A friend of mine, Rich Ferguson came to film The Gramophone Emporium and its customers during the final days. This was the last shop of its kind as far as I can tell, anywhere. Who knows, with a bit more notice, a campaign to save the shop could maybe have been arranged backed by an appearance on the One Show or even some Lottery funding. It ever a shop was a working museum it was The Gramophone Emporium. It was run on the love of the music and the machines. Ah! Antiques and curios in oak and mahogany and in all shapes and sizes… but enough about their customers! With it now closed, the hub of knowledge and the wonderful club for vintage men is gone and I still miss looking out the VoxBox window towards the shop across the road. Being open 3 half days a week was never really financially viable but they made a go of it for decades and had something that money can’t buy. A customer in the film says that the shops closure will create a haggard void. Perfect words.
Bill, the shop’s owner had a humungous stock of 78s. However, not all records are worth anything and I was told that one time he disposed of 250 000 hard to shift records that were taking up storage space. A quarter of a million shellac discs were used to help create a breakwater for a harbour somewhere. It’s nice to think that this could give some future Time Team a glorious headscratcher. The shop had a decent trade but ultimately the bills were paid by the most valuable records being sold online. Good records would sometimes come in from people’s boxes from the attic but more and more often the better records would come from whole collections that would become available as elderly collectors died. Some were friends and customers. There’s a creeping similarity with vinyl there.
Two men, Ken and Billy ran the shop essentially for free as I don’t think they ever were paid or asked for money for their time and were both supposed to be retired. They were and remain true enthusiasts with unsurpassed knowledge. Like any experts, they were snobs in their own way, but nice with it. Billy would chuckle to himself if you played a record with the wrong size needle or brought in a machine that had the wrong horn. As a boy, Billy told me he had played the same record once every day for a year just to see if the sound quality would deteriorate. Played with a fresh needle every time, it didn’t! Their love of the format was certainly contagious. Saying that, they could also be brutal when it came to worthless records. Jimmy Shand records would be smashed before being disposed of. Otherwise, very often the very boxes that they had thrown out would be rescued from the bin by a kind soul and be brought back to the shop for a valuation.
Mark and Ken inspect a vintage Edison style cylinder player.
I do miss the stories. Mark, who appears in the film but sadly doesn’t say much (he is a wonderful talker) is a retired teacher and a part-time clock restorer that accidentally became the shop’s Gramophone repair man. He had walked past the shop when it was located where VoxBox is now, something like 20 years ago and heard a gramophone playing. He thought it sounded terrible and came in only to let the owner know about it. “That sounds awful. The sound-box has really seen better days.” And as an afterthought… “I could fix that.” So he was allowed to take it away. When he brought it back spick and span the following week there was a large box of knackered sound-boxes waiting for him.
As Billy says in the film, the earliest records were recorded live. This is pure analogue and if played through the right machine, you can actually feel the air around you vibrate and for a few spine-tingling minutes you will be in the room with Caruso himself. Rich never managed to spend as much time in the shop as he would have liked as the stress of the impending closure was taking its toll on the team. However, in this short film he has managed to capture a wee glimpse of a wonderful place the like of which may never be seen again.
A few afterthoughts:
Billy still curates Oxfam’s 78s on Raeburn Place. That’s a good place to bring your 78s from the loft.
I set up The Gramophone Emporium Facebook page when we opened and posted a few photos but I never really had time to do much with it. It was taken over and has been kept alive and thriving by Graeme; A Gramophone Emporium customer and gramophone DJ. Have a look here! There are lots of photos and also links to the new Scottish Gramophone Group that meets regularly. There is an old shop blog post from 2012 about The Gramophone Emporium called The Last Shop Standing. He DJs under the name Lord Holyrude and is available for events and weddings and the odd Torture Garden appearance… His contact details are here.
We only really deal in Jazz and Rock and Roll but I’m always happy to look at a collection. As a general rule, Scottish and religious records are usually worthless. Pre-war British pop are also hard to sell as is Bing Crosby and even Frank Sinatra. Cliff Richard 78s are still very collectable despite his bad press and there are some Indian Beatles records that are sought after as are many foreign records. Classical 78s are usually not worth much but unfortunately, some are worth a fortune so don’t throw anything out. Look out for odd things. One sided 78s are earlier and usually sellable and a record with the title scratched out could be a Jamaican DJs floorfiller. Some people managed to record their voices on privately pressed discs so you can have one of a kind unique items that are nevertheless worth little but have great historical value and should never be thrown away. But mainly, if you get the chance, do try to play them. You could quite easily be the first person to have listened to that recording in over 50 years and that is a lovely and special feeling. I might do a wee piece on shellac in the future if I have the time.
Beatles on Beetles
The Shellac that the 78rpm records were made from is a product of the Lac beetle. They create a resin that they secrete on tree branches that protects their young. This is scraped off the tree and put in a pot before being melted, purified with added ingredients and turned into a record. The beetle is found in India among other places. As Britain had its Empire back then, we had access to the best Indian shellac and therefore made the best quality records. The vinyl 45rpm disc was at least in part invented in America due to a shortage of shellac during WWII. In India, 78s were made well into the 1960s so keep an eye out for the Beatles on Beetles.
Finally, here’s a clip from the RCA vaults showing the complex process of how records were made.
The orders have been confirmed on Tuesday and then paid for, often without an itemised invoice. The boxes have been arriving thick and fast on Wednesday and more are expected. Here are the majority of the records that were ordered. I’ll top it up on Thursday evening and Friday. Printouts will be available on the day but if you want to know rough numbers of each title, please get in touch by email, twitter or facebook. With 250 shops taking part and some titles limited to 500 copies, the numbers of the most sought after titles are quite limited.
13th Floor Elevators You’re Gonna Miss Me
808 State Pacific
Adam Beyer Selected Drumcode Works 96-00
The Adverts Crossing The Red Sea With The Adverts
The Adverts Cast of Thousands
A-Ha Hits South America
AIR Casanova 70
Alanis Morisette The Demos
Alan Partridge Knowing Me Knowing You
The Alarm Spirit of ’86
Albert King/Butterfield SXS –Born Under a Bad Sign
Allen Toussaint Live in Philidelphia 1975
Allen Toussaint Whipped Cream and Other Delights
Amebix Monolith The Power Remains
The Anchress Popular
Andy Summers Metal Dog
The Animals We Gotta Get Out Of This Place
Anti Flag Live
Architects Lost Forever
Armand Sciascia Impressions in Rhythm and Sound
Arthur Beatrice Every Cell
The Associates Party Fears Two/Australia
Bardo Pond Acid Guru Pond
Bee Gees/Faith No More I Started a Joke
Bert Jansch with Loren Auerbach Colours Are Fading Fast
Bert Jansch Black Birds Of Brittany / Cuckoo
Best Coast S/T
Bill Evans Some Other Time
Billy Cobham Stratus Part 1
Birdy Lost it All
Bis / Big Zero Boredom Could Be …. / Tear It Up And …
Bitty McLean/Bunny Rugs Taxi Records
Bixiga 70 The Copan Connection
Black Tambourines Chica E.P
Blossoms You Pulled a Gun on Me
Bluesology Come Back Baby
Bram Stoker Heavy Rock Spectacular
Breakbot Get Lost Remix
Bryan Ferry The Island Singles Box
Buddy Guy and Jr Wells The Criteria Sessions
Cachao Gonna Make You Dance
Cadillac Three Tennessee Mojo
Candlemass Epicus Doomicus Metallicus
Carina Round Carina Round
Cat’s Eyes Chameleon Queen
Chase and Status London Bars
Cheap Trick Found New Parts
Cheap Trick At Budokan
Chills Pyramid / When The Poor Can Reach The Moon
Christopher Lee Charlemagne: By The Sword & The Cross
Christopher Lee Charlemagne: The Omens of Death
Christy Moore Paddy on the Road
Circa Waves Something Like You
Clean Cut Kid Pick Me Up
Clint Mansell & Kronos Q Requiem For a Dream
Clutch Mad Sidewinder
Cosmic Machine 2 S/T EP
Dave Clarke Charcoal Eyes
David Bowie The Man Who Sold The World
David Bowie TVC15
Death Cab For Cutie Tractor Rape Chain
Dee Edwards Deal With That
Deep City You Flexi Thing
Def Leppard S/T
Deftones B Sides and Rarities
Del Amitri Sense Sickness
Departure Lounge Jetlag Dreams
Derek and Clive Punk Song
Desmond Dekker Rude Boy Ska
Deviants You’ve Got To Hold On
Dirty Three Sad and Dangerous
Disturbed The Sound of Silence
Django Django Unreleased Versions
Doors Live at Aquarious Theatre
Dr Who Genesis of the Daleks
Dr Who Dr Who and the Daleks
Elton John The Thom Bell Sessions
Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball
ESB Mos Eisley
Eternal Tapestry Beyond the Fourth Door
Europe The Final Countdown
Ezra Furman Songs by Others
Fabio Fabor Infini
The Fall Bingo Masters at The Witch Trials
The Fall The Classical
Fatnotronic Onde Anda
Fela Kuti I Go Shout Plenty
Field Music Field Music
First Class Rock Steady S/T
Five Finger Death Punch The Wrong Side of Heaven
Flaming Lips Lightning Strikes the Postman CD
Fleetwood Mac Alternative Tusk
Florence and the Machine Delilah
Focus Hocus Pocus
Frankie Goes to Hollywood Rage Hard
Frank Turner Positive Songs
Frank Zappa Joe’s Garage
Frank Zappa Dog Breath
Funkadelic One Nation Under a Groove
Future Sound of London Accelerator
Gerhard Heinz Schamlos
Gerard Way Pinkish
Giant Sand The Sun Set Volume 1
Glen Campbell Ghost On The Canvas
Glen Campbell See You There
Glen Campbell Wichita Lineman
Glen Hansard A Season on the Line
Goblin Suspira/Blind Concert
Goblin La Via Della Droga
Gorgon City Saving My Life
The Go! Team Thunder Lightning Strike
Grace Jones Private Life/She’s Lost Control
Graham Nash This Path Tonight
Guy Garvey Unwind
Half Japanese Volume 4 1997-2001
Hawkwind Hassan I Sahba
Heaven 17 (We don’t need this) Fascist Groove Thing
Hello Kitty Hello World S/T
Herman Brood Shpritsz
Higher Authorities Neptune
Hooverphonic The Magnificent Tree
Hozier Take Me To Church
Ian Brown Solarized
Ibrahim Ferrer Buena Vista Social Club Presents
The Idle Race Idle Race
Iggy Pop Fire Engine
Iggy and the Stooges Metallic KO
Incredible Bongo Band Box Set
The In Crowd That’s How Strong My Love Is
Interpol El Pintor –Remixes
The Interrupters S/T
I-Robots Present Psychodisco
Iron Maiden Empire of the Clouds
Isley Brothers This Old Heart of Mine
Jack Off Jill Clear Hearts Grey Flowers
Jack Off Jill Sexless Demons & Scars
Jackie Brenston Rocket 88
Jah Screechy Walk and Skank
James Greenpeace Palace Concert
James Bay Chaos and the Calm
James Brown Revue Live At The Apollo 1972
Jason Molina The Townes Van Zandt Covers
Jay Reatard Blood Visions
J Dilla The Diary
Jethro Tull Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll
Jimmy Page She Just Satisfies
Jochen Arbeit Tse Tse
Joe Bataan Chick A Boom
John Coltrane The Roulette Sides
John Cooper Clarke Ou Est Le Maison De Fromage
John Frusciante Fosegrow
Johnny Clarke Natty Roots Sessions
Johnny Thunders 1978
Johnny Thunders/Heartbreakers Vive La Revolution
John Renbourn The Attic Tapes
John Williams Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Jon Spencer Blues Explosion That’s It Baby Right Now…
Junior Kimbrough/Daft Punk I Gotta Try You Girl
Katastrophy Wife Dysrhythmia
Killing Joke Pylon
Killswitch Engage Define Love
Kings of Convenience Quiet/Riot/Versus
K’s Choice Extra Cocoon
La Dispute Tint Dots
Left Lane Cruiser Beck In Black
Libertines Box Set
Liminanas Garden’s of Love
Linkin Park Road to Revolution Live
Locust Morning Light
Low/S. Carey Not A Word/I Won’t Let You
LUSH Origami Box
Lydia Lunch & Marc Hurtado My Lover The Killer
Madonna Like a Virgin and Other Hits
Magazine Once At The Academy
Malcolm Middleton You & I
Marc Bolan & T Rex Born to Boogie Soundtrack
Martin Simpson and Friends Green Onions/Willie Taylor
Marylin Manson Antichrist Superstar tape
Matthew Sweet Goodfriend
Matt Wills Lost and Found
Max Jury Numb/Standing on my Own
Max Romeo Give Thanks EP
Mercury Re/Lost Horizons Rainy Day Record/Life Inside A Paradox
METZ/Mission of Burma Good, Not Great/Get Off
Mew And The Glass Handed Kites
Michael Chapman Savage Amusement
Mike Cooper & Derek hall Out of the Shades
Mike Oldfield Nuclear
The Mickey Finn Garden of my Mind
Mike Stuart Span Children of Tomorrow
Motorhead Bad Magic (3 versions)
The Move Something Else From the Move
Muddy Waters Hoochie Coochie Man
Mumford and Sons There Will Be Time
Mungo Jerry In The Summertime/Baby Jump
Neneh Cherry Buffalo Stance
Neon Indian Psychic Chasms + Mind CTRL
Neon Indian ERA EXTRANA + ERRATA ANEX
Nick Harper The Wilderness Years Vol 1-3
Nikki Sudden Treasure Island
Ninth Gate OST
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds El Mexicano
Nurse With Wound/Band Of Pain Noinge
Ocean Colour Scene Moseley Shoals
Ol Dirty Bastard Brooklyn Zoo/Shimmy Shimmy Ya
Oumou Sangare Moussolou
Orb Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld
Parkway Drive Horizons
Pere Ubu 30 Seconds Over Tokyo B/W Heart Of Darkness
Phill Pratt Star Wars Dub
Pinact Stand Still and Rot
Pinkshinyultrablast Happy Songs For Happy Zombies
Primal Scream Mantra for a State of Mind
Private jones/Corduroy I Got By in Time
Psychic TV The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye
Psychic TV Fishscales Falling: A Smorgasbord Ov Delights – Mixtape
Public Service Broadcasting The Other Side
Regina Spektor Soviet Kitsch
Regina Spektor Begin to Hope
Residents Please Do Not Steal It
Reverend Horton Heat Hardscrabble Woman
Richmond Fontaine You Can’t Go Back…
Rob Zombie Well, Everybody’s…
Rockin’ Vickers Dandy
Rodrigo Y Gabriella Live
Roger Van Otterloo Turks Fruit
Roots Manuva Switching Sides
Roots Radics World Cup –Extra Time
Runaways Right Now
Screaming Blue Messiahs Sweet Water Pools
Section 25 Alfresco
Self Defense Family The Power Does Not Work In the Presence…
Shaggs Sweet Maria
Shirley Collins English Songs Vol 2
Simple Minds Big Music Tour 2015
Six by Seven Six by Seven
Skrillex & Diplo Where Are You Now?
Slits I Heard it Through The Grapevine
Small Faces The Autumn Stone
Soft Cell Sex Dwarf
Son Volt Live
Soulfuledge & Romina Johnson Standing on Top of the World
Spencer Morales ft Randy Without Your Love
Squeeze Goodbye Girl
Status Quo Rockin’ All Over The World
Staves Are You Satisfied
Sublime Jah Won’t Pay the Bills tape x2 and vinyl x1
Summer Hits Beaches and Canyons
Sun Ra Jazz by Sun Ra Vol 1
Superchunk Tossing Seeds (Singles 89-91)
Superpitcher So Far So Super
Sven Libaek To Ride a White Horse
Sweet Charles/Glen Jones Yes It’s You/ I am Somebody
Syndicats On the Horizon
Talking Heads/Echosmith SXS
Teddy Douglas Retro Soul sampler
Them The Broadcast EP
Third Power Believe
Tiger Joanie Scott Baby I Need Your Lovin’
Todd Rundgren ad Utopia Disco Jets
Tom Hingley Band Beggar’s Hand
Tom Petty Kiss My Amps Vol 2
Trembling Bells Who Call The Law?
Twenty One Pilots A Few Older Ones
Urban Dance Squad The Singles Collection
VANT Fly By Alien
Various The Birth of the Beat
Various Brighton’s Finest
Various Cambodian Cassette Archives
Various Communion 10
Various Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s
Various Genius of Time Larry Levan
Various Instrumentals Soul-Style
Various JOY OST
Various Nuggets: Hallucinations
Various Other Side of Sun Records
Various Psyche France Vol 2
Various Sensible Record Labels
Various Soho Scene 64 (Jazz Goes Mod)
Various Soul-In (Mods Out On The Floor)
Various Soul Jazz Presents New Orleans Funk
Various Soul Jazz Presents Ska Sounds
Various Texas Soul 65
Various This is Trojan Box Set
Various Wake Up You The Rise & Fall Of Nigerian Roc
Various West Coast Soul 65
Weeknd The Hills Remixes
Ginger Wildheart From G*A*S*S With Love
Virginia Wing Rhonda
Warren Zevon/Flaming Groovies Werewolves of London
Wedding Present The Hit Parade
Willie Nelson/Uncle Tupelo Truck Drivin’ Man
Wishbone Ash Bonafide
Xiu Xiu Twin Peaks
The Record Store Day list is now out. Thankfully it’s only around 550 releases to get through. It was 650 vinyl releases two years ago and it cost VoxBox a small fortune to buy in copies of around 400 different titles. It’s safe to say that not all sold on the day… There is actually still a box of unsold LPs and singles in the shop. Some have gone up in value -hooray! And some are heading to the Backroom soon. -boo! In fact we’ll have a sale including them and various new records that we have a few too many of on Saturday 16th April.
The RSD list is ok. It’s overwhelming to begin with. But when you have a good look, there are a good amount of records that are already incredibly rare and have been out of print for too long- So they are very welcome. I’d have liked to see more contemporary artists with exclusive releases but that’s the way it goes. The 5 Seconds of Summer cassette tape in 2014 was my favourite release of the day as it created such excitement. The tape was gifted to shops by the label to give away free to fans that queued up and knew the password. The 16 year old female fans didn’t buy anything at all on the day but it was really good fun and generous of the (major) label.
The best RSD release 2014 ?
I’m keen to not have many unsold records this year so I’ll be ordering fewer copies of the bands that have a smaller fanbase. I’m also not going to order any records that I think are insanely overpriced or that are not particularly limited in terms of worldwide availability. Any records I think will quickly depreciate in value won’t be ordered in either. Most of the records are expensive for shops to buy in. So complaints should be addressed to the labels concerned rather than the shops or even RSD as an event.
Please get in touch soon if you have any specific wants. The shops only got the list yesterday at the same time as everyone else and there is only between 2 and 3 weeks for us to get our orders in. Obviously I’ll be asking for as many Bowie records we can get in but gauging the demand for the smaller bands is difficult. We can’t take pre-orders and can’t save you a copy of anything but I’ll order extra copies of smaller band releases if there is interest.
Remember that although the queue can be long, there are so many releases that a queue of 50 people can actually all be after different records.
Mainly, the day is a celebration of record shops and the added income helps pay the wages and for us, it’s also a platform and celebration of the local talent we have and our wonderful Street. Saying that, we’ll be using most of any profit from this RSD to help fund the shop’s own record label. There are 3 album release this year. Jargo At Night When The Wind Calms Down -out on RSD. The best guitar band in the UK’s debut album (seriously) around June – more announced soon. And Edinburgh’s Delta Mainline’s sublime second album towards the end of the year.
We’ll have an afternoon of free live music in nearby venues as usual, courtesy of some of the best established and up and coming bands from Edinburgh and further afield. The bands are paid by the shop and venue and normally have a new release to sell too that will certainly be worth checking out.
I should also mention that this particular Record Store Day is being celebrated by us as the VoxBox Music 5th birthday party. I’m ironing out a few details just now and there are a few council/licensing hoops to jump through but I think we will have the best celebration in the UK. We’ll all be smiling like Little Stevie Wonder.
Records are records are records right? Circular things with grooves that contain music that you need to look after? No. Not if you’re a youngster. (By that I mean sub 30) The Record Collector types and the Mojo Man are getting on a bit -keepin’ on keepin’ on… I like the new vinyl buyers a lot as they are more vibrant and healthy than my bretheren, but there is one thing I’d like to talk about:
These healthy record buying youngsters call records “vinyls”… All of them do! And it has become contagious; even old bands are calling them vinyls and folk even older than them are emailing me about their vinyls for sale. So with the realisation that even people that grew up with records are calling them vinyls, I capitulated last year and became tongue in cheek @VoxBoxVinyls for a while on Twitter and put up a sign saying “Vinyls for sale”. Was that an apostrophe away from being correct?
I’ve actually grown to like the term vinyls. It makes me feel young and want to throw my walking stick away. Ah let’s go shopping for some vinyls! I bought a great vinyl the other day! I love my vinyl player! I’m building up a great collection of vinyls! I can’t wait for Vinyl Store Day! I love shopping at VoxBox Vinyls! Harry has said something! If you can’t be bothered to try to beat them and can’t bring yourself to join them AND have a vinyls shop, still at least be glad of these youngsters. For this is the future. -You may not like it much but you will have to live in it.
The old guard; the record collectors and dance DJs that kept the format alive through the 1990s onward don’t like the word vinyls. To them, it like calling a flock of sheep “sheeps”. The plural of vinyl is vinyl they say; or more accurately, when they overhear you youngsters call records “vinyls” it is as if you asked them to close their eyes and then simulated the cracking of an egg over their head by clapping your hands together and then used your fingers to trickle pretend egg down and all over their face.
As I’m of a certain age and have been in among records for a long time, the term vinyls does also annoy me a bit but I can’t see things changing and I do get a wee bit of pleasure seeing the 1990s house music purist get all Basil Fawlty about it.
It’s on those trays…cuatro!
The term vinyls is generally used to describe new albums released as records on vinyl but it is a shame as it makes the description clunky as for example people are looking for “vinyl records” rather than records or vinyl and there is a difference. There has certainly been a lot adaptation of the terminology. – Lady Gaga will call a single only available as a download a record. Maybe that’s were the need to specify comes from. The kids say duh! Everyone knows a record is a download. A “vinyl record” is when you get a vinyl with it.
It’s the shops that have to change but also be at the leading edge of informing new artists and labels about what it is that they are putting out. Meanwhile… In these transitional times, VoxBox has developed a ready reckoner for the budding connoisseur. (An old fashioned app)
The VoxBox Vinyls App:
Record: Round flat disc played with a stylus.
Single: As above. A normal single has one song on each side and is known as “a 45” or a “seven inch” record. They are seven inches in diameter and usually play at 45rpm. Simple.
12 inch single: A single can also be released as a 12 inch record. Often have extended dance version with remixes. These are known as “12 inchers” or “twelves” and usually play at 45rpm.
EPs: Some seven inch records have more than 2 tracks. These are EPs – Extended Play singles. Having 3 tracks is actually a grey area –they could still be called a single with a bonus track- but one with 4 tracks is definitely an EP. These can be 7 inch, 10 inch or 12 inch and can play at 45 or 33 1/3rpm.
Album: An album is usually 12 inches in diameter but they aren’t ever called 12 inch records or 12 inchers. They are only ever called albums or LPs (Long Players). They play at 33 1/3 rpm.
It can get a bit confusing.
So albums play at 33 1/3rpm? Yes. Unless they play at 45 rpm… Some single albums are re-released as double albums to be played a bit faster. The faster a record goes, the more information the needle can gather every second so the sound quality should be better. Unfortunately you have to get up and turn the record over more often. So life quality goes down.
Some albums are released as 10 inch records. There is absolutely no reason for a band to do this and it makes organising your record collection a lot more difficult. 10 inch records are usually EPs and although they can often contain enough songs to be called albums they are never called LPs. If your favourite band release an album on 10 inch vinyl or even worse, double 10 inch vinyl (I’m looking at you Radiohead) please write in to complain. Not to me.
So, in summary, 7 inch singles that are longer are sometimes played at 33 1/3 rpm rather than 45rpm but are still called 45s. Short 7 inch EPs are often played at 45rpm but are never called 45s. 12 inch records are albums unless they are singles or Eps. Some 10 inchers are albums but not LPs. Albums are on 10 or 12 inch vinyl and are never called a 12 inch or incher but they can be called a 10 inch but not a 10 incher. Some Eps are 10 inchers. Some 10 inchers are 78s -but they definitely aren’t called 10 inchers (see below). Some 7 inchers are Eps and play at 45rpm but they are not called 45s. A 10 inch that plays at 45rpm is not a 45. No Eps are albums unless they are mini-albums or a double EP. And CDs are 3 inchers but no-one has or will ever called them that.
IS THAT CLEAR!
But there’s more:
Can we now at least all agree that records are made of vinyl?
Well, maybe yes. That is, some are not. Test pressings were originally made of a metal plate coated in a waxy substance called acetone (These are known as acetates) and the first records were made of shellac, an ooze harvested from the underappreciated Lac Beetle. In which case they are still called records or maybe 78s, or your “BIG ten inch” if you have that wonderful Bullmoose Jackson record, but never shellacs or singles although they are technically singles, having a single song on each side. They are usually 10 inches in diameter and these will normally play at 78rpm… unless they play at somewhere between 76 and 80rpm or as low as 16rpm. To get a full album of songs or more likely, to fit in a whole symphony, they would come with their sleeves bound together like a book. –much like a photo album.
And that’s where the term album comes from.
So now you know.
Coming next week: Kiss my Acetates… Me and my wax.
Meanwile listen to this and contemplate a well labelled record.
* The original CD 3-incher was designed to hold 74 minutes. Enough to fit in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
A young fellow from somewhere in Fife got in touch last year by email and told me he had a band and that they had an album which was already recorded and that he was just looking for a label to release it. He had heard about the VoxBox shop’s record label FoxBox Records, and he had found the (massive) email address and he had sent me the soundcloud link.
I opened it.
And I sat and basically played the whole album through. At Night When The Wind Calms Down. I’m a tad against listening to music on laptops as the one I’m currently typing on has speakers that are not up to much. But I went back and played it again. And again.
I thought it was really good. -That’s clearly not the quote to put on a poster.
Jargo: “really good” says VoxBox.
But it was really very good indeed and I said we would be able to put it out on the shop label and I hoped that being on the label would give the band a boost. As a label, we are not threatening Chemikal Underground or even Edinburgh’s own fine Song, by Toad label but since I’ve been running a friendly Edinburgh record shop for nearly five years, I thought that being on our old fashioned fledgling label could help a bit.
At the time Cassette Store Day was around the corner. I put it to him that it can get a wee crowd and he said he had a bunch of songs almost ready that would be great for a cassette release. So we put out a mini album called This Frequency of Light is all I Know with knocked together artwork in keeping with the DIY ethos of tape releases. It’s a nice tape with some lovely songs.
This Frequency of Light is all I Know
I’ve a sneaking suspicion that not many people who buy cassette tapes actually play them. You should just listen and stick it on your ipod by streaming or downloading the tracks. A record shop advocating downloads? Yep, that’s us. It’s good to get the music out there. Electrons in a computer are kind of cool I suppose and ideal for a quick listen or a sampler; but I do still feel the need to have a physical object to represent a release and show off the artwork to the fans.
The single chosen from the tape was the lovely Burntisland. A song that The Herald newspaper described as “The best song ever written about Burntisland”. They were right! And as if beating off the stiff competition for that title wasn’t enough, the single was rated at number 92 in The Herald’s top 100 Scottish songs of the year 2015. If no-one ever tells me where the article’s writer is from, I will die a happy man.
Then Jargo put out a cheeky single the other week to help promote a Burn’s Night gig. It is called Rosemarie and sounds sweet but if you listen to the lyrics, it seems it is about the gorgeous Rosemarie of the title and erm… Alison! After a friendly email, it was played on the Roddy Hart Show on the BBC which was really nice. You can listen here if you like.
If a band is PRS registered, a play on a regional BBC show means about £15 to the songwriter. (But a play on a BBC station can mean that you go into the multiplier… there is an assumption that if you are played on a big station, then your song will be played on Jukeboxes, Cruise Ships, Barbers, Shopping Centres, Dance Classes, Record Shops, Pubs, Bookies and so on. It can mount up.
And what a prolific songwriter Jargo is! There are a lot of ideas in the songs and I have a feeling there are many more to come. I am even pretty sure that there is a tap. Coming from the Dylan school of “Write 10 songs a day throw 9 away”, he is dripping with catchy songs, melancholy songs, pop songs, funny songs, electro songs… If you were to follow him around with a bucket, you would catch an acoustic barbed ode to a former lover and a funny song about being a ghost by lunchtime. And then maybe catch just enough for a spoken-word electro-pop number before supper.
I even found there is a youtube channel with fantastic demos recorded in his house that didn’t make the album. He may well hate me for posting, but this is such a great song called Call Centre Jerk about working in a call centre. It is so great to meet someone so prolific that so many lovely songs, those odds and sods, can be found scattered around the internet. I will try to gather them up for you.
If all goes to plan, the real debut album At Night When The Wind Calms Down will be released on Record Store Day –Saturday 16th April, with a wee performance by the 3 piece band. There will be a few rogue releases between now and then, so do keep an eye out.
I’m very proud to be able to support this talented young chap (and band). As I said to him the other day; I’ll try to be a better label. “I’ll try to be a better band” he said straight back.
It is Valentine’s Day 2015 at nearly half past four and the inside of the shop is just too small and by trying to clear some space there are records all over the place and full boxes of records everywhere. I’m trying to move the records that mormally sit in the middle of the frontroom into the backroom and maybe some also outside as I’ve done before on these occassions. It has been a busy day and I started the preparation a bit later than I’d have liked. It is cold, it is Saturday the 14th February and I’m full of nerves. I don’t have an amp or a PA system and in the back of my mind, still think there may just be a small crowd. But I do have a wee fan heater and have bought some beer, wine and cider. Some fans have been in already to buy the single and The Twilight Sad will be arriving in a few minutes…
I was asked at the end of 2014 if I would be up for VoxBox being included as part of The Twilight Sad’s record shop tour to promote a new 7“ single –I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want. I generally say yes to any collaborations or in-stores, but this was a definite and smiley yes. Their label, FatCat are almost a Scottish label anyway with PAWS, Honeyblood, The Twilight Sad, Frightened Rabbit (Now on Atlantic), WWPJ and Vashti Bunyan as the Scottish contigent among other fine bands from the rest of the UK and the world so I always try to keep an eye out for their releases.
The picture disc single with unreleased B-side
Seven shops were actually involved with their Record Shop in-store tour including the wonderful Pie and Vinyl, Rough Trade, Resident, Jumbo, Spillers, Banquet and Mono in Glasgow. It’s nice to be thought of in such good company as most are regarded the UKs best record shops. I was asked how long they should play for and had said twenty minutes to half an hour would be grand but hey, whatever feels right on the day.
With these kind of events, it can be really difficult to judge how may people will finally show up. In-stores are funny like that. To help plug it and to gauge the interest, I set up a Facebook page as soon as the appearance was confirmed and very quickly 50 folk said they would come but it then tailed off for a few weeks. For a Facebook event, 50 people saying they are going can often mean 15. Maybe is usually not. That’s ok though, 15 people would be fine for any photos on the day; we would still look full and we will be filming it for posterity too. The shop actually, at a push, holds about 35 in the front room fairly comfortably. (Withered Hand at Jannica Honey band photography exhibition launch)
Some of the participating shops had offered entry to fans that had bought or pre-ordered the single. I never wanted to do that, but getting nearer the day it seemed to became a necessity, especially after The Skinny magazine made the in-store an event of the week. Our Facebook event that had been sitting at 50 for so many weeks jumped to 200 in two days and with only a day or two to go, I realised that the majority were planning to come to this! I definitely needed to make some space and planned to have the front shop clear; anyone that bought the single could be guaranteed to see the band in the shop, and any overspill would have to peer in from outside. But just in case, we needed a contigency plan…
Can we stick the band on the steps? It is a bit chilly after all. Wounded Knee played on the steps for our first Record Store Day and that was good fun. We’ll also need a PA to amplify it.
The instore in Resident from a few days before had already made it onto Youtube. They had mics and a PA and they were playing inside a cosy record shop.
I emailed the Twilight Sad manager to say there may well be too many people. I’m very sorry, but at such short notice, we don’t have a PA and getting mics and equipment needed could be tricky… Could they play on the steps unamplified? And the very nice and reassuring manager gets back to me… don’t worry! a small crowd is better than no crowd. And the the band say that playing on the steps will be ok if need be.
Andy from Gerry Loves Records who helps me with these kind of things and would be doing the filming, also said “Seriously, don’t worry, The Twilight Sad can belt it out”. He has seen them loads and my pre-gig jitters are eased a bit.
The fan heater whirred away and the shop was getting warm as showtime approached. I had still been moving boxes of records all over the place to clear the shop for the 30-40 people that might buy the single and then I just stopped moving the stuff about. There were record boxes surrounding everything. There was no chance of having a band here in the shop at all. It had also become eerie, with the door open, no-one had even been in the shop for the last 20 minutes or so. Andy from Gerry Loves had arrived and was setting out his filming equipment… “What are you doing? Have you looked outside” he said? “There are people all over the street”.
Great, I like people!
“No. There are people ALL over the street!” So… with a quick look outside… there was everyone, EVERYONE was outside. THERE ARE PEOPLE ALL OVER THE STREET! You lovely Twilight Sad fans! Bloody hell, this is fantastic!
Just around then, James and Andy of The Twilight Sad come in.
Hello. Hello. Says they.
Hello. Hello. Says I… Thanks for coming… Erm… have a beer or a cider… or a wine.
After a few good minutes of record shop chat we realised there was a gig to be had on the steps – and in the backstage that had become the VoxBox shop, we shut the door and James sang some improvised scales. He went through the big notes he needed and coughed a bit and that was it. Ready.
So without further a do… The steps. Sorry it’s so cold.
And it was such a cold February day, I had worried that guitarist-Andy’s fingers would be too chilly to do any intricate guitar work.
Last minute, I decided to point the shop fan heater at Andy’s back, to point it out the door at the back of the chair he was sitting on to try to warm his fingers. Then with some help (in no uncertain terms) realised how crazy an idea that was. So with nothing else to contribute, I edged out past the 2 piece Twilight Sad on the steps, made my way through the throng and up on to the steps across the street to watch.
The street was blocked with fans standing in the road. Cars were turning into the street, seeing the crowd then braking suddenly and deciding against it. It was more than a wee bit dangerous.
Neighbour Olaf that runs Wide Days was there and asked “did you get permission for this?”
Did I need permission for this?! Erm.. no, I didn’t get any… I put it up on Facebook and in The Skinny and everyone turned up.
“That’s brilliant!” He said.
And it was.
Around 200 people came. Some left before the end. Some didn’t know it was on and were sucked in by the crowd to see what was happening (They became fans, queued and bought the albums on CD) and so many fantastic fans of the band were there at the start and leaned over railings and a parked (wrong) car and a bin to get as close as possible.
What I hadn’t counted on and had underestimated was the definition of “belt it out”. I thought it meant they played loudly. What the understatement had really meant was that James Graham has a voice of an opera singer. A self-trained voice from Kilsyth and that he can project that voice mic-free for hundreds of meters. There were moments when I worried about the rendering… (Edinburgh joke)
After half an hour and then for the following 25 minutes, I honestly thought that the police would come…
I started to worry and began thinking, why does he have to belt it out so much!? The voice reverberating between the tenements… And it was LOUD in places. Playing on the steps had given James a freedom to sing as loudly as he liked. And, dear reader, he took it. There’s a moment you can see in the footage where we all hear a police siren… James’s eyes say that he’s thinking the same as the rest of us but he keeps on singing.
Despite the cold Valentine’s Day, The Twilight Sad two piece played for just under an hour. Even with chilly fingers, Andy never hit a bum note.
They never actually played the single that they were promoting.
The Footage to date has had 23,500 YouTube views.
James and Andy are T-Rex fans.
“That was a bit special” – James
And in case you’ve seen the footage all the way through and are wondering, James did actually draw a cock on a fan’s copy of the album (at their insistence) -he really didn’t want to deface the artwork. They stayed for an hour chatting to fans that queued up to get the single and albums signed.
After the gig, I gave James a glass of red wine -well… a mug as that’s all we keep in the shop, Andy had some beer and we took a few pics. “Good luck for the upcoming Scottish Album of the Year Award” and with £20 for a taxi, they headed off up the road. Well, I suppose you could even say into the sunset or the twilight or something.
In lieu of a proper end of year blog post and while it is still January, I though it would be nice to share my favorite musical event of last year.
Super-thanks to FatCat Records, Essential distibution and The Twilight Sad. It will never be the same.
My first copies of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Hunky Dory came from a record fair held in a large hall at The University of Liverpool in 1995. I remember that well.
I first really heard David Bowie when I was 18 years old. I had just started university and was studying medicine in Liverpool. This was 1995 and the CD was truly king. Bowie had still been releasing albums but they were not as well received as everyone would have liked them to be. The single Hello Spaceboy had recently charted but it hadn’t pushed my buttons. I remembered Dancing in the Street with Mick Jagger when I was wee boy. I hadn’t been impressed. Maybe it was Mick Jagger: Mick has always seemed a bit far-fetched to me; even as a young lad.
I’d been introduced to The Stooges when I was 16 by a friend who was working his way through one of those MOJO “100 greatest albums ever” lists. I loved that stuff. Raw Power was what it was all about. Bowie “That fucking carrot top ruined my album” said Iggy. But he’d helped the Stooges and Lou Reed… There must be something I was missing.
Having been born in September 1977 (in between the deaths of Marc Bolan and Elvis Presley a few days after Iggy’s Lust For Life was released) I completely missed the glam rock heyday. Growing up, you could see there were a few punk stragglers and a few mods that you were told to avoid in case they would beat you up but there wasn’t a scene of any sort in my home town. I’d like to have seen what a town like Peterhead made of the gender bending alien of glam period Bowie.
My teen era belonged to Nirvana and I was aware of The Man Who Sold the World as one of my favourite tracks from the live Nirvana Unplugged album. “This is a David Bowie song” said Kurt. Wow, that’s so good! I thought. I bought the guitar tablature and tried to learn how to play it.
At University, living in halls of residence you kind of make friends with everyone until you find your group. There was a guy that had won the karaoke competition who lived in the same block as a friend of mine. He took a while to get ready… One time we went to his room to wait for him to get his stuff together. It was halls but his room was much better than ours, it was lovely. A sheepskin rug on the floor. Very tidy for an 18 year old student. Well, very tidy for anyone. A well kept plant for a bit of greenery. Some throws on the bed. A paperback Sartre splayed open on a rustic bedside table. And a record player. No-one had a record player, certainly not 18 year old students. This was very exotic indeed. In hindsight, I think what he had constructed was basically a shag pad designed to impress. It certainly made a lasting impression on me.
Anyway, he put on a record while we were waiting and disappeared somewhere.
The record he had chosen was David Bowie’s album The Man Who Sold the World. When it got to the title track, my head exploded. I recognised the song of course, but this version as so much better. My heart screamed “This is the best song I’ve ever heard!” The production was brilliant! The stereo sound flitting between speakers fried my little brains. The vocals REALLY messed with my head. The fantastically weird lyrics. The fuzzy guitar sound. That riff! And the up and down chorus riff on the bass strings. The freaky solo. The long outro. The deep voice that comes in and gets louder and groans the song to a conclusion as the music gets more quiet and slowly fades out. The world is sold to a man on the stair. Oops says Bowie. It was me. I did it.
So I picked up a Best of Bowie CD which is a pretty good place for anyone to start with Bowie. Then I blew the rest of my student loan on a turntable, amp and speakers and I began buying records. -Starting with his.
It wouldn’t be too far a stretch to say that David Bowie is indirectly responsible for the VoxBox shop existing (And, I may add the new slope that has developed in my upstairs record room’s floor). I always get a little joy when his records come in in a second-hand collection. I think, wow! Some people are going to be in for a real treat with these. I wonder who they will be?
So I was terribly saddened this morning to hear of his passing. There have been rumours of Bowie having cancer for years that I never believed, but this has still come as some surprise. I just heard Tony Visconti on the radio saying that David had known he was dying when making the new album. The timing of the new release in a way being a last act of performance art. But no “look at me” fuss made by him.
So thank you David. In an industry where you are lucky to have 5 years, you have been an inspiration for so many different reasons, to so many millions for so much longer than that and even helped to make so many of us feel like heroes along the way.
And that is such a beautiful thing.
Ever the adaptor, from such a wide range of sources; the inspiration for the TMWSTW song was the poem Antigonish by Hughes Mearns.
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
When I came home last night at three,
The man was waiting there for me
But when I looked around the hall,
I couldn’t see him there at all!
Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door…
Last night I saw upon the stair,
A little man who wasn’t there,
He wasn’t there again today
Oh, how I wish he’d go away…
Before the Iron Maiden post, I was about to type a blog bit about Javier, a canny buyer from Santiago who was making a living here in Edinburgh sending boxes of records back home to Chile. He’d go to the charity shops, record fairs, car boot sales and the VoxBox Backroom picking up bargain records. Of course, he was after the usual rarities that EVERYONE is after [see Where Are All The Records?] There’s no guarantee that you’ll get hold of a 1966 copy of Revolver or the many other nice records but he didn’t need to rely on them as he had found a niche. An unlimited supply… and he could pay his rent here for years while supporting his family in Chile.
The answer was Phil Collins albums of the early 1980s. The ones with his face hogging the front covers. I’m talking about Face Value, Hello, I Must Be Going, No Jacket Required and …But Seriously.
In the UK, these smash albums of the 1980s are derided, defaced and usually pass from a fan’s loft to a record shop, then to a charity shop before being sent to landfill or turned into a cakestand, coasters, a bowl, or the like. Recycling vinyl is trickier than you’d imagine it should be and I’ve been arguing for years that they should turn spent records into a flooring material… Until then, we’ll have to put up with people turning dud records into clocks.
Some vinyl clocks are better than others.
We sell run of the mill copies of Face Value and the other Collins albums for £1.50 in the backroom. A minty one, we’ll stick a cheeky fiver on and see how it goes. My Chilean friend, Javier would buy bags of Backroom records. Artists like Phil Collins, ELO, Olivia Newton John, Elton John, Duran Duran, Vangelis, Rod Stewart, ABBA and Simply Red. SIMPLY RED! I had to ask. How can you make this work?
He told me…
“See this album? Phil Collins… (Only he said theez album and Pheel Collins)
I can sell theez album for fifteeeen pounds in Chile. Not equivalent to fifteeeeen pounds. Fifteeeeeeen pounds in Chilean money.”
Fifteeeeeeeeeeeen quid! My jaw hit the floor… And I’m selling them to him (With discount) for a bit more than a pound. For a box of 25, he told me, it averages out at about £3 per record to get it to his Chilean record shop in Santiago. £1 a record. Shipping £1. Import Tax £1.
Javier moved back this year and I never did ask him why he thought his fellow Chileans had such an appetite for 1980s pop. I had imaginings of the dictator Pinochet sitting in his tower seething at the news that Easy Lover Phil has had another global smash hit. Then, against all odds, the film career. Buster! Damn you Collins! Your albums are revolting!
I did a bit of background reading expecting to find that Pinochet banned western music. But no, the opposite was true! By letting in western and neighbouring Argentinian music it undermined Chile’s own music industry hitting the exposure that the anti-Pinochet Chilean folk and rock musicians could get. Some were tortured or exiled. Folk musician Victor Jara was tortured and killed, others were simply ignored by state controlled media. If you like, there’s a lengthy article here about the Pinochet regime [1973-1990] and Chilean pop music here. You can hear a revolutionary number by Victor Jara below.
I was also saddened but not surprised to read that music was used by torturers. Cat Stevens, Nilsson and George Harrison are among the western artists that were played according to an article citing survivors recollections. No mention of Phil Collins (and you can make up your own joke here). The same thing goes on in Guantanamo these days and the US government doesn’t even pay the artists royalties. I’m reminded of the fantastic and powerful play/film Death and the Maiden starring Ben Kingsley and Sigourney Weaver which explores an imagined post-dictatorship South American country and the accidental meeting between a torturer and his victim where Schubert’s string quartet masterpiece Death And The Maiden had been the torturer’s tune of choice.
I wondered if Phil played Chile often? No, it seems he waited until Pinochet left power before playing a gig in Chile in 1995. Doing some research, I found that Collins was not even, as has been widely reported, a Tory voter. (Thatcher was a longtime supporter of Pinochet for among other reasons, his help to UK forces during the Falklands conflict). He also donates all the royalties earned from his music sales in South Africa to a charity. AND, to his credit, Phil played The Secret Policeman’s (Other) Ball for Amnesty International in 1981 which was to highlight atrocities committed by regimes such as that of Pinochet’s in Chile. I suppose In The Air Tonight has lyrics that would have some revolutionary appeal and hope. In the end Pinochet was voted out. -Not really due to 1980s pop but I have really grown to like Phil a bit.
So why are some Chilean fans prepared to pay so much for the Collins albums that we deride? Well, I think many Chileans couldn’t afford the music they liked in the 1980s and those that felt deprived then may now be in a position to compensate for that now. Also, that the longevity of UK artists in the rest of the world when they seem past their sell by date back here may appear mysterious until you realise that most of the world hasn’t seen Brass Eye (“I’m talking nonce-sense”) or read about Sting’s lengthy tantric sex sessions or Mick Hucknall’s 1000 conquests and Bono’s jet-setting hat. And maybe because of that, they are better placed to judge the music on its own merit rather than on the personalities that made it. I should also stress that Chile has a healthy appetite for all other genres of music.
I do keep in touch with Javier -Every month or so I raid the backroom and fill a box to go to Chile. ¡Viva la Revolución!
However, even with my newfound respect for the man, (and did you know he also paid for David Crosby’s Liver transplant!?) I still think Collins murders Tomorrow Never Knows…
Even a lighthearted blog bit about how someone can make a living selling Phil Collins records can quickly descend into one about serious human rights abuses. Coincidentally [and in these vinyl revival times, inevitably] he is reissuing his back catalogue on vinyl with bonus tracks and so on in November.
On a more upbeat note, direct proof that music can aid a revolution can be found in the Velvet Revolution of Czechslovakia. The Velvet Underground became unlikely heroes in Czechslovakia due to, among many reasons, percieved coded messages in the songs. “The cozy brown snow of the east”. The future PM Václav Havel was a fan.
“Did you know that I am president because of you?”
So Tesco are selling the Iron Maiden album in 55 Metro stores to see how it goes. They have priced it at £24 which has undercut Amazon who are selling at £24.99. It is worth noting that the price Independent shops are being charged for the new Iron Maiden 3LP set is £20 plus VAT. Or exactly £24. The buggers.
A spokesman said they are selling so many record players that they’d be as well start selling records too. That makes sense; it was only a matter of time. Tesco can sell what it likes and I’m sure it has made financial sense for Bruce Dickinson and the rest of Iron Maiden, although the mental picture of hordes of metal fans trooping in to pick up the new album under the harsh sterile lighting of Tesco does seem a little absurd.
Even if Tesco wasn’t selling records, I would have been reluctant to buy in this release unless asked to by a customer. If a record costs me £24, I’d have to price it at about £36 -so even without Tesco, Amazon have undercut us already. And even if the customer wanted to buy it from us and was happy to pay the extra amount, I’d be tempted just to drop in to Tesco to save having to go through the distributor’s new laborious ordering process then wait for a cardboard box. That way I’d also get a few Clubcard points.
I don’t even mind that there is a price difference. How could anyone really complain… VoxBox: “I’ll take 5 copies please and see how they do”. Tesco: “We’ll take 5000 copies and make a display in 55 supermarkets”. I’m sure Tesco only look at the profit to be made and that they honestly don’t look at how it might affect the smaller record shops at all. As to the band… It maybe shouldn’t have come as a surprise -they clearly shop on the high street and now look more like your well-spoken girlfriend’s dad than stadium rockers.
Bring my daughter, bring my daughter… home by 10.
We have an account with Warner the (label and) distributor. I generally use it for ordering back catalogue classic albums. -Warner bought Elektra, Atlantic and Reprise and so distribute The Stooges, Love and The Doors as well as the Led Zeppelin reissues and Neil Young. More contemporary artists include The Flaming Lips, The Black Keys, The Dead Weather and Royal Blood who we also stock and Michael Buble who we don’t.
I try to roughly price match Amazon + P&P on these records and can just about keep the price down. With new releases on the major labels, it is usually more difficult to compete on price than with the Independent releases. The selling prices tend to start HIGH then come down very quickly as sellers that are at least nominally based in the USA sell via Amazon. [Shops in the USA pay about 20% less than we do].
In fact the “Amazon price” is often fine, but underneath, the sellers that sell through Amazon are often impossible to compete with. How they can buy the record, pay for packing materials, pay Amazon a seller fee, pay someone’s wages and then even make a loss on the postage cost itself and still make it worthwhile is beyond me. Especially if any profit is being properly taxed. [Records allegedly coming from the USA cost £1.26 for postage when the real cost would normally be nearer $8] Someone should call the cops.
Another reason I tend to avoid the more expensive new releases is that the record companies can often overestimate the demand for new records and the price will tend to drop as shops that have bought it in start to reduce the price to cost price or less to get rid of unsold copies and then overstockists can come in and sell the rest at a knockdown price. So we try to focus on the usual different records.
In an interesting scene cut from the Last Shop Standing film, Richard Hawley said that you’ll never find a 13th Floor Elevators album in Tesco. Now It may just be a matter of time.
Last Shop Standing, the book, deals with the closing of many of the UK’s record shops in the 1990s-2000s and delves into the reasons why. This was pre-downloads and a common theme was the supermarkets undercutting the traditional record shops and selling CDs as loss leaders in a battle against their competitors. This also hammered HMV, eating into its market share and making it look expensive. When the supermarkets would be selling the new releases for a price lower than the shops were able to buy in for, some shop owners would try to clear Asda out of CDs on the Monday morning to be able to sell them later in the day. This wasn’t sustainable and supermarkets offered no prayer for the dying independent shops -which is only to be expected -big businesses are run by accountants, not people.
A fear is that with a new Tesco-Amazon-HMV price war, some shops will be the collateral damage. It’s perhaps less of a worry if they stick to the big releases on major labels as smaller shops will have probably shied away from them anyway for the reasons above. A greater concern would be that they expand into independent label territory placing large orders to fill their shelves and depriving small shops of their usual small orders with top ups as and when needed. This can already happen with HMV and many albums both indie and mainstream can take off and sell out quickly as it is. [*see anecdote below]
On a positive note, an upside to supermarkets stocking vinyl could be that even more people will get into records and that could help shops in the long run. A kind of “trickle down” economics. So it’s a long blog post and Tesco are so far only dipping their toe into record retail. Maybe one day they’ll sell releases on our record label, FoxBox Records. It’d actually be great if, for example, they stocked and supported SAY Award winner Kathryn Joseph and local labels. Thankfully, I’m not too sure that Tesco really know what they’re doing yet [the turntables they sell are truly awful] and with their recent financial woes, I’ve decided now is the time to strike back.
VoxBox Dairy Range coming soon.
*A wee anecdote: An Edinburgh shop ordered a Bob Dylan Box Set recently and had 10 pre-orders. They had ordered in good time, however, the order went unfulfilled as the label/distributor [Sony] had sent all the available copies to Amazon and HMV. The shop was advised by Sony to buy the 10 copies from HMV and Fopp and send them a copy of the receipts: They’d get a credit note to that value.
**Since typing this I’ve found a European distributor that is selling for about £18. It’s a strange time with vinyl, I might get a few in after all.
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?
Swinging ’66… Check out the inner sleeve advertisements! *See bottom of post*.
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).
VoxBox Music became the newest record shop in the world on May 21st 2011. We buy and sell vinyl and other formats of music. We are independent and sell mostly pre-owned records although we are slowly branching into new vinyl too.