7 December 2011

, , , , , ,

Collecting Crap Records: Why Collect Crap Records?

Anyone who has ever idly stuck their nose round the door of a record collectors' fair in full swing cannot have failed to appreciate the current huge scale of interest in collectable records and CDs. The collecting scene has been around, in some form or other, almost since a certain fox terrier posed in front of a gramophone, but it is in the last thirty years, since the punk era and the 1979 launch of Record Collector magazine, that the market has really taken off. In the early years of RC, collecting was largely restricted to mainstream areas such as the Beatles and Fifties rock 'n' roll; go to any record fair to-day and you'll find that just about every minority taste has its own legion of hard core collectors.

In the last 20 years the indie, psychedelic and "progressive" markets, in particular, have boomed, and records which would hardly have raised your bus fare in 1987 are now changing hands for three-figure sums. It seems sometimes that almost anything round, black and 7 or 12 inches across is a viable alternative to taking out a PEP or opening a TESSA. However, this also has a downside: many of the most desirable items get snapped up by dealers who then offer them for sale at deliberately inflated prices - as soon as it becomes known that at least one desperate collector has stumped up, say, $500 for the Penguins' 1955 classic Earth Angel, that sum then becomes the "official" or "book" price, and of course everyone else starts asking the same amount.

I began collecting crap records about three years ago, in search of some light relief, having given up the spiralling prices of '60s psychedelic originals as a sour joke. Soon I discovered, after a few visits, what a wealth of vinyl dross is to be found in junk and charity shops, with which New York is more than adequately provided. And there was one great advantage over "proper" collecting. Because these discs are so cheap, you can do a lot more speculative buying. Not sure about whether you'll like an item? Well it's surely worth ten pence to find out. And so over the last three years I've acquired quite a fearful array of musical tat, often wrapped in sleeves that don't so much give away their eras of origin as scream it from the rooftops - who can forget those deliciously tacky K-Tel compilations from the Seventies?

By the way, I should point out that my definition of "crap" here includes non-collectable, bus-fare stuff - your Rolfs and your Mantovanis - and "exotica" (spoon solos, Bach on the Moog, barbershop car horn quartets) - as well as material that is genuinely awful, such as TV Celebrities Who Really Shouldn't Try Singing. I know this definition isn't complete, but you get the general idea.

To start a Crap collection you will need access to an Oxfam shop and at least 50c to spend. (Incidentally, about a year ago Record Collector ran an article on "exotica", and more recently featured a whole stack of forgettable discs as part of a book review - so grab your Crap now while it's still cheap.) You will soon appreciate that another of the prerequisites for collecting music of this kind is a resilient sense of humour.

This is my personal top 10, and as such is not intended to signify anything at all - but if you can track down the records listed you're in for a very entertaining half-hour or so...

1 Pukka Chicken Rolf Harris
 Rolf Harris occupies a special place in the hearts of British pop fans, as evidenced by his continuing popularity after 40 years and the success of his recent cover of Stairway to Heaven and album Can You Tell What It Is Yet? This November 1967 single shows Rolf at his lunatic best.
2 Jingle Bells The Singing Dogs
 What you can do using modern (1955) technology! Whether people bought this record for its technical innovation and scintillating musical content is unknown. A more probable explanation is that folk will buy anything with grooves in the run-up to Christmas.
3 She Won't Turn Over For Me King Uszniewicz & His Uszniewicztones
 Everso slightly risque number from their 3rd LP. The band's attack on Do Wah Diddy Diddy is on the same album and is possibly the definitive version of the song.
4 If Yin and Yan
 Both sides of this 1974 single lampoon TV then-star Telly Savalas, whose version of David Gates' beautiful song is arguably better than this one.
5 Cocktails For Two Jonathan and Darlene Edwards
 Pure genius. On these 'Edwards' recordings, Jo Stafford has the remarkable ability to sing just slightly wide of pitch, which gives the song a very strange unease - it isn't apparent immediately what is wrong, you just know something is.
6 Biassy Florence Foster Jenkins
 First of the great bad singers. Biassy is one of four tracks on a 1954 EP. You do wonder if she's making it up as she goes along.
7 Wild Grass Pictures The Sea Urchins
 A really good mid-'80s Bristol indie-pop group, who released a series of neo-psychedelic 45s, all excellent - apart from this one.
8 Streets of Gold The Proclaimers
 No relation to any other similarly-named group. The other 3 tracks on this 1966 EP are fairly standard gospel group fare, but this is more of a garage punk excursion, complete with fuzzed guitars and a riff lifted straight off Pebbles Volume 2!
9 Little Eeefin Annie Joe Perkins
 Oh dear. Early '60s romp through the hilarious world of speech impediments.
10 Living Next Door to Alice (Who The F*** Is Alice?) Roy 'Chubby' Brown
 It wasn't really all that funny, was it, Roy?

About today's Guest Writer:
Samet Bilir writes about technology trends, gardening, interior design and a lot of other things, such as Christmas gift ideas. To read more articles from him please click here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

You Might Also Like