Ten Pound, Ten Days: A Charity Shop Vinyl Challenge

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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The point of the exercise is simple; to scour the local charity shops and their dwindling stocks of vinyl records, to see if I can find some gems among the dross (sorry 'bout that Chris de Burgh, but you have to admit, I've got a point). The rules are more simple still; a set budget of £10, and a time limit of ten days to spend it in (frankly, for no other reason than it sounds nice and alliterative). Also, the albums have to be stuff I'd actually listen to and enjoy, so no ironic purchases of Manuel and the Music of the Mountains playing the hits of Simon & Garfunkel, and no fucking U2.

The Hits....

Album: Temptations – All Directions (1972)
Shop: Save The Children
Cost: £1.50

I've been avidly listening to Motown for going on a quarter of a century. When I was sixteen, I'd head down to Tower Records on a Saturday afternoon and drop half my week's wages on albums by the Four Tops, Marvin Gaye, Junior Walker & The All Stars, The Temptations, Edwin Starr, and Smokey Robinson and The Miracles (all on horribly vulnerable cassette tapes, I regret to say – they didn't take up as much space in my bedroom, but damn, I should've got vinyl).

I had thought I was fairly familiar with the Tamla back catalogue, but it was only this year that I found out that The Temptations seminal hit “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” started life as a twelve minute track on their 1972 album “All Directions”, rather than the seven minute chopped-down version I've been familiar with since I first heard it on an episode of Moonlighting (I know, it's not exactly on a par with first hearing a song on a Saturday night at the Wigan Casino, but what the fuck, I lived in Kilburn and was ten years old when Wigan Casino closed down). The twelve minute version remains something of a lost classic, rarely available on legal download, with CD re-issues of the album available for very often ridiculously inflated prices on Amazon. But here it is in it's original vinyl glory in Save The Children; the cover's seen better days but the record's pristine, £1.50. Naturally, I buy the bastard.

Album: Sam Cooke – The Man And His Music (1986)
Shop: Save The Children
Cost: £1.50

This double album of Sam Cooke's recordings was rushed out in 1986 to capitalise on Cooke's resurgent popularity, when the sight of Nick Kamen stripping down to his boxers in a Levi's 501 commercial to the sound of “Wonderful World” was enough to send the song to number 2 in the charts (it had only managed to get to number 27 when it was originally released in 1960). The revival would carry on into the next year, when Cooke's songs featured heavily on the soundtrack to the action comedy Innerspace.

Despite the album's undoubted cash-in roots, it proved to be the most comprehensive overview of Cooke's short career to date: in fact, given licensing issues that effect a good number of Cooke's recordings, it's one of the very few times all twenty eight of these tracks would ever be found side by side on an official release. All in all, £1.50 is a very fair price for probably the only Sam Cooke album I'm ever going to need.

Album: The Best of The Beach Boys (1966)
Shop: Salvation Army
Cost: 50p

It's The Beach Boys first ever “best of” release, the first of many. It's forty five years old and it's been well looked after - by one Hilary Bridges, age unknown, according to the small signature on the back cover. The Sally Army want 50p for it. It gets bought.

(I once bought £8 worth of vinyl from this shop in one go, a total of sixteen albums in all. They threw in a 1957 Elvis four track EP that I'd picked up, for free, just to keep it a nice round figure and give me my change in pound coins. When I got home, I found that copies of that EP often change hands for between £30 or £40).

Album: Dean Martin boxset (year unknown)
Shop: Dorothy House Hospice
Cost: £1

Of all the Rat Pack crooners, I've always preferred Dean Martin. Frank Sinatra may have been the womanising, scrappy wannabe gangster of the bunch, getting into fights that his bodyguards would have to finish for him, but Dean Martin was too cool to be arsed with any of that sort of nonsense. Plus, the fact that Jerry Lewis annoyed the absolute shit out of him always made him more relatable in my eyes. So, a boxset containing six albums of Dino at his laid-back best, sixty tracks in total, for £1? Oh, go on then.

Getting the boxset back home, I realise that the previous owner must have been living the dream, because the whole set smells of impossibly masculine cologne and cigarette smoke. It's possible that I didn't notice this in the shop because, ever since I had the misfortune to walk past a guy who appeared to be farting himself to death in the changing room of the Imperial Cancer Research shop, I've developed the habit of shallow breathing my way through these shopping trips. Having said that, there isn't a scratch to be found on the vinyl, all twelve sides of it; so whoever the previous owner was, bless his nicotine-stained heart.

Getting the boxset back home, I realise that the previous owner must have been living the dream, because the whole set smells of impossibly masculine cologne and cigarette smoke.

Album: Frank Sinatra – Songs For Swingin' Lovers (1956)
Shop: Dorothy House Hospice (on the other side of town)
Cost: 50p

Now, I may prefer Dean Martin to Frank Sinatra, but the man didn't become a 20th century icon without having substantial talent, and this album is considered one of the high points of his career. It became the first ever album to get to the top of the newly-created UK album charts in 1956, so when I find a copy upside down and facing the wrong way behind a Barbara Dickson album in the local hospice shop, I grab it sharpish and hand over the 50p asking price.

According to Wikipedia, the fact that Ol' Blue Eyes is facing away from the couple on the (admittedly, slightly dog-eared) cover means that my copy is an original 1956 pressing. Maybe I'll put it on the turntable the next time my wife decides she fancies Don Draper more than me.

Album: The Funky 16 Corners – Various Artists (2001)
Shop: I have no idea, it's just called “Charity Shop”
Cost: £3.00

This is a ridiculously cool double album funk compilation, released on vinyl in 2001. According to the sleeve notes, it's the result of a ten day road trip from Indianapolis to Los Angeles, undertaken by two intrepid musical adventurers calling themselves Peanut Butter Wolf and Egon (DJ Chris Manak and producer Eothen Alapatt), with the avowed intention of tracking down and re-releasing long forgotten funk gems. Stand-out tracks? All of 'em. Even the 42 second long intro track, from an unused session demo by the obscure Ebony Rhythm Band, has more wah-wah guitar and funky keyboards than four years' worth of Starsky and Hutch opening credits.

Funnily enough, I'd been in this enigmatic charity shop (that's its name, according to the sign above the door, “Charity Shop”) the week before, and there was nothing worth getting at all, just the usual charity shop suspects; Bert Kaempfert, James Last, Richard Clayderman, The Barron Knights. One week on and nothing has changed - apart from the fact that one of the grooviest bits of vinyl ever pressed has been carefully wedged in with the rest of the albums. I'll never know who made this mysterious donation, but in my mind's eye, he looks and moves exactly like Christopher Walken playing the Archangel Gabriel in the Prophecy films.

Album: Blondie - Parallel Lines (1978) and Ella Sings Gershwin (1972)
Woman's Refuge Charity
Cost: 50p each

I've never been in this particular charity shop before, though I've probably walked past it a hundred times. I've never even noticed that it's run in support of the local women's refuge. I'm gripped by a sudden urge to barge in shouting “Where's my wife? What have you fucking done with her? I just want to talk to her, that's all!” Which is odd for me, I wouldn't go into the Cancer Research place cracking jokes about lymphona, or go into Oxfam and take the piss out of East Africa.

They've got boxes and boxes of vinyl, but it's mostly shite. Luckily, the albums I do buy feature two of the most enduring female icons of popular music, so they don't suss me for the heartless male chauvinistic bastard I so obviously am.

So, I've got £1 of my £10 budget left, and I realise I've been badly neglecting the 1980s.

Album: The Heat Is On – Various Artists (1986)
Shop: Save The Children
Cost: £1

So, I've got £1 of my £10 budget left, and I realise I've been badly neglecting the 1980s. This compilation album is the perfect solution to that: Robert Palmer sings “Addicted to Love”, Glenn Frey contributes the collection's title track, Huey Lewis & The News chime in with “The Power of Love”, there's Foreigner, The Cars, Starship sing “We Built This City”, The Rolling Stones bring their version of “Harlem Shuffle” to the party, and Kenny Loggins rounds the album off with “Footloose”. All in all, it sounds like something Patrick Bateman would listen to whilst applying his herbal face mask in the mornings.

Besides which, my legs ache like a bastard from squatting down in front of so many boxes of records over the last few days. Time to bring the experiment to an end.

….and The Misses

Album: This Is Soul – Various Artists (1968)

This album and a box of others is brought into a shop whilst I'm perusing the records in the corner. The woman behind the counter asks if I want first dibs on the new batch, so I take a gander. “This Is Soul” is a cracking collection of Atlantic soul footstompers, released in 1968, with tracks from Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Wilson Pickett and Solomon Burke among others. Problem is, it looks (and unambiguously smells) like it's been kept in a shed. I start thinking about how I can rectify the damage, and whether it wouldn't just be easier just to pick up a nice tidy copy on eBay for a fiver or so. I offer the lady behind the counter £2 for it.

Her eyes narrow suspiciously. “Mmmm.....I don't know. You see, we normally go on the internet to see what they're worth. Some of them can be quite valuable, you know”. So that's it. They'll go online and convince themselves they've got a £10 piece of vinyl and price it accordingly, ignoring the fact that that's the going price for a mint copy, rather than what they've got: a musty copy with spots of damp mould on it, that's probably spent the last few years being shat on by disrespectful mice. I go home, making sure I don't put my hands anywhere near my eyes - or my hair, for that matter - before I get the chance to wash them.

Album: Van Morrison – Moondance (1970)

Now this is a great album, with the title track holding a special place in the hearts of men of a certain age. As any man who had access to a video remote control and a box of tissues in the 1980s will tell you, Van Morrison's “Moondance” will forever be the official soundtrack to Jenny Agutter's soapy nipples.

Unfortunately, this has obviously been kept in the shed, too. In fact, it looks like the mice have been chewing on it before going over to take a dump on “This Is Soul”. Back into the box it goes.

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