Posted by: ben | June 11, 2009

vinyl survival

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Ben: Having set up my new record player and looking forward to going in search of proper ole records, how did I fare?

Actually, not too badly. I ended up buying things from four places over the course of a week. Let’s go through them in detail:

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1) Chemikal Underground, somewhere in Glasgow

Being the keen researchy type that I am, when I thought about what records I wanted to get I also thought about their record labels. One of the big glaring holes in my collection is Delgados-shaped – despite seeing them live and having a weird, limited live album I don’t really have much of their stuff at all. After a search through the normal online outlets – HMV, Amazon etc – I presumed that any vinyl albums would be long deleted (and hence only available for great expense).

How wrong I was!

The Delgados were signed to Glasgow label Chemikal Underground whom, amazingly, still have stock of a lot of early Delgados albums on vinyl on their online shop. Just as astounding is that they also have Malcolm Middleton’s Into the Woods – an absolute classic – also available.

Even better (and this is my final superlative), they are selling them for a mere £7 each.

I restrained myself and bought only Into the Woods and the Delgados’ Peloton which, including postage, came to a mere £16.61. Both of these are great albums, and though the discs were a little grubby (presumably having been stored in a Glasgow warehouse for so long), they’re both unplayed and tip-top. A lovely first hit.

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2) Vinyl Revival Records, Newbury

But that’s cheating. I can’t harp about some right-on idealist vinyl dream and consign myself to online-only purchases. What’s the point? I wanted something used, something loved, something wrapped in plastic with grading stickers on it.

I’ve often flitted into Vinyl Revival on an odd Saturday hunting for particular things. If you’re of a certain age and a collector, this place is a goldmine – they have original deleted Scott Walker albums, ridiculously obscure Stevie Wonder discs and esoteric soundtracks that were pressed once then never seen again. This means that the majority of the good stuff is also crazily expensive – sure, you want that original pressing of The Italian Job soundtrack with the weird cover but there’s no way you’d pay £150 for it.

They have a lot of standard-issue stuff too, though very little after 1990. I found an immaculate copy of Parallel Lines and a slightly beaten promo copy of Let’s Dance which, in total, came to £10. Having come from such a shop, both discs have been cleaned and examined for any possible flaws – consequently, the sound quality is unrivalled. Great finds.

I lament that there’s not more modern stock at Vinyl Revival. I get the feeling that the owner bought most of the stock as a job lot many years ago and doesn’t get much else in. It’s a shame as it would otherwise be a weekly haunt.

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3) Sound Knowledge, Marlborough

Since even the largest local branches of HMV stopped selling LPs, finding real, physical copies of new release albums out here in the sticks is near to impossible. Dan and I live in one of the more affluent parts of the country with a fair few local cities of significant population despite being largely rural, though there are very few independent record shops. There’s the odd shop in a hidden arcade selling promos or second-hand things but Sound Machine in Marlborough is the only real local shop which offers new release stock.

It’s something of a rarity nowadays in that Sound Machine has no web presence at all. As a result it feels very well hidden away – I’ve stumbled across some real gems whilst browsing their shelves which in more heavily populated or web-connected communities would have been snaffled away very quickly. At the beginning of this year I found a UK pressing of Belle & Sebastian’s The Life Pursuit as new stock for about £15 or so, something which has been selling online for over £150 if you can find it. They’re always getting fairly notable artists in to do live performances despite being an absolutely tiny shop in the middle of nowhere and always, always comment on the brilliance or otherwise of my purchases.

I went to Sound Knowledge looking for, well, anything recent and decent. They had most new releases on vinyl in the racks so I was spoilt for choice. Given how much Dan has raved about it recently, I ended up buying Royksopp’s Junior for £12.99. That double vinyl gatefold release – swank! – includes a download code allowing me to get a high quality digital copy from the band’s website for free. I’d been advised that new releases on vinyl would set me back quite a bit so was mightily chuffed getting this for so reasonable a price.

I’m trying not to go back too soon.

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4) Action Records, somewhere in Preston

There was one album I was after that I resorted to scouring the web for. It feels dirty going online for something so physical but, sadly, needs must.

I’ve used Action Records on a number of occasions before. They’re a great outfit that has excellent stock of new and recent releases and carry promos and oddities, too. I’ve met the folks that run the website at a few record fairs in the past and have always been impressed with how competitive on price they are. Take Franz Ferdinand’s debut album, something which I shockingly never managed to purchase despite hearing a million times – it’s available through most online retailers for fifteen to twenty quid but Action have it for eleven pounds. Very reasonable postage and a sneaky 10% discount code found with a quick Google resulted in me obtaining said album for £11.40. Admittedly, it took them a week to despatch the damned thing, probably due to me ordering on a bank holiday weekend, but the album arrived sealed as new and excellently packaged so I can’t complain too loudly.

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Let’s have a final tally of albums and their cost:

The Delgados – Peloton
Malcolm Middleton – Into the Woods
David Bowie – Let’s Dance
Blondie – Parallel Lines
Royksopp – Junior
Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand

Total cost: £51 precisely

Given that Gaz J advises me that most LPs will set you back £15-20, an average cost of £8.50 including postage where applicable isn’t half bad at all, really.

The problem is, well, getting the bloody things. It’s such a faff. I couldn’t get the LPs delivered to my flat on the basis that we have a small letterbox and no-one’s there during the day – those little red ‘sorry you were out’ delivery cards are the bane of my existence. If I wanted to buy the Franz Ferdinand album in a real, physical shop I’d’ve either had to order it in from my local mega-super-hyper-store or else trekked into London.

Or, alternatively, I could have gone into any half-decent music shop and bought the CD for £5.

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Responses

  1. You went to Action Records!? Awesome. It was a haunt of mine back in my Uni days! 😀

    Oh, oh, you did it online. Shame.

    • Their website is always excellent. Preston’s a little far for me to go to pick up one LP but if I’m ever anywhere near I’ll pop my head round the door to say hello.

  2. Oh, you should. It’s a relic from the pile ’em high, make ’em search days of record shops. Stock is in pretty much any gap it will fit. The vinyl racks are bulging, the staff are knowledgeable and helpful. Great prices too!

    • Luckily, Sound Machine in Reading is kinda similar. Half of their tiny shop is devoted to vinyl, half to CDs (mostly promos), and everything is constantly moved about to encourage rummaging.

      I do love the lucky dip feel to those shops.


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