Do you ever frequent record fairs? They are wonderful places. There is nothing quite like being faced with a large room full of vinyl and CDs to get the collecting juices flowing
Flicking through a box of vinyl offers both a sense of excitement and serenity rolled into one. There’s an almost karmic, meditative and relaxing rhythm to flicking through vinyl record after vinyl record while the eye darts to and fro, from band name to album title.
There’s often a warming sense of fulfilment too. After all, you might find that long sought after record, that previously unattainable album that’s missing from your collection. Failing that, you might stumble across a record that surprises you, one that you never knew existed.
Then there’s the people.
Some regularly attend the same record fairs, striking up long standing friendships both with dealers and each other. It’s a club-like atmosphere with no rules or dues demanded, a niche social scene.
You get all sorts: the trivia expert who insists on telling everyone about music minutiae, the busy parent with a baby strapped to their back, the high roller who spends a fortune on a rare 7” single, the joker who loves to entertain this captive audience, those suffering from mental difficulties who see the occasion as a friendly and caring centre without judgements paid or criticism given; those who use the event to escape family or marital pressures; the lonely who seek out a brief warming of social interaction to soften the pain of a ‘normal’ empty day; the competitor who loves to brag about his latest record purchase or the manic collector with the unkempt demeanour who seeks rarities like a junkie seeks a fix.
Record fairs are also sources of rarities and bargains. Unlike most antique shops that have a lonely box of vinyl in the corner or – these days – charity shops, record fairs offer genuine bargains at realistic prices. I don’t know how often I’ve seen, let’s called it Album X, at £15 a throw at an antique shop or even a charity shop when it’s only really worth £2 (even in ‘mint’ condition) which is what the typical record fair dealer will charge you.
Realistic prices are only one of the benefits found in a typical record fair. The vagaries of the market is another. For example, did you know that the bottom has dropped out of most of the 60s greats in terms of volume sales? The Beatles, Stones, Hendrix and more, all don’t sell like they used to nor do they demand the same prices. Even 70s music is under pressure (although Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours always but always sells, so I hear).
No, what’s really big and growing in popularity at record fairs is 80s pop and indie. The Smiths and The Cure, 4AD label bands and the like will not surprise you, I guess. What might raise an eyebrow is the growing popularity of the likes of the Thompson Twins, Funboy Three, Bananarama, Duran Duran, The Bangles and the like. OK, I’m not talking £50 an album here but all of these bands were fetching £1 or £2 per album only three to five years ago. Now? Well £7-£15 is not unusual for a pristine copy and the prices are increasing. Why? Because we are ageing. The 80s kids have grown up, have jobs and disposable income and nostalgia has bitten. They’re looking backwards to their youth and simpler times.
Those who don’t care about the original vinyl can get their fix on CD from the worthy label, Cherry Pop (www.cherryred.co.uk/label/cherry-pop/). Here you will find the likes of Paint and Paint from Haircut One Hundred, Remixes and Rarities from A Flock of Seagulls and also Thompson Twins, Adventures in Clubland from Modern Romance, Take my Time from Sheena Easton, Other Voices from Paul Young, All Over the Place from The Bangles, Fun Boy Three’s self-titled album plus many more of the same sort of thing.
For myself, apart from locating gems and the treasures, I find that record fairs are incredible places to learn about music. They are a source of some of the most knowledgable music people on the planet. I never leave a record fair without finding something new about a band or genre.
Do you have a record fair in your area? If so, why not pop over next time the doors are open. You might learn something. Even better, you might just pick up an amazing bargain.