Sunday, March 04, 2007

Proxy music

I remember when any number of record dealers used to sell soul packs – batches of anything from 10 to 100 singles. You didn’t know what you were getting you just paid your money and took a chance. The idea always appealed, but at the same time my naturally cautious nature always told me that, as there were plenty of records I KNEW I wanted, I ought to spend my limited funds on those and not take a shot in the dark on a soul pack that maybe full of duds. So I never bought one. Recently, as my passion for vinyl, and soul in particular, has come roaring back I have often wished that I had taken a punt on some of those packs. Why? Here are some reasons:

1. The feeling of anticipation (you know - THAT feeling) as you flick through the records for the first time. Will any of those must haves on the wants list be there? Will an original on the Shrine label be hiding in the middle of the stack (or something that, to your ears, is not irresistible but is mega rare and sought after so you will be able to part with it and run off into the sunset with the cash).

2. The company sleeves - if you’re lucky – or if no company sleeves then an original plain brown sleeve will do. (BTW I have never seen a Fame company sleeve - does one exist?).

3. All those fabulous labels: the obscurities, the only ever release, the now heralded but then unknown names buried in the credits, the colours and designs, the odd misspelling.

4. These records for the most part look mint you think, only a few have drill holes, the labels are pristine. You wonder where they have been for all these years – were they once loved and then discarded? Did they ever get as far as a record shop? Have they ever been played? How many warehouses, back rooms, garages have they sat in unloved and unplayed? in how many States of America?, and counties of Great Britain? Isn’t it weird the journey they have taken to finally arrive on your turntable? How many of the people involved in the making of the record are still alive? This one is on a local label, would they think it strange that after all these years their record has finally found a loving home not in the American city where it was made but in another country?

5. Oh yes, of course, these beautiful pieces of vinyl (or styrene) have grooves on them that contain music to be listened to – it gets better! So then the question: do you play them straight from the stack as they were packed or do you sort them into some sort of order of play. For those you are unfamiliar with maybe some instinct tells you some could be better than others so do you play these first or attempt to leave the best until last? Some you may already have, some you don’t but are already familiar with, so leave those ‘til last maybe?

6. You’re sat there with your feet up and a cigarette (or a cup of coffee if like me you don’t smoke), you’ve played them all. Some knocked you out straight away, you played them twice, three times straight off. Some you thought thanks but no thanks, some will grow on you but you don’t know it yet.

7. What now? Oh God! You had better feed the cats and do the washing up! Then you revisit points 2 and 3 above.

8. You wonder what fresh mysteries may lurk in the dead wax: pressing plant stamps mastering comments, maybe this one is a pressing, maybe they all are? No these are originals, you are sure.

9. Now it’s time for more music, so you play all the B sides. Some it’s difficult to tell which is the A and which is the B. No matter there are a few great B sides too.

10. Then you just have to go to bed, knowing you will start at 2 and relive those experiences all over again at your first opportunity.

But how do I know this if I’ve never bought one you say? Well, recently I have moved desks in my place of work so have new office neighbours. A few of us got talking about music and I revealed my rekindled passion for soul music and vinyl. It turns out one of my colleagues used to be into the scooter scene back in the early 80s. Together with a friend they bought a soul pack of 100 records from a dealer, somewhere in Essex he seems to remember, and split them 50 50. This would have been about 1984. He played them a few times liked some, but then gradually they were forgotten. For the last 15 years or so they have sat in a singles case pretty much untouched. Would I like to see them he asked?
Er, yes please! So now I am temporary charge of it. A soul pack by proxy!

Even though the pack isn’t mine I have certainly run through points 1 to 10 above and with pretty much an undimmed intensity of feelings. There are some great records in there and some not so good. But as described above I have realised that even if what’s in the grooves is no great shakes there is plenty of pleasure to be gained from the object as a whole – I love looking at the labels in particular (my colleague had put all the records into cardboard sleeves so the thrill of the occasional company sleeve is missing but you can’t have everything). According to popsike there is one single in the batch that has consistently fetched more than £100 whenever it has appeared on ebay, and there are a few other £20+ records in there I think, but that’s all incidental really and is just a small part of the overall pleasure this soul pack has brought my colleague, and now me, if only by proxy.

Kim Weston – Danger, Heartbreak Ahead 1970

Lovemasters – Pushin’ And Pullin’ 1968

Sharpees – Tired Of Being Lonely 1966


Vincent said...

I've been down that road myself. I can remember as a kid cutting out an ad in a magazine selling something like 20 albums or something ridiculous like that for about five dollars. Suffice it to say most of the lps were cutouts. Not necessarily rejects, but cutouts nonetheless. Now that my taste in music has far outreached the occasional top 20 r&b chart hit, I wished I had still kept those records.

Larry Grogan said...

Love that Kim Weston version (never heard it before)!

Roger said...

The Kim Weston track is a blinder, I picked it up myself a month or so ago and it has been on heavy rotation ever since.

The other two are new to me, so thanks for turning me on to them.

Red Kelly said...

You nailed it, bro... that would be me, living numbers 1-10 my whole life, and loving every minute of it!

It's good to see I'm not alone!


Stuart Palmer said...

How do you ever split the 100 in half? Unseen I presume. Not sure I could have risked my mate getting all the belters.

Tuwa said...

Oh yeah. That Kim Weston track is a good one. These are all good, actually.