Music Week recently reported that sales of new vinyl LPs have increased annually for each of the last five years. This has come on the back of an increased trade in second hand vinyl - an increase that is due entirely to the Internet. Because of this increase, it has been getting harder to find decent vinyl LPs in charity shops. They are hunted out by dealers and collectors or are often filtered out by the shops themselves. So these days, unless you’re a fan of Mrs Mills, James Last or Big War Movie themes, the pickings tend to be thin.
However there are good records still to be found with relative ease in charity shops. Here are five records that I’ve found multiple copies of over the last year.
Each one is a belter.
1. Every Picture Tells A Story. Rod Stewart.
Rod Stewart’s records crop up in charity shops all the time. This is probably because there are plenty of people who have Rod Stewart pegged as a fairly bland, middle of the road light entertainer.
Of course he wasn’t always like that. For a few years in the early 70's, when he was running a solo career while also being the singer in the Faces, he was as good as it gets - but while loads of people know this it seems loads don’t - which is why so many of his excellent records are so ubiquitous in Dr Bernardo’s and Scope.
Every Picture Tells a Story is the peak of that part of his career. Recorded with members of the Faces and a series of session musicians the LP mixes all of Stewart’s influences, folk, soul, R&B and rock, to produce a record of swaggering brilliance with side two (Maggie May, Mandolin Wind, I Know I’m Losing You and Reason To Believe) being arguably one of the best sides of any LP recorded in the 70s. There are plenty of these records about. You can get it on eBay for under a fiver. The last one I bought was from Sue Ryder - it cost me £1.99 and is in mint condition. That’s £1.99 for a perfect copy of what I reckon is one of the greatest LPs of all time. Bargain.
(Because there are many who think Rod is a bit naff it’s not only this LP you find in charity shops. The LPs Smiler and Atlantic Crossing are also pretty common - and both are worth having).
2. Back In Black. AC/DC
According to Wikipedia, AC/DC’s Back In Black has sold 50 million copies - and according to me, this record is practically issued at birth to all male children born in the East Midlands & Argentina. So there are loads and loads about and by the immutable laws of trickle down some of these still end up in charity shops. But it is getting harder to find mainly because with every generation, AC/DC’s fan base regenerates itself and there are 13-year-old boys today who are every bit as fanatical about AC/DC as I was when the LP was released, which, coincidently, happened to be when I was a 13 year old.
You can still find it in charity shops, but because you’ll be lucky to get one at eBay for less than a tenner, they really don’t tend to stay there long. So if you’re one of the 6.95 billion fools who don’t already have it and you see a copy in Help The Aged then help yourself. It’s a brilliant LP, obviously, and if you don’t like it then you probably don’t like life.
(It’s not the only rock record that has sold 50 million copies - Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon has sold about the same, but these are rarely found in charity shops these days. Even the most sweet, frail octogenarian charity shop volunteer knows that Floyd = cash and puts them to one side for the specialist charity shop branches).
3. Thriller. Michael Jackson
Back in Black & Dark Side of the Moon are the 2nd and 3rd best selling LPs of all time. Michael Jackson’s Thriller is the biggest. According to Wikipedia, it has sold somewhere between 51 & 65 million copies and therefore, because of the trickle down effect, some of these will end up in the charity shops of Bootle, Bungay and Barnstaple (and absolutely everywhere else) - usually a bit scratched and usually with “Sharons. Keep Off” written in biro on the back.
Michael Jackson’s life is one of the great awful tragedies of pop music. The themes of race, ambition, family, money and talent all played out through moments of genuine brilliance and awful spectacle to a final ridiculous, pathetic and horrific ending. This LP was one of the two brightest moments (along with Off The Wall) in that story and now you can pick it up for a couple of quid in a charity shop. Funny how things work out.
If you do buy it, pretend you’re listening to it for the first time without knowing a single thing about the singer. It’ll knock you sideways.
4. Pet Shop Boys. Actually.
Pet Shop Boys LP's crop up in charity shops all the time and you cannot give their records away on eBay. This may be because vinyl junkies mostly want rock, not pop. That or the world has gone barmy. It is a ridiculous state of affairs. This LP has the song Rent on it and pop music has rarely been as smart and epic and precise as it is in that song. The whole LP is excellent, as are almost all their LPs. Buy it - you can get it for 99p, and you’ll be getting one of the great LPs from the decade when it was decided that everything has a price by one of the bands that understood that best. (Which makes for 99 pence worth of irony I suppose).
5.Carpenters. The Singles. 1969-1973 (or any other Carpenters compilation)
You can find Carpenter’s LP in car-boot sales for pennies. Pennies! For a piece of bona-fide pop brilliance. Sonic Youth loved the Carpenters and they’re yours for pennies. Your mum and dad loves the Carpenters and they’re yours for pennies. Nelson Mandela loves the Carpenters (I expect) and they’re yours for pennies. You’d be insane not to pay that.
And make sure it’s the Singles compilation or any of their compilations that have the segue from “We’ve Only Just Begun” to “Close To You” - which is the finest, heart in the mouth segue in all pop. I cannot listen to this LP without thinking about the time it was made - Vietnam and Nixon and all that America going bat-shit psycho, fear and loathing stuff. Karen Carpenter’s voice and her songs of love and broken hearts are the counterpoint to all that. It was the opposite to all that was awful in America in the first years of the Seventies. Never has distraction sounded so lovely. And it has Tony Peluso’s glorious guitar outro to “Goodbye To Love” - and it’s yours for pennies.