Shopping for Bowie Vinyl In Manchester’s Record Shops – and How To Buy Ziggy Stardust
The story so far: I have made a bet that I can buy a full set of Bowie’s albums (in their original vinyl versions – and in excellent condition with all the inserts) from The Man Who Sold The World to Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). That’s fourteen albums in fourteen days. Total budget: £100. The loser has a heavy penalty: to buy drinks – and wear a Westlife T-shirt for a day.
The day after making the bet I took stock of what was already in the bag.
1. A copy of Aladdin Sane, bought six months ago for £3.
2. A copy of Stage bought six months ago for £1.
3. A re-issue of Low (that probably didn’t count for the bet as I didn’t think it was an original release) that cost £1.
So twelve albums to go, and £96 to play with. Accepting that a couple of records might be harder to find, I still thought it might be possible. The spectre of having to wear a Westlife T-Shirt weighed heavily, but, like an Arsenal fan at the start of each season I was full of cautious optimism.
As luck would have it, I had a trip to Manchester in the diary in a couple of days time and I was pretty sure that with some crafty scheduling I could fit in an hour or so’s crate-digging (as I believe it is known) around town. A quick bit of internet research revealed Manchester has half a dozen used vinyl shops within a ten minute walk of Manchester Piccadilly Station – a perfect way to start the quest. If nothing else, I hoped, it would be a good way to test the North / South divide and where it stood on used-record prices. I was hoping things might be a bit cheaper up North.
Error. Judging by the prices of vinyl in Manchester, there’s a distinct lack of a recession in England’s Second City…(or so I thought until I checked some of London’s prices).
I began at Clampdown Records in Paton St, which was probably my favourite of all the shops I visited that day. Good stock, well organised. The Bowie section was, however a little thin. Lodger was there for £10. They had a good selection of Stones and Led Zep though. Trying to keep focused, I thought I would try elsewhere.
Next up was Empire Exchange in Newton St. Six word review: An Aladdin’s cave of old tat. The vinyl section was pretty grubby (and had no Bowie) albeit it did have a few old eighties hair metal picture discs for not very much money – and the shop was notable for its (separated) “exotic magazine” section which I didn’t venture into on the grounds that I wasn’t wearing a dirty raincoat. (Presumably these mags are all second hand? Eew..). In the nicest possible way, I wanted to wash my hands on the way out. There were some more valuable Beatles records behind the counter, and a huge collection of old music magazines including a 100-part collect and keep “Story of Rock” series from the early-eighties (they’re still there…and look like they have been there a decade) but I made my excuses and left.
My last port of call was Manchester’s “vinyl valley” – Oldham Street. Down here was Vinyl Exchange, Vinyl Revival, a couple of smaller shops and (for new records) Piccadilly Records. Vinyl Exchange was the best of these – a good-sized basement with half dance records and half rock and indie. Their Bowie section was good. Copies of Stage, Lodger and Scary Monsters – but all for a little more money than I was willing to part with. A bit of a blank – but an informative hour or so. Interestingly, in the whole of Manchester, there was no sign of any copies of Ziggy Stardust, Hunky Dory or Aladdin Sane anywhere. What was going on? Did Bowie not catch on in Manchester? Or more likely, had there been a run on Bowie records given his sudden reappearance?
In the meantime, I had snaffled a first pressing of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars on eBay for £8.70 (plus P&P). “Ziggy” was a huge commercial success and is thus reasonably priced because it isn’t all that rare. We all know Bowie retired the character soon afterwards….
….but for a while, Ziggy was a huge phenomenon. The cover, photographed in Heddon Street (off Regent St in London) in black and white (it was later tinted, giving it that unusual, futuristic look) is now a classic. Seeing it on a 12″ record certainly does it more justice than on CD. A plaque was erected in Heddon St last year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the album, albeit the street now looks very different.
The concept of Ziggy Stardust only came together at the last minute, after many of the songs had been written, according to Bowie’s recent biographer Paul Trynka. Two of the key “concept” songs – about Ziggy’s rise and fall – “Rock n Roll Suicide” and “Suffragette City” were among the last songs to be recorded, with Chuck Berry’s “Around and Around” still on the track listing.
Perhaps Bowie’s biggest challenge was to persuade his three musicians from working class Hull to wear the costumes. Trynka explains that Bowie took the sceptical Spiders to see A Clockwork Orange and explained Freddie Buretti’s costumes “were “futuristic” rather than something “poofs” would wear. When the three were presented with their catsuits – blue for Trevor, gold for Woody and pink for Ronson…Bolder frankly admits he was not impressed – “To be honest it took a lot to wear that stuff” – and remembers Mick, destined for the pink jacket, as the most vociferous objector. “Mick was not up for it. Not at all.”
The band played Friars Aylesbury to launch the new image on 29 January 1972 and after a stunning show the local paper declared “A Star Is Born”.
Ziggy Stardust first pressings are identifiable by the lack of a “MainMan” credit on the reverse of the cover.
Above is a copy without the MainMan credit…
…and here’s a later pressing with the MainMan credit just below the A Gem Production credit in the top right.
MainMan was the management company Bowie’s then manager, Tony Defries had set up, so all later pressings contained this credit. Many early copies have a nice inner sleeve also – with photos and lyrics.
It’s worth the extra hunting around (and couple of quid if you are lucky) to get the inner sleeve. It’s great to get a copy that sounds good – but as part of the attraction is holding the record and reading the credits it seems a shame not to enjoy the whole experience – which with Ziggy Stardust vinyl albums doesn’t cost much more. An Orange RCA label is also preferred over the later black coloured labels – again because orange labels were earlier UK pressings.
So: Ziggy Stardust was in the bag. Eleven albums to go. Going well. Or so I thought…
Record #163: David Bowie – Rock n Roll Suicide
Categories: Rock Music