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.

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!