Wednesday, January 06, 2010


Every new year, I rip through loads of CDs and vinyl, consigning old sonic flames to the portaskip of history. Fuck it, I can't afford to be too sentimental. Weird as it may sound, I hate having 'too much' music (or stuff in general, really). 'Too much' is a pretty relative concept, though tell that to people who actually build sheds to house their 7"s. I haven't got a garden (yet), but I'm buggered if I'm ever popping outside and traipsing through the snow just to rifle through racks of plastic for a quick blast of Methodist Centre or Major Mackerel.

I think my attitude stems from multiple flat moves. I've always liked travelling light. Lugging cardboard boxes, stuffed with vinyl, between various London postcodes soon makes you salivate for the invention of the MP3. Also, when I was sharing, as cool as your three or four pad allies might be, they tend to enjoy having a bit of space as well. Sometimes, they just don't wanna have to dine sitting on the floor, cos Stations of the Crass and 20 vinyl 'mates' are hogging the armchair. I'd be pissed off if I had to go to the toilet in the dark and ended up breaking my neck on something as ignominious as a pile of Ministry of Sound Sessions mixes ((oh, who am I kidding. Me and my flatmate Andy used to dance around to Sessions Vol 1 when everyone else was out)).

Music's a very communal thing for me; I've never really got my head around the hoarding mentality. I think the full horror hit me in 2003, when I was listening to some ultra-obscure Finnish jazz-psych concrete LP, on my own. A record I'd bought, over the internet. On my own. Absorbing some freaky, subterranean wackiness, skronked to the gills. On my own. Suddenly, I just twigged: what's the point? Was this really more fun than the time me and somebody sat up all night, chatting and drinking coffee and smoking, and listening to Super Ape? Was it remotely comparable to the time we spent an evening driving around central London in a van, hosting our own 'mobile NYE party' with a slab of Kronenburg and a Body Count tape, because every party we attempted to gatecrash had three sheepish looking hosts and a paltry 10 cans of Fosters to its name?

I'm not dissing record collectors; I'm just on another wavelength. I actually knew someone who bought a tonne of reggae CDs from Out On The Floor in Camden, many moons ago, and only realised, halfway home on the Thameslink, that he'd already got one of his new purchases. Imagine not even knowing what you've got! Also, there's something about completism that evades me. I suppose it's important for DJs... but unless I can play it repeatedly, for years, I don't want it propping up a pile of other occasional listens, like some monstrous nuclear stockpile, in my gaffe.

I also hate having crap tracks on anything, even compilations. For example, I used to own the Jack The Tab LP Tekno Acid Beat, though I only ever listened to one track repeatedly - Wicked - and what a tune that was! Blew most of PTV's Crowley/Manson-era stuff into a sigil-stained sock, if you ask me. Never mind 'sex magick', I'll take magic sex instead, any day! But what about the rest of the LP? was dreadful, quite frankly - sounded like a Swedish chemistry teacher had just discovered 'sampling' and was dedicating the rest of his evenings to knocking out tracks in his mid-life-crisis-attic-conversion studio (I seem to remember an unhealthy amount of Kraftwerk loops). So: that left me with one brilliant track and five duds. Sorry, Tekno Acid Beat, but one track taped later and you were on your way to MVE, cruelly flogged for the price of a packet of Monster Munch ((oh I dunno, maybe I actually got a quid for it)). I just ain't got time for hangers-on and you weren't no good for me. Shame the muppets didn't just release Wicked as an individual 12", as Tekno Acid Beat's subsequently become reviled as a total turkey in dancefloor history.

As for reggae comps, I honestly think I've burnt one decent CD-R for every six CDs I bought...see, it's just a series of never-ending purges. But maybe my anti-collector thing goes back to childhood. I was never really interested in Panini football stickers when they were all the rage. For those blissfully ignorant of this archaic rite: in the '80s, Panini made their money by selling children stickers featuring mugshots of football players. They also sold a sticker album, with a double-page spread for each team in (the old) Division One. Kids were encouraged to buy as many stickers as possible, so they could obtain a full set of mugshots, as a souvenir of the season.

Of course, Panini wasn't in the business of helping these completists to complete their sticker albums without hoovering up as much pocket money as possible. Stickers were sold at 50p for a wrapped pack of 5, meaning that the whole process became a lottery. If you bought a duplicate of a sticker you already had, you were encouraged to swap it for one you wanted - from a friend, a schoolmate, etc. Only catch being: the stickers everyone was after - the 'cool' players, like Bryan Robson or Glenn Hoddle - were fairly limited, whereas there'd be about a trillion stickers in circulation for a player nobody wanted - like Gary Birtles. Shit, you couldn't get a cola bottle for a Birtles, so these stickers became absolutely worthless. Kids just resorted to affixing them to bus stops, or throwing them away. You couldn't even draw a comedy beard on the sticker, cos Gary Birtles already had one.

But here's the big joke - when these kids had almost completed their books, minus three unattainable stickers, and were gazing wistfully at the vacant frames as the football season drew to a close, Panini offered them the chance to write in and specify which outstanding stickers they needed! For a price, natch - and considerably more than the going rate of 10p per sticker. So, these 'rare' stickers weren't unattainable at all. And then, these brats finally had a completed book. The entire Division, neatly pressed onto paper. The result of obsessive newsagent purchases, playground swaps, schoolbag thefts and last-minute Panini bungs. you know exactly what happened to these prized Panini sticker books, once they'd finally been completed, and all the footballers' faces were neatly in place?

Yeah. Precisely.

Man, if I was gonna waste 50p, I was having 5 hits on SPACE INVADERS... gimme the instant techno rush of the impossible war, the adrenaline-sozzled dream of becoming the first white boy to topple the evil Taito Corporation.

I dunno... I kind of find boxed sets, limited editions, "collectors' editions", deluxe editions, expanded sets, etc, a bit BLEARRGHH. "Deluxe"?? Uggh, a Ferrero Rocher recption's 'deluxe'. Talk about turning rebellion into bath salts. A while back, I re-bought Pulp's Different Class album, which had been released as a 'deluxe' 2CD set, packaged in a chunky digipack, with a thick booklet and dozens of studio out-takes on the second disc. You know what? I actually hated the fucking thing as soon as I opened it. Some prat waffling on over 12 pages about the recording sessions, what the songs meant, conducting a critical appraisal - as if I had time to kill and eternity to injure by wading through some Mojo freelancer's opinionated drivel! The CD made me feel sick. Was I meant to mount the damn thing on a quartz pedestal? Don sterile gloves before handling the discs? Roll around with it under a silken, zebra print duvet? It looked bloated, overblown, redundant. It wasn't the Different Class I knew. Bring back my tape copy, with its frayed edges, its cracked plastic, its distinct smell - enriched with the curry, cigarette and perfume tang that it'd acquired from years of being played and lent to people, all over London. THAT battered cassette was Different Class, not this glossy abomination. I punted the 'deluxe' POS on Amazon and picked up a second-hand copy of the single, original CD edition for a couple of quid. I need an instrumental demo version of Disco 2000 like I need a broken glass sarnie.

On the subject - why do record companies feel the need to let writers and contemporary musicians scribble all over re-release booklets? OK, I'll let Steve Barrow off the hook, as he normally got to the point when he was annotating freshly unearthed Black Ark recordings. But why ANYONE should give a fuck about the fact that Michael Stipe 'rates' Gang Of Four - let alone why he should get to contribute a sizeable quote to the Entertainment CD booklet - is beyond me. It's not like there's anything on there worth listening to except At Home He's A Tourist, Damaged Goods or Anthrax. I couldn't give a toss if Colonel Gadaffi used to drive around Tripoli in a jeep with Entertainment blaring out of the bass bins (I've got him pegged as more of a Bad Reputation by Thin Lizzy man, anyway...), I just want to hear the bloody thing, ta very much.

This all sounds like I'm having a pop at anyone who owns more than 30 scratchy pieces of vinyl! I'm not, honest - like I said, I'm just marching to a different drummer. The truth is, big record collections scare me. Show me 1,000 LPs in a rack, and I'm just thinking: hernia. The memories of those cardboard boxes bite deep. Anyway, I'm having another purge soon, which means loads of fucking around with the camera before trying to offload a bunch of stuff on eBay, or something. Oh God, please don't give me any German bidders, they always start querying the deal after they've bought something. I hate dealing with anarcho-punks too - wow, all that nit-picking about how you're not a "real veggie" if you wear leather boots obviously extends to online transactions as well. I'm really sorry your purchase didn't arrive 10 minutes ago. Maybe if we overthrow the socialist scuzzbags who infest the GPO, we can train anarcho-pigeons to drop the bloody Flux Of Pink Indians CD on your doorstep an hour after bidding ends. Emailing to tell me I'm a fucking 'con man' and threatening to report me ((smash the system!)) isn't going to magically speed up the progress of a package that you won last night and which I posted this morning. Ah, the joys...

I guess what I'm saying is, don't get so hung up on owning everything that's out there. Again, unless you're a DJ, in which case these platters are probably your launchpads to oodles of free oral sex and sushi. I remember a now defunct UK hardcore band called Admit You're Shit, who once declared, rather boisterously, FRIENDS ARE NOT FUCKING RECORDS! I never really paid that tidbit much heed at the time, but I think I sort of understand what they meant.

Then again, the singer in Admit You're Shit went on to set up Combat 18, so maybe you don't wanna take too much heed, either way...
The truth is, big record collections scare me. Show me 1,000 LPs in a rack, and I'm just thinking: hernia

Too true. I'm in the process of moving the collection for the 6th time in a decade. Each time it gets bigger and heavier. Slug threw his back out shifting em in 2006.
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