Shopping 21 Jan 2012

In years gone by I - with various like-minded friends such as Paul, Stuart, John and Brian - would go into London on a weekend and, well ... go a bit mad.  Back in those days, see, if you wanted to get a fix it wouldn't come to you.  You had to get out there on the streets and put the effort in.  Took a real toll on your fingers, I can tell you.

Music.  That's what I'm talking about.  CDs, mostly.  Searching through a load of secondhand or discounted CDs for that gem you didn't even know you wanted is always good fun, almost as good as sitting down at the end of few hours with a decent pint and talking about it.

Berwick Street, as seen on the cover of
some obscure album. Selectadisc can be
seen on the left.
Brian and I decided to have a retro, off-line shopping spree.  It's been a few years since the last visit and Berwick Street isn't what it used to be, but Sister Ray is still there, now in what used to be Selectadisc. Reckless Records survives.  The Music & Video Exchange has hardly changed in decades.  And Fopp has arrived since we first started the Soho beat, a little way away and perhaps not as good as it was when I first encountered it in Edinburgh - betraying its HMV ownership somewhat maybe - but a worthwhile visit nonetheless.  Brian and I did them all.

And we finished it off with a few pints in the Duke Of Argyll, a Sammy Smith's pub with surprisingly good wheat beer.

Here's what I got:
The Suburbs by Arcade Fire (2010)
I heard "Ready To Start" on a trailer for Skins, the Channel 4 drama, and I thought it sounded fantastic. Skins wasn't bad either but I grew up with Grange Hill, so nothing's going to be quite as good, is it?
Joan Armatrading by Joan Armatrading (1976)
I dug my old record player (actually my grandparent's old record player) out of the loft a few months back, and one of the first records I played was Joan Armatrading's Track Record - a superb collection of songs. Seeing this secondhand seemed like a good opportunity. It has "Down To Zero" and "Love And Affection" on it.
Folksingers 'Round Harvard Square by Joan Baez and others (1959)
I didn't want to get this, but it came "free" with Joan Baez's first album in a package called Songbird.
Joan Baez by Joan Baez (1960)
This is the first album from the sixties in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, which I'm very slowly working my way through.
If 60s Were 90s by Beautiful People (1994)
A long time ago, I bought the single with the same name as this album. I rather like the single; it's somewhat dated now, being a fairly generic mid 90s dance beat strewn with samples from Jimi Hendrix, but is perfectly pleasant nonetheless. I'm curious to know what the album is like. I've seen it on Amazon for nearly £80 secondhand, so the £3 I paid seems pretty good.
The Everlasting Blink by Bent (2003)
I bought Programmed To Love several years ago on another shopping trip (in Selectadisc, IIRC).
Biophilia by Björk (2011)
It's got good reviews. I avoided the "Collector's Edition" for £12 and bought this for a fiver. Excellent value.
Greetings From L.A. by Tim Buckley (1972)
Another one from the 1001 Albums .... I think.
Out Of Season by Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man (2002)
Anything involving someone out of Portishead and someone out of Talk Talk (Paul Webb) should be decent.
Hercules And Love Affair by Hercules And Love Affair (2008)
"Blind" is one of my favourite tracks of the noughties, so I though the parent album would be worth a listen.
The Hangman's Beautiful Daughter by The Incredible String Band (1968)
Another one for the 1001 Albums project.
The Complete Collection by Robert Johnson (2008)
I feel my collection should include someone so legendary.
Tapestry by Carole King (2009)
And another one for the 1001 Albums project!
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming by M83 (2011)
It's been well recommended and I like other albums of theirs.
69 Love Songs by The Magnetic Fields (2004)
Paul was raving about this ... er, some years ago. I thought it was about time I had a listen.
Third by Portishead (2008)
Been meaning to get this for some time.
Back At The Chicken Shack by Jimmy Smith (1960)
Yet another of the 1001 Albums.
Með Suð Í Eyrum Við Spilum Endalaust by Sigur Rós (2008)
I've seen good reviews and it was a good price. Again, I turned down the special edition (£18, this time).
Passersby by Skyway 7 (2004)
I found this secondhand and bought it solely because I liked the cover.
I Know You're Married But I've Got Feelings Too by Martha Wainwright (2008)
"Jesus And Mary" is one of my top tracks from the noughties.
Want One by Rufus Wainwright (2003)
I really enjoyed the episode of "Secrets Of The Pop Song" in which Rufus writes a song with Guy Chambers. But I have no Rufus Wainwright in my collection. Now remedied.
Beginner's Guide To Salsa, Vol. 2 by Various Artists (2006)
K has been learning salsa at school and wanted to know if I have some. So now we have. And, as it happens, this is the exact album they've been playing at school! So that's nice.

Here - have a Spotify playlist on me.


Musical pledge

I buy too much music and then don't listen to it. As a result I have many albums I have played only once, and once isn't enough to get a feel for an album. David Hepworth puts it much better than me:
Even to the trained ear they [rock records] all sound the same the first four or five times through. ... The things that mark out the tiny handful of great records from the thousands of fair to middling ones only emerge over time and they do so when you’re not concentrating. Great records creep up on you like friendship. The things that make them great records are often not obvious on first acquaintance.
So now I have created a rule for myself that I must write something about each album I buy. This forces me to listen to it enough times to be able to say something meaningful. Sometimes this takes a few weeks because I cannot just listen to new music all the time without a leavening of something I know and like.

Even then, it's not necessarily enough time. I reviewed Richard Ashcroft's Alone With Everybody for a friend's webzine back in 2000 (although he never used it, so I recycled it as a last.fm journal) and was pretty scathing about it. But you know what? It grew on me over a period of years.

Luckily, I have yet to implement a corollary rule that prevents me from buying more albums until I've played and reviewed all the ones I already have. So the list keeps growing ....

Anyway, here's a handy, cut-out-n-keep, scratch-n-sniff index to my music pieces. Most are on this blog, but some were done as last.fm journals.