The Bowie Bet: Buying Bowie’s Vinyl Records

Life on Mars Bowie single

Just how cheaply can you buy a full set of Bowie‘s ’70’s vinyl records?

I was having a chat with my friend Chris the other night. He is the one who bet me I couldn’t buy The Beatles on vinyl for less than the cost of the recent box set. He would have won but for a last minute stroke of luck on my part and – given that he had to listen to a Mariah Carey record as the price of losing the bet – he’s still slightly miffed. You can tell by the look in his eye – the same look Coleridge saw in the eye of the wedding guest that The Ancient Mariner collared and recited his relentlessly tedious bird-shooting poem to, whilst all the wedding guests were on the dance floor getting hammered and getting down to Gangnam Style.

“The trouble with buying old records” said Chris after several pints of Adnams, (if I can paint you a brief picture) “is that everyone suspects they’re worth something, so it is difficult to get a real collector’s item unless you spend a lot of money. And if you do buy something old and in mint condition, why would you then play it? You’d reduce it’s value…”

“It’s a fair point” I said “but not every old record is a collector’s item. Those Beatles singles sold in the millions – so you can still buy a sixties original for a pound or two and play them all the time. Elton John’s albums are regularly in charity shops.”

“That’s because they’re awful…”

“No they’re not! Honky Chateau, Captain Fantastic, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – all classics.”

“He lost my respect when he put that wig on”

If you had to choose though, would you really have gone for a ginger wig?

If you had to choose though, would you really have gone for a ginger wig?

“Do you remember that? It was shockingly hilarious at the time, but I told my son the other day that Elton used to be bald and he didn’t believe me…”

“We’ve all fallen into Elton’s trap. He’s got away with it…”

We stared into our beers whilst we reflected on the inner truth of these words.

The shocking evidence...

The shocking evidence…

“Well – what about David Bowie’s records?” I piped up, “I reckon most of them are probably all still pretty inexpensive. It’s just the sixties bands that fetch the really big prices.”

So Chris began to thresh out another challenge: Just how cheaply can you buy a full set of Bowie’s ’70’s records? In top condition. All the extras – lyric sheets and the like. First pressings.

I neglected to mention it on the night, but I knew that my local used record store, Leigh Records, had a decent stack of Bowie records for about a fiver each. I also had a bit of a head start this time. I had picked up copies of “Aladdin Sane, “Low” and “Stage” six months ago (the latter two in a brick-a-brak shop) when I was buying the Beatles records. Stage cost me just £1. Aladdin Sane was £3. However, I thought the version of Low – also £1 – was a later reissue, so might not count – albeit I didn’t know if there was any difference in buying the original.

The question was: How to make it interesting. Chris was still a keen sportsman and was out for revenge. He began by suggesting I pay just £1 for each record.

“I’m not that daft” I replied. “Even charity shops want more than that for most things nowadays.”

I pretended to think hard – and doubtfully – like a cowboy builder poised to deliver an inflated quote for a new bathroom to a vulnerable old lady. “What about £10 per record? I think it might be possible to get copies of most Bowie records for that much – but getting the originals with correct inner sleeves in mint condition might be more of a challenge?”

Neither of us were sure whether this was too hard or too easy…I had a doubt in my mind that the early ones might be a bit pricier.

“I’ll tell you what. That sounds too easy – so let’s make it a fiver each – and just give you 24 hours to do it in” Chris kindly suggested. “That might stop some doubtful last minute intervention from “helpful” local record store owners too” he muttered darkly…

“I don’t think so. No-one’s going to have them all – it’ll need a bit of digging around… Especially if I am going to get all the original bits and pieces.”

We counted the albums. After about thirty minutes of coming up with different numbers, one of us had the remarkable (some might say genius) idea of looking up the answer on Wikipedia. Bowie’s remarkable run in the seventies comprised of fourteen albums from The Man Who Sold The World (1970) to Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) in 1980. Including two double live albums. And Pin Ups – the covers album with Twiggy on the cover.

Bowie Pin Ups cover

“What’s the prize?”

“You mean ‘forfeit’ don’t you?”

“I don’t know. Do you have a Bowie-in-King-of-the-Goblins Labyrinth costume? You – er, I mean the loser could wear that for a day…”

“No I don’t have one! And I don’t intend to get one either!”

Chris made a proposal: “What about this. Fourteen albums from “The Man Who Sold The World” to “Scary Monsters”. You have to buy them in fourteen days. A day per album. You have to spend less than a hundred quid. If you underspend, I pay you the difference between what you spend and £100 – in wine or beer. If you overspend, you buy me a bottle that costs the difference between £100 and what you overspend by.”

I thought about this for a minute. It appeared heavily weighted against me. Chris’ downside was capped, whereas my downside was unlimited – depending upon the cost of the records. On the other hand, I’d had a few beers myself by now, and I thought about the £5 records I had seen in Bob’s shop. It might be possible. Perhaps the worst outcome might be that we get within three quid either way and have to drink some dreadful Bulgarian paint-stripper? Either way, I’d have some nice Bowie records.

And then before I could stop myself I uttered some ill-advised and potentially fateful words:

“And the loser has to wear a Westlife T-Shirt at the occasion of the winner’s choice..”

Why did I say that? What possible reason would I have to say that?

So I took on the bet.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Record #163: David Bowie – Quicksand

Categories: Rock Music

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

23 replies

  1. WESTLIFE! Oh man. Can’t decide if this is worse than the Mariah bet, or not.


  2. If it’s worn “ironically” I think the Westlife forfeit is probably less painful than having to listen to Mariah warble.


  3. Somewhere around I have a vinyl Hunky Dory that I gave my best friend years ago, intending to change his life. Being utterly without soul, he gave it back to me for my birthday, I returned it to him on his, and so it went on for a number of years. It’s been in my possession for about 20 years now, ready to spring it on him for his 50th. Sort of game of vinyl chicken – and whichever of us goes first, the other will certainly stick it in the coffin before it’s screwed shut.

    Otherwise I’d have offered it to you for a fiver.


  4. Oh dear… Westlife. I’m from Holland, and the radio station I listen to has one hour a day they play “wrong” records. These are the records where everybody is ashamed of to like them. And guess what? That cover of Uptown Girl is played sometimes… But I like the version of Billy Joel much and much better.
    I hope for you that you are the winner, because David Bowie is a lot better than them.


  5. Good luck !



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