Part 4/6: Buying The Beatles On Vinyl: Abbey Road’s Misaligned Apples and Sgt Pepper‘s Red Wavy Lines
The story so far: A bet has been struck: Buy a complete set of Beatles records on vinyl for less money than the 2012 Re-issued Box Set. The clock is ticking and the stakes are high…the loser has to listen to a Mariah Carey album. Ten times. Charity shops have produced a blank. And Amazon have reduced their price.
With the 20th October deadline fast approaching I popped across to my friendly local second hand record store – Leigh Records – where I knew that Bob, the owner, would be able to give me some advice. How exactly do you buy The Beatles on vinyl? Is it important just to buy first pressings? Or does it not really make much difference?
I asked Bob if he thought It was possible to buy a complete set of first pressing Beatles records for less than £300.
“You can – but they won’t be in great condition” was his view: “If you buy the ones with the silver box around the Parlophone label from the ’70s and ’80s you could though – maybe that would be your best bet”
Bob showed me a great copy of The White Album – number twenty thousand and something. He wanted £350 for it. I felt like I was Hugh Grant in that scene in Four Weddings when he buys a wedding present in an expensive art gallery. “Do you have anything for around forty?” I ventured…
Bob had just the thing. A number up near three hundred thousand, but an original gatefold sleeve, opening at the top and with the black inner sleeves. Discs in very good condition. An early pressing. One problem: No photos.
“What about a rare Abbey Road?” suggested Bob. “This one has a misaligned Apple logo on the back cover”. Looking at my slightly baffled look, Bob explained that some pressings of Abbey Road were rarer than others because of a printer error on the reverse of the cover. It might set me back £25, rather than £20 (or £60 mint rather than £50), but it was a genuine collectors item.
Bob also had a new copy of Let It Be (naked), complete with a 7″ single. I much prefer this version of Let It Be, so that was an easy decision – and it was an original! Another £25, but I had three tricky albums in the bag. The photos? I found a set on eBay, which admittedly had Sellotape marks on the corners, but were clearly authentic and were £15: a lot for photos, but now The White Album was complete and potentially worth more than what I paid.
That was £105 for the three records. With D-Day approaching, I felt slightly better about the bet. Bob had plenty of stock, but not everything, and I couldn’t quite get under budget. All that was standing between me and the dog-whistle pitched shrieking of Mariah Carey was a couple of bargains, but they didn’t seem to be coming my way.
My hopes were pinned therefore on the local monthly record fair at the local school, which took place on the 14th October – less than a week before the deadline. Bribing the kids with Haribo and the threat of playing Mariah to them, I took them along and began rummaging through one of a huge number of boxes of records all priced at £2 each. My hopes weren’t high, but miracle of miracles, within five minutes I found a copy of Help! The record looked a little worse for wear, and there was no inner sleeve, but the cover was clean enough and for £2 I wasn’t going to argue (see part 2 for a photo of the cover). Boom! I looked through another dozen crates, but to no avail. Four records, £107 – and my first genuinely cheap Beatles record.
I moved on to some other tables. One guy had a small selection, but inside was a copy of Sgt Pepper. Gatefold sleeve. Complete with cut out Sgt Pepper mask.
And, (I discovered later) even better, it had an inner sleeve with red wavy lines – a bit of a rarity.
The record wasn’t perfect by a long way – it had a few visible scratches on the surface, but they didn’t look too bad. I haggled and got the price down from £20 to £10 because of the scratches. This was going well. (It turned out that this was a first pressing – and no jumps).
Another stall had a half price sale. I noticed two copies of John Lennon’s Imagine – one with the original inner sleeve and one complete with poster. The more expensive one (an earlier pressing but with no poster) was £5. This was promising. I asked if I could have the poster from the other one, and the vendor agreed. Result! It was in perfect condition too.
Even better – there were copies of Revolver (£4 – reduced from £8), Rubber Soul (£3), With The Beatles (£2.50), A Hard Day’s Night (£2.50) and The Blue and The Red albums. The latter were £2 each and are best-of double LPs – which I first owned on cassette – the first Beatles albums I ever owned. Not part of the box set, but for £2 each – why not?
I couldn’t believe my luck. I know it is obvious really – that is to say where better to buy old records than at an actual record fair? But to have found six of the albums for just £24 in less than an hour – plus two best-ofs for another £4 and a lovely pristine copy of Imagine for £5. Maybe, just maybe there was hope…
What’s more, I noticed a very clean copy of David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane – and it had an insert inside where you could apply to join David’s fan club. I paid £3. When I looked it up in the Record Guide, it told me it was worth £70 with the insert – as they are quite rare. Although I am sceptical about that price, it was a nice bonus – and it is a great album.
To take stock: I had nine albums and had paid £129. Well on-budget. The remaining records were:
- Yellow Submarine
- Please Please Me
- Past Masters 1 & 2
- Magical Mystery Tour (LP version)
- Beatles for Sale
The only trouble? eBay had no Past Masters and Bob didn’t have it either. Bob did have a couple of the others though – and Spitalfields Record Fayre was on Friday – the 19th October. It was cutting it fine, but it is a huge record fair in London and I fancied my chances of finding a copy of Past Masters there. In the back of my mind, however, I knew that unless I could find these records, Mariah would be calling me like a kind of Siren-in-reverse luring sailors to their doom. Sirens were terrible beasts who sang beautifully and seductively, whereas….(insert your own joke here).
Record #113: The Beatles – It’s Getting Better All The Time (OK – The Wedding Present)