressings are a mess even before you get to the writing added on most of the labels. I even write stuff on mine sometimes, it just seems the done thing!
Any sort of imperfections on the sleeve are down to personal taste. They won’t help resale value but I don’t care unless they are literally falling apart. Unstuck sleeves go back together fine with some decent glue. Writing in pencil (& some pen, depending on the surface) will come off. Some price stickers will come clean off & the goo sometimes will as well with a soft rubber if you can’t get it off otherwise. Careful with rubbers tough on sleeve printing that looks like it’ll smear or rub off. My friend Simon can get off massive great stickers that look like they’re stuck fast – it must come with practice. You may still tear the lacquer doing this. Truly plain sleeves & inner sleeves are essentially interchangeable – store up spares & just chuck knackered ones (same goes for most tape & CD cases). Dance records often never had picture sleeves & even if they did, they seem to be of less interest to collectors than pristine copies of the records themselves, presumably for transfer to WAV for DJing purposes.
You can get Record Collector any month to get the basics on what is in right now. Big rock band stuff is often ‘blue chip’ – Beatles, Stones etc. Old people & general non-collectors think all of their material is priceless & often absurdly overprice it. This isn’t true but it is still surprising what prices quite common stuff of this type sells for. The other big hitters are essentially whatever was in when the people currently going through mid-life crises with more money than they know what to do with were into or would have liked to be into when they were growing up. Hence, doo wop (the original hardcore collector genre) has peaked & now it is classic rock, psych, prog, private press 70s folk, northern soul, original funk, ska & early reggae etc. Alongside the obvious up & comings that you will see some of (punk, indie, metal etc), some of my tried & tested fave charity shop/record shop bargain rack genres are as follows…I want you to know that I’m cutting my own arm off here by the way! Hip hop 7”s in picture sleeves (particularly big cult numbers & 90s ones – not wortha fortune but enough to bother buying); goth (not all but a surprising amount of it); goa trance (I haven’t sold as much as the prices online would suggest, but people are definitely after it); London-style acid techno (possibly a premium on really good copies – many are severely spanked); 80s dancehall reggae; jazz including British jazz (except the really obviously common releases. Overall, seven inches aren’t usually worth as much as LPs, but can be worth a fortune if they are in-demand ones in genres that relied heavily on 7”s (ie doo wop, soul, funk, reggae etc). Pop sevens of the 70s onwards are often all but worthless. 12s it depends entirely on the record but don’t ever reah the heights of 7”s or LPs. LPs can command decent prices even if relatively common or seemingly mundane, but may not sell very fast – you’re just waiting for the right buyer.
14. Limited? Rare?
Most of the records that have stickers claiming they are limited are limited only to a higher pressing than most new records could ever dream of. In terms of pure rarity, think about the availability (or lack of) of ‘early’ vinyl – 50s - & how delicate the sleeves often are. Think about how odd some records look & how you’ve never heard of the label before (not having heard of the artist is one thing, but major label rosters are pretty big). If this is the case, there may sometimes be little chance of seeing the record again in a hurry. As vinyl went specialist, pressings dropped in size – hence indie LPs on vinyl are often very collectable now. From about 93/94, although a lot of chart singles still got made on 7”, they weren’t anywhere near as common, so these can sometimes be collectable & you may not see them very often.
Again, older readers may wish to skip this bit, but the thicker, heavier, more brittle records – usually 10” or 12” in size but sometimes other sizes as well (I saw quite a few 8”s on my travels today) are made of shellac & are generally called 78s for the speed most of them play at. By the way, I only recently read that the 16 you sometimes also see on old players is a red herring – I’ve never seen a 16 & apparently there weren’t (m)any, it was more a planned/experimental speed than a wide-spread commercial success. 78s actually truly play at speeds around about that, but who has a 78 player at all these days, let alone a variable one?! I need to buy another. I gave up with them on the whole years ago as it is so frustrating when you break one & most (if not all) of the best bits are arguably now available on CD etc. However, like all formats, they have their devotees, addicted to their bass-heavy sound & retro appeal. Although there are some very rare ones, the breakability means that they’re not on the whole anywhere near as collectable as vinyl.
16. Recent purchases
Just to whet your appetite, here’s a small selection of my many own charity shop finds from the last year…
EPMD “Strictly Business” CD
Bruce Springsteen “Greetings From…” LP
Some acid techno 12”s
Over 50 near-pristine early 70s reggae 7”s (I paid proper money for these)
A Ravi Shankar LP
Bjork “Play Dead” 7”
Cure “Three Imaginary Boys” CD
Shades of Rhythm “The Album” LP
Neil Young “Trans” LP
Tullio De Piscopo “Stop Bajon” 12” (featuring Don Cherry)
A Tony Esposito LP
Arthur Lyman “Taboo” LP
Big Flame “Sink” 7”
David Joseph “You Can’t Hide” 12” (Larry Levan mix)
Stravinsky “Firebird” LP (Deutsche)
2 Prefab Sprout LPs
2 copies of Sir Mix A Lot “Baby Got Back” on 7”
A FSOL CD
Louis Armstrong “New Orleans Function” LP
Richard Strauss “Four Last Songs” LP
An Atrocity LP
The BBC Sailor LP
2 Go-Betweens LPs
Wailing Souls “Very Well” 12”
Pink Floyd “Relics” LP
Shakespeare “King Henry V” LP
“Owdham Edge” folk comp LP
16. Further Reading
Just Glittering/Idwal Fisher zine
Stream Angel correspondence