Charity Shop Vinyl Challenge Part 2: The Rematch

With illegal downloads on the rise, record shops on the wane and Ebay being a massive pain in the arse, charity shops are the place to go for your vinyl these days. That is if you don't mind the smell of damp and sifting through hundreds of James Last albums...
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With illegal downloads on the rise, record shops on the wane and Ebay being a massive pain in the arse, charity shops are the place to go for your vinyl these days. That is if you don't mind the smell of damp and sifting through hundreds of James Last albums...

Now that the shops have gone into overdrive selling us overpriced things we really don't need in time for Christmas, the Musty Muse is calling me again, sending me into the local charity shops to look for the very finest vinyl they have to offer. Simple rules, as always: a budget of £10, and a self-imposed time limit of ten days. Here goes....

Album: Rolling Stones – Aftermath (1966)

Shop: Mind
Cost: £2

Although this was the Rolling Stones fourth album, it was the first where all the tracks were penned by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, with none of the R&B cover versions that filled out their earlier releases (in sharp contrast, their first album could boast only one original composition). Reflecting the Stones' growing confidence (and, no doubt, cockiness) Brian Jones grabs and plays every instrument he can get his hands on; guitar, keyboards, sitar, harmonica, the marimbas, an Appalachian dulcimer (very Deliverance), even something called a “koto”.

The Rolling Stones are a national treasure, true, though it's not a stretch to say the best is behind them. But I'll tell you one thing, listening to an original 1966 pressing of this album - in primitive stereo sound, no 24-bit remastering or any of that new-fangled nonsense - hearing it the way someone listening forty-five years ago would have heard it, you get a shiver down the spine, and that's something you don't get with a 79p Amazon download.
£2 for music you can feel, is more than worth it. In fact, it's worth the £2 just to have the photos on the back cover confirm that Charlie Watts never was one of life's most convincing smilers.

Album: Various – Phillybusters: The Sound of Philadelphia (1974)

Shop: Salvation Army
Cost: £1

“If You Don't Know Me By Now” by Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes? “Me & Mrs Jones” by Billy Paul? The O'Jays chiming in with “Love Train” and “Backstabbers”? MFSB's cover of “Family Affair”, plus another half a dozen of the finest sounds of Philadelphia soul? In great nick, for a quid? I may prefer Tamla Motown, but fucking fuhgeddaboudit, this gets bought: and yes, I'll have a plastic bag to put it in, please thank you.

Album: Serge Chaloff – Blue Serge (1956)

Shop: “Charity Shop” (I'll have to ask which charity at some point)
Cost: £1

I have to admit that, to me, jazz music is a complete fucking mystery. Not to say I don't enjoy it - it's found its place in my record collection, and I seem to be getting more out of it than I did five or so years ago, when I first dabbled in a bit of Miles Davis. What I don't possess is the almost encyclopedic knowledge that seems to almost be an obligatory part of jazz appreciation. If I were to come across a random jazz album in a box of charity shop vinyl, I wouldn't be able to instantly access my mental database and tell if I was holding a slab of pure gold or a piece of annoying, up-itself shite. Luckily, this album's liner notes have a couple of clues to nudge me in the direction of spending a pound to find out. The album's a mid-80s reissue of the 1956 original, and the notes candidly disclose saxophonist Serge Chaloff's reputation as a “chaotic personality”, mainly thanks to his addiction to heroin. There's also an anecdote which ends with band leader Woody Herman - desperately trying to ditch a strung-out and combative Chaloff in a crowded bar - pissing on his leg to make sure he got the message.

I haven't listened to the album yet, but that's because I'm listening to....

My wife likes to think of When Harry Met Sally as "Our Film". Who am I to tell her that I don't really entertain the idea of an "Our Film"?

Album: Big Audio Dynamite – Megatop Phoenix (1989)

Shop: “Charity Shop”
Cost: £1

You know, nothing takes you back to the late 1980s (the land of my youth) like having the Conservative Party back in power, unemployment figures the worst they've been for seventeen years, and a Big Audio Dynamite album on the record player. It's fucking eerie.

Album: Harry Connick, Jr – Forever For Now (1993)

Shop: “Charity Shop”
Cost: £1

Now, I quite like Harry Connick, Jr. I'm not ashamed of that. If someone were to put me in a room with Harry, Michael Bublé and a pistol, and tell me “choose”, then Bublé's the one leaving with the severe head wound. Also, when you're a collector of (sometimes fairly rank) vinyl like me, it helps if you throw the wife an occasional sop to keep on her good side. She likes Harry Connick, Jr too. Specifically, she likes his soundtrack to When Harry Met Sally, five tracks of which make it onto this compilation from 1993.

My wife likes to think of When Harry Met Sally as "Our Film". Who am I to tell her that I don't really entertain the idea of an "Our Film"? At a push, I can stretch to a couple of my films, but then we'd be talking about things like Goodfellas or Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.
In robust defence of When Harry Met Sally, I will say this: it takes me back to a time when the thought of rubbing my penis against Meg Ryan didn't scare the bejesus out of me. I mean really, have you seen her recent stuff?

Album: Various – Action Replay from K-Tel (1978)

Shop: Hospice Shop
Cost: 50p

Charity shops are full of albums like this; mass-produced compilations of the hits of the time. A wise person always checks twice to make sure that it's the original artists that are on the record, and not some of “the very best session artistes performing today (can you tell the difference?)”. To call this LP a mixed bag would be to re-define the meaning of the phrase “mixed bag”. You've got the Boomtown Rats with “Rat Race”, then Blondie with “Hanging on the Telephone”, and a few tracks later you've got Hot Gossip doing “I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper” and “Y.M.C.A” by the Village People. Then there's Boney M and Smokie on side B, rubbing shoulders with Elvis Costello's “Radio Radio”, and look, there's a track by Devo....just what is going on here? The track that seals the deal for me is Streetband performing “Toast”, a surreal skit with (I learn later) vocals by Paul Young, aided and abetted by Chaz Jankel of Ian Dury and the Blockheads fame. I'd long since assumed that I must have somehow hallucinated this ode to the banal breakfast food, as no-one I know remembers it. 50p seems a fair price to pay to prove I didn't imagine the whole thing.

All in all, it's got enough in its favour to get me to part with a measly quid – albeit through slightly gritted teeth.

Album: Various – Now That's What I Call Music – Smash Hits (1987)

Shop: Hospice Shop
Cost: £1

Another compilation, this time of “Swingorilliant” (?) hits from the 80s. Over thirty songs in all, including some unforgivable sins by Curiosity Killed The Cat, Haircut 100, Simply Red and Five Star. But tucked away in there you've also got The Housemartins singing “Happy Hour”, The Specials' “Ghost Town”, “Going Underground” by The Jam and “Atomic” by Blondie (I guess there must have been at least one bloke among the Smash Hits staff who compiled the album). There's also acceptable entries from Dexy's, UB40, Madness and The Cure. All in all, it's got enough in its favour to get me to part with a measly quid – albeit through slightly gritted teeth.

I also grab a large Mason & Cash mixing bowl in excellent condition for £3 for the wife, who's going through a bit of a Kirsty Allsop phase. As I'm going through this whole poor man's Paul Gambaccini thing myself, I can hardly say anything, can I?

Album: Nat King Cole - Sings with the Nat King Cole Trio (1969)

Shop: P.E.O.P.L.E
Cost: 50p

Because it's in perfect condition. Because Nat King Cole was in a class of his own, the undisputed King of Schmoove. Because – and I can't stress this enough – Michael Bublé sucks dick.

Album: Various – Radio 1: 10 Years of Hits (1977)

Shop: P.E.O.P.L.E.
Cost: 50p

A double album of pop-tastic hits from the years 1967 to 1976, with each side logically covering a two or three-year timeframe (listen and learn, K-Tel). So you go from Procol Harum to Georgie Fame, Marvin Gaye to Desmond Dekker, Slade to Wizzard, and from David Essex to the Bay City Rollers (and all stops in between). Difficult to believe that Radio 1 was once only ten years old, and from the look of the group photo featured in the gatefold cover, it was all reassuringly Anchorman back then; of the fourteen DJs pictured, Anne Nightingale is the lone female. Everyone else is sporting cheesy grins, flared collars, and a ridiculous amount of hair; only a purposeful-looking John Peel emerges largely unscathed in the sartorial stakes - though it must be said, the late Jimmy Saville is resplendent in a red “Flags of the United Kingdom” trackie top and sunglasses that Liam Gallagher would kill for.

Album: Jackie Gleason – Merry Christmas (1956)

Shop: P.E.O.P.L.E.

Cost: 50p

You may remember Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats, Paul Newman's nemesis in The Hustler. You may remember him as Sheriff Buford T. Justice, Burt Reynold's nemesis in the Smokey and the Bandit films. You may, by association, remember him from Eddie Murphy's impersonation in his concert film Delirious (“Norton my friend, how would you like to fuck me up the ass?”).

But before all this, he was a band leader and musical arranger of some repute, and was serious about it too. When I pick up his “Merry Christmas” LP, I'm expecting a festive novelty album of the highest order, but no, there's not a thing tongue-in-cheek about it. Gleason apparently wanted to create “musical wallpaper”, and his musical arrangements are lush in the extreme. He also employs something called an electric celeste (played by someone known only as Hercules). This gives a lot of the tracks a downright spooky sound that brings to mind the soundtrack music to Twin Peaksor Mulholland Drive. If David Lynch has a favourite Christmas album, this is probably it.

With one pound of the allotted budget left, I go looking at the singles on offer. Not my favourite things: getting up every twenty-five minutes to switch sides on an album niggles after a while, having to do it after a mere three minutes is damn near intolerable. But at 20p a pop, I'm willing to make an exception – and there are some damn fine tracks to choose from. I treat myself to The Beat's version of “Tears of a Clown”, Georgie Fame's hit “Yeh Yeh” from 1965 (which on this particular copy of the single is called “Yeah, Yeah”), a double A-side from 1969 featuring Jackie Wilson's “I Get the Sweetest Feeling” and “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher”, an ancient pressing of Chubby Checker singing “Let's Twist Again”, and finally – perfectly - Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin gettin' it on with “Je T'aime....Moi Non Plus”.

It's fair to say that every piece of vinyl you find in a charity shop benefits from a good wipe down when you get it home. For a single where Jane Birkin convincingly fakes an orgasm, I'm thinking it's probably something that's worth doing twice.

Ten Pound, Ten Days: A Charity Shop Vinyl Challenge

Confessions Of A Vinyl Junkie

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