It’s three months now since I wrote about my decision to get a turntable and start buying LPs again. So I thought it was time to write a bit about how I’m getting on. Hardly earth changing stuff, but that’s the joy of running your own blog. Some days you can write about life and death, some days it’s the joys that come in between those defining events, like buying LPs.
So, how’s it going? Fairly well, thanks for theoretically asking. From a solitary LP the first time I wrote there are now nearly 40 of them sat next to the turntable in our living room. Which would have been a heavy investment if they were all new. But mostly they’re not.
I’d envisaged exploring new music on vinyl but haven’t much, yet. Because I’ve found that most LPs of new music are in fact doubles, but strange doubles. Because they’re really still being made to fit on CDs they’re too long to fit onto a single vinyl LP and still be of decent quality. So they end up spread awkwardly over four LP sides, two or three tracks a side. Now, I love the ceremony of turning the record over and dropping the needle in the groove, but not that often.
So most of our LPs so far are old ones coming from charity shops. And many of these have cost virtually nothing. Because while some charity shops have caught on to the fact that some of us are buying vinyl again, most are still viewing their vinyl stocks as one step away from being sent to landfill to clear a bit of floorspace. In these places it always takes some time wading through oceans of Leo Sayer, Black & White Minstrels, Spinners and Kajagoogoo albums, not to mention Harry Seacombe’s Songs of Praise – to eventually find the gems that only might be there.
It was doing this in a Roy Castle charity shop nearby that turned up what’s turned out to be one of our favourite LPs. I’d already found one LP that I wanted, good quality for a reasonable £1.50, when I noticed that this allowed me to select a second LP for nothing! Well, I nearly didn’t bother. But fortunately another search in the would-be landfill turned up a Manhattan Transfer LP. I remembered them for ‘Chansons D’Amour’ which I had no intention of inviting into our house. But I noticed this LP was on Atlantic and contained Allen Toussaint’s ‘Occapella’ – both of which suggested it might be good.
Having nothing to lose I took it home. And it is a thing of rhythm, blues, beauty, doo-wop and wonder. Maybe they had to bland out later to get the hits, but this first album from 1975 is well worth nothing of anyone’s money. We’ve listened to it so often now that I really wouldn’t have minded paying £1.50 for it. That good.
Another valuable thing about the landfill piles is that any classical LPs you find there are quite likely to be of more or less ‘as-new’ quality. The several we’ve got, mostly discovered by Sarah in post-work Wirral outings to West Kirby and Heswall, look and sound like they’ve barely been played at all. Like people feel they’re ‘supposed’ to have a bit of Mozart, Beethoven and Vivaldi for when visitors flick through their collections, but draw the line at actually playing the things. Well we’ve played them – a few times.
But our greatest LP joy has come from someone you might not have heard of, but have almost certainly heard. Step forward the greatest drummer in the history of the LP, Steve Gadd.
You might know him from the subtle rhythms of Paul Simon’s ’50 ways to leave your lover’ or from Steely Dan, Rickie Lee Jones, Aretha Franklin, Kate Bush or so many others. He’s been a top studio drummer for years and for years we’ve been listening to his work on CDs and iTunes. So we’d forgotten how good he was. How good he was when we saw him playing once with Paul Simon’s band. A haze of flying elbows when he had to be, as often as not barely moving, but driving every song with unexpected pulses no one else I’ve ever heard would even think of.
Well, Steve Gadd’s back. In our living room. In fact he’s been such a big part of out return to LPs I nearly called this post ‘On drums, Steve Gadd.’
So, beyond the charity shops, where’s the vinyl?
Well here in Liverpool, there’s Probe Records of course. Mostly for new or classic (as opposed to classical) LPs.
As well as the shops there is also a travelling troupe of sellers who’ll turn up at ‘Record Fairs’ now and then. I’ve come across these in a café on Duke Street, in the Bluecoat and in the Old Police Station on Lark Lane. In fact they’ll be back at Lark Lane next Sunday, 13th October, as will I. I like these. They’re music and LP fans as much as traders, and a pleasure to haggle with.
There is also Manchester. Specifically, there is Oldham Street.
We used to spend a lot of time here, particularly when Sarah lived in Manchester. We were always in and out of Vinyl Exchange, still going, and one day we even sold our previous vinyl collection to them.
We hadn’t been to Oldham Street for years until this week. And so I’d forgotten about Piccadilly Records for most of my CD-buying years. But here it still is. Magnificently stocked with richly varied vinyl. And still with every LP cover on display attached to their informative and opinionated paragraph about it. Also gracious, friendly staff happy to include me in a detailed discussion they were already having with a younger customer about something she was looking for by Hall & Oates from around 1981. I nearly moved in.
Not cheap mind, it’s all new stuff. Because vinyl really is doing ok now. So you wouldn’t shop at Piccadilly Records every week. But for special occasions? Well I think all my birthdays from now on are taken care of.
I could go on, when it’s about LPs I always can. But that’s enough for today. I’ll no doubt be back soon with more.