VINYL HUNTER GATHERER GOES INTERSTATE

When finding themselves in a different city, any vinyl hunter-gatherer worth their turntable will attempt to visit as many music shops as possible in the available time. Art Galleries? Phooey. Historic Buildings? Only if they contain Record Shops. What we want are records. Lots of them.

Vinyl Connection was in Adelaide last week, and had done research. A list was created and a map perused. A quiver of excitement was experienced, along with some minor twitching of index fingers. (For those of a digital disposition, that’s the digit for flipping albums).

"Your targets are here, here, here..."

“Your targets are here, here, here…”

In fact the only dampener on the mission was the choice to fly with cabin luggage only, meaning a weight allowance of a mere 10 kg. As the bag weighed 9 kg on the outbound flight, this was worrying. But maybe I wouldn’t find more than a kilo of vinyl; after all, there were only eight shops on the list.

Spoiler alert

The final haul totalled 4.6 kg. On the way thru Adelaide airport and right up until boarding I felt like a nervous courier smuggling illicit drugs, complete with rapid eye-movements and upper-lip perspiration. Fortunately sniffer dogs are not trained for vinyl.

Hold the Front Page: VC bought a CD!

Hold the Front Page: VC bought a CD!

 

First stop was Rocktherapy in suburban Daw Park. This is a well laid out shop: narrow but long. Not much of interest and far from enticing prices. Down the end near the counter were three bins proudly labelled “US Imports”. Above them were pinned photos of the owners road-trip through the record stores of the United States. Well, a few of them anyway. He obviously had a great time, and good on him. The records looked to me like albums US locals regularly post on Facebook vinyl groups as dollar charity store finds, yet here they were marked between $20 and $30. Clearly Mr Rocktherapy was trying to pay for his trip – or fund the next one. I didn’t contribute.

Into the city centre next. Although you get more stores within walking distance in the downtown area, the convenience is offset by higher prices. Guess it’s those premium rents.

I stuck my head into Rerun Records & Photography in one of Adelaide’s arcades. It hadn’t changed since I’d last checked. Lots of stock, mostly well-thumbed, with anything of any interest priced to attract absolutely no-one of sane disposition. I suspect it’s the eBay syndrome: find out what some desperate idiot has paid at an auction and price accordingly. Jeez it annoys me, but that’s the thing, isn’t it? For the retailer it probably doesn’t matter if an album sits around for three years if eventually he makes a 2000% profit.

Two stores down and I haven’t spent a penny yet.

Clarity Records is a home for Adelaide’s punk/metal/alternate scene. It sells the usual plus t-shirts, a few books, and limited run cassettes self-produced by local bands. But the genres are broad and the jazz section not bad at all. As well as lots of new vinyl there is also a small but carefully chosen second-hand LP section and I’m tempted by a couple of things.

I make a mental note and trot off to the other city store on my list. It’s just changed its name from Title to Streetlight. Another pleasant store with an interesting array of books on art, music and popular culture, plus lots of new vinyl. I browse, but my heart is not really in it. Sure, I’d love that Porcupine Tree double-vinyl, but fifty bucks? Phew! It is, however, a very nice shop with a friendly and knowledgeable chap behind the counter, so I’m glad I stopped by even if I leave empty-handed.

Resolve hardening, I trek back to Clarity and collect the two items I’d logged earlier.

La De Da's were a 60s-70s apostrophe-challenged NZ band. AMT are contemporary Japanese acid freak-out. So now you know.

La De Da’s were a 60s-70s apostrophe-challenged NZ band.   AMT are contemporary Japanese acid freak-out. So now you know.

Big Star Records – named after the wonderful 70s power-pop band – is something of an institution in Adelaide. At one point they had four shops and promoted tours and gigs as well as selling new and used music. Now the dominion has shrunk to one modest store in Norwood, just north-east of the city centre. Every time I am in Adelaide I make a pilgrimage to Big Star and once again I’m relieved to find it still open for business. This is a shop that deserves attention and so I roll up my sleeves and dig in. An hour or so later I escape with 8 LPs and a CD. Thanks once again, Big Star! My delight is tempered by the weight of the bag. It feels like more than a kilo of music here but do I care? Well, a bit. They’ll be bloody expensive records if I have to pay a penalty for excess baggage.

Four from Big Star.  A Pentangle upgrade, US pre-Mahavishnu Jerry Goodman (Flock), First Nat Health, 1984 Duritti Column

Four from Big Star. A Pentangle upgrade, US pre-Mahavishnu Jerry Goodman (Flock), First Nat Health, 1984 Duritti Column

Perhaps the most notorious record store in town is Porthole Records in the industrial waterfront district of Port Adelaide. An on-line search reveals more than a few disgruntled comments from folk who made the trek but found the porthole shut. As one of the other traders observed to me earlier, “He only seems to be there about three months of the year”. Well, Porthole Records is open today (and yesterday and tomorrow according to the sign) so I wander in. There certainly is a lot of stock but it’s the eBay syndrome again; too rich for me. In the Prog section I find an LP with the tell-tale JB felt-pen $1 scrawl on the cover (see this post for more). The Porthole sticker says $20. Amused, I take it to the counter and try to engage the cadaverous gentleman in conversation.

‘Guess you’ve seen a few of these indelibly marked $1LPs. Do you know the story behind them?’

‘No.’

‘Well, funnily enough I just wrote about it on my blog. Here’s a card’.

His response to this shameless bit of self-promotion was less than overwhelming.

‘Right.’

Pause. He grunts. ‘Reduces the price, that graffiti.’

‘I guess so.’ I refrain from offering the original price and make one last attempt at communication.

‘Interesting band, though, Collegium Musicum.’

‘Yeah’.

I return the record to its allotted bin and slope out of the shop.

 

The other 4 from Big Star.  French pseudo-classical, two cheerful Aussie jazz-soul LPs, post Jerry Goodman Mahavishnu.

The other 4 from Big Star. French pseudo-classical, two cheerful Aussie jazz-soul LPs, post Jerry Goodman Mahavishnu.

The story goes that one of the original partners in Big Star went solo. His store is Mr V Music in nearby Semaphore (and isn’t that a great name for a seaside suburb?). Another attractively presented store with a strong focus on local talent and Aussie artists generally. I trawl the vinyl and come away with three LPs. None has me panting with anticipation but all are interesting enough. The Penguin Café Orchestra is most welcome, it being the only one of the original releases I don’t have on vinyl and the band having been in my thoughts since the last post.

 

Excellent PCO, mediocre Keith Emerson, under-rated Joe Jackson

Excellent PCO, mediocre Keith Emerson, under-rated Joe Jackson

From the coast to the hills. Final destination is Wolfie’s Records in Stirling, a 20 minute drive up into the Adelaide Hills. It’s a freezing morning and I wish Wolfie (pron. Vol-fee, judging from his accent and the small selection of krautrock CDs in the rack) would close the front door or provide gloves. The shop has an interesting configuration: crates of $5 LPs out the front (mostly of little interest or value), racks of $10 LPs inside, plus sections for decades and genres. Despite being close to browsed out and regardless of sobering prices, I flick through the racks until my fingers become numb.

 

First Earth Band (tho' a re-issue), First Marshall C - brilliant!

First Earth Band (tho’ a re-issue), First Marshall C – brilliant!

One album that catches my eye is The Adverts LP recently featured at 1537. Nice to see but at $25, a glance is enough. In the end, two records at $10 each is enough to satisfy/justify the journey and round out the Vinyl Connection tour of duty in Adelaide, South Australia.

 

Unless, of course, I return to Streetlight for the Porcupine Tree album…

18 comments

  1. Whoa – 15 LPs and a CD? how do you fit enough listening time in?

    I love AMT, although have only heard 2 LPs out of seemingly hundreds and I couldn’t agree more about Joe Jackson.

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    1. The acquisitions have got a little out of hand recently.
      My plan is to win the lottery, retire, buy a kick-ass stereo and boogie until death do us part.

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      1. You know what? I can’t see a single flaw in that plan.

        And thank you for the mention – should have bought it, you know.

        Like

  2. Basket of Light is on the 1001 list – haven’t heard it yet, but interested to hear your thoughts on it!

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  3. I like your plan to boogie into the sunset with your enormous record collection, so rock on, my brother. 😉

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  4. […] been tried before and lasted two posts, there has been a holiday edition, even an interstate adventure, but never a commitment to regular ‘in-coming’ […]

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  5. This evening, this humble post has received a sudden a surge of over 175 views. Nice, but inexplicable.

    If anyone would care to explain, I’d be most grateful.

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    1. Thanks a lot, Chris – I suspected something along those lines.

      Like

  6. Nick Spaulding · · Reply

    I’m a humble record collector in Adelaide, and I know first hand the pain of the local stores. I think you were a bit too hard on Fraser at Rocktherapy. I’ve picked up fantastic stuff there for cheap, and he’s a really knowledgeable guy once you get through to him.
    Clarity records is the best for ordering records in cheap, and they have a fantastic selection of new jazz and second hand vinyl. I picked up a nice 70’s import of Layla and other love songs from there.

    In Vaughn Place, next to the elephant pub is a fantastic vinyl store called Title. Prices are towards the higher end, but have perhaps the largest collection in Adelaide CBD, well worth a look next time.

    I really need to check out Big Star, thanks for the suggestion.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for sharing your experience (and experiences!) Nick.

    I think – and I may have this completely wrong – that the Title store you mention is the one that is now Streetlight. Seems we agreed on some (Clarity, for e.g.) but have had different experiences at other stores. Certainly with second-hand records, timing is everything. It really is the luck of the draw about what stock is on hand when you walk thru the door. And when that is only very occasionally (as for an interstate visitor) then it is dangerous to draw too many conclusions. I’ll definitely check out Rocktherapy if another opportunity arises.

    In the meantime, thanks for commenting, and good hunting!

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  8. Sdsaew · · Reply

    Next time try Andrew. At Goolwa .Hot Water

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  9. Brett Allen · · Reply

    The owner of Big Star is a veteran of Adelaide’s live music scene, Jeff Stephens, best known for his role as guitarist and then vocalist of the Exploding White Mice.

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  10. I have lived in Adelaide the last 7 years and never knew of all of these stores until I read your post thank you. Had a collecting friend from NSW just come down for a few days so we followed your route.
    Only thing I found was Wolfies Records has now moved from Stirling to 92 Glen Osmond Rd Parkside SA, the move seems to have been worthwhile with a well presented store and quality, fair priced stock.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the feedback Leon – that’s great! Hope you found some music that brought you pleasure. And good to know that Wolfie has come down from the mountain!

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  11. We did okay actually, picked up a good range of 50’s 60’s 70’s and some 80,s although I bawked at paying $70 for Rodrigeuz, and I still think $45 is too much for Kraftwerk.
    I will say just quietly (ha ha on the internet) I picked up one 80’s album for $5 in excellent condition which repeatedly sells on ebay for $250, it was an album we had been looking for a long time, even the CD is on ebay now for a buy it now price of $225.
    Definitely pays to look through the cheaper bins!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Not a bad synopsis here overall and glad to hear you picked up some vinyl on your travels a couple of years back. However, I do tend to agree with Nick (previous post) as I believe a sharp edge was shown towards the owner’s on a couple of occasions.

    Porthole Records for example. Rick isn’t generally much a of a conversationist but on more than most occasions, I find he lets his stock do the talking (can be phenomenal!) and is always around the mark with price and has never fobbed my offer when he’s not. In my experience, he stocks the kind of second hand vinyl that most eastern state record stores wish they could get their hands on for their avid collectors. And yes, being a once off visitor, I would think it were very unlikely for you to get the spoils of him being a receptive soundboard for your scintillating fun facts on JB hifi pricing from yesteryear. No surprises there…

    Record store owners, as we all know, can be eclectic souls. When I travel interstate and make my way to record stores for a ‘one-time’ dig I find its best to converse with the owner upon entering and, if they’re lucky, at transaction time in most cases. Good luck on your travels next time!

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    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences Adam. There is always a ‘luck of the draw’ element to record hunting, especially when a visit is a ‘one of’.
      Meanwhile, the loyalty of locals to their stores is most inspiring.

      Like

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