Over the next month, I have set myself a challenge: The new “What’s The Story” Oasis Box Set costs £116.99. I want to find out what kind of record collection that money could buy instead.
You can join in too….
There’s nothing quite like a trip to HMV’s vinyl department to make £116.99 evaporate before the eyes. All that tempting new vinyl. Some bargains too. The Black Keys’ Thickfreakness is just £9.99. The Stones’ early albums are a bargain £12.99.
Moving up the scale, that new St Vincent album is £21.99. The Beatles’ mono White album on the other hand is £40.99***. A ghostly pallor came across my face as I contemplated the prospect of seeing my cash vanish so swiftly. Picture Macbeth after seeing Banquo’s ghost turn up during a particularly un-nerving episode of “Most Haunted” with Derek Acora* or perhaps a Yorkshireman being asked to pick up a punchy bar tab at Mahiki’s and you’ll get the idea.
However, the trip wasn’t a complete waste of time. Since the relaunch of HMV, the chain has expanded it’s vinyl section and has been using its clout to secure exclusive vinyl. Last year, on the day of the re-opening of the original HMV Oxford St site, they released a free Beatles EP, “Live at the BBC Vol 2” limited to just 300 copies which now fetch over £50 on eBay.
This year, HMV has released an Oasis 12″ replica promo copy of their Acquiesce single. A great tune, and at £4.99, it doesn’t break the bank. Given that a box set is all about exclusivity and rarity, I thought this would be a good place to start the alternative record collection and I nabbed one of the last few copies. At least I wasn’t ignoring Oasis, albeit the trip confirmed my suspicions that new vinyl was not the way forward, rare Oasis singles notwithstanding, and I exited Oxford Street to try a different approach.
The thing is, I didn’t want the collection to be a godawful mix of shambolic disco, ’70’s soft rock and James Last albums, which it could be with no quality control. Let’s face it, when you buy second-hand you are inevitably flicking through records that the original owners had found in the loft and rejected as though they were carrying a rare strain of Ebola.
Anyone can buy records for a pound from a charity shop**, but to craft a collection worth having? One that doesn’t entirely consist of James Galway and Paul Young albums? That was going to require some finesse. Some planning.
What to buy? What would a perfect record collection look like?
Such weighty matters can’t be decided alone. Churchill didn’t decide matters of state without his cabinet. I did the only decent, Churchillian thing I could, and went for a curry with a couple of other friends, also both rather confusingly called Chris, to give the matter more serious consideration.
I think it was after three Meantime IPAs at the Market Porter and over the Kadai Lamb Lahori at The Mango Tree that inspiration struck. It may even have been the fiery Chillies in the Lall Mass that got the brain ticking over a bit faster. Either way, a plan was hatched. The conversation went like this:
Me: “The question is, what does the perfect record collection look like?”
Chris #1: “Well that’s your problem – everyone likes different things. I mean, you think The Blue Öyster Bar is great, whereas…”
“Cult.” I interrupted. “It’s Blue Öyster Cult”. Chris can be quite sarcastic at times. It has to be nipped in the bud.
“Sure, whatever. Either way, the point is that your tastes are different to mine.”
I’m pretty sure Chris then muttered “And, frankly, most people’s” but I wasn’t sure. I let it pass.
“If you put together a collection, it will reflect your tastes rather than Chris’s. You need to find a way of not letting your own tastes get in the way.”
It was a good point. I had an idea.
“What if I take one of those top 100 lists and try to get as many of them as I can?”
Chris #2 looked thoughtful. “It’ll work to a point. But they might be expensive and if it’s a list by Q magazine, it’ll be all U2 and Coldplay, and if it’s Pitchfork it’ll be obscure indie. If Kerrang! then it’ll all be far too noisy. A record collection needs to have variety.”
We pondered a bit more. I was sure I could hear the cogs in both of their heads whirring around slowly.
“I don’t suppose you’ve heard of this thing called Spotify, have you? You could get a year’s subscription for the money you’re talking about!”
I gave Chris #1 the sort of hard stare that Paddington Bear used to reserve for immigration officials with a penchant for confiscating marmalade sandwiches.
Then we chipped in together…
“What about choosing one record per year from each of the last fifty or sixty years?”
“What about buying five albums from ten different genres?”
“An album from every major artiste?”
“Or what about different record labels? Chess, Stax, Atlantic, Motown and so on?”
“What about a using a list as a starting point and then tick off genres and years too? Make sure there’s a wide coverage of everything? Perhaps only one album per artist, or maybe some compilations, and cover every decade.”
We were about to scratch out a plan on a napkin. But we thought better of it when we saw the faces of the staff and then noticed the napkins were made of linen, so we put our biros away.
Did we have a plan? It didn’t really look like one…and with just one record in the bag it wasn’t exactly a strong start…
Join the challenge! Why not see what you could buy with £116.99 instead of the Oasis Box Set?! Leave a comment below, or write on your blog, and tell us about it….
- * The most harrowing show featuring Derek Acora would presumably be one where he takes his clothes off…
- ** With the exception of Oxfam, which appears to believe the going rate for a battered copy of Paul Young’s No Parlez is £2.50.
- *** Strangely the stereo version of the White Album is £29.99…