I got an email a few years ago asking if I have a copy of an old Scottish EP called White Heather Memories by James Urquhart. No doubt the sender must have first looked with Google with no luck and then contacted a few Scottish shops in hope. It just so happened that a large collection of singles had come in the week before and I recognised the title. The collection was mainly 1960s pop music on labels like PYE, Decca, Columbia and Parlophone with The Good The Bad and the Ugly (quite literally) hits of the day. and the EP had stood out as not belonging there. I love looking through old singles, reading names written on the records and imagining the parties in Scottish living rooms in the 1960s. Bacardi for the ladies, Tennent’s cans with “Ann” on them for the men and fag ash nonchalantly flicked onto the carpet.
You are in luck I said. How much? he asked. And that is the question. How do you value a record that doesn’t seem to exist? For indeed there were no previous sales documented to reference as a guide and there can’t still be many around.* This style of traditional Scottish music is pretty hard to sell in Record Shops (or anywhere) and most will either donate them to charity shops or throw them out. I would have put my copy in The Backroom for £1.50 for a while to give it a chance. But I cleaned it and played tested it and graded it a strong VG+. Being a ruthless businessman, that’ll be a fiver I said. Thank you very much, he replied, this will make James Urquhart’s 80 year old brother very happy! And he sent me a nice old fashioned cheque in the post.**
So a happy ending and something that has since made me reluctant to let go of obscure but essentially worthless records which only begins to explains the state of my garage at home. A large part of dealing in used records is memories and the history of music itself. Hearing old songs can take you right back to a tremendous place. Sometimes a place that you’ve never been. White Heather Imaginings? Call it nostalgia if you like but it is a topic I would like to explore a wee bit in the weeks ahead.
I couldn’t find a link to the music on the record but the songs are pretty straight easy listening ballads with orchestra rather than accordion and a slight Scottish lilt. It must have sounded old-fashioned even at the time and I suppose that is where the title comes in. It was certainly at odds with what was in the charts in that era.
Anyway, here’s a link to a livelier James Urquhart tune that might cheer you up as the days are getting longer again and it’s hopefully no longer dark when you get up to go to work.
*While typing this I’ve actually found 2 copies for sale online. One ebay seller at £1.99 with free postage and one Canadian seller on discogs asking £7.
**A cheque that, in the age of internet banking, I never did get round to cashing.