An Earful O’ Wax

I’ve collected vinyl LPs on and off since I was about 12 years old. Recently I’ve stepped up my game a bit, and have been investing money in filling some gaps in my collection, and also trying to make my sound system sound good enough to justify the hassle.

Vinyl can very quickly become an expensive hobby, but luckily I am a cheap bastard, so the wife doesn’t have to worry about coming home to find a $2,000 tube amplifier sitting above our TV (at least not yet). Instead, I’m rocking some seriously un-sought after Radio Shack gear that nonetheless sounds great.

By biggest beef with vinyl collectors is not how much they spend on gear, but how much they are willing to pay for original copies of rare albums. I like rare LPs as much as the next nerd, but I’m not about to drop more than $30 on something that is essentially a thin piece of plastic sheathed in cardboard. Hunting on eBay can turn up some great finds, but I also find myself wading through tons of overpriced discs that (hopefully) no one in their right mind would consider paying for.

This is why I love the recent trend of vinyl reissues. The “180 gram” thing may be a marketing ploy, but I’m OK with that if it means I can get a brand new, mint copy of one of my favorite records for around $20. I’ve heard some people grumble about it, but these are probably also the guys trying to get you to buy some OOP record for the price of two week’s groceries. I want to actually listen to my records, which means finding the best quality pressing for the lowest price.

One genre I enjoy collecting is 80s/90s alternative rock, which includes post punk, indie, shoegaze and Britpop. These records tend to be harder to find than 70s classic rock, which I also love, but can be found fairly easily. Vinyl started to die out as a commercial medium before a lot of my favorite alt rock albums were even released, which means that a lot of them either didn’t appear on vinyl, or were never released in the States on that format. Therefore, when they do show up on eBay, these are usually the records that fetch the aforementioned ridiculous prices.

I’m glad to report that in the next few months, some of my long sought after favorites will be getting the reissue treatment.

Teenage Fanclub‘s fuzzy power pop classic Bandwagonesque was originally announced for a September 14 release by Original Recordings group, a division of Warner Brothers. Amazon still lists it, but I see it as “TBA” everywhere else, so I ‘m not sure if it came out or not.

Hopefully it will, because it’s scheduled to be followed by their next two albums Thirteen and Grand Prix. To sweeten the deal, Amazon is also showing a listing for their debut A Catholic Education. Original copies of these albums all fetch $50 to $100 online, so if we get the whole batch reissued in affordable, pristine editions I will be one happy camper.

I also just saw a listing for a forthcoming reissue of Ride‘s first full length album, Nowhere, via Rhino. This is another one I’d given up on buying an original copy of, due to collector price gouging.

Sonic Youth’s catalog has been the subject of a thorough reissue series for some time now, but we can now expect new vinyl editions of Bad Moon Rising and Sister some time in the next few months hopefully.

This should be enough to keep me busy for a while, although it would be great to see some other bands from this era like Swervedriver and Lush get a similar treatment. I hope the greedy eBay sellers know their time is drawing to a close…at least until these reissues are long out of print.

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5 Responses to “An Earful O’ Wax”

  1. We’re in the same boat – trying to find late 80s and 90s indie alt vinyl. Some of it’s insanely expensive eh? I think it’s generally dependent on how popular a band still is today, because as you know quantities were limited right from the get go. Bands like Blur command seriously crazy cash for their LPs.

    But a lot of the also rans don’t fetch that much. My tip for you is to skip eBay altogether and try Discogs.com. The prices people expect are pretty realistic and the grading of condition seems to be a lot more reliable than eBay sellers. You’ll get most of your Lush records on there for sure.

    I’ve almost all but given up on looking through used bins in record stores, even though my local store – which is awesome for new alt vinyl – has a regularly stocked and sizable used section. It’s just full of junk I’d never buy; all 70s and 80s rock. Where are all the copies of early to mid 90s Matador releases etc?

    My suspicion is that the majority of people who bought that stuff still understand the value of what they have, and probably have no desire to sell anyway, regardless of potential price-tags.

    I too have pre-orders on Bandwagonesque and Nowhere 🙂 I think the craziest I’ve gotten paying for used was recently when I dropped $30 on an admittedly almost mint copy of Cornershop’s “Women’s Gotta Have It” from some Discog’s seller in Japan. But by the same token, I think the fact I pick up releases by some of Britpop’s also-rans (but still quite playable) like Salad for next to nothing evens everything out. I got a mint copy of their debut recently for about $3 – so consider that they’re both in pretty immaculate condition, I like to think I paid about $15 for them both – not much different to what they’d have retailed for originally.

    • I definitely need some Cornershop vinyl. One of my holy grails is their first LP, Hold On it Hurts. I have the Merge CD, but would love to find the vinyl.

      I’ve looked at Discogs but thought it was just a database. I’ll have to check out the stuff for sale.

      I’ve noticed a lot of mint 90s vinyl comes from Japan for some reason. Maybe they had a better market for it back then. Almost all records by Canadian band Sloan come from Japan…

      Never heard of Salad. That’s one to add to the list!

      • I bought Hold On It Hurts at the time – love it!

        Yeah Discogs serves both as a database (and I do see a lot of holes in it), but also as a marketplace. You can even set notifications for items that aren’t currently for sale by anyone.

        I have noticed the asian thing also. I once stumbled on a guy in Hong Kong that was selling a whole load of 45s on eBay that were all really, really obscure indie releases from the UK – it made me wonder how on earth they got there, all being presumably if not definitely from the days before the internet – and these were singles of very short runs, so most certainly never had international distribution. I figured in the end surely this guy must’ve spent some time in the UK in order to amass such a collection. But why was he selling them all now?

        For me, the Britpop releases of the mid 90s are very hit and miss for playability these days. I tried playing the first Sleeper LP within the last year for sure, and I turned it off before the end of the first track. Yet the first Salad LP is still interesting enough that I made it through the whole thing. Horrible pressing though – which is another danger of releases from those years. But for sure there was a lot of crap made back then.

  2. I don’t think I have any Britpop LPs, just shoegaze, and lots of 80s new wave. I’d like to get the Pulp albums.

    • Pulp LPs are tough, suffering the same fate as Blur LPs (ie a band that whilst defunct definitely have cache and critical value) so command high prices. I believe they’re all most definitely OOP, though This Is Hardcore was reissued by Plain a few years ago. I know my local store has it in stock – and I am guessing it’s not the same copy I keep seeing, so must be still available.

      It’s strange what fetches high prices and what doesn’t, but it only takes a reissue to correct it. Spiritualized’s Ladies & Gentlemen LP just got reissued (also on Plain) so prices plummeted (not to mention the original vinyl had an error in the master pressing that meant one song would skip, no matter how pristine your vinyl or turntable set up was). Though I note their preceding release “Pure Phase” asks upwards of $200. If there’s the demand, why don’t Plain reissue it too?

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