You'd have to go a long way to find a more pathetic setting than a record fair. For years I've received notices in the mail informing me of the next fair in town, every notice thrown in the trash in an instant. Late last year I decided to visit one out of pure interest, only to see if it could be as humiliating a setting as I imagined it to be. Of course it was.
The fair was held in an obscure school hall. The first thing I noticed was the lack of cars outside the hall. This probably meant I was the only loser foolish enough to attend. Upon entering there was a fair crowd scattered around, mainly the vendors walking around due to lack of activity. The biggest insult was having to pay three dollars to enter the hall. For a good laugh it was worth it though.
The vendors were all uniformly middle aged, mid fifties, balding, long pony tail, presumeably living on the the streets if this is how they make a crust. Their merchandise consisted of dated vinyl that no doubt they assume is rare and worth bogus amounts of money. One individual was hawking cassettes. Upon inspection these tapes were really dubbed copies of real albums onto blank cassettes. This fraud was asking ten dollars for a fake copy of The Who's 'Quadrophenia'. I looked at this arrogant and smug fellow sitting behind his booth and had the urge to jump him. The vinyl was mainly relic albums from the sixties, a great deal of it country music. I overheard a customer talking with one of the vendors about an album by The Nice (a sixities progressive act), arguing light heartedly about the label and code number of the original version of a particular album. True knowledges you know? I had seen enough in ten minutes. On the way out I saw a booth administered by some ex biker reject which specialised in ancient turntables. One I observed was a late seventies Koss stereo worth in all reality about a dime. His price? Seventy five dollars.
It confirmed what I had known all along, that these aging punsters are living in the past with blinders on, not wanting to accept that any album they have can be downloaded on the internet for nothing in mere minutes. No matter how obscure. I recall the days of trawling through second hand record stores and having to buy tapes of hard to find albums for five dollars, even though the tape was twenty years old and usually was chewed up within seconds of first use. These people must have thrived on such people like myself. I realise there are vinyl collectors out there who worship the business, and more power to them, but the record store owners who preyed on them with ludicrous prices are the ones I abhore.
Twelve years ago I had to order Who album through a catalogue and wait two months to receive them. Now? I get on certain file sharing sites and own them all in seconds. A long lost album like Trigger's self titled album from 1978? At the mere typing of the name there it is. Ten years of futility and searching over in a heartbeat. Derek Oliver's International Encyclopedia Of Heavy Metal And hrad Rock has been my bible for a deacde. In that time I've read about albums I though I'd never hear. Suddenly I've heard them all nearly. Thousands of them. It's amazing. Supposedly it's illegal. But then when's a label going to release DVC's 1981 self titled album on CD? Never, that's when. So how else am I supposed to hear it? Even if it was on CD I wouldn't buy it anyway.
Overnight the quest of many a record collector has been made irrelevant. Oliver's list of the fifty hardest to find rock albums ever? Heard them all my son. Owning a piece of vinyl isn't the deal for me. Listening to the music is. Does it make me a thief if I opt to hear it for nothing? Who cares? This way I never have to visit a record store again. I can listen to a couple of songs off an album and decide that quick if I like it or not. Beats buying the album and getting ripped off. To acquire the collections I've witnessed online would take untold sums of money. Who has that? Having the power of obtaining any album at your fingertip is almost like playing God. I never figured I'd come across Private Lines 'Trouble In School' in my lifetime. I have now. And it was terrible.
As we speak there's some guy sitting folornly in his dusty second hand record store surrounded by masses of dated and unplayable records and tapes. For all the money I've blown on such damaged merchandise I say good. Consider yourself demoted to the dustbin of history.