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Saturday was a record fair day here in Edinburgh. For vinyl addicts like me, this is like going to church. The congregation tends to be chunky, middle-aged, often slightly dysfunctional and poorly dressed men, who are largely invisible to the rest of society. But as soon as there are some boxes of records to be looked through, they come out of the woodwork like an army of the undead, shuffling, grunting and clutching a battered copy of a Black Sabbath album and wearing an old, shapeless t-shirt.
There are women there but they are outnumbered by about 50-1. In recent years a new generation of vinyl collector in his 20s has begun to frequent these collections of winos, rhinos and lunatics. It's pleasing to see the vinyl bug is getting passed down through the generations to people who didn't even grow up with vinyl records. The passion in their eyes is the same, though, and that's always good to see.
It's a loose but familiar community. A lot of us know each other and all of the regular dealers too. The upside of record fairs is that you get to see loads of vinyl in one place and can hussle for a good deal, sometimes and you can also get to see genuinely rare items, even if you can't afford them. The downside is that your chances of picking up a rare bargain are very small. Obviously, everyone selling records for a living knows their stuff, so it's rare for anything to slip through their net and even if it does, personally, I feel morally obliged to point it out if I come across a really rare record in a cheap box. It's these guy's living and ripping them off would be very bad karma, I reckon. That being said, I do occasionally get a vaguely collectible record accidentally. Yesterday I bought a lovely clean copy of Santana's Abraxas album only to find it was a first pressing on orange CBS and thus worth £10-15 and not the £1.50 I paid. It's a small win, but a pleasure when it happens accidentally.
The joy of record collecting in this context is as much in the community elements of it as it is in finding records you want. It's a chance every couple of months to catch up with people and talk about what we've bought recently, records we've seen but can't afford and stuff we're thinking of buying. I came away with about a dozen albums - very modest by my standards - I have been known to buy over 70 in one session, but I'm trying to stop bulk buying and really go for stuff I want and will play. The problem a long-time collector like me has, of course, is that I've got so many albums now - over 4,000 - that almost everything anyone is selling, I've already got, or at least, anything I might want to buy.
Every fair I wait in vain to see a UK copy of the first two Allman Brothers Band albums, but no-one ever has them and this one was no different. Best buy? A nice later pressing of Caravan's Waterloo Lily and a clean copy of Derek and the Dominoes In Concert for £10.
I know from the outside, like any collecting community, it looks like a very odd gathering of people and of course, non-collectors like to mock, but it's a harmless passion and personally I find people who are really passionate about something to be far more interesting than those who are not, no matter what it is. Now, excuse me while I drop the needle on my new purchases.
Till next week, rock on!