Vinyl Tales: Meeting the people behind the record collections – May 2018

It takes a certain type of person to be a record collector. It is someone who loves music, but wants more from it, to feel it, to touch it, and full immerse themselves in the experience. In our new feature, Vinyl Tales, we will be meeting the people behind some of the best record collections out there.

This month we have Sharon Mitchell from Kent, who spent many hours searching local record shops around the Dartford area. Her collection expanded over the years, finding gems in a number of places from Camden to California, including plenty of rare Green Day titles.

Firstly, when did you start collecting records, and why?

I remember music being a huge thing in my grandparents’ house in Margate, where I would spend every school holiday. As well as always having the radio on, Nan put 6d aside each week at the local record shop, buying pop singles by Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, Elvis, and American crooners like Pat Boone to play on her old red Dansette record player. She was responsible for my fifth birthday present in May 1964 – a copy of a Beatles album. which actually ended up in my parents’ collection.

In my early teens, I started getting pocket money, and I saved all I could to spend almost exclusively on records. I had a crush on David Cassidy, so his music was always the first on the list to buy, but I was discovering American bands like Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Simon and Garfunkel. I bought singles regularly, most albums meant waiting for a week or two to have enough money, but some, like ELO’s Three Light Years boxed set, which took me a while to save for.

What was the first record you bought, and is there a story behind it?

The first album I remember buying was a Top of the Pops compilation in the local Woolworths. It seemed such a bargain, so much cheaper than buying a dozen assorted singles, and I didn’t have to keep getting up to change tracks every two minutes, forty seconds. I filled the gaps in my Beatles discography, and added music from T Rex, Bowie and 10 CC, and of course, like almost every other teenage girl, Michael Jackson, but the 80s and early 90s didn’t produce a lot of music that appealed to me.

What is the most you have ever paid for a record, and how did you acquire it?

The most I ever paid for a record was £250 for a single. In 1994, I was captivated by the energy and excitement of Green Day, and by 2001, I had their entire back catalogue. After American Idiot blew the world apart in 2004, I joined a few fan sites and started to learn about the band’s history. One of the first things I read about was that Billie Joe had recorded a song, Look For Love, when he was five, written by his music teacher, and backed with a pretty prophetic interview about his musical aspirations. Part of that interview is sampled at the beginning of the track Maria on International Superhits. The record was marketed through Fiat Records in Pinole, California, and there were only ever 80 copies pressed. After the American Idiot hype died down, the band were not to release another album until May 2009, and Green Day memorabilia started to flood sales sites.

On the rare occasions that Look for Love would appear, it was very expensive, often in excess of $1,000, and almost always in an auction. I stopped looking for it, but one was pointed out to me in December 2008, a ‘buy now’ at $500, which at the time equated to around £250. It came with the original sheet music, featuring a photograph of five year old Billie in a Look For Love t-shirt, and when it arrived, I realised the sender must have been a school friend, because his address was in the same road where Billie grew up. I later found out that the seller’s brother still works for the band, reconditioning and repairing their amps. It was the first vinyl record I had bought in over ten years, since CDs became the most common way of buying music.

In 2011, I visited California, and we met that music teacher, Louisa Fiatarone. She still has that t-shirt and a few copies of the sheet music, although the record itself sold out many years ago. .

What would you consider to be the most cherished item in your collection? (not necessarily most valuable)

Look For Love is pretty special, but I have a few cherished items. Green Day’s first releases, the 1000 Hours, and Slappy EPs were issued in very limited numbers, and with different sleeves or vinyl colours, and I have been able to acquire most of the permutations. I also got my hands on every one of the original pressings and limited editions of all Green Day vinyl pressed to date. But this one band has introduced me to a load more, mostly from the East Bay punk scene, and I have a growing collection of singles and albums from bands such as Operation Ivy, Crimpshrine, Monsula and Fifteen. Many of these are live recordings made within the hallowed walls of 924 Gilman Street, and I have been lucky enough to meet a few of the musicians who cut their teeth in this iconic venue. A favourite is Op Ivy Do The Ramones, which was issued in three colours, red, white and blue, with a run of 100 of each. I picked that up in a record store in Berkeley, then fretted about getting it home to the UK in one piece. I also have a few compilation albums, such as The Big One, and Make The Collector Nerd Sweat, a glorious fusion of the music and fanzine cultures, each of these issued in very limited numbers on independent record labels.

What do you find is most appropriate way to store the collection?

Most of my collection is slotted onto a shelf, but the Green Day and related side project records are all stored in aluminium flight cases. They are safe, and easily accessible when collector friends visit and want to see my treasures. Like my CD stash, they are in alphabetical, and then chronological order because there are so many of them.

What are you still looking for to complete your collection? Do you have a ‘holy grail’ record you just have to track down?

At the moment, I don’t think I have anything missing from my collection, although there is always something out there to surprise me. Having said that, when we take our annual break in California, and I see any Gilman band in a second hand store, I pounce on it. Similarly, I have a favourite shop in Camden, and the owner spent a few years in Oakland, and will always point out something that may be of interest to me.

What advice would you give to those just starting to build their collections?

Condition is everything. Vinyl is so easily damaged, and needs careful storage and handling, but it is so worth it. Make sure any inserts/lyric sheets/extras are included if buying second hand, and beware of the too good to be true bargain. Warners reissued all Green Day albums in 2009 on the Reprise label, and these were clearly stickered on the cellophane to show that fact, but I have seen these reissues being sold as originals – a tiny issue date is the only clue if the cellophane has been removed. The first two albums, 39/Smooth and Kerplunk, included facsimiles of the 1000 Hours, Slappy and Sweet Children EPs which were only previously issued on Skene and Lookout record labels. Around the same time, Warners created a boxed set of singles, and the same three EPs appeared in that. If the label or sleeve displays the Reprise logo, it’s not an original, but it isn’t always clear to the unsuspecting buyer.

What do you see for the future of vinyl? Do you think it will continue to grow following the resurgence of the last few years?

I have been delighted to see more modern music being issued o vinyl, either at the time of release or retrospectively as a special edition. More and more of my friends are discovering the purity of sound which only comes from an uncompressed recording, as well as the beauty of picture discs and coloured editions which can form the basis of a collection, rathe than just a one-off purchase. All of the modern vinyl that I have bought in recent years is limited, and they sell out very quickly, which has to be good nes for the format.

Firstly, when did you start collecting records, and why?

I remember music being a huge thing in my grandparents’ house in Margate, where I would spend every school holiday. As well as always having the radio on, Nan put 6d aside each week at the local record shop, buying pop singles by Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, Elvis, and American crooners like Pat Boone to play on her old red Dansette record player. She was responsible for my fifth birthday present in May 1964 – a copy of a Beatles album. which actually ended up in my parents’ collection.

In my early teens, I started getting pocket money, and I saved all I could to spend almost exclusively on records. I had a crush on David Cassidy, so his music was always the first on the list to buy, but I was discovering American bands like Crosby, Stills and Nash, and Simon and Garfunkel. I bought singles regularly, most albums meant waiting for a week or two to have enough money, but some, like ELO’s Three Light Years boxed set, which took me a while to save for.

What was the first record you bought, and is there a story behind it?

The first album I remember buying was a Top of the Pops compilation in the local Woolworths. It seemed such a bargain, so much cheaper than buying a dozen assorted singles, and I didn’t have to keep getting up to change tracks every two minutes, forty seconds. I filled the gaps in my Beatles discography, and added music from T Rex, Bowie and 10 CC, and of course, like almost every other teenage girl, Michael Jackson, but the 80s and early 90s didn’t produce a lot of music that appealed to me.

What is the most you have ever paid for a record, and how did you acquire it?

The most I ever paid for a record was £250 for a single. In 1994, I was captivated by the energy and excitement of Green Day, and by 2001, I had their entire back catalogue. After American Idiot blew the world apart in 2004, I joined a few fan sites and started to learn about the band’s history. One of the first things I read about was that Billie Joe had recorded a song, Look For Love, when he was five, written by his music teacher, and backed with a pretty prophetic interview about his musical aspirations. Part of that interview is sampled at the beginning of the track Maria on International Superhits. The record was marketed through Fiat Records in Pinole, California, and there were only ever 80 copies pressed. After the American Idiot hype died down, the band were not to release another album until May 2009, and Green Day memorabilia started to flood sales sites. On the rare occasions that Look for Love would appear, it was very expensive, often in excess of $1,000, and almost always in an auction. I stopped looking for it, but one was pointed out to me in December 2008, a ‘buy now’ at $500, which at the time equated to around £250. It came with the original sheet music, featuring a photograph of five year old Billie in a Look For Love t-shirt, and when it arrived, I realised the sender must have been a schoolfriend, because his address was in the same road where Billie grew up. I later found out that the seller’s brother still works for the band, reconditioning and repairing their amps. It was the first vinyl record I had bought in over ten years, since CDs became the most common way of buying music.

In 2011, I visited California, and we met that music teacher, Louisa Fiatarone. She still has that t-shirt and a few copies of the sheet music, although the record itself sold out many years ago. .

 

What would you consider to be the most cherished item in your collection? (not necessarily most valuable)

Look For Love is pretty special, but I have a few cherished items. Green Day’s first releases, the 1000 Hours, and Slappy EPs were issued in very limited numbers, and with different sleeves or vinyl colours, and I have been able to acquire most of the permutations. I also got my hands on every one of the original pressings and limited editions of all Green Day vinyl pressed to date. But this one band has introduced me to a load more, mostly from the East Bay punk scene, and I have a growing collection of singles and albums from bands such as Operation Ivy, Crimpshrine, Monsula and Fifteen. Many of these are live recordings made within the hallowed walls of 924 Gilman Street, and I have been lucky enough to meet a few of the musicians who cut their teeth in this iconic venue. A favourite is Op Ivy Do The Ramones, which was issued in three colours, red, white and blue, with a run of 100 of each. I picked that up in a record store in Berkeley, then fretted about getting it home to the UK in one piece. I also have a few compilation albums, such as The Big One, and Make The Collector Nerd Sweat, a glorious fusion of the music and fanzine cultures, each of these issued in very limited numbers on independent record labels.

 

What do you find is most appropriate way to store the collection?

Most of my collection is slotted onto a shelf, but the Green Day and related side project records are all stored in aluminium flight cases. They are safe, and easily accessible when collector friends visit and want to see my treasures. Like my CD stash, they are in alphabetical, and then chronological order because there are so many of them.

What are you still looking for to complete your collection? Do you have a ‘holy grail’ record you just have to track down?

At the moment, I don’t think I have anything missing from my collection, although there is always something out there to surprise me. Having said that, when we take our annual break in California, and I see any Gilman band in a second hand store, I pounce on it. Similarly, I have a favourite shop in Camden, and the owner spent a few years in Oakland, and will always point out something that may be of interest to me.

What advice would you give to those just starting to build their collections?

Condition is everything. Vinyl is so easily damaged, and needs careful storage and handling, but it is so worth it. Make sure any inserts/lyric sheets/extras are included if buying second hand, and beware of the too good to be true bargain. Warners reissued all Green Day albums in 2009 on the Reprise label, and these were clearly stickered on the cellophane to show that fact, but I have seen these reissues being sold as originals – a tiny issue date is the only clue if the cellophane has been removed. The first two albums, 39/Smooth and Kerplunk, included facsimiles of the 1000 Hours, Slappy and Sweet Children EPs which were only previously issued on Skene and Lookout record labels. Around the same time, Warners created a boxed set of singles, and the same three EPs appeared in that. If the label or sleeve displays the Reprise logo, it’s not an original, but it isn’t always clear to the unsuspecting buyer.

 

What do you see for the future of vinyl? Do you think it will continue to grow following the resurgence of the last few years?

I have been delighted to see more modern music being issued o vinyl, either at the time of release or retrospectively as a special edition. More and more of my friends are discovering the purity of sound which only comes from an uncompressed recording, as well as the beauty of picture discs and coloured editions which can form the basis of a collection, rathe than just a one-off purchase. All of the modern vinyl that I have bought in recent years is limited, and they sell out very quickly, which has to be good nes for the format.

 

Finally, do you think music really sounds better on vinyl?

Yes. It looks better, sounds better, even smells better. Vinyl has a soul, and I feel that because it demands more careful handling that the resilient CD, putting a record on the turntable is almost a reverential act.

Many thanks to Sharon for taking part. If you would like to tell your Vinyl Tales, please email Glen.Bushell@eil.com with a brief description of your collection and why yours should be featured.

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