So I’ve always been obsessed with buying the round, spinning things that sounded wonderful. The first time I went into a record store specifically to buy a record, I was seven years old. By the time I was in junior high school, I could ride my bike to the local K-Mart and peruse the selections there. I began getting serious about buying music in high school. First of all, I had a budget: $1.50/day in lunch money. That bought a new LP at the decent local stores each week. Record City priced $8.98 albums at $7.50, which didn’t hurt. It was 1980 [I think] that I discovered the notion of the used record store [Retro Records], and my purchasing possibilities dramatically expanded. I could pay half price or less for everything, and it was possible to buy stuff used that I had never seen on sale new. By college, I knew where every decent record store worth browsing was. I relied on chains like Record City, Record Mart, Peaches, East-West Records + Tapes, and even more heavily on indie stores like Murmur Records, or Crunchy Armadillo Records + Tapes. Finding gold in the bins felt like a huge score, but eventually, I became aware that not everything I wanted would be filtering down to sleepy Central Florida.
In 1985, a seminal thing happened; I met my friend Mr. Ware. He was almost the older brother I never had. Of course we bonded over music, but by then, he had learned the dirty secret of record collecting; if you really wanted the vital stuff, you would have to rely on mail order. Mr. Ware did this, and he had record dealers from all over The States sending him their catalogs, from which he would duly order those Ultravox clear vinyl 7″ UK first pressing singles that you had to be johnny-on-the-spot to find in the stores!
Back when “Visions In Blue” was their latest single, I was in Record City at just the right time, and found, to my wonderment, a gorgeous clear vinyl 7″ of this in the new release bins. When I met Mr. Ware, a few years later, he notified me that there had been clear vinyl issues of every Chrysalis Ultravox single! He had them all. How? Catalogs!
He would receive these stapled, saddle stitched missives from at least half a dozen consistent dealers. People who regularly traveled all over the world, seeking out records and selling them to guys like us. Sometimes they would be professionally typeset and printed. At other times, they could be nothing more than hastily typed sheets of photocopied paper with the occasional high-contrast xeroxed image to break up the sea of gray. Mr. Ware would offer to give me the catalogs, but for some months, I can’t say why, I resisted. I guess I felt that my stores should be enough for me. Eventually, he proposed going together on a catalog order from Jack Wolak’s Rare Necessities. I think it was the notion of all of those Mari Wilson records I never saw in stores [but knew that they were out there] that pushed me over the edge. By ganging our order, we split the mailing costs. Next thing you knew I started getting Mari Wilson singles I never thought I’d see and I was hooked. Hooked, I tell you!
My next step was to obtain all of the Rezillos/Revillos records that I desperately needed and via catalog, this otherwise impossible task was relatively simple. For five years, I had a Dindisc compilation with two Revillos songs and they sparked the desire for more which was all but impossible in the area that I lived in. Heck, I could not find any Rezillos material, either. Via catalogs, I eventually got reasonably full collections of both in a relatively short time. CD singles were usually $8-12. A rare punk 7″ like the debut by Johnny + The Self Abusers [who would eventually morph into Simple Minds] single at the right might set me back between $10-20. Lesser items were generally under $10. Prices were relatively affordable in the mid-80s.
There were at least half a dozen vendors that I came to rely on. Some of them, like Yesterday + Today Records and Vinyl Vendors are still in business. Other were lost to the ravages of time. The catalogs would come to my home and I’d order everything that I wanted; getting 7″/12″/CD singles beyond my wildest imaginings. By the late 80s I was collecting 40-60 groups and to keep up with so many artists output, catalogs were a necessity. It would happen no other way. I hummed along on catalogs for about three to four years, but by the 90s, I became primed for the harder stuff.
Mr. Ware opened my eyes to catalogs and he then did the next worse thing: he would talk to me of Goldmine Magazine; the record collector’s bible. If catalogs became a money drain with new ones being issued every few months, what would it be like when every serious record vendor of note – worldwide, filled the 100-200 pages of the infamous Goldmine Magazine on a fortnightly basis?
By the early 90s, I was a Goldmine Subscriber. The magazine had begun in the mid 70s as a way of consolidating reach to record collectors all over the world in one consolidated advertising market. Sure, sure. There were stories. Sometimes, insanely long ones. Goldmine thought nothing of having 30-40 page interviews with musicians of every stripe, thought it must be said that the magazine’s editorial bias leaned heavily towards classic rock. There was also lots of discographical research that may have pointed the way for me in that area of Monastic interest. All of this was largely irrelevant. We bought Goldmine for the ads.
Every two weeks, I’d get a new issue and I’d go through each page, carefully scanning the infamous “set sale” ads for signs of Post-Punk goodness. After a while, one would get to know certain dealers who could be counted on to possibly have material of interest. The ads were legendary. I wish I could reproduce a page for you here, but I wasn’t able to find any scans on the web. Suffice to say, that tiny columns of release titles set in 6-8 point type [on relatively rough newsprint earlier on] became a blur quickly, but one could not slack off. Every listing in every Goldmine ad represented a record, and you were not the only person perusing those pages. Often was the time that I’d phone or write a dealer only to find that the disc of my dreams was long done, daddy.
Still, all of this came crashing down by the mid-late 90s when the internet was about to undercut the whole of the recording industry, much less the secondary markets surrounding it. By the late 90s, the Goldmine subscription lapsed and this new thing called eBay was the Wild West of music shopping. The web blew the power structure of retailing music wide open, and anyone on planet earth with a connection, was potentially a music vendor. This had the effect of eventually driving prices downward. 20 years later, almost any record that I dearly want, is almost dimes on the dollar compared to what I would have paid 30 years ago, but it’s the shipping that’ll kill you! These days, unless the vendor is American, I’m likely to take a pass on all but the most desirable of releases. For ten years of my life, it was catalogs and Goldmine magazine that were at the epicenter of my music collecting activity.
– 30 –