The Hunt

The key to a good hunt is preparation. Preparation and patience. Preparation, patience and luck, a hell of a lot of luck. What awaits? Hidden basements and cramped back rooms; filled with dust. Hunching over cardboard boxes. Rummaging frantically with hopes of finding gold. Fuelled by excited thoughts, anticipation’s high. Yes, I went on a second hand record hunt. Good lord, how did I get myself here?

Rewind 24 hours, to the my Gran’s comfy flat. Amongst mugs of tea and cream cakes, the seeds of the hunt were planted. It all started with a tweet I read whilst visiting. “Best 10p I’ve ever spent!”, it was a Johnny Cash record; this put my “Kind of Blue” bought for a fiver to shame.

What had gone down was the deal of the century… “I got 30 records”. ” I’m going back tomorrow “. This was too good to be true. Alas the mythical charity shop was miles away and closing down. Maybe I could find my own treasure trove? That’s the moment when the fever kicked in.

Scouring the internet I made a list of targets to hit across the city. The sprawl of London making the mission somewhat unmanageable. Like usual I might have been be a bit too ambitious. I ended up plotting a route from Old Street through to Stoke Newington. It was virtually a straight line, hitting my marks along the way. A mixture of charity and record shops. Thick winter jacket on, chunky rucksack in hand, that crucial bottle of water and one brother to traipse from place to place with, he didn’t know what he had signed up for.

Our first stop ended up being a proper record shop, which wasn’t ideal. I think the bargains will be found at charity shops or within the smaller places. Also the shop’s primary trade was new records, which I wasn’t in the market for. It was easy to get excited here and empty my wallet, a little restraint was in order.

They did have a small collection of second hand records, which were all in pretty good condition. Reasonably priced, but no steals. I almost bought two for a tenner. They had a deal to get a third free but I couldn’t find anything that whet my appetite. I wasn’t particularly feeling the two anyway, a lesser Roxie Music record and a Randy Newman. I left feeling a bit dejected.

On to the next one. Plastered all over were signs stating “all records 20p”, had I found my nirvana? Not exactly, everything on display was as pricey as the last place. The sign eluded to the merch found in the hidden basement. “Downstairs, no bags” said the woman behind the counter.

We were greeted by a cold tight room, with stark bare walls. There was only enough space for one person to pass through at a time. A lonely soul was already scavenging. That’s when I saw red, maybe he had already taken the few good finds. I lunged towards the boxes, destined to find treasure. But no, only bitter disappointment. Eastenders Sing-Along followed by a string of unheard-ofs, this was to be the pattern of the day. Dog eared sleeves, questionable music, questionable covers, questionable condition… then, Dr John! I know him, a ping of excitement, but the record looked proper dodgy, straight from the unfortunate eighties. Is it me or were the eighties pretty cruel to some credible artists? Nonetheless, you can’t argue with 20p. First buy done, will it play though?

Record two was found in a charity shop for 99p, “Brothers in Arms”. Now this wouldn’t be the sort of thing that I would normally listen to. I think my judgement went out the window somewhat, I blame the heat of the moment. Later on I would get into a discussion about there being “good cheese and bad”. The irony of getting “Brothers in Arms” wasn’t lost on me. The album heralded the CD revolution and was one of the first digitally recorded.

Not feeling terribly excited by my discoveries, was my luck about to change? I had dreams of Bowie and Neil Young, Nina Simone and Tom Waits, Sun Ra and Costello. Simon’s patience had started to wane. I continued to feverishly rummage through endless piles of records.

Hungry, cold and tired we entered our final destination. The more desirable records were neatly presented at the front, but a chasm lay wait in the back. An avalanche of unwanted stuff, it was all a bit overwhelming, where to start? The jumble of records was totally unmanageable to sift through. For all our sakes I didn’t spend too long here, the musky smell getting to our weary heads. This is where my little gems were hiding, Dave Brubeck and Rickie Lee Jones.

Home, and I’m alive with excitement. But nervousness starts to settle in. I put on a record and start to hear a staticky mess, disappointment cuts through. Crap, does anyone have any wood glue?