So asked Carlos from Chile a few years ago. “Zhe Beatlesh sold millionsh eh. Where are zhey? Zhe Who? BEEG Band! Zhey sold millionsh… So where are the recordsh?”
Carlos would come to the UK every 6 months. He’d stay a month and buy enough records from shops and record fairs to fill a container. He’d then ship the load back to Chile and sell them from his record stall over the next 5 months. Then repeat. Again and again. Every time, he’d ask me, genuinely asking, somewhat bemused; “Where are all ze recordsh?”…
Of course there are still plenty records around and many great albums are easy enough to find cheaply, but Carlos was after the classic collectable British Rocktet; The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Kinks, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen and Pink Floyd. They indeed sold millions, so everyone must have a copy of 1966’s Revolver kicking around right?
For some years after opening, a pair of Polish gents would come in once in a while with a list of the classic rare albums. The Small Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake, The Zombies’ Odessey [sic] and Oracle, The Kinks’ Village Green Preservation Society, Caravan on brown Deram, Led Zeppelin albums with Plum labels. Sabbath’s Paranoid and Juicy Lucy on Swirly Vertigo. LOUD CUT Beatles’ Rubber Soul, then the usual Pink Floyds and so on. The Who Sell Out with poster! They were full time record dealers sent here on a buying trip for a wealthy Russian. One day in Glasgow and Edinburgh then down to Birmingham and Manchester, then London. They would take one side of the shop each and meet at the counter before heading to the backroom… going through everything precisely and quickly. Not much chat. Clearly in a hurry, they would clean us out of the high end records for their Russian oligarch and everything from Dire Straits and Deep Purple to Madonna for their own CLASSIC ROCK and Pop fans of Poland.
This happened many times with different dealers doing the fast fingerwork. Sure enough, we’d get a big sale and grant a bit of discount as they would also take all our hard to shift £3 Van Halen too, but afterwards the shelves would look bare, our best stuff would be gone and I’d feel more than a bit dirty and a tad ashamed. It feels a little like being complicit in overseeing the giving away our country’s finest artifacts.
Of course they must have struggled to get the classic BIG records. Those £200ers and more. They don’t really exist. -They hardly ever come in. You have to be in the business a long time just to even see a copy of some titles. The fact that I’ve not seen many of the foreign travelling dealers in a while, I think, means that they have finally cottoned on that those mint originals are not in the record shops. The shop owners will tend to sell online for quick turnaround rather than let them sit on the shelf getting battered around for a year or more until the right buyer comes in. With the vinyl revival, good records are going to the neighbour’s kids that are now into vinyl rather than the used record shops, the charity shop or even the bin. The new young vinyl fans hoover up everything from the Beatles and Stones to the Motown compilations and The Clash and The Smiths and so on. At least that’s my theory.
The VoxBox policy is to put all the big records that come in on the shelf, at least for a while. But it is a worldwide marketplace and Edinburgh might not have a collector that will pay £60 for a VG+ early second press copy of The Rolling Stones second album. We’ve had one on the shelf for a while. It’s good to have it, I play it sometimes -it sounds GREAT- and I’ll certainly miss it when it’s finally gone.
The UK in the 1960s through to the 1980s had some of the best bands and made the best quality records and so it makes sense that the rest of the world would see a UK original of a UK band that has had huge global success as the copy to own. This will accelerate if China plugs into the vinyl revival. Let’s hope they get back into Wham! or take a shining to the fireside balladeering of Jim Reeves.
And it’s not just the shops and full time dealers; everyone’s been doing it. Ebay has been facilitating the export of the finest UK albums to the rest of the world for 20 years. Last year many thousands were sold and exported to overseas buyers. Anecdotally, from a friend of mine, these are going increasingly to Russia and the Far East. So it is this and the decades of the export of whole shipping containers full of records have led to a national shortage of the classics.
So when Carlos asked “Where are all the records?” I had to reply with a smile; “It’s YOU! You have them all Carlos!”.
Well, I thought, you and Javier…
Part 2 coming up.
*Judging by that advertisement on Revolver‘s inner sleeve, rather than turning off their minds, relaxing and floating downstream, your family were more likely to have been partying to Ken Dodd, Roy Castle, Ron Goodwin, The Seekers, Russ Conway, Vince Hill, The Wurzels, Rolf bloody Harris, Pepe Jaramillo?!, The Singing Postman, Jimmy Shand, The Sound of Music, Paul Jones, Joe Loss and Zoot Money. Only Paul Jones and Zoot have any value these days (ever).