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About the Author
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FOREWORD by Danny Kelly (music fan, former editor of NME and Q, helpless vinyl junkie) You hold in your hand a miracle. What other word can you use to describe a book, published two decades into the twenty-first century, about the myriad delights of vinyl records? If, just ten years ago, you’d said that vinyl would now even still exist – never mind be the subject of widespread conversation, adoration and learned tomes – men armed with tranquiliser darts would’ve lurked outside your house, questioning your cognitive health. All of which goes to show just what a long, strange trip the whole world of vinyl has been on. For four decades, from the invention of the Microgroove some seventy years ago, to the coming of CDs, the plastic record (LP, single, album, 45, disc, platter, long player, shellac, EP and 100 other variants) ruled the musical roost. Records sold in uncountable numbers, became fetish objects; radiograms, stereograms, Dansettes and stereo systems competed with televisions to be the centre of household attention. Every home had records and the means to play them. Discs became identifiers, cultural name-tags. When I was at school in the 1970s, the LP you carried under your arm – Deep Purple, Curtis Mayfield, David Bowie, King Crimson or Nick Drake – spoke of which tribe you belonged to, and broadcast a loud message of how exactly you saw your teenage self. Records were important. Records were loved. Then, with bewildering suddenness, it seemed over. Compact discs were the shiny harbingers of a new world of apparently perfect sound, less cumbersome playback gear and, for those with lots of music, fewer fears of catastrophic spinal damage. Vinyl became old hat, a hissy, popping reminder of post-war austerity, the three-day week and greasy-haired youths in bellbottoms. People threw whole collections into skips; charity shops were swamped with Leo Sayer, ELO and Paul Young; people like me who clung on to their precious plastic were mocked in the street by local urchins, dismissed as geeks and freaks. The reign of vinyl ended, consigned to the dustbin of memory and the creaking, dusty shelves of a few diehards. But somehow – mysteriously, incredibly – it didn’t quite die. Though record shops went bust and the gates of pressing plants were padlocked, records refused to completely depart the stage. Hip hop artists, recognising that the imperfect vinyl sound was human and warm, sampled it into their otherwise flawless digital robo-sounds. Advertising agencies used records and record players to convey an authenticity and tactility increasingly lacking from modern i-life. And music folk – fans and artists alike – began to ache for a connection with their beloved sounds that amounted to something more than a faceless file arriving in your download box. A whole technology that had been left behind was suddenly once again front and centre, gloriously ubiquitous, and hilariously hip. I honestly can’t think of a historical precedent. The enduring, often opaque wonders of records, record labels, record players, record shops, record cases, record shelves and record collecting do need chronicling, explaining, enjoying and celebrating. And who better to do it than a man who certainly never made the schoolboy error of offloading his Tamla Motown A-labels on to the local branch of Oxfam? I first met Graham Sharpe when he invited me to become a judge on the William Hill Sports Book of the Year, the important literary award he’d developed with his great friend, the late John Gaustad. At first, if I’m honest, I thought he was just a sharp(!)- dressed man who worked for a bookmaker. My illusions were quickly shattered. It turned out that, sure, Graham was a smiling advocate for horse racing and betting, but also harboured oceandeep passion for football, Luton Town, great writing of every kind and a host of other enthusiasms that most definitely included the universes of records and record collecting. By the time I discovered that he had bought at auction the leopard-skin-design jacket of the late Screaming Lord Sutch, I knew for certain that this was a man with whom I could do business. In the intervening quarter of a century, Graham and I have become firm friends. In between a full-time job and a busy career as an author – I talk about writing books, he gets on and does it – he continued, and still does in semi-retirement, to buy, collect, treasure and talk about music on physical, grooved, formats. His understanding of the quirks and foibles of collectors – a mixture of possessiveness, weird gallery curation, completism, lonely latenight filing and hopeless addiction – means that I can talk to him about my own out-of-control hoarding without fear of being embarrassed or judged. Indeed, when I recently revealed to him that I was wasting my life savings on renovating a vast old rustic cowhouse to shelter my sprawling array of vinyl (sub-categories include Poetry 45s, Unlistenable Modern Classical, and Advertising flexi-discs) he just beamed broadly. ‘Can’t wait to see it,’ he said. You hold in your hand a miracle. A book about a passion, and the hipsters, oddballs and old heads who share it, written by one of their number, albeit a ludicrously erudite one. I’ve no doubt that once read, it will take its place on those groaning shelves, proudly sandwiched between the gatefold sleeves, coloured vinyls, lead-heavy box sets and multiple copies of ‘Forever Changes’. It deserves to. Summer 2019 INTRODUCTION IN WHICH THE AUTHOR ADMITS TO VINYL ADDICTION AND EXPLAINS HOW IT HAS IMPACTED ON HIS LIFE ‘Vinyl’s making a comeback, isn’t it?’ The man in the record section of the charity shop was making friendly conversation as he spotted me looking through the discs. I looked up and regarded him, perhaps a little too sternly, before responding, perhaps a little too aggressively: ‘It never went away.’ I believe that anyone who owns two or more records is selfevidently a record collector. Whenever you add another one to however many you already have you are enhancing that collection. I have thousands of the things, and despite the incomprehension of my Mum who, when asked to make my Christmas present an LP one year, replied, ‘Why? You’ve got records already’, I continue to add to the total regularly. This book deals with every aspect of record collecting I could think of. How it’s done, when it’s done, where it’s done, why it’s done, who does it and how one goes about it. Read this book – with its tales of countless hours spent in 100s of record shops worldwide, at record fairs, car boot sales, online and real-life auctions, romances consummated in vinyl, fruitless searches for elusive records, selling, buying, exchanging, coveting, losing, loving, hoarding, hating, finding, wanting, demanding records – and you may just begin to comprehend the emotions involved in a lifelong vinyl love affair. If you used to be a collector but believe you aren’t one now, think again. Get the record player out of the loft, gently caress the dust off the first disc to come to hand, and give it a spin. You’ll wonder why you ever stopped doing it. If you don’t, you’ve lost forever what would once have been one of your simplest, but greatest, pleasures – playing favourite records. If you, your grandparents, Mum, Dad, brother, sister, aunty, uncle, friends, or workmates have ever shown an interest in, and/ or collected, records, 33 and 45 rpm circular (usually, not always) vinyl discs, this book – my vinylography, although the publishing poohbahs wouldn’t let me call it that! – should prove a real treat for you or them. Records have a greater capacity than Doctor Who’s Tardis for transporting you back in time. Even someone as ‘woke’ and on trend as the highly influential writer for The Times Caitlin Moran acknowledged as much when, in April 2019, she explained how records encapsulate ‘everything you were before’ and should therefore be revisited and revered, otherwise ‘you’re selling out the only person who has believed in you… : you.’ This book seeks to reawaken the often dormant desire which first promoted the gathering of records, and to confirm the belief of those who still indulge in it, that they happily belong to, and should celebrate the undervalued, misunderstood, significant group of music-obsessed vinylholics, who always want – need – to buy… just one more record.