I was recently visiting Philadelphia for the first time in over 40 years. As a child, it was all about Italian deli products ¶, but as a vegetarian of 22 years and a record collector of 37, my priorities have shifted. This time I anticipated finally shopping at a store where I had been a customer for several years… online. As a user of Discogs.com online for years of research as well as buying and selling music, there are few other dealers who manages to have records that I really want badly coupled with low prices and… this is the coup de grace, the cheapest shipping policies that one can find from any online dealer of music. I’ve known these folks as philadelphiamusic on Discogs for a few years now and I consistently marvel at how they have a vast [85K+ titles] stock of music that not only do I want, but in many cases, they will be the only dealer in America with a title! And they’ll think nothing of selling it for $1.50-$3.00!
In these, the end times, actual records are falling in value at a dramatic rate as the internet allows everyone to sell their stuff around the world; driving prices down from a generation ago. Sure, sure. There are some titles rising in value, but what do I care about those? I’m the Post-Punk Monk! It’s easy to find records I want from dealers around the world for a few dollars, but it’s the postage that is now the vast bulk of the cost of acquisition. A record from the UK or Europe is any where from $10-20 for the first 12″ disc. Your mileage may vary. Many [not all] dealers make a little from the postage with markup. Sigh. It just happens. So I sometimes wait years until I find a record from a US dealer, where the postage will be a quarter to a half of what it will cost from any other nation.
So the fact that they will have the music and ship it from the same country gives philadelphiamusic considerable cachet with me. Then they knock me out by shipping any amount of 12″ vinyl for just $5.00! One or a hundred; it’s all the same, low price. Any number of CDs? $3.50. So when I found out that Philadelphia was in our sights for a vacation this was one of the first things that I though: I have to shop in this store! I can bag huge swaths of my actual want list ¥ for <$50!! My pulse quickened at the thought of the damage I could do there in person for chump change. Better still, in the week before we were actually there, my Discogs feed revealed 22 titles from my want list at philadelphiamusic for the princely sum of… $48!! Before I got there, I actually searched their CD titles for the first time and managed to get the want list up to 35 or so. Finally, the place where we were staying in the city was three blocks from their store. Truly, the stars were in alignment!
At the right time, I walked to the store and was shocked to find that there was apparently a vast gulf between Beautiful World Syndicate and philadelphiamusic’s webstore. Plainly put, the storefront was to a small storefront that held maybe 2-3000 titles in a variety of media formats. The huge store with 85,000 titles was clearly a virtual store only. I asked the woman behind the counter that with 30+ titles on my want list, when/where could they be pulled and she answered that the owner could do that, but I would have to submit an order online and come back Monday afternoon for the actual discs. On Monday afternoon, I would be in a car driving for ten hours to reach home. So the grand crate-digging spree that I envisioned did not materialize. To my chagrin, but that didn’t mean that I was going to mope and leave. While in the store, I should check it out anyway. This material, in all likelihood, was probably not yet in their webstore inventory. In fact, when talking to the clerk, I saw piles of records with a “not on Discogs” sign over them and noticed that she was entering inventory while customers came and shopped.
One thing I couldn’t fail to notice was that the store was positively sick with Bowie bootleg albums of every stripe. There were packing more of these than I had seen in a good 30 years, and then some.I really had not seen much in the way of bootleg vinyl after the 90s began, and bootleggers turned their attention to CDs instead. These were a curiosity, but nothing I desired to buy even at low prices. As it was, my interest in these didn’t extend to even checking the prices.
One rack on a wall featured an impressive selection of Japanese Blondie canon from their imperial period. I think that every JPN LP from “Blondie” to “Koo Koo” was present and accounted for! All with obi, and all priced low enough to consider buying them all in a moment of weakness. None were over $15.00 and even the tepid album “The Hunter” still had the Japanese insert poster in it, as noted on the PVC baggie. It takes a lot of will power not to buy “Eat To The Beat” in its most perfect LP form, let me tell you.
I pawed through the bins and saw many of the same titles over and over again; as if they had bought the same record collection numerous times from different people with the exact same taste. Nothing was too interesting, but I looked at every record in the store in about 45 minutes or so. I did se “Give Daddy The Knife, Cindy,” by Naz Nomad + The Nightmares; possibly the best album title of all time with The Damned in psychedelic drag ala The Dukes Of Stratosphear. But it must be said, that The Damned beat XTC to the Paisley by a good year. Memo to self: I must finally hear this one day.
I finally found one album that was an immediate grabber: the holy “Rev Up” by The Revillos. Hard to believe, but when I was building my collection in the 80s, this one was hard to get. I had to settle for an Australian copy that has a pressing difference not noted on the cover; which is the same as the UK edition. But when played, “Cool Jerk” was replaced with the B-side “The Fiend.” My ardor for this band has meant that I needed the original UK Dindisc pressing of this title for many years now and here it was, for a ten-spot. A high price only within the context of this store. I surely would have paid twice that from any other source.
I finally left the store after less than an hour and mused that I would need to buy from the web once I got home and squared away. This I did on Tuesday and over 30 high-value titles are currently winging their way to my home for a song. So as for an actual visit to the storefront? Sure. Why not when in town? There may be something there that delights that has yet to be entered into the web inventory, but know that Beautiful World Syndicate only really comes alive, paradoxically, when experienced online as philadelphiamusic. I can’t recommend their web store enough.
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¶ The only bologna on earth actually worth eating, if you’re so inclined, can be found only in real Italian delis.
¥ Note, my tastes are so far off the popularity map that even finding 1-2 titles actually on my want list is a once, or maybe twice in a year proposition, at best!