The cramped haven of Rebel Records (50s/60s/70s specialists) was a legal high in itself for an eighties teen slowly discovering the bygone thrills of sixties garage/psych. In the days before ebay and Amazon, the fact that you could waltz into a shop to find all those early Pebbles, Highs In The Mid-Sixties etc etc compilations on your doorstep was almost a miracle. Several indie shops came and went over the years, but Inner Sleeve were the longest serving in the town by far, rivalling Our Price for nigh on a decade. Inner Sleeve had the distinction of catering (quite literally) for peckish customers by selling freshly baked potatoes in an array of relish from a box room annexed at the side of the premises. However, the arrival of Music Junction in the newly-built extension of the Ankerside shopping centre in the early nieties soon spelled the end for Inner Sleeve. The Record Exchange tapped into the burgeoning grunge/punk revival scene briefly, run by a guy who looked like an Ozric Tentacles reject with his faithful black labrador always at his side. Upstairs there was a massive second hand section at decent prices with the kind of stock that would sell for at least twice the price on ebay.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not lamenting the closure of HMV. The Tamworth branch was a very claustrophobic shopping experience, the interior felt like you'd stepped into the Myspace home page - a sort of digital world made flesh as it were. Once you'd managed to circumnavigate your way through that weeks latest computer games, the perputual half price dvd box sets and cheapo paperbacks, the cds they did have in stock were mostly rehashed siftings of scrapings from the last barrel reissues. Latterly, on one of the infrequent occasions I called in to HMV to buy a stack of blank cds, the store had taken to employing supermarket psychology by stocking a range of mainsteam confectionary to tantalise the customer in the long queue and no doubt eek out a few more pennies from the weak of will to pay the increasing inflated rates high street shops have to contend with today to keep them afloat.
Neither am I eulogising the passing of the record shop's heyday, outlets often run by otherwise uemployable glorified pawnbrokers with all the customer service skills of a caveman who hadn't tucked into a Brontosaurus burger for several days. What I'm lamenting is the loss of that instinctive, natural desire to own a record that was new and fresh and previously unknown to you, which you'd heard played on the radio for the first time and wanted to listen to over and over again; something that you could keep forever and go back to at some stage when things had moved on to something else. I'll never forget as a ten year old seeing the Buzzcocks on Top Of The Pops "performing" Ever Fallen In Love (inbetween Hot Gossip and Violinski). I had neither heard of band or song prior to their TOTP appearance, but I wanted the single there and then! I vaguely recall begging my mother to hand over my pocket money a day early so I could rush to the shops and buy the single - I coudn't wait until Saturday!
Today, it seems, record labels are on the verge of desperation, barraging the consumer with a multitude of versions on the same format, exclusive tracks on one format, more exclusive tracks on another format, cds given away free with vinyl editions, bonus 7" singles with the hidden tracks on the cd...It's not a dissimilair ploy from the days when record companies hyped their product into the charts by offering exclusive merchandise to shop owners for free, in return for taking on extra copies. Only today the ploy is focused on the consumer.
Where I grew up in Lichfield, the best place for buying records was Bradshaw's - a tv rental shop (I'm really dating myself now) that stocked the Top 75 singles aswell as back catalogue (i.e. unsold) punk singles. They even had a listening booth - a sort of pegboard hood with one speaker that you pressed your ear against to preview your potential purchase. It was here that I bought my first ever Fall record - Lie Dream Of A Casino Soul 7" from the 40p box. I still have the copy to this day. When Bradshaw's closed their record department at the end of 1982, the next port of call was WH Smith's, who always had a healthy stock of albums outside the mainstream. I vividly recall buying Felt's Splendour Of Fear and The Strange Idols Pattern lps from the Lichfield branch in 1984.
With the seventh annual Record Bore Day upon us, it seems those involved are merely fetishing a format to force the hands of a minority of obsessives. As I type, pink vinyl 7" reissue of Floyd's See Emily Play is already up on greedbay with the starting bid of £32. Likewise The Fall's Sir William Wray. Sundazed have chipped in several revisional singles, including a Chocolate Watch Band 7" containing "rare" songs that have been previously reissued countless times. It's as if the retailers are pre-determining the collectivity of an item and charging silly prices accordingly before the artefact has had chance to mature and garner collectivity kudos. In the eighties I bought many of the early 7" singles on the Creation label - not because I thought they would be a wise investment to help pay my heating bills when I reached pensionable age, but because the bands and their music excited me. There was an inexplicable aura about Creation in the early days, with records packaged in distinctive tinted zerox wraparound sleeves and housed in polythene bags. But it never occurred to me that these records would be coveted (and expensive) items a quarter of a century later. These were groups who sold very few records, were of minority interest to those who were averse to all things goth and the gated snares of Trevor Horn productions; in commercial terms these bands were nobodies destined for fleeting attempts at stardom before growing up and getting proper jobs. Rather than owning a record because it was exciting and new, we seem to have arrived at a culture of owning a record for ownership's sake.
Ozit Morpheus, a UK label who've sporadically released Captain Beefheart recordings of dubious authenticity, have got in on the act by issuing a live album baring the eye-poppingly, jaw-droppingly title Frank Freeman's Dance Hall. Four songs had already appeared on the Grow Fins box set in the late nineties, but to the Beefheart diehard it appeared Ozit were offering the complete concert. On closer inspection it turns out the album is padded out with several tracks from a completely different concert also previously released on Grow Fins.
One wonders if the artists are actually getting paid for having their works rehashed and if the wares on offer are an authentic vinyl experience for the customer. Kevin Shields, in a 2012 interview, mentioned that their US label had licenced Loveless to an independent reissue specialist Plain Records for a limited vinyl pressing to help pay off debts My Bloody Valentine still owed the company. Despite boasting what's fast becoming the obligatory 180 gram HQ virgin vinyl reissue, the album was simply remastered from a cd copy of the album on a home pc - a process that's becoming all too commonplace on this niche market. The other week I was reading customer reviews of Big Star's Sister Lovers album on Amazon. One satisfied customer stated that although he'd purchased previous cd reissues, the album now sounded much better owing to the "warmth of vinyl". This particular edition was released by - you guessed it - Plain records.
As RSD grows more popular, it will no doubt attract interest from those whose first priorities lie not with the music. Bong-befuddled hoodies who've pawned their last Quentin Tarantino dvd will be first in the queue at their nearest store hoping to make a quick buck to be able to afford to attend the next having it large re-enactment at the oldies rave night down at the social club. Just as Glastonbury grew from an annual outing for the great unwashed who never came back down from the sixties to essential family television viewing by the millenium, and with the simultaneous rise of the internet, quick-thinking touts purchased tickets by the bulkload to sell for twice the original price on greedbay.
Fans of The Beta Band will be delighted that their quintessential first three eps have been made available for RSD. Although I own all the originals, I see it as a positive, tentative step towards an eventual overhaul of their back catalogue in time for the tenth anniversary (in 2014) since they called it a day.
The one item I'm hoping to track down is Codeine's What About The Lonely - one of the more authentic of this year's offerings. By that I mean the album contains previously unreleased material of a complete concert that has been on general cd release, but has been given a small quantity vinyl run for hardcore fans. As long as the price is right...
And that's all I've got to say on the matter.
All this excessive preamble has little to do with the post. As far as I'm aware, Buffalo Springfield haven't received the RSD treatment, but 45 years ago this evening they took to the stage in front of a large crowd as the opening act for The Beach Boys. Lasting little over half an hour, the set is largely dominated by an extended excursion through Bluedbird. Hear Neil Young quip at the start: "One more hit and we won't have to nail our equipment to the stage."
Enjoy - if you've managed to read my protracted waffle, you've earned it!
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