An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Five Years Waiting No More

I’ve had a good week. Little in the way of quantity, but vast in quality. This week I was able to purchase a release by This Mortal Coil. This Mortal Coil didn’t release much, three albums and a few singles. But an album sampler for “Filigree And Shadow” was given out by the Polygram label in Canada.

I saw reference to it in the Eyesore database. Now, the Eyesore database was my starting point for finding out what 4AD had released and what I needed to get. It’s a thorough website and a must if collecting 4AD.

For five years I’ve been searching for this promo and never seen anything of it. Then for the first time in five years I see it on ebay.

So now, I have it. Only looking back at the eyesore database, it looks as though the one I have is just another version on a different label. So although I’m overjoyed I finally have a version of it, there may be another one.

That’s half the fun of this collection, the detective work needed. Sometimes it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. Ownership is probably the best proof, although bootlegs can also throw that proof out.

So, as usual, one achievement marked and another release added to the wanted list. I’m at a good point in my collection. When the idea first came to me to undertake this task and for the first couple of years after, the want list grew rapidly quicker than acquired list.
Now it’s about even. I see the progress, and the target looks achievable, but not easy so it’s still challenging. Onwards to the next acquisition.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Money, Money, Money, Honey?

The most difficult side to collecting has to be money. If money was no object, I suppose collecting would be a little more dull. When it comes to collecting records, I have a little jealousy for the male loner.

This lucky creature goes to work, perhaps dreaming of a loving relationship, with a considerate life partner, that fully understands the desperation to grab every morsel that crosses his path (I say “his”, all these lucky creatures I have met have been male). And this heavenly relationship will share in the passion for collecting, spending every spare penny and more on records, hi-fi equipment etc. Even understand if getting this weeks gem will mean not eating for a couple of days, because it’s only food and “we can eat and make up for it next week”. 

Of course this is all but a preposterous fantasy, all though there may be one lucky swine out there that has found this rare pearl. No, life still has to be lived. I can’t live like a student all my life. I don’t really want to live like a student now. I love my food, my car, my warm house that actually has furniture in it, a TV that you can actually see a picture on, which all costs money. I also have a beautiful wife, the most fantastic person I have ever met, which also forfeits a selfish desire of squalor for the greater collecting good.  

It would be stupid to regret being married, having food, clothing, a roof over my head and some level of sociability. But, all this comes with a measure, a balance, that has to be found when collecting. It is extremely difficult to find this balance, to not just be purely selfish and say, this is of absolute importance and all spare funds should be thrown into it.  

I still haven’t found this balance as yet. I wince at the thought of bringing up the subject of more money to fund this project, not because of any attitude or adverse reaction, because there never is any (bless her), but more for the reason – who am I to say that this is so important that it justifies the money spent, or needs spending to accomplish.

So I, as many other collectors do, walk the tightrope between obsession and idealism

On a side note, I’m going to start listing the items acquired between each blog submission as a footnote, this weeks acquisitions :

Modern English – Chapter 12 – 12” BAD 401

Modern English – After The Snow – CD 9 23821-2 on SIRE

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Ebay Tips

So what is my prize collection piece so far? I was very lucky a few years ago to see this come up on ebay, and to my surprise had very few bids on it. It is an RIAA (which is the Record Industry Association of America, that claims to represent American record companies) gold award for the single M/A/R/R/S Pump up the volume. This award is for the sale of 500,000 singles sold.

A friend of mine once told me how he was baffled by record fairs, because he would never sell his records. I’m equally baffled as to why some record company executive, producer, or whoever owned this award, would want to get rid of it. Only a few would have been awarded to band members, a producer and a record executive as far as I know, and I am lucky enough to have got one. M/A/R/R/S’s single of Pump Up The Volume was No.1 in the UK and America. It was released through 4AD in America under the label 4th & Broadway. The award is for 4th & Broadway, so 4AD never got a gold award in the UK directly for this single.

I have picked up a couple of tips when buying on ebay. Firstly, be patient. If you’re buying a Cocteau Twins 12”, you will easily find a standard edition priced at £30, but if you are willing to keep watch, you can also find the same release, same condition, for 99p. Secondly, use your mobile phone as an ebay alarm. I have a few items I am watching on my account, and I used to easily miss when an item was soon to be ending. Bidding on ebay is a bit like playing a simple poker game. Don’t show your hand until the last possible moment. If you bid days before the item ends, others will be more tempted to outbid you. So set the alarm for 5 minutes before the item is ending, then the alarm reminds you in time to think about what bid amount to put in. You can then forget about it for the rest of the day. I was always forgetting and missing the deadline. Another tip, try for item miss-spellings. I recently bought the cassette single by Lush called Scar for a cheap price. The font on the cover of the single looks like the single is called Sear. I searched for Sear and some muppet had put Sear instead of Scar on selling an item. So there were no other bids (as other buyers wouldn’t find it in a search) and I won the item for the lowest price, 99p again.

On another note, a nice fellow called Richard got in touch with me, he has a Modern English website and is putting a discography together and needs some pictures of Modern English releases to add to the site. This is the site

Have a look and, if you can help, send him an email.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Buy, Buy, Buy, bye bye

I started collecting music when I was 15 years old.  I lived in a village 5 miles from the nearest town and 20 miles from the nearest city.  The town had a really good independent record shop that had been around for years, but to purchase second hand records I had to wait for the rare occurrence of a record fair to come to town, or a market stall that only traded on a Thursday once a week.  It was a small town and for a while the small record fairs were enough.  But the more eccentric my music tastes became, the less likely it was that the local fair had anything I was looking for.

When I was able to, I found out about the city record fairs and went to them.  The city fairs had more variety and rarer releases.  I got a short respite, as a beginner to collecting, rewards can be found easily.  When you first start out you don’t have any of the easier to find releases.  So, each record fair was exciting, as I would come home with bags full of records.  But, again, as the easier to find releases were purchased and each year my taste got more and more eclectic, even the city record fairs started to become tedious.  I live in the East Midlands in the UK.  This seems to be a dead spot in the UK for record fairs.  When there are record fairs now, there is NEVER anything of interest, and I always come home empty handed.  I like a range of different music styles and will pick up quite a variety of other stuff as well as the 4AD collection, but success in finding anything is non existent.

Whenever I go into the city or visit another town or city, much to the dismay of my long suffering wife, I have to check out the local record store, if there is one.  Again, this is disappointing in most cases.  Many record shops have thousands of records and CDs.  Very few of them separate the genres in any helpful way.  Years ago I would trawl through thousands of records quite happily and come out with loads of purchases.  But after a few years, I got to the point of sifting through thousands and finding nothing.  Now my patience is quite low.  You can tell within a few minutes if a record shop is simply not going to have anything of worth.  I tend to look through a block of records and when you see that all of them without exception are all very common releases, you know there’s little chance of finding anything at all in the whole shop.

I have mixed feelings about the decline in second hand music shops.  For some shops I have little sympathy.  For years the general second hand record shop has been a stuffy, smelly man cove.  Run by an old rock’n’roller or 60’s northern soul fanatic who loves to sit in a corner and read novels all day.  They barely give you a glance when you enter the shop, know little of what stock they have, unless it’s the 50’s or early 60’s music you’re looking for, put ridiculous prices on poor quality records because the price is high in the published guide and have a surprisingly little small amount of stock.  They then moan how they can’t buy or sell much anymore.

Personally, if I ran a record shop I would be BUYING off ebay and selling in the shop.  Any collector would pay a reasonable price for stock you wouldn’t normally find in a record shop.  Most record shops have the same records in stock, the length and breadth of the country.  I find bargains all the time on ebay and wonder why the remaining record shops aren’t buying these up!!

So, apart from a plan to try one of the big, big record fairs, I’ve just about given up on record fairs and record shops.  I’m forced to look on ebay.  The range, quality and prices are far better than any record fair or shop I’ve ever visited in 26 years (and I want to find a dream record shop or fair more than anything).  My prized 4AD collection piece I purchased on ebay and I would never have found it at a record fair or shop.  That prize will be revealed in my next post, along with a few ebay tips I picked up along the way.

I would love to read some of your experiences of fairs and shops and see if you have any better luck than I do with them

Will be back soon