Category Archives: Got it for a fiver

Red is the new black

Friday saw me going on my first british road trip ever. I went with Ross and Jimmy to Reading, just an hour drive from London, to have a look at the Reading International Mammoth Fair, which is nothing but a medium-size gathering of loonies obsessed with records, DVDs and CDs. We got there around 11am and spent the next 3 hours browsing through hundreds of thousands of vinyls, most of them priced quite reasonably. This time around, I got one of my all-time favourite records: The Stone Roses’ homonymous album, on red vinyl, which I’ve been playing since I got home. It’s a beauty.

I also got my favourite Led Zeppelin record (Led Zeppelin II) as a present from Jimmy, which was really nice of him. It’s a mexican copy, also on red vinyl, and although he didn’t sign it or anything (I rarely ask for autographs or pictures), it still means a lot simply because it was a gift from the man himself. When he was buying it, I remember thinking: “wait a minute, did Jimmy Page just treat me with a Led Zeppelin record? Sweet”.

After the fair, we went to Jimmy’s house to sort out the records we have bought (they were all mixed up in different bags) and it was there where I found sitting on a big shelf, along with other stuff, a glow-in-the-dark figure of José Gregorio Hernández. I was a bit shocked. I asked Jimmy if he knew who the guy was but he didn’t. He couldn’t even remember where he had gotten it, which is totally acceptable (I’m not even half his age and have already forgotten my debit card pin number, twice). I explained him that José Gregorio Hernández had been a Venezuelan physician who went to reach legendary status after his death due to people claiming to have been granted miracles after praying to him. I think Jimmy was quite surprised, maybe as much as I was to find that little figure in his house, on a Good Friday. It was a strange moment.

Anyway, we bid him goodbye and drove back to London listening to an amazing Pink Floyd record which name I can’t remember (for a change), I only know it featured live recordings from a show they did in Birmingham, back in 1969. I will ask Ross and post an update here, just in case you’re interested.

Meanwhile, the housemates are cooking lunch, my nose is running again (spring flu has arrived) and this red circle placidly spins in my room, filling the air with killer riffs and powerful beats that remind me why I fell in love with the mighty Zep in the first place.

Happy Easter, everybody.

Weekend Warrior (not quite)

After spending the last couple of months or so in what it could be described as a social Antarctica, I decided to take the weekend off to clear my head and on Friday I met Ross, Jimmy and Brian for a record-shopping afternoon at Spitalfields Market. It’s always interesting to see people’s reaction when they find themselves orbiting around Jimmy, especially in a music-driven environment, like a record fair, where people have a hard time controlling their emotions and get carried away by the excitement of crossing paths with a living legend. I kind of understand them because I’ve experienced that feeling myself; it’s exciting to meet someone you admire, I know that, but in all fairness, some people are just fuckin’ weird.

That day, for example, as we were walking around the market looking for records, a +50 year old guy came to him and gave him a very nice poster, as a present, which is absolutely fine. People do that, it’s a cool gesture and I’m sure he really appreciates that kind of stuff; the problem begins when they start to overstate their gratefulness towards his legacy: “Jimmy, I just wanted to say thank you for everything. Really mate, you don’t know how much it means to me. You have given me so much pleasure during all these years… the riffs, the music, the passion… please, accept this, bla bla bla…”. He looked nervous, his eyes shined as the surface of a mountain lake and he couldn’t stop shaking Jimmy’s hand, who kindly thanked him for the present and tried to keep on going with his things. Only that the guy wouldn’t let him. He went on and on and on and on, to the point in which I actually started to feel sorry for the old fart. It was awkward. Eventually, the man realized he was making the fool out of himself and finally stopped for good. You have given me so much pleasure… give me a break.

Not long after, Ross and I were browsing through some records when the guy who was selling them, another sixty-something years old man, came to us and said he had sent Jimmy a tweet the other day but never got a reply. He was very disappointed and somehow annoyed by the fact that Jimmy never got back to him. Ross explained him that Jimmy didn’t have a personal Twitter account but the man just couldn’t believe it. “Yes, he’s on Twitter. I follow him!”, he argued, “I know because it has a picture of him and everything. It has to be him, right?”. Eh, no, he isn’t. “It can’t be! How can somebody pretend to be Jimmy Page when he isn’t? They shouldn’t allow this, you know?”. Aw, how adorable. What kind of reckless creature dare to use the benevolent powers of the Internet to deceitfully pretend to be somebody they’re not!? Pfff! Clearly, chat rooms where not around when this bloke was a teenager.

Anyway, around 2pm, we went for a coffee at a nearby Costa and then hit the Tube to go to JB’s Records, near Tottenham Court Road. Now, this bit of the day was particularly interesting because I think Jimmy hadn’t been in the Tube since the 1960’s or something; I actually never thought I would see him riding the Underground but he did, and it was great to hear his stories of being a young session musician, running around in the Tube with his guitar and his amp. “They didn’t like you taking so much room with your gear”, he told me as we walked through the tunnels at Liverpool Street station. It was a nice thing to behold.

While we were at JB’s, I found in the “Less than 5 pounds” box a decent copy of Black Sabbath’s “Sabotage”, which Ross kindly bought for me. It sounds great. I want to come back next weekend to see if I can get a copy of Led Zeppelin’s last rehearsal before the reunion show at the O2 in 2007. Jimmy told me it was fantastic, and you know what, if the man himself says it’s worth getting, I’ll get it. Period.

I left Ross, Brian and Jimmy buying records and headed back home to indulge myself in a pleasurable power nap, which went a little bit over the intended lenght. I didn’t care, though. It was Friday night and I was planning to stay home doing what I do best: procastinate online. On saturday I went to this amazing place I recently discovered, it’s now one of my favourite coffeeshops in London: it’s called “Highness” and it kicks some serious arse. The place is small and cozy, they play some tasteful jazz, the staff is incredible friendly and the cakes are just amazing. If you are ever around Highbury & Islington, pop by, I’m sure you’ll be back for more.

Saturday afternoon went by without much action, basically because I was saving some energy for a St. Patrick’s night out planned by my housemates. For some reason, we rarely go out all together so we thought the Irish revelry would be a nice excuse to make up for lost time. We bought some cheap beers in a nearby Off License, took a bus to the very hispter distric of Hoxton, and got into a place which name I can’t remember. It’s in Hoxton Square and it’s bigger than it looks on the outside, that’s all I can tell. Came out of the place at 3am, took a cab home and the next morning I woke up at 11am, had some coffee and joined the St. Patrick’s parade with some of my classmates. It was fun. We walked all the way from Green Park to Trafalgar Square, where hundreds of people in funny hats and fake beards were cheerfully sipping from their Guinness pints.

I did too, of course. I reckoned the best way to fight back the hangover I had was to pour several beers down my throat so I hit the bar as soon as we arrived to the square and watched a guy improvising onstage a rap song, which lyrics included the words “lesbian” and “penis” (many many times), in front of several dozens of kids, some of them looking quite awkward and others laughing like kids do when they hear grown ups saying “bad words”. It was quite a funny episode.

All in all, a well deserved break from all the madness and shit that has been going on lately. It still does, actually, but that’s another story.

I (heart) motorboating

There’s something about vinyl records that I have learnt to appreciate over last few months, particularly by working with Ross. His amazing collection, which he has passionately put together over the years buying rare issues all over the world, features a wide range of releases, some of them quite popular and easy to find and others very unique items any decent collector would kill for. There are thousands of them; all sizes, colours and shapes, carefully archived all over his house. Some of them even remain unopened, perfectly sealed, just as he bought them years ago. True collectors know what I’m talking about.

Looking back, it’s quite interesting that thanks to his quenchless passion for records is that I actually got to meet him in the first place, 11 years ago. He was shooting Iron Maiden on his Brave New World Tour and happened to be with them in Buenos Aires, the city I decided to lose my Iron Maiden virginity in, back in January 2001. Some of my argentinian friends were inside the hotel the band was staying at, so I went in too and after meeting the whole band in a corridor (long story I might write something about in the future), I ran into Ross, whom I must confess I didn’t know much about at the time. I just knew he was the guy behind all those classic Iron Maiden pictures I was so familiar with. Actually, I remember carrying with me a rock magazine that day, some Iron Maiden special edition issue packed with his photographs, so after hesitating for a bit I finally asked him if it would be much of a problem to sign it for me. He did without perspiring a single drop of ego and after chatting for a while, he asked me if I knew where to buy vinyl records in town.

I asked my local friends and they said we were not too far from a very popular record shop, so we agreed to take him. We walked for half and hour and when we finally got to the place, Ross started sweating like crazy. His face went white and if you looked carefully, you could have seen his body shaking a bit. I asked him if he was alright, he replied: “I need to go back to the hotel! Now!” What? I didn’t understand. Why would he want to go back to the hotel if we had just walked for 30 minutes to get to the bloody shop? “I’m shitting my pants”, he said, “I need you to get me in a cab back to my hotel. Seriously”. I felt like laughing but at the same time, I could relate with that feeling of desperation you get when your body gives you the chills as a warning of what is to come if you don’t hurry the fuck up and find a toilet right away. I’ve experienced many times in the past and it totally sucks balls.

I rushed out of the shop, stopped a cab, got him in and told the driver: “You better get this man to the Sheraton Hotel as fast as you can, otherwise you’ll have a very hard time cleaning your back seat”. He understood perfectly. Later on that day, I met with Ross again and man, he looked relieved. He told me he has just been to Mexico and the food they have had there now had everyone in the band and crew making fluky visits to the toilet. We laughed about the episode (we still do) and at the end he gave me his card, to keep in touch. And we did. Eventually I moved to London, we became friends and I ended up working with him, managing his Facebook page and helping him sort out his archive for his new website soon to be launched. At some point, he asked me to come up with ideas for the FB page and I suggested we should put up pictures of his record collection, as I’ve always thought it’s material worth sharing. He has so many cool records, with amazing covers and inner sleeves, that as a fan it would be just great to have a look at these things, not to mention the fact that inevitably one would end up discovering music and albums that otherwise would be very difficult to come across with.

In the process, I kind of understood what’s really exciting about vinyl beyond the “it sounds better than digital” bollocks. True, it certainly has a distinctive sound but I think that’s partly because the music featured in all those classic records has unique sound of its own anyway; it was produced and recorded differently so anything that has been produced and recorded afterwards, when digital took over, will always feel like it’s missing that characteristic signature. Put simple: if you play me an Arctic Monkeys record on CD and then you take me to another room and play me the same record on vinyl, my uneducated ear probably won’t sense a major difference. Anyway, my point is that you don’t collect records only because of their particular sound, it’s also because of what they embody as a creative form of expression, that most of the times seems to go beyond music itself. This is about the artist that made the cover, about the people who printed it, about the crafting of the packaging and the shape and colour of the vinyl, about the company that made it available to an audience, about what it represented at a given time in history. It’s that complex.

That’s why I’m so excited about my new turntable, the one I’ve got from Fran last week while I was in Madrid. It’s a Vestax Handy Track portable turntable, similar to one I’ve been quite obssesed with since last summer when I saw this 40-year old guy in a park, pouring a glass of wine for his beautiful lady, and then playing an Otis Redding record on his portable turntable while they both enjoyed the unusual british sun on a saturday picnic afternoon. I remember walking past them and standing there for a moment, thinking: “this absolutely fantastic. This guy really gets it”. Seven months after, here I am, with my own portable turntable. I’m only missing the beautiful girl and the sun, but hey, it’s a beginning. Sooner or later they will both get here. In the meantime, I’ve decided to start collecting records, cheap ones to be more precise. That’s right, I have set myself the challenge to find nice vinyls for less than 5 pounds, and let me tell you, I’m doing pretty good so far. Last week I went to JB’s Records, a place I’ve been to with Ross a couple of times in the past, and got myself this beauty…

Five pounds, can you believe it? It was in the sale basket, outnumbered by a bunch of  Status Quo albums, waiting for me to come to the rescue. It’s a fantastic record, better than most indie and pop albums out there, although I must say it goes by pretty quick. I need to get use to that. I played it yesterday for the fourth time since I bought it and there’s this one track I keep coming back to, over and over again: the classic “Got My Mojo Working” by the legendary Muddy Waters, which I actually been singing nonstop ever since. It’s just contagious. The rhythm, the melody, the cheerfulness of the piano… it makes you stop doing whatever you’re doing and start dancing. However, what I REALLY like about this tune is – as a brilliant mind rightly described it to me yesterday – Muddy’s motorboating. You know, that part in which he goes: “I got my bbblllrrrbbblllrrrbblrrrbrrrblrrrrr working”. I just can’t stop mimicking it, it’s loads of fun, particularly when cooking breakfast. Try it, you’ll love it.

I also got AC/DC’s “For Those About To Rock” for 8 pounds and although it’s not my favourite AC/DC record, it still has good songs in it and was fairly cheap so I took advantage of the portable turntable euphoria and put in the bag, too. It felt good. I’ve been thinking about it and realized that, somehow, this was something I always wanted to do. Every time I bumped into a record shop, I would always step inside and wander around, browsing through records I knew I wouldn’t buy, just because I was interested in looking at the artworks and the materials they were made of, at the shapes and the colours of the vinyls, at the posters and stickers that came inside; I wanted to feel what it was like to be a collector even if it was for a few moment, I was intrigued by this whole culture even though I knew I wasn’t part of it. I never knew exactly how it felt like until I bought these two records, the first ones of my collection, one I’m starting at age 31 in a city that breathes music of all sorts. I will take the weekends to drift around London hunting for nice records but I will try to be realistic and adjust my new-found hobby to my possibilities, there’s no room for foolish obsessions here. The rules are simple: I will always buy records I’m familiar with or that I suspect I might like (buying stuff just for the sake of it will be totally unacceptable) and I must get it for a fiver.

Now, if you excuse me, I have some dancing to do…