Going Big

I spend too much on vinyl.  I admit. I’m an addict. It started out focused on cheapies I could get at Goodwill or garage sales or estate sales.  But was that enough? Noooooooooo. Why?  Because nobody every consulted me about the records they were leaving at those places.  “Oh Kevin, may I please leave you a nice copy of Dark Side of the Moon?”  “Hey Mr. Smyth, I was parting out my collection and was wondering which you’d prefer, Revolver or Rocket To Russia. Sorry I’m working through my R albums right now.”

No, it never works that way.  Though it is true that I have often found interesting records in the $.49-$1.00 range, if there is something I really want, like a foundation piece to my collection, I have to spend real money.  So sometimes I do. I’ve recently spent a bit of dough on a couple of records I really wanted, ordered through Discogs and I couldn’t be happier.

One band whose records I’m slowly acquiring is Pink Floyd.  Why slowly? Because all their records are on the spendy side unless I get lucky and someone calls me to tell me they are taking their copy of Saucerful of Secrets to Goodwill.  I recently had a conversation with a local record store owner about the preferred choices of young record buyers. He told me that Pink Floyd was number one, followed by The Beatles and Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac. And it’s true.  If you travel the Puget Sound area record stores, Pink Floyd is pretty dry, and what you find is often expensive and sometimes not in the best of shape.

Piper at the Gates of Dawn

One record I really wanted was the first Pink Floyd record, Piper At the Gates of Dawn.  It’s different than their later music.  With original guitarist Syd Barrett at the helm, it is not yet the Roger Waters influenced progressive rock it will become.  Rather it is classic British psychedelic, acid-fueled rock.  The most recognizable song is Lucifer Sam, but there are a host of good ones.

Though there have been some 200 different pressings (in a variety of formats) of Piper there haven’t been that many in the States.  A first American pressing in good condition will cost easily over a hundred dollars. Piper and Saucer have lots of unofficial pressings–essentially bootlegs–with all their inherent problems.  Sometimes the quality of the recordings are poor, like really poor.   The last official LP pressing of this very important record was in 1997 in the UK. The last official American pressing was in 1969, though there are lots of more recent recordings in other formats.  So there is a real rarity around this record.  I was able to find and order a Near Mint copy of a 1983 British import from an American seller  With shipping it was about $40.

Odessey and the Oracle

One of my very favorite songs is The Zombies “Time of the Season” from The Odessey and The Oracle.  It’s one of those songs from my past, very popular when I was in junior high school. I had the opportunity to see original band members Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent in concert a few years ago in a small venue, and it is one of my very favorite live music experiences. So, I A) decided that somehow I would acquire some Zombies vinyl, and B) I specifically I wanted this, the last of  the Zombies records.

Though they left a huge legacy with plenty of hit singles like “She’s Not There” and “Tell Her No,” the Zombies weren’t hugely successful, and after three albums they broke up. Odessey and the Oracle was released in the US in 1968, nearly two years after it was recorded, and long after the band members went their separate ways.  “Time of the Season” was a huge hit, and probably sits somewhere in my top ten songs of forever and always, period the end. Abut a decade ago, my son Patirck bought me a copy of Zombie Heaven, a boxed set of Zombie music including TO&TO and I’ve been determined to pick it up on vinyl.  Thankfully, Rhino Records re-released the album in 1987, and I was able to get a very nice copy for just over $30 including shipping. It is somewhat psychedelic and the cover art is super cool.

A couple of things to share in closing. First I don’t want this to be a bragging about my stuff post. Few of my records cost in the $30-$40 range.  If that is more than you are willing or able to pay, I understand. These particular albums are important to me and I’ve given up other discretionary purchases to buy them.  But if you’re building a collection of music to listen to, it may be a choice you have to make or just dream about it.

A couple pieces of advice, if you’re going this route:

  1. I try, whenever possible, to support local record stores, but for special albums often online is the only option.  I prefer Discogs to all other sellers, including Amazon and e-Bay.  The sellers on Discogs are all record sellers, they know about condition and most importantly they know how to package a record for the mail.  19 purchases and never been burned. Don’t forget to factor shipping into your budget.
  2. If you are looking for a particular record and not a particular pressing of a record there are likely less expensive options out there. Unless you’re shopping for something particularly obscure, then all bets are off. If there is a particular record you really want, don’t rule out current pressings. Records by the Kinks, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Neil Young and Rush are all available on new vinyl for half what you’d pay for vintage copies, and condition isn’t an issue.
  3. If you’re just after the music, almost every record has multiple pressings. For some bands, many of those may be U.K. or European copies.  Though some American sellers will have these, often they have to come from overseas.  If you find an overseas seller for the record you have to have plan for the shipping costs. The lowest price I’ve seen for shipping an LP from Britain is eight and a half pounds.  The typical rate is 11-12 pounds. That’s eighteen bucks to tack on to the price of your album. I’m not saying don’t do it, I haven’t yet, but it’s becoming more likely, just know it’s a factor to consider.
  4. If you’re going to buy an album that’s special to you, and spend a little more, don’t forget condition in favor of economy. There’s nothing worse than squeezing your record budget for something special, getting it home and finding a few pops on your favorite song, or seeing a cover riddled with ring wear. When that happens I feel disappointed and cheated. I won’t spend real money on a record less than VG+ for vinyl and cover, and near mint if at all possible.
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