Many people think it crazy that record collectors habitually visit record stores, markets, fairs and boot sales to dig through endless crates of dusty, damp vinyl. It's hard to rationalize it to non-vinyl lovers, largely because on the surface these actions really ARE quite difficult to justify. At best, it looks a little OCD but at it's worst crate digging is completely obsessive!
So I thought I'd pull out various records from my own collection and re-tell the stories behind the finds! Who knows, maybe this will help re-dress the balance a little. But if not I know that all those other vinyl junkies who happen upon this will appreciate the nature of my blog!
Starting with a very special find...
BIG STAR - THE THIRD ALBUM (Sister Lovers)
Big Star's notoriety and ill-fated career has meant that all of their original albums have become very difficult to locate. Big Star 'Third' (there's even a fair bit of contention that this one should really be known as 'Sister Lovers') has become something of a myth since its release (in the US) in 1975. The bands indifference to its existence, myriad cheapo sleeve designs, confused tracklisting and missing songs have all fed into the mystique of what is surely the bands finest work.
So finding a copy of it sure 'aint easy. As you can see from the photographs, my copy looks as if it has been through several wars, but the vinyl itself is still in excellent condition (no i'm not gearing up to sell it here!).
How I came to find it is quite heroic and goes some way to (*hopefully) show the doubters why us record collectors dig through boxes and boxes of seemingly faceless vinyl.
Allow me to go all Ronnie Corbett on you for a while.
Back in the late 1990's I started to become a regular at The Brighton Centre Record Fair, which in those halcyon days used to take place about four or five times a year. Vinyl was on it's last legs back then and it was something of a mission to engage with the grumpy sellers who were all visibly pissed off that they were having to sell their once rare vinyl collections at knock-down prices. It really was a desperate scene and it's fair to say that a lot of these vendors were pretty obnoxious.
One such stall was manned by at least 3 loud and vociferously rude chaps who would quite blatantly ignore their customers for minutes at a time whilst continuing to outdo each other verbally. Pontificating about everytthing from dodgy world politics, the rubbishness of premier league footballers to last nights epic pub crawl in Eastbourne. At least I think it was Eastbourne. The vagaries of time might have made me remember this slightly wrong. Anyway, this terrible threesome would besmirch anyone and everyone within earshot. I'm not sure how they ever sold anything. It was quite an effort not to tell them where to stick their dog-earred vinyl but always hopeful of a decent find I returned on every visit and generally left with a couple of OK LP's and another flea in my ear. One such record fair in the early 00's found me once again faithfully flicking through these guys' considerable quantity of £2 bargains which as usual had been over-stuffed into several mangy boxes, which meant it took even longer than normal to go through the records and which also meant I was even more likely to end up as cannon-fodder to their jokes and insults.
Undeterred, I gamely battled on and eventually reached the last half of the final box. I quickly thumbed past another faceless album with sticky gaffer tape across its top and bottom spines. Usually this would put me off even bothering to look at the record inside the ill-treated sleeve it was housed in, but as my brain struggled to keep up with my fingers it managed to tell me there was something special about that taped-up travesty.
Much like 'Lovejoy' in his TV pomp when coming across a real hidden gem, a collector of rare vinyl will feel the tingle in his fingers when an interesting artifact is closeby. As I looked the battered sleeve up and down it damned on me that I really was viewing a real oddity. Sure the gaffer-tape was obscuring most of the credits on the front sleeve but there was just enough of 'the third album' visible to tell me I was holding a real copy of an original Big Star record. As I hastily checked out the vinyl it became apparent that I was in the presence of an Aura Records 1978 promo white label of Big Star 'Third'. Obviously, this meant that the price tag of £2 was ridiculously low. Those loudmouthed sellers with views on absolutely everything had missed the clues to this album's true identity. So now I had to keep my cool, act nonchalant and somehow make sure they didn't recognise what this LP really was. I'm pretty sure they would have flat refused to sell me the record should they have recognised it as a Big Star album.
I decided to pick up several other £2 none-entities, being sure to sandwich 'Sister Lovers' safely in the middle of a small pile of disastrous 1980's pop fayre. It worked a treat because my stash was quickly totted up with no-one even bothering to take the records from my sweaty grasp. Those selections were obvioulsy deemed so hopeless that it wasn't worth the effort of proper inspection or communication. And that was just fine by me...
As you can see from the photo's this is indeed a white label copy of that hallowed first UK press of Big Star 'Third'. The record had originally been released in the US on Stax/PVC and didn't get a proper UK release until 3 years later. Indeed, the record was granted a different sleeve for the UK market (I always suspected the 1975 fashions on display on the US original made Aura change the image to a slightly more Punky New Wave photograph so as to not put hipsters off buying the thing).
I've never seen another promo copy of this ill-fated UK release - hell, it's not even listed on Discogs, so I'm guessing that it must be pretty rare. But it's financial value is of no real interest to me. It's the story of how this obscure white label escaped into an unloving world and eventually ended up in my possession which is all-important to me.
And that in essence, my friend is why most of us crate dig...