Saturday, August 11, 2012

Serendipity Crate Digging in Rotovegas

I have a moderately successful suit & tie, corporate/office/sales job. I’m good at what I do and what I do, whilst not the kind of artistic endeavour that would please a yoghurt-weaving, unshaven-legged upper middle-class world-music loving hippie trustafarian, is creative enough for me not to want to put a shotgun in my mouth on a (too) regular basis.

My job requires me to travel fairly regularly, which this week has taken me to New Zealand’s smelliest city ( Rotorua.

Despite being situated in the middle of some of the lushest, most beautiful native bush and having a variety of tourist themed activities, my snapshot review of Rotorua is that it’s a pretty depressing place.

Additionally, as per the above link: it smells like farts.

Much of my time in Rotorua was spent minding a conference trade-stand and networking with clients. However, the programme finished mid-afternoon on a Friday and allowed me to take a good walk around the city looking for a record shop.

I walked, and walked, and walked, and walked, and Rotorua isn’t that big.

In addition to records, I’m also a fan of art deco era home furnishings and spread my search, going into many op shop/clearance stores and found literally nothing of note (or indeed value).

So depressed was I by my inability to find a decent record shop in a location that is considered to be a regional hub, that I resorted to going into a Marbecks (, which was advertising a closing-down sale.

Now, I don’t discuss my CD purchases on this blog (as, for brevities sake, I don’t actually discuss all of my vinyl purchases), however, suffice to say: whilst there are slim pickings on the vinyl front in NZ second hand stores, the hordes are currently abandoning the CD format with, well, abandon*. Therefore, I tend to buy quite a lot.

(* So what happens if a particularly computer virus wipes everyone’s hard-drives and music collections and they no longer own physical formats?)

Marbecks is one of those stores that really demonstrates how awful shops selling CD’s became. (I hesitate from calling them ‘record shops’ because of how differently I regard those emporiums).

They are a high-street franchise discount CD & DVD outlet operating on the “stack ‘em high, sell ‘em low” retail ethos. They have a narrow range of usually terrible, commercially successful mainstream rock music and absolutely no atmosphere whatsoever. I wouldn’t usually frequent such a hovel and it’s a mark of how badly I was scraping the bottom of the barrel in going in there in the first place.

But I’m an addict, so with little else around, I looked for my fix in what in FMCG terms is called a “shit bin”, here advertised as the ‘3 CD’s for $10’ section.

It took a fair bit of digging but I located three titles that I’m actually looking forward to listening to:

Various Artists ‘Classic Classic’, a label retrospective of Derrick Carter’s Classic Records house imprint, which features DJ Sneaks, ‘You Can’t Hide From Your Bud’ (one of my top 10 house tunes, ever).

React Records ‘Dope On Plastic’ compilation of “the point where HipHop and Jazz collide”, which I’ve heard of but haven’t ever owned. (On reading the liner notes, I see it was compiled by John Stapleton, who promoted nights at a club that I used to work at).

Lo-Fidelity Allstars ‘How To Operate With A Blown Mind’ album, which I loved when it came out but haven’t listened to since about 1999. I loved big beat ( at the time, which is probably rather uncool to admit now. The Wrekked Train (Lo-Fi’s vocalist) thanks ‘paste’ (i.e. very wet base amphetamine) in the album liner notes. That’s very nineties.

I did also notice a copy of Whiskeytown’s ‘Strangers Almanac’, which had a different back cover to the many CD version’s that I’ve bought over the years but with no front cover/sleeve, which I decided not to purchase (despite it being one of my most loved and certainly most purchased album).

As a last resort in my Rotorua vinyl search – I found a Cash Convertors (, which is a pretty depressing store.

What’s more depressing than a Cash Convertors is a Cash Convertors in Rotorua. What’s even more depressing than that is a Cash Convertors in Rotorua on a Friday afternoon: no queue to buy anything but a big cue to sell things (or release money from something you’ve got on sale and even further devalue it).

Anyways, the upshot is that, amongst the pre-requisite Mantovani & musical soundtracks – that they did have a couple of things worth buying – and for the princely sum of $5.50, I walked away with a few passable purchases.

Rod Stewart ‘Atlantic Crossing’ LP (cheesy, I know – but it’s got Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn ( and Steve Cropper ( on it).

Bill Cosby ‘More Best Of Bill Cosby” LP, which is a rather more exciting proposition and again, appears to be unplayed.

On the 7” front, I came away with some poptastic selections which are in very good nick. A blue label version of ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell (which I already have on 7” with a black Mercury label), a few of what I assume are disco tunes (‘I Pledge My Love’ by Peaches & Herb on Polydor, ‘I’ve Never Been To Me’ by Charlene on Motown and ‘Words’ by Carrere) and lastly and most interestingly, a copy of ‘Come On Eileen’ which is credited to “Dexys Midnight Runners and The Emerald Express”. 

I’m aware of the story that Kevin Rowland heavily plagiarised the song from a demo by former Dexys guitarist Kevin "Al" Archer, but wasn’t aware of a shared credit on any release. I am as such intrigued and will learn more.

With slim pickings in Cash Convertors and no other record shop location forthcoming, I started to regret my decision to leave the Whiskeytown CD with the “funny cover” in the Marbecks closing down sale.

After more aimless wandering, I walked back to my hotel by way of Marbecks, to pick up the Whiskeytown CD with a funny back cover. I thought that as the store was closing and the CD didn’t have a front cover – I’d offer them a couple of dollars, rather than the five that they wanted.

There’s a moral in the next bit somewhere.

So, I turn up and find the Whiskeytown CD and read the back cover more carefully. It’s not missing the front cover – it’s never had one. It’s a pre-release promo and as such, it belongs in my collection next to the release version CD, the deluxe version boxset and the vinyl reissue. Boom.

Due to its provenance, I’m more than happy to pay the princely sum of $5.00 for it.

I go to pay for the CD and put my vinyl down on the counter as I punch in my card number. The lady behind the counter comments on it and I explain that I purchase vinyl over CD’s where possible. She asks if I’ve noticed the box of 45’s at the back of the store, under the CD racks.

I say, “No”. 

She says , “Have a look and I’ll get out a box of LP’s we’ve got out the back”.

Now, I’d like to say that I go over to the back of the store and find a load of mint Northern Soul 7”s or some original acetates of Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry dubs, but that’s simply not the case.

However, I find a mixture of unsold pop 7”s from the eighties (many without covers, many covered in dust and grit) and a load of tunes that have either come out of a jukebox, or a wedding/barmitzva’s/anything type DJ’s box, also from the eighties. It was therefore still a bit of a haul.

The lady appears from the back room with her “box of LP’s” (most of which are actually 12” singles), which are in even more sand/dust/pigeon shit/etc. covered state.

So, I rummage through and come out with the following:

Gwen Guthrie ‘Ticket To Ride’ LP. New, unplayed, produced by Sly Dunbar & Robbie Shakespeare with four of the tracks having been remixed by Larry Levan. I already have Guthrie’s ‘Ain’t Nothing Going On But The Rent’ single (which is produced by Larry Levan) on both 7” and 12”.

The Crime Fighters ‘Bat Attack’ 12” Single. Having no idea what this was but spying the bonus beats on side two, I purchased as a mix tool. It’s turned out to be a novelty Batman sampling pop tune (which clearly flopped) but might hold some sampling opportunities.

Jellybean feat. Richard Derbyshire ‘Coming Back For More’ 12” Single. Don’t know what this is, but it’s Jellybean Benitez, so again may hold sampling opportunities.

Dino ‘Summergirls’ 12” Single. Again, don’t know this but bought it cos it’s on 4th & Broadway (Island Records hip-hop subsidiary).

Onto the 7”s – these are mint, unplayed new old stock:

Inner City ‘Do You Love What You Feel’. I love Kevin Saunderson and already have the LP (‘Paradise’) that this is off.

New Order ‘Fine Time’ and ‘Touched By The Hand Of God’. I don’t know either track by name but love New Order and Peter Saville’s covers. Happy with that.

Chaka Khan ‘I’m Every Woman’. I already have the original on 12” but this is a remix.

U2 ‘All I Want Is You’. Not a massive U2 fan but loved the ‘Rattle & Hum’ concert film. (I’m a big fan of moody black & white, so it’s not a big surprise). Apart from the interlude where they watch a blues singer playing on a street corner, this is the best tune off of it.

Madonna ‘Papa Don’t Preach’. Not a fan of the A-Side, but the B-Side “Pretender” is produced by Niles Rodgers and as such, worth buying.

Bobby Brown ‘Rock Wit’Cha’. Worth a punt, right? It’s co-produced by LA Reid & Babyface!

The Pet Shop Boys ‘Always On My Mind’. The original is actually one of my favourite Elvis tunes. Great two piece sleeve on this.

Fairground Attraction ‘Perfect’. Okay, not a great tune in my opinion but a real catchy one. Besides, every good DJ should keep a box of wedding favourites just in case).

Fleetwood Mac ‘Little Lies’. As above.

Deacon Blue ‘Real Gone Kid’. Ahem. As above.

The Cult ‘Fire Woman’. It’s from much, much later, but I’ve been hammering, ‘Witch’ by The Cult on my iPod recently. My sister has the 7” of ‘Sweet Soul Sister’ off the same album, which shares a sleeve art theme with the ‘Sonic Temple’ LP that they’re both taken off. I’ve not really got a lot of rock music on 7”, so might put together a little collection.

Def Leppard ‘Rocket’. If I do, this will form the centre piece of that collection. Bewilderingly, rather than another Def Leppard tune, the B-Side is a drunken sounding version of smaltzy Engelbert Humperdinck favourite, ‘Release Me’ by someone called “Stompus Maximus And The Good Ol’ Boys”. Having done some research, it’s apparently Def Leppard’s guitar tech singing (badly) with the band backing him up and worryingly is regarded as a bit of a classic by fans.

Yello ‘The Race’. Yes, it’s not nearly as good as ‘Bostich’, which is a belter of a tune, but a bit of a cheesy Ferris Bueller-reminiscent treat.

The Christians ‘Harvest For The World’. Not a patch on the Isley Brothers tune but has a cover of ‘Small Axe’ by Bob Marley on the B (the story behind which was discussed on the Bob Marley documentary I saw the other weekend).

The Mary Jane Girls ‘Walk Like A Man’. Don’t know what this is, but I assume it’s a Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons cover. It’s produced by Rick James and is on Motown, so it’s not going to be that terrible, surely?

Kate Bush ‘This Woman’s Work’. My girlfriends favourite song by her favourite artist. (Don’t like my chances of hanging onto this one long term).

Now, they were all new, but there was some tunes which were clearly in someone’s box for at least a small while which I took away too:

‘Solid’ by Ashford & Simpson. (Y’know what I said about the wedding records box? This is a tune.)

Before I talk about the last one (which was one of those, “YES!” moments for a record collector); I’m going to say that the lady in the shop asked me for $20 for the lot. I gave her $25. I have some conscience.

The last tune is clearly the pick of the bunch. (Although I’m totally stoked about the proposition of Gwen Guthrie, produced by Sly & Robbie and then remixed by Larry Levan).

Whilst it’s not in perfect condition, serendipity has brought me a 1980 7” copy of ‘The Breaks' by Kurtis Blow. 


Serendipity wanted me to go back for that Whiskeytown CD.

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