I know it’s not a fashionable thing to admit to but I love buying records on the internet. Don’t get me wrong, I love proper shops even more. I love pushing open the door and entering a world dominated by records. Stacks of them, racks of them. Sodding great piles of them. I love the descriptions scrawled on white sticky labels, where ‘deep’ usually means ‘a bit boring’. I love the bargain bins and the knowledge of the guys behind the counter. I love the granny who comes in after you trying to buy a CD of Taylor Swift for one of the weans birthdays and doesn’t understand why they don’t stock it. I love the tunes hastily pulled from the shop’s PA system when it becomes clear it’s rubbish. I even love the slightly greasy, over used feel of the headphones on the listening booths. Well, maybe not so much that last one but you get the point.
I love going into Rubadub or Phonica and just wondering backwards and forwards between the various sections. I love going into one of those second-hand vinyl joints that London still has in abundance, getting a spot between all those other guys obsessively and slightly creepily flipping through the sleeves with a deftness and speed that defies physics, and finding a record I’ve always fancied buying and then buying it, knowing I’m spending three times as much on it as I would on Discogs because it’s right there in my hand and I can go home straight away and marvel at it. Yeah, I love record shops. Always have. Always will.
The internet though: it’s a whole different level of obsessive madness. In its own way record buying on the internet has restored a level of democratisation that has been lacking probably ever since the first specialist music store threw open its doors to the half-dozen nutters waiting outside in the rain to get their hands on whatever Dixieland 78 was killing it on the Saturday night dancefloor. While there will always be those guys, those DJs or ultra obsessives who get their hands on some super rare, once in a life time white label through old-fashioned bricks and mortar channels, for the rest of us the internet provides a place where anything and everything is available as long as you have the money or are quicker off the mark than the other lad. As long as you can afford the postage, that is.
For finding old records the internet has become just about the best second-hand shop in the world. For someone like me who makes it to the second-hand Mecca of London maybe once a year, Discogs has allowed me to indulge my passions like nothing else. I’m very careful with it, I admit that readily. If I added up everything in my wishlist, and took care to only tally the cheapest playable copies for sale, I imagine it would run into thousands already. It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks so I’ve already earmarked about 10 records for purchase, chief amongst them an old Koehler 12″, some absolutely banging Detroit electro and a copy of a Li’l Louis record I’ve been in love with for nearly twenty years and never, ever owned.
Tonight’s tune, Looking by Nicholas, was one that I only became aware of about a year after it’s release in 2012, long after it had disappeared from sale. I had searched those second-hand joints down south for it ever since without luck, because I’ve a weird mental tick where I’d still rather stumble upon a long wanted record in a shop and carry it triumphantly away with me. Eventually I just pulled the trigger online and played it over and over again on the day it arrived. It’s a beauty. A vocal track driven by lush chords and breakbeaty percussion that just floats above all the troubles and trials of the day. What does it for me the most, I think, is how freely old school it sounds. I can imagine the video to this being played on Top of the Pops or the Chart Show in the early nineties when the fault lines between the charts and the underground were hairline fractures rather than continental cracks.
Yep, the internet may so often prove the old adage of a fool and his money being easily parted, but when the pay off is as sublime as this, who cares? Not me, for one.