Record Store Day, the annual celebration of musical discs, has a big red star by it on the markontour calendar. So I bounced out of bed this morning and listened to Mary Anne Hobbs read out tweeted dispatches from the early morning queues outside Britain's remaining vinyl emporiums, while compiling a wishlist of the special releases about to go on sale.
I'm not really a record collector as such, in that I am not tremendously interested in rarity or the financial value of a record, but I do love record shops, mostly for the joy of being introduced to a new band by a passionate fan (record shop assistant). Or thumbing through boxes of endless 1980s pop tat, only to find something I'd never heard of by an artist I already love.
'Pleasures of the Harbour' by Phil Ochs, which I discovered today in Soul Jazz Records, falls firmly into the latter category. I got into Ochs in my early twenties via a recommendation from someone on an anti-Iraq war demonstration. Ochs, an original troubador, made his name in the sixties with passionate, biting anti-Vietnam war songs. He was best mates with Bob Dylan until the latter gave up protest singing. I can't find a date on this record, but it seems to have come from a later period in Ochs' short life and following some time off in Europe. The sleeve notes explain “I've been away for a while but I hope to be back again soon.. From the pubs of London to the hills of Edinburgh, a jealous journey on the ecstasy side of tragedy.. Ah but in such an ugly time the true protest is beauty.. Oh I have been away for a while and I hope to be back again soon.”
A street away, upstairs at the tiny If Records while my mate was purchasing some very pricey jazz, I discovered The Black Hippies' eponymous 1977 debut. From a quick, astonished listen on the shop's decks, I gleaned that this is a heavy piece of Afro-rock, with pulsating bass lines. The accompanying blurb promises that it will make “dance floors erupt into displays of uninhibited frenzy”!
Then in Hoxton's Love Vinyl (pictured above), after enjoying a live set from Pete Josef, I found a real gem – Woody Guthries' 'Poor Boy' – a retrospective of the output of the great dust-bowl balladeer's final decade. The wonderful sleeve notes find Guthrie defending the enduring value of folk music and describing his own compositional methods: “I've made up scaddles and oodles of songs, ballads, about fires, floods, droughts, stabbings, rapings, killings, robbings, fist-fights, gaming gamblers, riverboat rustlers, outlaws, inlaws, bad men, bad girls, wrecks of trains, cars, planes, ships, terrible accidents, political rally songs, songs of protest, trade union songs, ballads to tell you how racial hate's done got another good man and gone, sugarloaf jumps to tell you how pretty you dive and swim, to tell you how I love you, hate you, need you, and can't stand you. I mix up old tunes; I wheel them and I deal them; and I shuffle them out across my barking board; I use half of two tunes, one third of three tunes, one tenth of ten tunes. I always save back my notes and words left over and pound them out to poke fun at the democrats and the republicans and these Wall Street ramblers.” I can't wait to listen.
But none of the above were Record Store Day releases themselves, just the beneficial collateral of four hours in record shops. The actual special release haul includes a Roots Manuva EP, on which the B-side offers instrumental versions of the A-tunes; a Norman Cook remix of The Charlatan's 'Trouble Understanding'; the recently passed Howard Marks poignantly reading Dylan Thomas' 'Do Not Go Gentle'; a Matthew E. White / Natalie Prass duet; and The Fall's 'Bingo Master Break Out!'. Plus I picked up a 45rpm reiussue of 'Wichita Lineman', featuring a very uncool looking Glen Campbell staring out from the cover in his white turtle-neck and suit.
I have no idea when I will get time near a turntable to enjoy them all. True to name, markontour is currently on a train and will shortly be flying off to New York. But that just means there will be a second round of discovery pleasure when I return home. Thank you Record Store Day for keeping vinyl shopping alive!