I’ve spent many a long hour lamenting the demise of the independent record shop. Even second-hand shops are hard to come by now, and record fairs just aren’t as common or popular as they used to be. That I’ve had jobs in both new and second-hand stores means I have particularly fond memories, but mostly, I miss the record-shopping experience. Browsing on-line just isn’t the same, even with the tailored ‘recommendations’ sites like Amazon make. There’s just no substitute for being there, rifling through the stock and picking something out just because it looks interesting, or because the dude behind the counter’s playing something that’s completely incredible and you can’t leave the shop till it’s in your possession.
While the number of record shops may be rapidly diminishing and articles are published daily decrying the death of physical formats, the collector’s market is unquestionably alive and well and positively thriving. it’s just a matter of sourcing the goods, and the fact that physical copies are produced in smaller runs.
Of course, it’s far better in economic terms to produce fewer units and have them sell out than it is to massively overestimate potential sales – just as it’s better for a band to play a small venue and sell it out than to play to a half-empty bigger venue. But when it comes to Record Store Day, people go a little crazy. Perhaps in part this is due to the incredibly limited runs of unusual pressings by acts with large and devoted fanbases, and that’s something that’s always going to get the collectors in a frenzy – myself included.
So I rocked up at Jumbo in Leeds at a little after 10am to discover a queue containing a good forty or fifty people. ‘Fuck that’, I thought. Life’s too short for queueing, and besides, I’m plain lousy at killing time. Electing to give it twenty minutes or so, I cut back out onto the Headrow and made my way towards Crash, only to discover the situation there was the same, only worse. Much as I love vinyl and record collecting and music in general, I’m not so desperate as to stand halfway round the block just to get into a record shop on the off-chance they might have something I’m after, so I headed up New Briggate to the second-hand record store Relics, who used to have a sister shop in York called Cassidy’s. I have fond memories of Cassidy’s and picked up some great items in there, including my copy of the Throbbing Gristle ‘Five Albums’ Box Set (which despite the being a little battered, was still a steal at forty-five quid), and Relics is similarly likely to have unusual nuggets tucked in the racks.
Rifling stock beats the crap out of standing in line, but in the end I decided to pass on the few bits I was contemplating and get back on my rather more specific mission. Tom my dismay, the queue outside Crash had grown, so I legged it back to Jumbo where there queue had gone and the simple in / out barrier was facilitating a free flow of customers, even if they were three deep at the counter. I had only half a dozen items on my list – I wasn’t out to buy for the sake of it, and I had only limited funds – and they’d all gone. It was as though a plague of locusts had descended on the place. I left empty-handed. It was 10:30.
So, back to Crash, where I joined the queue. As I waited, I wondered if I’d have fared better if I’d just joined the queue in the first place, or if I’d just arrived earlier (not that 10am was exactly late). The guy in front of me suggested perhaps not: one of his mates had turned up at 6am, and there had been others there before that: some had even queued from 10pm the night before. The guy on the door informed us that there had been no fewer than 90 people waiting outside when they opened the doors. I can’t think that there are any records I’d be that desperate to get my hands on, and in my experience, most titles crop up at a reasonable price at some point (there was a time in the 90s I’d have happily paid fifty nicker for a copy of The Last of the Baby Boomers by La Costa Rasa, if only I could have found a copy. 2002, a copy surfaced on eBay and I bagged it for £2.50 as the sole bidder). Many of those in front of me were clutching Jumbo bags that were bursting at the seams.
Half an hour later, I was granted entry to the tiny emporium, and struck silver, but not quite gold, in that I failed to secure a copy of the Interpol 12” (300 copies on red vinyl) or Nirvana’s Hormoaning reissue, and they were out of the 10”by The Black Angels. I didn’t even ask about the 10” of The Queen is Dead or the latest Earth LP (only 150 copies for the UK), but did manage to bag myself the Joy Division / New Order 12”, a copy of the single by Prurient, plus the British Sea Power double 7” set for my mate. None of these items was cheap, but I figured it made sense to up the prices in the hope that the goods would go to genuine collectors rather than carpetbaggers who’d swoop in and buy an armful just to flog ‘em on eBay, forcing the desperate completists to pay through the nose. It seems only fair that the labels and – hopefully – the artists should benefit from the buying bonanza.
Alas, on arrival home I discovered that all of the titles I’d failed to get were already on eBay, and numerous copies of each had already sold as Buy It Now sales for well above the retail price (while noting with a small degree of satisfaction that the Joy Division 12”, which I’d considered steep at £15 was selling for anything from £30 to £60, while some fool had shelled out a full ton on the thing.
I’ve resisted the temptation to plug the gaps in my collection and spend money I haven’t got bidding on these items. Six months hence, or maybe later, when the initial flurry of redistribution has died down, or the popularity of some of the bands has diminished, I expect I’ll find them for a price closer to the initial retail price. If not, I’ll live. After all, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll (and I’m all about the music, man, and not capitalist greed).
And if you’re loving my work (or want to give me some records) there’s more of the same (only different) at christophernosnibor.co.uk