FAIR GAME

Getting ready for a Record Fair used to be quite a stimulating process. Organising and pricing the records, loading up the car for an early start, lumping eight 20 kg crates of vinyl into a big draughty hall… OK, it wasn’t all enjoyable, but there was a small jolt of anticipation when you were finally set up and could browse other traders’ wares before the doors opened to the public.

That was twenty years ago and it must be confessed that the thrill—as BB King so trenchantly observed—has gone. Still, last Sunday I girded my loins for the umpteenth time, packed the plastic boxes and headed off to the undulating suburbs of Box Hill where the imposing Town Hall was once again the go-to venue for scores of men (mostly), of middle age (primarily), each with a smouldering desire to accumulate (yet more) vinyl.

Last Sunday was the first really warm day in a very patchy Spring, which did nothing to diminish the nagging sensation inside this veteran stall-holder that he would rather be somewhere else.

When I had organised the stock and draped a sheet over the crates (signifying ‘Not open yet’, a convention generally honoured— somewhat surprisingly—by a tribe who would gladly hip-and-shoulder their own grandmother if she stood between them and a rare Japan-only Deep Purple LP) I took my customary wander to find treasures and bargains concealed in endless crates bending the spines of a hundred trestle tables.

There were few treasures and even fewer bargains. In this part of the world the vinyl revival has seen prices go through the roof. And I do mean the lofty ceiling of a venerable civic hall. When I flicked through a box of ‘$5 Bargains’ and found only Harry Secombe, Kamahl and other worthless Charity Shop dross I was ready to pack it in before the doors even opened.

After a good self-talking to, I slouched back towards my stall. There may have been sighing. But my sagging spirits lifted when I encountered an old acquaintance.

I’ve known Jesse since he was a music-mad schoolboy, then an artist, musician, teacher and family man. He’s a lovely chap, and told me that his band, New War, had a gig at an upcoming Halloween concert at Melbourne Town Hall. How exciting! I was too embarrassed by my mid-life sloth to disclose that I almost never go out mid-week (or any other part of the week, for that matter) but heartily wished him a good day’s vinyling. At this point, Jesse admitted he, too, was behind a table, helping his mate sell a large collection of almost-new vinyl reissues. ‘You should check it out,’ he said. ‘There’s some good stuff’.

And there was. Apparently, the former owner had bought up big—we’re talking hundreds of new records—during the West Australian mining boom but with the downturn in demand for mineral resources, he’d been forced to liquidate his substantial holding. How sad, I thought, elbowing a few Grannies out of the way as I made a bee-line for the stall.

Cutting to the chase, five out of the six albums I purchased during the day came from Jesse’s friend. They are all re-issues—who can afford originals? Who really cares?—and comprise a pleasantly diverse haul.

Raspberries—Raspberries

The outstanding debut from 1972 opens with the band’s biggest hit, ‘Go all the way’. That single is power-pop perfection, but the rest of the album is pretty damn good too. Eric Carmen and Wally Bryson were responsible for most of the songs, which range from the outright rocky to more syrupy offerings pointing the way to Carmen’s solo career. But this opening salvo of Brit-influenced pop is just fab.

Silver Apples—Silver Apples

I have a CD with this and their second experimental proto-electronic pop album but listen to it rarely. Although many rate Silver Apples highly, I’ve not really discovered the key. Yet I bought it anyway, partially for the wonderful cover and partially in the hope of uncovering Silver slivers of delight.

Marvin Gaye—Here, My Dear

Created as part of the divorce settlement with his estranged wife (the sister of Motown boss Berry Gordy), Here, My Dear is a sprawling but utterly engrossing combination of sadness, bile, and soul. An essential part of the sound stage are the analogue synths—both warm and alienating—making an unusual but effective duet as a great singer exposes the dissolution of his marriage.

Thelonious Monk—Genius of Modern Music

Monk was almost always interesting, but never more exciting than these early sides from the late forties, Monk’s earliest sessions as leader. We have versions of many of the pieces that define both the pianist’s career and indeed jazz itself. A cornerstone album.

Amon Düül II—Phallus Dei

My old mate Steven loves to rile me by calling the krautrockers Amon Dull. There’s nothing dull about their debut album. It’s a swirling freakout mind-frier of a record. The cover made quite an impression on a young Julian Cope:

I was 13 and standing in Tamworth Woolworths. I was with my Welsh Grandfather, whom I asked about the meaning of Phallus Dei. “Bloody Hell, Don’t tell your mother,” he snorted. “That means God’s cock!” (Krautrocksampler, page 13)

A life-changing moment for Master Cope; for me, another episode in the long-running ‘Vinyl Buy-back’ program. Happy to slide a protective plastic sleeve onto this one.

Kitaro—Silk Road

In the rambling trash and treasure* world of the Progarchives site, debate raged for years about whether Japanese musician Kitaro was Electronic (and thus deserving of inclusion) or New Age (banishment into the aether). In a way, he is both. Sweet melodies and gentle electronic waves flow through his albums like prismatic sprays; relaxing and pleasant if it’s your cuppa herbal tea.

* My friend Michael, writing as AussieByrdBrother, makes a major contribution to the treasure side of the ledger via his cornucopia of insightful reviews.

Any of these titles you’d like to read more about?

35 comments

  1. I don’t ever allow myself to go to record fairs, I’m not financially disciplined enough.

    My law is that reissues are fine as long as they have everything the original did (inserts, packaging etc.). I think quite a few of them can be better quality even than their far more expensive original cousins.

    I’ve had Phallus Dei for about 5 years now and listened to it maybe twice – persuade me Copey hasn’t sold me a dud, Bruce!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s a good line with re-issues, I reckon.
      Interesting comment on the Amon Duul II debut. I mentioned my ambivalence towards Silver Apples – there are doubts about Phallus Dei too. Inside my head rages a battle between deifying Saint Julian and poking my tongue out at his posing and over confidence in his own opinions. Time (and a few spins) will tell.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I always found that ‘Go All The Way’ overshadowed the rest of the album for me – not sure if I should give it another chance (I sold it years ago) or just try a compilation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. After I got it home and enjoyed its vinylness, it did occur to me that I haven’t exactly worn out the CD (mini-LP facsimile) copy of the album. Haven’t spun the new acquisition yet, but definitely have a sense of what you mean.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had the mini LP CD as well. I vaguely remember liking the last track as well – it’s kind of an epic ballad.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Placing the words ‘epic’ and ‘ballad’ in close proximity is kind of scary, isn’t it? Will spin and report.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Raspberries: you were right; pretty disappointing, actually.

          BTW, just messaged you via your FB page.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. I am not allowed to go to Record Fairs, I compensate by telling my friends husband when they are so I can live vicariously through his haul, I also struggle with selling anything so that is not even the in. I love the Idea Phallus Dei but have never made it all the way through.
    Did you get Quark Strangeness and Charm though?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The same seller had a very nice re-issue copy of Space Ritual, but having a fold-out US original (and an expanded CD set) I wasn’t tempted. Well, not much anyway. But not a Quark in sight, sadly.

      Hope you got a morsel of vicarious pleasure from the post, Neil.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. For sure.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Did you part with any of your vinyl?

    Since you asked, I’d be happy to read more about “Here, My Dear”. I haven’t come across it before.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. The day hovered between success and failure, Danica. The modest sales more-or-less justified the stall hire and ‘lost’ day, while the purchases were enjoyable without inducing ecstasy. Just another day at the vinyl office? 😉

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, and thanks for the prod. I’d like to write about ‘Here, My Dear’. It’s a really interesting but often over-looked MG album.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Hmm…just another day at the vinyl office doesn’t sound right. Maybe Christmas will turn things around? When is the next vinyl fair?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. In Melbourne they tend to roll around with great regularity – perhaps too many for the number of good records? Too little butter on too many slices of bread? – but I don’t attend that often these days, and only sell twice a year.
          Are there regular record fairs in your part of the world? Been to any?

          Liked by 2 people

        2. There’s one coming up in a week and a half. I believe they’re popular. I don’t usually attend any because I don’t have a turntable. It’s a slippery slope and I try to be disciplined.

          Liked by 2 people

        3. One of the lifer Sellers was telling me about a customer who bought lots of records but didn’t have a turntable. When challenged on this he protested that if he bought a player, it would mean less money for vinyl. Worth considering?

          Liked by 2 people

        4. Lifer Sellers… there’s a story there, Bruce.
          Oh yes, I could easily amass a wonderful vinyl collection and delight in it without a turntable in sight. But, I have a hard enough time resisting books… I narrowly escaped an unexpected book sale (depending on your definition of escape), so in my case it’s a pick your poison type of situation.

          Liked by 2 people

    2. I too would be keen to hear about Here my Dear – enjoyed this post Bruce!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Data duly entered, Geoff!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Really enjoyed this one, Bruce. I haven’t been to a record fair in quite a while… I miss assessing the stalls and flicking through all the LPs. I also planned to sell at one a while back… just to experience it… but I never did.

    Anyhoo, you picked up a couple of albums that interest me greatly – Silver Apples, Phallus Dei, Monk, and Here, My Dear. The latter has been on my list to pick up for a while now, so I’d also love to read your thoughts on it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I imagine selling from a personal collection would be difficult. I wonder how many vendors at these fairs are there with their own collections, compared to how many are small businesses etc.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I picked up a couple of records for selling on, but couldn’t even let them go! Ha!

        Liked by 2 people

        1. I thought that must happen!

          Liked by 2 people

      2. Great question. I started doing the occasional fair in the mid-90s. Back then (in the olden days, he wheezes) there was a goodly smattering of private citizens. Last couple of years, I reckon I’ve been the only non-professional present. It’s the dark side of the vinyl revival – everyone is out to make a quid.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. In the 90s when dinosaurs roamed the earth, haha :). The dramatic decline of private citizens goes against the spirit of the fairs. It’s disappointing.

          Liked by 1 person

    2. Thanks J. Yes, I was pleased with the haul (even though I have them all on CD!). Looks like Marvin should get some attention soon.

      Like you, I buy things ‘cheap’ when I see them, to add to my record stall crates. But that’s getting harder and harder to do as more and more folk become vinyl hunter-gatherers. Part of the reason I’m feeling a bit fair-ed out, I reckon!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve found that I like the album, or, if someone else does or if it’s one I have already, I’ll pass it on. But yeah, it’s difficult to find a real bargain now, huh? Sake.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Nice pick ups. Hows that Monk guy sound?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haven’t listened yet, CB. But I have some of this material on CD – it’s full of brilliant corners and underground genius. I’m giving it to you straight, no chaser.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have the Complete Blue Note Recordings on the CD format (fantastic). But the albums are so cool. You’re right about that era for him. I’m forever on the look out for his records and scored a couple lately but I’m feeling your joy on all the purchases. Keep all those leads coming our way. I’m getting cauliflowered ears from all this new material.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. A great read. Thanks.
    And maybe Monk still sounds original, unorthodox, and angular, even in this company.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Too Right! Looking forward to sitting down with this one, perhaps with a glass of red.

      Like

  8. There is a record fair in my city about once/twice a year. I show up everytime (as a customer – I don’t sell) Sometimes I go somewhere else to do some cratediggin’. But I must tell You I have serious doubts whether will I go next time. On the last fair I’ve found nothing. Well, maybe there was some (few) nice findings but the prices!! Yes, the professional sellers rule the market here as well :/ So I came home emptyhanded and in doubts. Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to search online resources visiting local (small) shops occasionaly? The prices are more friendly (even with the shipment), and the offer is broad. I may choose more desired records over to be tempted to buy just anything for the lack of better choice at the fair. Yet I like the anticipation, the thrill of finding something (even if it rarely happens), so I’ll probably visit next fair knowing in advance it would be disappointing 😉
    I like Your haul – I have Phalus Dei and respect it a lot, although haven’t heard it for about a year. I also have Silver Apples unofficial reissue (I was unaware of it), but signed by Simon so it’s kinda better than official now 😉
    Greetings!
    Arterroist (from Tumblr)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Always nice to have you drop in, Arterroist. And thanks for sharing your vinyl-hunting tales. Interesting to hear that prices have surged everywhere. Interesting but sad!
      Still, as you say, we live in hope of an exciting LP at a fair price. Hope you have good luck digging!
      Bruce

      Liked by 1 person

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