Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Record Collecting - North of the Border

Exhibitors say today's young music fans are rediscovering the sounds of the '60s and '70s on vinyl


In the late 1980s, the big record companies declared that vinyl was a dead format and compact discs were the way of the future.

Collectors, however, continue to buck the trend and prefer to listen and seek out their favourite music on the big 12-inch discs.

"A lot of people still prefer the sound and the large format artwork," says David Eisener, who runs Select Sounds, a record emporium in Bedford, N.S. "They like the format and want it on vinyl, especially the classic rock albums, because that's the way it was intended to be listened to."

Eisener is one of many exhibitors bringing loads of vinyl records to Moncton for this Saturday's Fall Record Expo. The expo, now in its seventh year, will bring together dozens of exhibitors from all over Atlantic Canada with thousands of albums and 45-rpm singles for collectors to pore over.

There will also be lots of audio gear and music-related collectibles.

The expo will run from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Main Street in Moncton. Admission is $32, or free for children under 12.

For many music collectors, the 12-inch vinyl album represents the golden age of music production when bands and record companies released elaborate fold-out covers complete with photo booklets, lyric sheets and artwork.

When record players were replaced by compact disc players, many collectors replaced their albums with CDs and their collections were scattered to the winds. The prized albums usually ended up in cardboard boxes at flea markets and yard sales for 50 cents or $1 each.

Eisener started his store in 1994, a time he says was the low end of interest in buying vinyl. But he saw business pick up after four or five years and, today, collectors of all ages are still seeking out prized copies of classic albums by such timeless performers as The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, The Eagles and U2.

The collectors are also looking for more recent vinyl copies of newer albums by bands like the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, along with the collectible rarities, limited editions and bootlegs that put vinyl into the realm of obsessive hobbies like hockey cards and comic books.

Eisener says collectors come from all ages and demographics. Surprisingly, many of the collectors are in the 15-25 age group, people who are seeking out albums that are older than they are. One of the reasons for this is that album collecting can help music lovers trace and understand the history and evolution of pop and rock music.

For example, many of today's bands say they were influenced by such '70s supergroups as Led Zeppelin. But when you dig back a bit deeper, you will find that the Zeppelin musicians drew their inspiration from many sources of blues, reggae, folk and rockabilly. Indeed, the story of rock music's evolution shifts like the tide from one side of the Atlantic to the other over time with each generation adding its own ingredients to the recipe.

Many of the collectors are people who grew up with vinyl and got rid of most of their collections years ago, but recently decided to dust off their turntable and get started again.

Eisener says collecting vinyl is reasonably cheap with most records selling in the $5 to $20 range, allowing collectors to gather together a portfolio without spending too much money. And while there are some big-money collectibles floating around, they rarely land on the counters at record stores in Atlantic Canada.

Marty LeBlanc, who runs the Live Wire record shop on Mountain Road and has been organizing the Record Expo for seven years, says some exhibitors travel to Japan and bring back imports and collectibles from around the world.

LeBlanc says record shop owners and appraisers rely on several "bibles" to determine a fair price for a true rarity or collectible.

Collectors have quite a few resources and numbers to check, to find out whether an album is actually worth a lot of money or simply a counterfeit or reissue of something more famous.

One of the most sought-after collectibles is the infamous "butcher cover" of The Beatles' Yesterday and Today album. Released in June of 1966, the album included such big hits as Yesterday, Drive My Car and Day Tripper. The cover photograph showed The Beatles dressed in white butcher smocks covered in fresh-cut meat and cradling decapitated dolls. The photo was so shocking to the industry that all copies of the album were recalled after the first day of release. The record company made up stickers with a much tamer photo of The Beatles posing in a travel trunk, and had them pasted over the offensive cover. A few of the original "butcher cover" albums survived and have been appraised at over $10,000.

LeBlanc says old Beatles, Elvis Presley and other classic rock bands are among the most popular, and people also love to collect the lunch boxes, jigsaw puzzles, toys and other marketing memorabilia that go along with the hobby.

People can also find turntables, speakers, amplifiers and needles to keep their stereo sets humming so they can enjoy their collectible albums.

"The real collectibles are like a fine wine. You have to crack it open once in a while and enjoy it," he says.

LeBlanc says all tables for the expo are sold out but people can bring parts of their own collection to sell to the exhibitors.

"Sometimes you have a gem and sometimes you don't."


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