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.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Get the wish list below 900 by the new year (Check back Regularly) Part II

I've decided to start a new post for December as the November one was starting to fill up. Come back for regular updates as I try and attempt to get my wantlist down to 900 releases by the years end....

30th December 2014

There is nothing I can do now. The ability to get my wantlist down to 900 items by the year end is in the hands of fate. All I can do is watch the post coming in and hope that there are enough items to finish off the seven needed to make 900. The post doesn't get delivered at my house until about noon and today each hour in the morning was spent listening for any noise at the letterbox. My wife decided to take the dog for a walk at around 11am, it felt silly sitting in for the postman just in case he was early, so I went along. On the way back the postman was making his way down the street in front of us. I was tempted to hassle him as we slowly caught up with him and consequent lost him as he turned into an industrial complex of buildings.

I needn't have bothered, as as usual there was nothing in the post except spam mail from every holiday company we have ever booked with in the last twenty years. No post again, nothing off the wantlist and only one day left, one last post. There is no way that I'm getting seven items in the morning, I have missed the target!!!

Let us see if it will be any closer tomorrow.

29th December 2014

I wasn't sure if Royal Mail posted on a boxing day or not, I still don't know whether or not they do as there was no post. Neither was there any on Saturday. The days count away and I feel helpless to even try and accomplish anything. There was some hope today as there was a record fair about 15 miles away, which produced a single compilation album called The Beggars Banquet File, but later today I also found a Cocteau Twins test pressing that I had to add to my wantlist. So the wantlist is still at 907. There was nothing in the post again today and I have two days left. It's looking like a fail for the end of the year, which is really upsetting. Maybe everything will turn up tomorrow morning, I can only wait and see

25th December 2014

No post at home yesterday, on my birthday as well. Of course there's no post on Christmas day either. So the count stays at 907, even though I visited a record store in Chesterfield yesterday...and found nothing of course. Anything bought now online will not likely be posted and received before the year end, so it's down to what will get delivered from already purchased stuffies. There is a small hope on the horizon. There is a record fair on Monday and a really nice trader chappie that I passed my wantlist to, says there might be a couple of things for me when I see him there. I will keep my fingers and anything else crossed. This is going down to the wire. Enjoy your day, I will be back.....

23rd December 2014

Every time everything looks terrible, no deliveries at home or at work, suddenly everything turns up at once. I managed to find a few awful pop compilations that once again features that persistent single Pump Up The Volume. I also had the exciting opportunity to acquire an item that wasn't on my wantlist, mostly because it's as rare as rocking horse poo found with bits of hen's teeth in it. Today I had a test pressing of Dead Can Dance's album Aion, not the UK release, but the Italian release on Contempo. The standard Italian LP is rare enough, the test pressing will obviously be even more rare.

Work is now over until the new year, so no more post from my workplace, I am now relying on post to home. This is getting so very close. Wantlist = 907, days left = 8

17th December 2014

No delivery yesterday and none today. There are quite a few items on their way but then it is Christmas and the post slows to a crawl. I have 4 work delivery days left, and 12 post to home days left and a wantlist count of 912. Again I lost one from the list as I found another compilation that was now listed as released in 1991 and so was outside my ten year inclusion (don't get me started on the fact that actually its eleven years, starting in 1980 means that the inclusion of 1990 is actually the eleventh year, it's the Roman lack of zero's and the 1st Century all over again). I need one a day, which is do-able, but with the postage issues, is quite a task. I'm not giving up though...

15th December 2014

In the post today was a UK 12" of Xmal Deutschland's Incubus Succubus II. I can't believe that I didn't have this already, but there are the odd Uk releases still to get, though they are very few in number. I have the time to do this, I don't have many delivery days left though and I just can't find the stuff to buy. I will keep looking though....wantlist down to 913

13th December 2014

Yesterday morning I had a delivery of a cassette bought through ebay. The item is the Colourbox album called Colourbox. The ebay page showed a chrome cassette and a virgin label and catalogue number. This wasn't on my wantlist and I hadn't seen it before, so I was quite excited to get my hands on it. In the post though was the standard UK cassette which I already own that looks completely different to the photo shown and has a completely different catalogue number. I also won a French 7" single of Cocteau Twins Love Easy Tears single a few days ago, then got a message from the seller saying they can't find the item.

Ebay does get on my tits. The failure rate is appalling. It doesn't matter if I get an apology, money back etc, it just grates on me that people can't get a simple thing right. That's two items I could have added, one of which would have reduce my wantlist count.

BIG ARSE!!..oh well, count still 914

11th December 2014

After 2 months on likely the slowest ships on the Atlantic ocean, a package from Canada arrived. Land mail as opposed to airmail is about half the price and for a reason, it seems to take forever to arrive. When buying from Canada it's a must as the the postage costs can be a killer.

Inside was a M/A/R/R/S - Pump Up The Volume Canadian 7" single, Modern English - After The Snow Canadian vinyl album, a pop compilation vinyl LP called On Top and finally a Canadian CD version of the soundtrack to the film Pump Up The Volume. I found out that the CD was a club version. I had noticed these club versions popping up on CD releases in a few places and wondered what they were, until my wife reminded me about the 80's and 90's Brittania music club. This was a club a person could join by agreeing to buy so many CD's a year. The CDs were slightly cheaper than the ones to be found in the high street shop. Of course the club was making money out of a guaranteed per year quota from buyers that may not have bought that many in the year. The clubs were sometimes run by record labels and the CDs were sometimes made especially for the club market and slightly different to the high street shop versions. There was even doubt over the quality of the club versions and accusations of them being of lower quality because of their guaranteed sale. See this article from around 1994 about the audio quality conspiracy.

I was always envious of the music clubs, I could never afford them at the time and just drooled over the vast selection of music, although a lot of it was pop tat.

Another good haul today and I also noticed on discogs that I had two entries in my wantlist that were obviously the same and should have been merged together. That has reduced my wantlist down to 914.

10th December 2014

Today brought me Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares US CD of A Cathedral Concert. This was in my wantlist, but then realised today that this version was released in 1992 and therefore outside my collecting criteria. This is the nature of such a fluidic and dynamic wantlist that struggles to keep up. There was another version of this album that I also had on my wantlist, but I was fortunate enough to notice this time before I bought it that it also was from 1992. At least taking that version off my wantlist reduced the count a little.

I also received today a VHS video of the alternative collection series Indie Top...As you can see it was the Indie Top Video Take Two compilation. This was obtained for the inclusion of the Wolfgang Press track Raintime. My boss at work first asked if had a video cassette player, to which my answer was "Nope". He then asked what the point of having it was, wouldn't it just have been worthwhile having the empty case?

This is the funny side of such a collection. I suppose I'm being a completest. But at some point I may find the time to convert it to digital, although I wouldn't be surprised if it ain't on youtube already. It's a peice of history and a relevant one to the collection as well. To have it and preserve it is the whole point I suppose.

Wantlist now down to 918. Wow what a difference in just a couple of days

9th December 2014

Thursday nothing, Friday nothing, then the weekend, so no post. Then yesterday and today there was much rejoicing...yeah.
Cocteau Twins - Heaven or Las Vegas - Japan CD
Cocteau Twins - Blue Bell Knoll - Canadian cassette
Cocteau Twins - Tiny Dynamine/ Echoes In A Shallow Bay - Canadian CD
Cocteau Twins - Victorialand - Canadian CD
Dead Can Dance - Serpents Egg - Canadian CD
Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares - Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares - Canadian CD
M/A/R/R/S - Pump Up The Volume - Spanish 12"

There was to be a US Promo version of Pump Up The Volume, but the seller sent the wrong item. It happened yet again, instead I got the standard US 12" which I already have. I'm starting to get quite the collection of releases that are duplicated. I feel another give away coming, although not Pump Up The Volume, I don't think anyone would take it off me. I also had an item on my wantlist that isn't 4AD related (there aren't many of them).

One item had to go onto the wantlist though. I found that there is a Canadian cassette version of Pump Up The Volume. But great progress has been made. The count is now down to 921 which I am very pleased and relieved about. The downside is that there is little in the pipeline at the moment and time is quick to pass.

3rd December 2014

Another package today filled with mixed blessings. A German pop compilation album was today's delivery, a release I needed because of the inclusion of MARRS Pump Up The Volume single. The rest of the compilation is pretty dire. But it would mean another notch off the never ending wantlist. Unfortunately I also found another cassette, this time a French single called Velouria by the Pixies. One down and one back up again. So the count stays at 928 for today

There are a few things in the pipeline, but not the amount I need to be getting for the end of the year.....

2nd December 2014

At last, a time to rejoice...I had post.

A French Colourbox album on Virgin and two Various artists records, both with MARRS single Pump Up The Volume on them, both Italian. That would have meant that I had 10 of the 12 versions of the Colourbox album, until I realised that there seems to be a Canadian cassette release that I hadn't previously known about. Bum!

Oh well, three ticked off and one added back on. That takes the current tally down to 928... in the right direction at least

1st December 2014

My wife is going to need room in the spare bedroom for studying, a room full up with records, cassetttes and CDs for selling to fund my 4ad collecting habit. The problem has always been finding the time to run the sales along with everything else. The time taken, finding stock, listing it and then selling it, packaging and posting it for very little return, has been better spent recently hunting for stuff to reach the 900 milestone. The need for room for my wife and the time that I need has meant that I have reluctantly decided to stop selling. That meant a trip down to second hand record shop on Langley Mill about 7 miles away with a car full of stock selling to a guy that really doesn't need a few hundred more pop items to add to the thousands and thousands that he already had.

While at the record store, of course I had to do a bit of shopping as well, even though I got practically nothing for all the stock I had accrued. I picked up a Wolfgang Press album, then realised when I got home that I already had it. I also picked up a great christmas album by a punk band called The Yobs, a record I recommend highly, especially at this time of year, you will never sing those christmas carols the same ever again.

There was one more album I bought which was an album I loved from my childhood and one that got my mind thinking about 4AD. I always wondered why 4AD released the Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares albums, which were Bulgarian folk songs recorded decades before. I could see the connection with Lisa Gerrard from Dead Can Dance. Her vocal style borrowed from many cultures. When I was young, I saw a BBC documentary about the Condor and the wildlife living in the Andes. It became very popular and spawned a chart topping single and album of the folk music of the people's of the Andes and their panpipe music. What I didn't realise until recently, was that the music was released by the Beggars Banquet label, an independent label similar to Rough Trade that used to part own 4AD. The album was by a group of musicians going by the name of Incantation and was very popular in 1982. It was buying the album today that made me realise how it likely paved the way for 4AD to release the Bulgarian folk music after seeing the success of the South American folk music. With success from one independent label releasing unusual folk music, it wouldn't have been that unusual for 4AD to do something similar a few years later.

Wantlist count at 930

Friday, 14 November 2014

Get the wish list below 900 by the new year (Check back Regularly)

28th November 2014

One package today and at last, a release actually on the existing wantlist. It was the German vinyl release of the Modern English album After The Snow. That leaves only another 13 versions of that album left to get my hands on.

That's the wantlist down to 930. My goodness that seems like a huge ask now to get down to 900 by the year's end. The goal post most certainly keeps moving and Betty's useless, she hasn't bought a single release for me yet!! Oh well, the search goes on....

27th November 2014

At the beginning of the day, the postman came and went and I was left empty handed. But then a courier turned up later in the day with quite a large box from the US with my name on it. Inside were two CD longboxes of the Pixies albums of Doolittle and Bossanova. Longboxes have an interesting history. They were introduced to help customers moved from the large packaging of vinyl to the smaller and more expensive CD. It also helped to display CDs in vinyl display areas and because of their bigger size helped to reduce shoplifting. Here is our dog Betty demonstrating the size of the 12" longbox

Here is a wiki on the longbox.

It seems, although most CDs were sold in longboxes, most customers saw them as throw away packaging like a plastic bag and threw them in the dustbin. Now they are quite sort after.

At last some items delivered. Problem is, these two release weren't on my wantlist as I wasn't sure if they existed. So the wantlist is still stuck at 931. This is not looking promising at all!

26th November 2014

I got really excited when a small parcel landed on my desk this morning, at last maybe the count can actually go down. It was not to be. I had forgotten the DVD called Sanctuary that I had bought a few days back. It's a documentary about Lisa Gerrard, which I am excited to get, but was hoping to hammer down the wantlist even in a small capacity. The wantlist stays at 931. I'm still struggling to find anything on ebay, but have found a couple of decently priced items on Discogs.

I did listen to The Sisters Of Mercy's album Floodland last night. It is funny how time changes one's perception of music. In the late eighties I really loved that album, but got sick of the worship it got a few years later, like it was some sort of goth must have. It was good, but not that good. On this listen I noticed how an EP's worth of ideas can be over stretched out to an albums length. The first two tracks Dominion and Mother Russia are one song without even a chord change, the album title track is used twice, the main single This Corrosion is mixed out about twice as long as it should have been and 1959 looks like a bolted on afterthought because there was 5 minutes left to make a full labum's worth. The album is ok and it did inspire a lot bands to go into territory they had not gone before, but nearly 30 years later it made little impact on me again. Not a patch on Clan of Xymox's Medusa.

25th November 2014

Nothing was delivered yesterday and nothing came today either. I'm running out of stuff that I can find on ebay again, it's as though I was just lucky the last couple of weeks and now the luck has dried out. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of items from my wantlist that are on ebay, they're just not reasonably priced especially when adding the postage on top.

I then noticed this morning that the album Sleeps With The Fishes by Pieter Nooten and Michael Brook has a Spanish vinyl version, a Japanese CD version and another UK version not previously listed. Therefore my wantlist has gone up, while my achievements have flatlined. Time is running out!

Wantlist = 931

22nd November 2014

Visited a small record fair this morning about ten miles from home. I was there to meet a vendor I had met at another record fair a month ago and said he may have some 4ad stock for me and would bring it with him. I emailed him my wantlist a couple of weeks ago and went to the fair with a smattering of hope. No luck once again though, he had been busy at work through the week (he's only a weekend music trader) and didn't have time before going to the fair to go through the huge build up of stock that he struggles to find his way through. Still, there's some hope that he still actually might have some interesting stock at some point for me in the future.

There were only about five vendors there, of which only one other had anything remotely alternative. I would have come away empty handed after two hours if it hadn't have been for finding a specially remastered version of The Sisters Of Mercy's Floodland album that shouted at me to take home. I think that album will be making the album listening night this coming Tuesday.

At least the wantlist count has stayed at 928 for a day, seeing as I haven't found anything as yet to add to it, thankfully.

21st November 2014

Two parcels have been delivered today. The first one is a magazine called Debut from 1984 in which each edition came with a a compilation LP included. The magazine is 12" x 12" and looks like a gatefold album with a thick booklet in the middle. The reason this magazine is the collecting list is because of the inclusion of a Colourbox track called Fast Dump (very likely a song about an emergency poo).

The second package was a US pressing of the Modern English album Ricochet Days also from 1984. That has moved my wantlist count down to....928. That would have been 2 down, except that the German compilation called Formel Eins Space Hits I found out today, has a cassette version not currently in the list. 2 down and then 1 up, I'm still yo-yo-ing. Oh well, there's a local record fair on tomorrow, let's see what that brings

20th November 2014

A couple of days ago I discovered a copy of Ultra Vivid Scene's 12" single of Mercy Seat on ebay. There's a  version with a green sleeve with a circular hole cut from the centre of the sleeve and another sleeve of the same release that has no hole cut but in grey. I have both of these, but the photo on ebay looked like a version that should not have existed, a green sleeve with no hole cut. I asked the vendor what colour the sleeve was, just in case the camera shot was not colour accurate (which can happen) and the answer came back a resounding GREEN. I had little to lose, it was only selling for a couple of pounds, so the risk was worth taking....

It wasn't green, it was grey, of course. Even my photo of it (above) comes out green. Oh well.
So you would think that my want list would be at the same number, but no, it's gone up by one. Today's count is 929 because of a fellow collector called berndhugo who has recently acquired Birthday Party's Junkyard album on a UK cassette, which many believed didn't exist. Berndhugo was good enough to send me some pictures and I added it to discogs, hence the extra release.

Let us see what tomorrow brings....humph!

19th November 2014

Dragged myself into work this morning, still feeling a little spaced out, that's man flu for you, nastiest disease in the world. I actually dropped three from my wish list today, as one release on discogs was added incorrectly and so was deleted, WooHoo

Waiting for at work was the Birthday Party album Junkyard, this time the New Zealand vinyl version and also a test pressing of Wolfgang Press' single King Of Soul.

Count is now down to 928. Some more beauties to get to me yet, but the purchases are starting to dry up. I need to find some more releases and pretty quick

17th November 2014

In typical fashion, when everything I purchase I have delivered to work, I haven't been into work today because I'm chocked up to the eyeballs with a cold. So no work, no pick up of deliveries and nothing to add to this blog as promised. Fate has a funny sense of humour doesn't it? Chances are, there are deliveries on my desk at work that I can't tell you about yet. Between the running nose, sneezes, coughs headache and sore throat, is a desperation to get back to work. There are some lovely purchases making it's way to me, let's just hope I can shake the sweats and get back to this space....a bit longer

14th November 2014

As promised, I'm here again. Today has been a typical day. I started of with a want list of 928 and although I have had a delivery today...the count now is....931. Today's post revealed a Birthday Party CD of the album Prayers On Fire.

All looked good. It looked like the UK release with the catalogue number CAD 104 CD, bought from ebay. The only give away that it wasn't the original 1988 release, was the matrix number near the centre of the CD itself that has GAD104CD on it. The GAD code was used by 4AD to re-release lots of albums in the 90's with. So any release with a GAD code is not an original. Buyers beware. Darn it! This morning I also found another three items not on my list and I had to reluctantly add them. It almost feels painful to find yet another release that I don't have listed in my wish list. Oh well, lets see what Monday brings

Thursday, 13 November 2014

No Bloggin makes Jonny a very dull boy

I can't believe that I have left it this long to post, I'm so sorry everyone. I'm still here and still plowing through what seems like such an impossible mission. The last few months have been  depressing in terms of progress. While I have been acquiring lots of items and some really cool stuff, I have also been discovering lots of releases I didn't even have in my list of items to acquire. This is a monumental project, which as is usual, not helped at all by the traders and shops in this country.

During my absence and in line with a previous blog entry, I had a brief look into any record listening evenings that someone may be running locally. These are similar to book clubs where people from the group nominate an album and everyone switches off phones and distractions and just listens to the music together. I love that idea, but couldn't find anything like it around. I asked one of the local record shop owners if they had thought of doing something along those lines in their shop one evening and they had tried it, but because of the minimal floor space and no comfortable seating, a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere just couldn't be correctly attained and so after just two attempts it stopped.

For the concept to work, a club or pub would be needed, preferably with good vinyl audio equipment, with sofa's and relaxing atmosphere and somewhere away from the noise and hustle of the town centre. Instead of aggressively pursuing anywhere, I just put aside one evening a week to switch off the TV, get the vinyl out, switch off the phone, laptop etc and just devote myself to listening to two albums in the comfort of my living room. At first it was difficult to make myself do it each week, on my own for the evening and the TV being the easier option, but I've persisted. Over the last couple of months a couple of times, a friend has dropped in and brought an album with them. My friend Andy brought a Pete Bardens album one evening and another friend Daniel brought in Alison Moyet's recent album, on red vinyl! The atmosphere is perfect at home and the music has been diverse, but mostly it's been a singular affair. So if anyone ever fancies joining me and bringing along an album, then get in touch on Facebook, it's becoming an open house if anyone is interested.

Listening to music in this room is just awesome

Over the past few months I have been reading a book called Last Shop Standing about the success and fall of independent record shops here in the UK. While it has been a fascinating and humorous read and I can mostly agree that the major record companies have been their own worst enemies, I have found it funny from the book that the writer seems to believe that record companies have some sort of obligation to keep independent record shops in business. This year has shown to me how much independent music traders in this country are their own worst enemy.

In September, my wife and I were visiting friends in Bracknell for the weekend. Bracknell is only about ten miles away from the city of Reading and on the very same weekend, boldly advertised in my monthly Record Collector, was an international mammoth record fair, boasting 120 plus stalls. It was an opportunity not to miss, surely from 120 plus stalls and not forgetting the words "International" and "Mammoth", I would have every hope of snatching a good few items from my list of near 950 releases that I still needed to acquire. On the Sunday, I cheekily made my apologies to my hosts and drove off to get there at doors opening at 9am. I was surprised that there was practically no-one outside the venue which was a sports leisure centre, except for a couple of people going to use the sports facilities.

The record fair was in one of the indoor courts, which on approach looked a lot smaller than I expected. I was the only person at the entrance point and paid my entrance fee to find at the very most there was only about 30 traders in the hall. Some had a single table, some had a couple of tables and the odd few had three tables. Even counting up the tables I couldn't get anywhere near 120 plus, just in case "stalls" meant something other than the number of traders I was expecting. I was there, so I thought I would make the most of it and spent 2 hours rummaging around the stock......NOTHING, Nada, Zip....Bugger all. How, out of a list of 950 releases, I couldn't find a single thing, baffled me. Although if I collected standard rock albums, sixties crooner albums or chart hitting punk singles I would have been in my element as I hardly saw anything I've not seen a million times before.

To say I was disillusioned would be an understatement. Non of the traders sounded foreign at all, they all had quite strong English accents and I didn't see a single mammoth! The large fair was my last hope of being able to find records the old fashioned way with some human interaction, but it seems more and more unlikely. I sent an email to the organisers of the record fair asking them why they advertised having so many stalls when there was nowhere near the number and the fact that I travelled half way across the country for it (kind of). I haven't had any reply, unsurprisingly.

Last week I had a holiday in Scotland. Whenever I go anywhere, I always make a list of any records shops in the area that I might take time to visit. There is a record shop of 35 years trading that sits in the heart of Dundee called Grouchos that I noticed and had to give a try whilst out that way. I was shocked to see record sleeves in racks, without any cover protection, with price stickers stuck on the sleeves. They were all battered and tattered and I hate to think what damage would be done when trying to take those price stickers off. Some more collectable items were in plastic sleeves on high shelves, one of which was a Prince Purple Rain album on purple vinyl which I just had to have. But apart from this one album, that wasn't even on my list of wanted releases, none of the 950 releases I was looking for was in store. It's no wonder record shops have nearly disappeared over the last 20 years.

In my usual attempt to constantly revive my interest and motivation and keep my fervour alive, a couple of months ago I wondered if I could get my list of wanted releases below 900 by the end of the year. As a simple idea it seemed like an easy target, but it quickly seemed more of a challenge than I initially thought. I'm constantly finding more stuff to acquire and this year for the first time, the number of purchases outweighed the number of discoveries. I've shown this before, but it will be critical over the next few weeks. This shows the number of  releases I have found I still need to acquire, recorded as often as possible in a spreadsheet a few times a week

Over the last couple of months, I managed to get closer and closer to that 900 mark well ahead of time to hit my target. But over the last couple of weeks there seems to have been a rush of releases I have discovered that I didn't know about before that I have had to add to my list of wanted releases. The target has started to look difficult to accomplish. I'm now at 928 releases. If I had an endless supply of cash, I suppose the 900 target would be a joke, but I have to keep a level head and buy only at the most reasonable price I can.

So, up to the end of the year, I'm going to do a running blog entry. Starting at the next release I acquire, I will start a new blog entry and add to it most days as I get another release (or perhaps even when I don't) on the run up to the end of the year. Ok, it's a poor attempt to make up to you all for not posting for such a long time, make up for it by going over the top. Hopefully it will give an insight into the day to day struggle of finding what sometimes seams like the impossible. Watch this space.....well not this literal space, the space above the next blog entry!

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Tour De France, Tour De York, Tour De Record Shops

Last weekend I had the great privilege to stay in the city of York to watch the Tour De France stage start from there. I always love seeing the Tour De France, having watched it on the television since 1985. But this was also a great opportunity to go and pay a visit to all the record shops in York. On the Friday I had made a trip to a local record shop at home first. It's an interesting shop, thousands upon thousands of records, cd's and cassette tapes.

As an experienced record shop visitor, I can usually tell quite quickly if a record shop is going to be of any use to a 4AD collector. Cocteau Twins and Pixies have to be the easiest and most prolific releases to find. If a shop doesn't have any releases of these two artists, there's a very good chance that there is practically no chance of anything more obscure such as Dead Can Dance or Clan of Xymox. It's not a hard and fast rule, but is an easy indicator. I was determined that weekend to put aside my previous judgement of UK record shops and thoroughly search through them to see if my prejudice was justified or not.

The local record shop did actually have some Cocteau Twins and Pixies, so things were looking up. But the first hurdle was the lack of discipline in organising the records into their sections. I found 4AD stuff under Goth, Indie labels, rock and 80's pop. It would take days to go through every section on display, so some sort of common sense was needed. There were about seven or eight Cocteau Twins releases, of which The Spangle Maker was three of those, all the same (except for one which was an original embossed - at the same price as the other two). All of the release were English pressings of which I had all of them. Except for Cocteau Twins and Pixies, there wasn't anything else and certainly nothing outside of the typical English releases.

Knowing that there was a real mix up in the discipline of releases between the sections, it meant that it was likely worth going through some of the unlikely sections to try and find a hidden gem. But I always find that kind of search soul destroying. Looking through masses of 80's pop, with tons and tons of cheap chart topping drivel, selling at 50 pence a time (which is still overpriced), with practically no surprises and having done this so many times before, getting sick of seeing the same faces, the same graphics as hundreds of previous searches over decades of record collecting, the will is sapped.

After a couple of hours searching, I leave empty handed, not even close to finding anything of interest. Bearing in mind that I have over 930 items in my want list and the fact that I'm also interested in picking up anything else of interest that I may find. The word disappointed doesn't even come close.

At least I had the weekend in York to look forward to and a list of five record shops to go and interrogate.

With my phone and a list of handwritten post codes I set off for the first shop in the centre of the city. There were two close by on the list and while looking for the first, actually found the second instead. It didn't look promising. In the shop window was a selection of classical and jazz releases and I feared that it would be a more specialised shop than I was looking for. Inside, there was jazz music playing and first couple of sections were listed as Jazz and Classical. The main reception was all CD's and along the back wall was a section of Rock, Indie and Pop. The rack had a few hundred CD's and was very helpfully split into lots of artists and an alphabetical catch all of every thing else. In about a half hour I had looked through them all and found one compilation CD of The Birthday Party, Mutiny / The Bad Seed EP. I couldn't remember if I had this already, so bought it anyway. At the back of the shop was a small collection of vinyl of which there was nothing of interest at all.

Across the road was another of the listed record shops. Entering it though, it looked more like a brick a brack shop, than a record shop. There was about four boxes of vinyl, three of which was all new and sealed stuff. The fourth box just had charity shop quality stuff, easy listening and pop albums. No luck there then.

Another shop was right in the very centre of the city. My lovely long suffering wife had brought a book with her and it came in handy as the shop actually had a little bench outside in the sunshine, just perfect for the record shopper widow. I always thought that shops miss out on a treat here. Record shops should have a widow waiting area with tea, biscuits and usual shopping magazines. Clothes shops should have a bloke waiting area, with a games console or a tv with Rambo or some such crap on, that way the other half can spend more time shopping guilt free.

This third shop had a couple of thousand pieces of vinyl, with no sections at all, except for a couple of boxes of dance 12"s. I started at A and worked my way through. I could tell from the start that the shop wasn't going to have much. By the finish of C and no Cocteau Twins, my expectations had fallen completely. The whole shop had nothing at all.

The third shop on the list was on a small lane, again right in the centre of the city, but was up the attic of another shop and supposedly easy to miss. I couldn't find it though. The lane only had three shops on it and none of them had anything going up into an attic room. Another record shop bites the dust.

The last one was about two miles out of town. It was a lovely red hot and sunny day, so we walked to it. I hoped for a good record shop. Being out of town probably meant better rent and therefore a bigger shop and a better chance at some luck.

After a grueling hot walk in the sunshine, we finally got to the record shop in a little York suburb. Once again, the sections were poorly disciplined. There was a punk / new wave section that had no Cocteau Twins at all, which was a bad sign from the off. I asked the owner where I would likely find the stuff I was looking for and he pointed me at a bunch of boxes on the floor marked as 80's. The shop didn't have any surprises in it at all and was typical rock albums mostly. The owner moaned about his work experience youngsters he had in recently just to put the vinyl into order and selections and I envisaged a couple of spotty teenagers without a clue of what they were sorting through as the owner sat around doing nothing at all while all his stock was a mess.

I left once again with absolutely nothing!

5 Record shops over a weekend and one CD bought. When I got home, I realised I had The Birthday Party CD, only I had the original and the purchased version bought in York was actually the re-release from around 2007, which looked almost identical except for the matrix on the disc itself. The telltale sign was a GAD number on the matrix against the CAD number on the sleeve. GAD was the number given to whole lot of 4AD re-releases.

I used to love going to record shops a couple of decades ago, but the experience is just not the same anymore, and I don't think the difference is from me. The record shops just don't have the stock or organisation to compete against the online competition even though online you also have to pay for postage as well. Maybe I'll give one of the large fairs a go?

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Record collecting, how long will it last?

I have been getting on with the job of buying in wanted items on the collection. Once again I have been bitten by idiot traders that can't be bothered to list an item properly. This time it was Frazier Chorus and the alternative release of Sloppy Heart re-released on Virgin in an unusual card sleeve, the important bit being the card sleeve, as without the sleeve, the version is then incomplete. As seems to be the typical story, the sleeve by the trader was graded as EX+ which looked positive, only to find on delivery that there was no card sleeve just a plain black die cut sleeve that anyone could have added. One complaint to the trader later was met with the typical indifference and lack of any surprise.

A couple of weeks later I found the same item from a more respectable outlet, let's see what difference that makes.

Over the past month I have noticed a worrying, but so far small, slip in the natural climb of music collection worth. I know that collectors only keep a small eye on what is happening as regards the monetary value of their collection, but what is happening in the market is important. If the market drops and people stop buying, apart from the value going down, traders stop trading and many important pieces of music may well end up in landfill. Ok, so that's an extreme end of the loss of value, but while it may seem good that prices go down for the collector in the short term, a fall in general value of music collections would look bad for the second hand industry and bad for the collectors and material would be a lot harder to find.

I have attempted to keep on eye on the general value trend of the market myself by keeping a spreadsheet of data going by adding to the spreadsheet the market value each day. At the moment I have 2,437 items in my collection, of which only a part is devoted to 4AD. The range of genre's and styles in my collection is pretty varied and so I think this gives a reasonable representation of the variations in the market. What I have done for the past couple of years is take the average selling price of releases sold on Discogs, then got the average of those across my entire collection. I have a couple of rarities and a whole load of stuff worth next to nothing. I think the results have always been quite interesting. As time has passed and more is added to my collection, the more accurate the data becomes as the averages iron out the discrepancies.

When I started with this data, I was still adding my collection to the database, hence the fall at the very beginning. Over time though I could see why some finance experts were proclaiming music to be the new financial investment like wine and antiques. The first year showed an increase in the average price by 12.5 percent. By April of this year, that trend was looking to be going the same way, as by April 2014 the increase was 6 percent over the half year.

Although all of this is an aside to the joy of collecting and enjoyment of the music, it can be nevertheless mildly fascinating. I have watched and wondered, when Beatles original pressings, Led Zeppelin originals, etc, etc, just keep rocketing in price, will the bubble burst and all of a sudden, no-one will give a rats arse about vinyl. Whilst it wouldn't make any difference to me in terms of my desire to collect, it would have repercussions on my ability to source the pieces I need for my collection.

Adding these figures to the spreadsheet since April 2014, I started to notice a stall against the expected increase. While ups and downs are always expected after a couple of weeks the figures tend to right themselves. But after 3 months of near stagnation, I can't help but wonder if there is a change underway. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into it. Perhaps in the next couple of weeks everything will shoot up and the norm will be established. But it is interesting as to whether the market can carry on getting £4,000 for a Beatles Please Please Me, £1700 for a Led Zeppelin I and still keep an interest for those that want a '60s Cliff Richard single worth only 50 pence.

On a side note, another trend I've tried to keep a record of is the extent of my want list with a hope to seeing a down turn in the number of items still needed to complete my collection. Items are discovered and get added sometimes at the same rate that I'm ticking things off the list.

The last time I published this chart I was getting a little frustrated by the fact that the trend was going up rather than decreasing. Nearly for every item I bought I found two others I hadn't previously known about. But at last as you can see above, the trend is going the right way, down. You never know, in a couple of decades I may have this thing wrapped up......hmm,... all kind donations will be gratefully received!!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Album Listening Clubs...Somebody set one up please

I very much like the thought of a new concept that has been sweeping the music world these last couple of years. It involves getting a group of like minded people together, which means lovers of music, not any genre specific grouping and devoting the evening to playing a couple of albums in their entirety and without interruption. The choice of album played is decided by an attendee in advance and there are strict rules applied about respecting the music and listening to it without talking, without other distractions and solely devoting attention to the album being played. Some clubs are taking this a little further and playing only vinyl, on top quality record players and amps.

I love this idea. It's unfortunate these days that the majority of people don't devote time to listening to music without any other distraction. I find myself listening to music when I can fit it in, while driving the car mostly, which is a real shame. When I was younger, I had a lot more respect for music and devoted more time to listening to it. I would decide in an evening that the TV wasn't going to be switched on, loads of incense would get burned and fill the room, the lighting would be dimmed and I would just listen to the music while at most studying the album sleeve and contents. When you listen to music that way, one studies the intricacies, the twists, turns and little nuances that make up the whole palette that otherwise would be missed. Also an album is put together without distraction. An artist doesn't record an album while watching the television at the same time or doesn't record vocals while driving down the motorway. All the structure of an album is also carefully thought out and put together as a single piece of artwork with a specific running order. Listening to it in any other way, other than with total attention and in proper running order is missing the point I suppose. We can't say we have seen a Rosetti painting if we just saw little close ups occasionally or if we saw a black and white photocopy from a magazine.

The idea of these book club style album listening groups just sound like the very thing for me. I love to listen to other peoples music (as long as it's an educated taste) and this kind of arrangement gets you listening to music that you may not naturally veer towards. Unfortunately, nobody for miles and miles around is doing anything like this at the moment. Yes, yes, I can hear you say "so why don't you do something yourself". I'm one of those sort of people that comes up with ideas, but for some reason has no idea how to execute them. In the past I've tried a couple of alternative music club nights myself with a couple of friends which died a death. I just don't understand people in the main, so when it comes to getting people together, I fall flat on my face. In my head I'm a leader, in reality I'm a loner with daft ideas, like this collecting crusade I suppose. I don't drink and I look like most younger people's dad nowadays, and because of that have no interest in dancing. If an evening doesn't involve drinking or dancing, that's 99.9 percent of the population disinterested.

If only the "build it and they will come" dream would work in that scenario, but I'm too realistic to realise that it wouldn't.

What started this train of thought? I spent last Tuesday evening, with myself and the dog listening to Dead Can Dance's two albums Within the Realm Of a Dying Sun and Spleen and Ideal, on vinyl, with the mood lights on, incense burning and no interruptions and it was fantastic. My problem when experiencing something wonderful on my own, is the pity I feel for those missing out on such an experience. But then you can't force anyone to appreciate something wonderful.

I am surprised when looking at the Album Listening clubs around the world, how many 4AD albums spring up such as This Mortal Coil or Pixies, mixed with the obvious classics such as Beatles, Stones, Zeppelin and Bowie. It just shows the influence of 4AD worldwide, punching far above it's weight.

Well the sabbatical month of April is well behind me and the collecting has carried on where it had left off. I picked up a nice Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgare CD recently. I hope soon that I can get everything on a many variants release. Some of the Dead Can Dance or This mortal Coil releases have tens of variants and would be good to show. Maybe sometime soon. For now thanks for reading

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Ooh, let's watch The Voice....Fuck Off

I was watching a documentary about the genre of music labelled Easy Listening or Elevator Music last night. I always find documentaries on any form of music interesting, it it helps oneself define genres or understand where certain types of music have come from and how the history of that music progressed. The one thing that kept repeating from the fan and musician interviews, was the repeated reason for liking Easy Listening or writing the music for that genre was to get away from the dark, the angry or the depressing music that was always around and escape to somewhere relaxing and free from stress and the anxiety of life. It came across as an escapism.

As an avid music lover, I constantly get asked a few things repetitively, why do I listen to such depressive music, what's wrong with listening to "Normal" music and what type of music do I like (or usually the conclusion cast upon me, that I only listen to very heavy rock music)? I have already touched on my interpretation of music to food - here

Other people can listen to whatever music they feel they want to listen to, why should I have any problem with that? I do get a little annoyed when folk try to introduce me to music that they say is fantastic when their tastes in music never veer away from the top 10 music chart or heard from a sodding advert on tv. Why do I get annoyed? Because I'm addicted to music and there is nothing more incredible than finding new music from an artist or band that is writing and performing now. The problem is with sifting through the thousands of new artists and bands and the music they create and finding something that appeals to me. In my experience and opinion, the best music comes through after tens of hours of repetitive play. One test of good music is how quickly it gets annoying, good music NEVER gets annoying, but in order to figure that out takes hours of listening.

So that huge amounts of my listening time is not wasted, experience has given me an ear for what I know just won't last the distance. Music made for the buck rather than the outpouring of an artists soul is very likely to go off quickly for me, so I tend to steer clear of charts and the popular choice from the off. Then there is the tedium of drudging through massive amounts of ok music, stuff that has substance, can be respected for the artists love of their music, but gets in the way of finding the real meaty stuff that stays with you for life.

It's difficult finding that music which is life affirming and has staying power and it can be a very personal decision, so it can be hard to find that music based on other people's tastes and opinions. To reduce the opportunity of finding any of that incredible music by being genre biased for me would be a sin and harmful to the quest of discovering great music.

But that brings me to what was remarkable about that documentary. Many of the artists and fans of Easy Listening music, saw it as an escape. The music let them escape from the harsh realities of their own life and the reality of the harsh world around them. It must be the unusual way that my brain works, because I have always had issues with escapism. Some of us seem to live in a modern western world where the majority of our time is spent trying to escape it, either through drink, drugs, partying, tv or even religion. The western world seems to me a sick society that cannot cope with life, even though they don't really experience the real hardships of life like the rest of the world does. A Victorian mentality is still so very prevalent where instead of facing personal issues head on, we try to run away from them using any shortcuts available. Everyone has issues to some extent or another and I have always try to live by the code of facing those issues, dealing with them, even if that just means acceptance that they exist and then trying to get the most of life from the rest of living. My philosophy has always been that happiness is much sweeter when forcefully produced by oneself than when induced by a shortcut or escapism.

I am far from proclaiming myself as any saint, far from it, all I'm doing is expressing why music means so much to me. Music for me has been a tool of confronting demons, facing reality, having an understanding friend with me at all times that knows exactly how I feel and cries with me, then lets me move on. I don't need happy music to make me happy as I know that the shortcut route is fleeting. There are constant things in life that make me happy because I allow myself to fully appreciate them, like just being in the company of my wife.

For me, art is life therapy. How artists have got through life, dealt with its trials and problems and whether they succeeded to deal with them is an artist's primary lesson, which goes hand in hand with the art they create and stands like a brother or sister and sits besides you, fully understanding every emotion you go through because they have been through the same and see no shame in what you feel. A person doesn't need help or a shoulder to cry on when they are happy, happiness is for sharing with real people in real time. So the therapeutic healing of music is for me always against what is termed as dark music. The term dark music for me simply means depth, depth of emotion, depth of meaning and not a genre specific term.

I'm not a Christian, a party pooper or a do-gooder. I believe that that in the western world we bury our feelings, shy away from facing our demons and use partying, drink, drugs and sex to run away from our problems in a belief that maybe they won't be there when we return to normality, which always happens and the problems are still there. In the long term, the short fix, short cutting solutions never solve anything and just make our troubles all the worse.

Easy Listening music has always been the obvious face of this kind of "Stiff Upper Lip" type of mentality, a mentality that has run through popular music for an eternity, from the old English music hall tradition, through massive multi platinum crooners of the sixties, to Richard Clayderman, "saxophonists playing the hits" albums, lounge music, cabaret and karaoke. At least Easy Listening has an honesty that it is nothing more than what it unashamedly peddles, my annoyance comes with music that at it's heart is Easy Listening, but pushes itself as something more serious, when it blatantly isn't!

And the worst is this modern trend that if something is old, then it's classic. Because the general public generally can't tell the difference between the genuine artist that exposes their deepest fears and feelings because it's the very core of what they are and the junk being shoved down their throats at a constant rate, the longevity of that junk, for some reason, becomes highly praised and respected. Just because a label for a boy band is very good at peddling the same shite for more than a decade, does not suddenly make that music any better.

Music is your personal love affair. Love it, but for gods sake, don't be taken for a ride.

That's this months rant over. It has been a slow month. For financial reasons I have taken a months sabbatical, which has made me very hungry to get stuck back in again.......


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Throwing Muses - Dizzy

I will try and show all the versions of a release when I complete collecting them. I've decided to make an executive decision though and not hold out for matrices variations and test pressings. If I have or notice any of these, I think I will add them, but as we saw with the Bauhaus - Dark Entries, it gets to a point with matrix variations where you wonder if the development of yet more discoveries mean that collecting it never ends.

Now I have an awful confession to make. While I find most bands that signed to 4AD in the first decade of its existence brilliant, interesting, beautiful, inspiring and many other heart or mind activating words, throwing muses always left me a little cold. I have lived through a period of explosion in music and while still listening to new music in the late eighties and early nineties and also trying to catch up on three decades of already released music by that time, I made a conscious effort to not be swamped with an impossible task of listening to everything. I learned very early on in my musical exploration that some music reveals its greatest depth and life after tens of hours of repeated listening. Some music just gets better and better the more you listen to it. This means that the battle of getting the real meat out of a piece of music takes so much time that new discoveries have to be limited or picked carefully first from the ocean of music available. 4AD was always a pretty good bet for me, the label gave a kind of partial guarantee of satisfaction.

My introduction to 4AD was mostly through the Lonely Is An Eyesore compilation in 1987. On that compilation was a track by Throwing Muses called Counting Backwards. From all the amazing music on that album, the Throwing Muses track along with the Wolfgang Press and one of the Dead Can Dance tracks left me a little unsure as to whether I liked them or not. The Dead Can Dance and Wolfgang Press tracks just grew on me the more I listened to the compilation. The Throwing Muses track however, just didn't do anything for me to the point that I started to get annoyed by it getting in the way of the rest of the great songs. Because of that track, I never gave Throwing Muses a chance really.

Listening to Dizzy now, The Throwing Muses single from 1989, it still reminds me strongly of that track from the Lonely As An Eyesore compilation and still leaves me cold. Now I know.....this is sacriledges, I'm dissing a band from the sacred 4AD vaults. But this is only my personal opinion and I'm sure there are many, many 4AD fans that absolutely love Throwing Muses. A 4AD collection wouldn't be very complete if I decided to leave a band's releases out just because I didn't get their music.

So for those that do like the Throwing Muses 1989 single Dizzy, here is the complete list (so far) of all the versions of the single

(1) UK 12"
(2) US 12" Promo
(3) UK 10" Gatefold
(4) UK 7"
(5) US CD Promo
(6) UK CD

As far as I know, all these releases were all released in 1989.

(1) UK 12" - 4AD - BAD903

(2) US 12" Promo - Sire - PRO-A-3395

This US promo only sleeve used part of the sleeve design from both the Hunkpapa album and part of which can be faintly seen in the UK singles sleeves. Dizzy wasn't released to the general public as a single in the US, so I assume that the promo 12" and the US promo CD were used to promote the Hunkpapa album, which had the Dizzy single included.

(3) UK 10" - 4AD - BADD903 - Limited to 5000 copies

(4) UK 7" - 4AD - AD903

(5) US CD Promo - Sire - PRO-CD-3618

This CD Promo from the US has a grey back sleeve, but no front sleeve, with the single title and release code printed.

(6) UK CD - 4AD - BAD903CD

The full details of all these releases can be found Here

Listen Here

This is all I have on this release so far and, as far as I know, is everything released for this single. If I find anything else, I promise to add it to this page. There will no doubt be a test pressing for each vinyl release, but these will be hard to come by

Thanks for reading as always

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Bootlegs, licensed or modern releases, eastern European 4AD releases

Something that has bothered me for a long time now has been the lack of understanding of the line between official releases and the bootlegging world. This isn't too bad in countries like the UK and the US. Very strict copyright laws exist that stop the blatant copying and selling of copyrighted music and prosecutions are made all the time. Bootleggers still exist in these two countries, but are generally from live performances or from demo recordings which are not part of any official release and tend to come under a more grey area. I think these are still illegal, but generally are poor quality and not really done for the advantages of money but more done by a fan excited at the thought of releasing their own collected samples.

It then becomes a matter of choice as to whether or not the UK or US collector wants to collect these unofficial releases as part of their collection. I think most collectors would not class these as legitimate collection pieces, yet some still fetch collector prices.

The waters become a little more cloudy though, when it comes to the non UK and US releases. Many European countries can be mostly relied on as a source of official releases and versions licensed from the main country of the owning label. Germany, France, Belgium, Italy and Spain, seem to be reliable in the fact that a release under these countries own labels will most likely be legitimately released through a licence agreement and, therefore, be official. Further into Eastern Europe though is where the line between official and unofficial starts to blur a little and starts to make you wonder as to whether something for sale is a genuine licensed release or not.

There are quite a few Polish releases of Dead Can Dance albums and Cocteau Twins albums in the late eighties on Discogs. In the mid to late eighties, one of my great uncles had family in Poland and we used to send clothing parcels to them because the Polish economy was so bad that each day people where queuing for hours just to buy bread. To think of western CD's being licensed for sale in a market that can hardly feed itself seems difficult to comprehend, not because of the moral questions but more for the reason that no-one would manufacture something that wasn't sellable.

I would love to know other people's opinions on this. When did countries like Russia, Poland, Turkey and Israel actually license and sell authorised versions of 4AD releases? Israel's releases seem to look more genuine, but are they legit releases? I've no idea. At the moment my gut instinct is that the Israeli releases are genuine and that a few Polish vinyl ones could perhaps be genuine, but the Polish CD's and tapes, all Russian releases and all Turkish releases from the eighties are either bootlegs or much later pressings. It would be good to hear from anyone that bought any 4AD releases from these countries. There are a few others that are intriguing as well such as Yugoslavian and Czechoslovakian releases, that could well be the real thing. There is the growing South American market from countries such as Brazil and Argentina. Once again some vinyl releases could be genuine, bought from the eighties? It's hard to say.

It was interesting noting from Martin Aston that 4AD never really had much in the way of tight records of what was produced, where and in what quantities. Sometimes I think it would be great to be let loose on boxes of old papers in the 4AD office and try and find out how many copies of each release where pressed, but it seems those paper trails don't exist.

Anyway, I must apologise for such a long absence. I have spent a long while reading Martin Aston's book. I have carried on writing my own book and have got a little engrossed in it. Still, the collection does not stop collecting. I have now acquired all the versions (well the ones I know about so far) of Throwing Muses' single Dizzy. So I need to get a set of photo's done to add here. I promise not to leave it another 3 months until I post again...promise