In the dim and distant past, I introduced the douce readers of The Scotsman
to jazz. Or at least that is what I conned the editor into believing. In fact, I had discovered that record companies would send you free copies of long-playing records if you could show that you were going to write reviews in a newspaper or magazine. I promised a fortnightly review and the parcels started coming from Decca, EMI, Vogue, Philips, etc.
Working mainly from the sleeve notes and without any musical knowledge, my intrepid typewriter enthused about Dave Brubeck, the Modern Jazz Quintet (were they a bridge to classical music?) Charlie Parker, and even Scottish artists like Sandy Brown and Al Fairweather.
A small matter involving two years of National Service in the RAF did not cramp my style. My long-suffering mother redirected the post and parcels from Edinburgh to Norfolk, and I played the music on the camp radio station before bashing out the deathless prose in the all too many quiet moments in the office of my Air Commodore boss. As he circled the world, building a career that ended as Marshall of the Royal Air Force, I expanded the reviews from jazz to pop and musical comedy. On the surface, his achievements were impressive but he didn't have a copy of musical masterpieces like Flora the Red Menace
Eventually, my record reviewing days ended and The Scotsman
got someone who had real musical knowledge. My career lurched in different directions, while the stash of 600 or so long-playing vinyl records followed faithfully. Secretly, I was sure there was gold in them there platters...
Last week, that confidence took a thump to the solar plexus. Glasgow is graced by a real vinyl expert who travels the country feeding his renowned shop. Reluctantly, I offered him my priceless collection.
His reply was straightforward:
Thanks for the email. Many records are now worthless bar the bands which still remain credible to the customers. What remains saleable are the more obscure and cooler realms of rock, reggae, punk, jazz, psychedelica, metal etc, as well as the major collectable bands. Mainstream pop/rock/soul from the 50s-90s no longer sells, nor do unfashionable indie bands, commercial dance music and RnB, easy listening, trad, folk, 78s or almost all classical records. I'm afraid the market is totally fashion conscious; most vinyl goes to the under 30s and they won't touch what they consider uncool stuff. Sorry I can't be of any more help but we are not going to want to buy your collection.
William Saroyan wrote an essay about a man whose life was in tatters. As he imbibed neat whisky, he played his gramophone collection and ceremonially smashed each record after its final play. Briefly, the mind toyed with something similarly epic... then, nah, who would clear up the mess? So the rubbish tip beckons... unless I can convert my vinyl, not into cash, but gas.
If you would like to contribute to the Cafe, please email your comments to email@example.com