It is offically 13 days since school ended. I know what you’re thinking: teachers. Legislature just gave dude a raise and he’s loafing through the summer. Wrong! I’ve got lots of school stuff that hasn’t given me a day’s peace yet. J-camp registration, organizing the yearbook office, WJEA retreat last weekend, off to yearbook camp tomorrow, Kansas City next week for a new yearbook adviser workshop and that’s kind of been my summer. Throw in some really lousy nights of sleep and vacation has gotten off to a shaky start. There’s lots more to do, but the good news is it doesn’t have to be done today.
Nope, I have made some little forays into various Pierce County enclaves in search of used, cheap vinyl. One place I stop almost every day is the South Hill Goodwill. For about two months I’d stop a few times per week and come up with nothing beyond marveling at what they did have: Mel Tillis and Charlie Rich, Mario Lanza and Barbara Streisand, polkas, waltzes and inspirational music–not exactly the stuff I’m building my collection around. I’d guess that until my summer break started I’d been 0 fer two dozen visits.
But with school out, even though I’ve been pretty busy with school stuff, I’ve been able to make more mid-day rather than end of day stops. That seems to make a difference.
I’ve traveled to the Goowill store in Bonney Lake, the outlet store in Tacoma, your friendly neigborhood shop in Spanaway, and of course my local store and I’ve amassed a good many records in varying stages of cheap. I’ve established a sort of routine that might be useful
- Always examine the records carefully in the store. If there is a scratch I can feel I put it back. Doesn’t matter how cheap it is the record will skip and thus be unplayable.
- Check for warps. Sometimes they are hard to see
- Look at the cover. How bad is it? Usually if the record looks playable, I’ll take it regardless of the cover condition, but I’ll never even take a chance if it doesn’t have a cover
- I’ve broken my old liner rule. I bought some archival quality liners so I can supply them if I need them.
If they pass the eye-test I take ’em home where they live in the waiting to be heard shelf. Nothing gets added to the collection until I’ve listened to it.
Sometimes I listen in my den on the big stereo while I’m painting figures, If I’m working at the computer I’ll listen on the Cruiser at the dining room table. I go through a little ritual:
- Clean ’em with the disc washer
- Listen to the music. If there is a jump, re-examine the record to be sure there isn’t an obvious bit of detritus that can be removed. If there are multiple jumps or skips the record goes in the trash. Evaluate how noisy it is when played. Usually I’ll keep a noisy record until I can replace it with a better one. (For me, noisy means background noise caused by scratches or scuffs.)
- If a record lives through the background test it is officially added to the collection. I put it in my collection on Discogs and always check its approximate value, not that I’m selling it. I’m also creating an Excel spreadsheet of my LP’s but I’m still just in progress with that.
I’ve gotten pretty lucky recently. It’s rare that my stops haven’t turned up any thing worth having. But a few records stand out:
Live at Leeds by the Who. Funny, I already had this record being a long time, ardent Who fan. It was in good shape, and I took a chance that it might be a different pressing than the Decca issue I already had. It wasn’t. But the original record came with all kinds of paper ephemera-play lists, trashed room bills, etc., that my original didn’t have. One of the best live recordings ever. For a buck I’ll take it.
Flowers by the Rolling Stones. It’s an original London pressing in good shape. A seminal Stones record as they edged toward their middle period. “Ruby Tuesday,” “Lady Jane,” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together” are just a few of the gems on this baby. A nice playing copy and a pretty good cover. Not bad for a nearly 50 year old record that cost me a hot buck.
Records I would never buy on my own
Scritti Politti and The Thompson Twins. I picked up Cupid and Psych ’85 by the former and Into the Gap by the latter. They are both ’80’s synth pop records, and were never really on my radar, but for albums in good condition, worth a chance. Given a second listen, they are still both records I won’t play often, but are a good representatives of an era.
The Undisputed Truth: Though The Undisputed Truth recorded a bunch of LP’s for Motown in the ’70’s, their big hit came in 1971 when I was in high school. “Smiling Faces Sometimes” was their only top ten single and it is on this record. i didn’t find the rest of the album particularly interesting. Covers of the Temptations excellent “Ball of Confusion,” and Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” but not interesting. It’s an artifact.
Geez, i wish they’d worked out.
Going to a Go Go by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. This record was in a pile at the Goodwill Outlet in Tacoma. The cover was absolutely mangled. No liner. But the play list included the title song, my favorite Smokey Robinson son, “Tracks of My Tears” (covered by Linda Ronstadt back in the day,) and “Ooh Baby, Baby.” I looked at the record and shook my head. 50 years of misuse did not do this album much good, but for 49 cents i put it in my pile and schlepped it home. I cleaned it up the best I could and crossed my fingers. “Going to a Go-Go” was track 1 and it played perfectly, much better sound than my cd. Same with track 2, “Tracks of My Tears.” Unfortunately all kinds of badness broke loose on track three and it now lives with the fishes.
If You Could Read My Mind by Gordon Lightfoot. I confess my love for good singer/songwriter albums. One of my favorites is Canadian Lightfoot. I appreciate his intelligent lyrics and love of Canadiana. I remember the first time I heard him, in 1970 when my mom picked me up from school at soccer practice. She’d have the radio on; it was dark and the two artists I heard for the first time were Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” and Elton John’s “Your Song.” I managed to nab this, Lightfoot’s seventh record, got it home and was doubtful after clean up. I listened through, and though there were no skips or jumps, the background noise from scratches and scuffs is more than the occasional hiss or acceptable crackle. I’ve hung on to it for now, but I’m hoping for a replacement.
And I paid real money!
I have a hard time staying out of used record stores. I’ve picked up a couple of records recently. I was at Half Price Books in Tacoma which is several steps above Goodwill, but lacks the high prices (or selection) of House of Records or High Voltage, my used record stores of choice. I was looking for inexpensive copies of a couple of records-Blondie’s Parallel Lines, and Little Queen by Heart, and shockingly they had them. They were both in my hand as I continued perusing and ran across Neil Young’s first solo album after leaving Buffalo Springfield. Very much shows off some of the country influence that would follow him in his collaborations with Crazy Horse. Best known songs include “The Loner,” and “The Old Laughing Lady.” Neil or Debbie Harry and Ann Wilson. Do I or don’t I? Given that Neil cost more than the other two combined, I had to make a choice, so the ladies will have to wait. But I haven’t forgotten.
I also ambled into Budget Tapes and Records on South Hill. Not always a great place to shop, but every now and then I make it an effort to drop by and see what’s new. Not a ton of selection, but often I find something. I was actually hoping I might realize my Blondie and Heart fantasy, but before I even got far enough I stumbled across a nice copy of Blind Faith for a reasonable price. I don’t know this record well, but I love what I’ve heard. There’s something about the idea of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood together that just gives me shivers.