Monday 6 April 2015

The Thrill Of The Hunt

OK, we live in world of multiple-connections, and everything is available at your fingertips with just the aid of a few mouse-clicks.
On the one hand, this is brilliant, because anything we need to know, want to hear or see, or fill gaps in our knowledge is all stored in a massive database called the Interweb.

But the grumpy old git inside me says: do we no longer need to learn and retain knowledge, when we can just Google it?
And what of the basic "Hunter Gatherer" instincts?  Do we still retain the urge to hunt down records, films and books that are not easily findable on the high street?

This affliction started many years ago, when you would try and out-do your friends by finding more interesting stuff than they had.  For example, they may have procured an a copy of Iron Maiden's "Sanctuary" in an uncensored picture sleeve, but did they have a Greek version of "Flight Of Icarus"? There is no distinct difference between the UK and Greek versions, but it is just a case of smug one-upmanship.  And so the hunt continues ...

To increase your chances of finding the "best" stuff, it was necessary to make pilgrimages to London, spend hours stuck on trains or stuck in traffic trying to find Record Fair venues, or spend Sunday mornings at Jumble Sales and Car Boot Sales - all in the hope if finding something that no-one else has got.  Or even better, were un-aware of its existence, or had never even heard of.
When you did get something new and interesting, whether it be record, film, book of video of "unseen" footage from foreign TV, the shout would go out and all would gather round for the unveiling and congratulations.  Copies may be produced, and a "Conditions Of Borrowing" contract drawn up.
And this competition as not just limited to music - films, videos of old TV shows, books, even Football Programmes were sought out, displayed proudly and generally coveted by on-lookers.
I once bought a pile of old 8-Track Cartridges, purely on the basis that "no-one else has got these!"
(Interestingly, a similar set of rules applied to videos and books of distinct "Gentlemans Interest" often found under hedges in the local park).

Visits to Record Fairs and Jumble Sales also taught the art of haggling.  You're obviously not going to get a first pressing of The Beach Boys 'Pet Sounds' for £1, but you may baulk at the £40 price-tag and offer the seller a lower, but still sensible, price.  Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose - but it's all part of the game.
There are of course other times, when you will pay the marked price because (a) it is an absolute bargain and the seller obviously doesn't know what they are doing, or (b) you any never see another copy, so will gladly handover a weeks housekeeping money to ensure you own it.

This was a time when you were judged by your ability to hunt down and procure the interesting and (seemingly) unattainable.
In the early 80s, a friend of mine had a complete set of Monty Python Videos (not recorded off the telly, the proper, pukka ones only available in Video Rental Shops) - he was like some sort of God in our eyes.
Another friend had the first pressing of The Beatles 'Please Please Me' album - highly desirable, but it was not Monty Python was it?
I played my part in this "willy waving" contest by owning a copy of Johns Children "Desdemona" single (bought for £20 in 1988).
Another friend claimed to have a copy of "God Save The Queen" on A&M, but no-one ever saw it, and he was a lying git anyway.
Any new town or city I visit, I retain the ability to sniff out local record shops and/or second hand shops where I try to find collection fillers, and often stuff I never knew I wanted.
There is little to compare to the thrill of stumbling across a long sought after album or single, or interesting, yet possibly unnecessary, memorabilia.

But now, it's all too easy.
I can be taking care of my morning ablutions whilst browsing eBay looking for more copies of Stiff Little Fingers "Suspect Device" (I already have 4 different versions/variants), or driving to work and listening to something on the radio, and by the time I have logged on to the work computer have just bought the new stuff from Amazon.
No more the need to write it down and/or remember, no more the need to plan a weekend away to coincide with a Record Fair (I still do, of course), no more trawling second-hand shops in the vain hope of finding a gem.
Well, none of the above is actually true - both worlds co-exist quite happily, I'd just rather live in the former world where it is more of a challenge and hence more of an achievement when The Undertones "Teenage Kicks" EP (on Good Vibrations) is found and filed away on your shelf.

An just a couple of curmudgeonly observations to finish:
* A quick note to sellers on EBay (et al):  Most people ain't daft and can spot a re-press/re-issue or dodgy copy a mile off.  Don't go sticking stupid price tags on what is essentially cheap crap
* Charity Shops/Jumble Sales (and EBayers again) - just because it is on vinyl and released more than 10 years ago does not immediately mean it is valuable.  £30 for 'War Of The Worlds' or 'Now Thats What I Call Music 7' just means you will be left with a pile of unsold records.
A Charity Shop I used to frequent had a fairly blanket pricing policy of 50p to £1 for singles, and £3 to £8 (£12 if a double) for albums.  And then someone either looked on EBay or bought a copy of Record Collector ...
* There is no such thing in the world as "having too many records"

Happy Hunting!