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Weekend Birthday Bizness


Friday, with weekend & birthday looming, I ventured into Camden's "Music + Video Exchange" to offload some no longer needed 12"s, to browse for stuff I might want and, as ever to soak up the shop's ambience. Chatted to (staffer) Zac who appeared to have had a stressful day after someone who was selling him records wasn't happy with Zac's offer, ending up with Zac, unjustly being called racist + the police called by Zac, not his accuser.

Writing this blog on my way back from Utrecht (more on there later), this entry is very much more 'notes to self' about documenting areas in 'collecting', in this case physical music artefacts ie vinyl + cd as compared to the soul-less invisible matter to be found in mp3s (unless you consider 'pixels' a physical entity).

The Music + Video Exchanges (aka 'Church') continue to be a most favoured pastime & I justify the obsession in the same way a regular golfer goes 'clubbing', an avid footie fan follows his team by religiosuly attending all home/away matches, or even simpler, the person who likes a near-daily pint down their local; all ways to pass time, all 'Waiting For Godot'.

Anyway, I wish I had more time to actually produce a documentary on 'Church', the real life 'High Fidelity' with the most incredible off-beat characters, both customers & shopkeepers. So much depth + scope to this institution that may well be gone in several years.

Zac, now calmer revealed more vintage anecdotes that I would have loved to have caught on tape/film and as we bantered, a unique 'regular' stepped up to the counter to buy Melanie Gardot's latest CD at a bargain price. I say 'regular' because at times, when I've frequented Camden 'Church', this guy's always been there and if I haven't been for a while and pop in, he's there. A fine spoken man, smelling strongly of soap in a world of his own, (the regular guy not me!) soon left and Zac gave me a Sherlock Holmes level of insight into this guy's potential life outside the basement we were in. More anecdotes left me hungrier to document though 8PM closing time forced closure on chat.

Creatively chosen Birthday cards from my lovely fiance woke me early as I had a flight to catch for more epic 'digging' and passing of time. This was to be a very expensive awayday checking out the bi-annual fair at Utrecht soon after a Wetherspoon's pre-flight fry-up. Expensive not just because of the last minute flight booked (airlines show no mercy in these 'credit crunch' times!) or the cab from Amsterdam to venue but lay truly in the lethal stalls selling niche needs to whatever you collect be it music, bric-a-brac, antiques for the home etc. Serious niches - you want specific pre-war broken doll limbs, try Hall 9, row 10. How about 'Black music + turkish vinyl rareities (isn't any turkish record a rareity)? Stall 348 in the 'Mega Platten' room (easily the size of an aircraft hanger!) had loads. Cigarette cards from 1942 only? 50s Vintage Cars? Body armour suits? Swiss microscopes? Dutch biscuit tins manufactured in Germany, post world war 2? Again, I'd bet you could find all of them, if that was your search.

Mere moments after entering, addicition hit as i snapped up some DMC (DJ-only) CDs which I initially thought could have been fake they were such a bargain.

Next, my disastrous downfall as I stumbled across a deadly new species in sonic 'hunting + gathering', one that really 'hit' hard - 80s 'Maxi CDs'. Hard on the wallet + on the emotions through waves of nostalgia, I systematically went thru Michael Reinberg's stock from Z to A. Like Indiana Jones, I soon found plenty of 'holy grails', 3" CD singles that you simply don't ever see, even on the internet or dream of or even think existed, yes, they are that rare eg Coldcut/Yazz "The Only Way Is Up (Bam Bam Remix)".

This was my 3rd visit to the vibrant venue and when entering the 'Disneyland of Detritus i.e. Jaarbeur's multi-halls that appear to be even bigger than Terminal 5, one is overwhelmingly reminded (if you've been before) just how huge this flea market is, web pictures, ruff + ready camera phone clips and memory do NOT do it justice!!

My very good friend Jamie nicknamed Alfred, after Batman's butler comes with; I maybe a 'Dark Knight', Jamie is certainly smart + sharp-witted like Bruce Wayne's residential advisor. His humour helped punctuated an exhausting afternoon session and after 'rinsing' out that "80s Maxi CD" stall, I had a splitting headache. 'Alfred' reasoned this as a 'processing overload'; as one flicks rapidly through each item your brain is overloades having to assess the barrage of questions each CD throws up: Do I have this in collection? Do I need it? Do I need to 'mint up' on this one (i.e. Buy it again/replace as it's better quality!) Have I seen a cheaper 'Maxi' elsewhere?

As the headache throbbed away, over a 5 euro 'meal deal' of croquette, chips + coke, we discussed the Pirate Bay guilty verdict which has raised interesting issues, outlined in this Telegraph piece eg will 'they' try to sue Google as it too can direct you to sites that encourage illegal downloading. I still quote the analogy of a potential terrorist going into a library and borrowing a book like 'The Anarchist Cookbook'. If said potential terrorist then makes a bomb after reading, should the library be held responsable?

Post-snack and a rest from the mental and physical exhileration (hours spent standing on hard concrete remember?), Jamie and I had a look at 'Wall Of Fame's stall selling high end pop memorabilia such as Madonna's 1984 "Like A Virgin" wedding dress worn, more recently worn by Britney.

I thought some of the prices were actually quite low and also was concerned about the authenticity/provenance of some pieces. For example there was a framed record contract signed by all members of iconic pop/rock Queen as well as a gold sales-presentation disc presented to John Lennon. In regard to the Lennon disc, the gentleman running the stall offered to write out a 'COA' but wasn't willing to reveal the source of the disc; more convincing needed here.

Jaarbeurs' junk-fest also shines a light on a dark side of celebrity culture - the meet + greet, have your photo snapped with or autograph signed by a 'cult' TV/Movie star. The star's celeb status is debatable and sadly 'cult' can more often than not be read as 'has been' or in many cases 'unseen'. Today's celeb guests included the barely recognisable (if only for her military attire) 'Allo Allo' starlette 'Helga' (played by 'Kim Hartman') and former Star Wars storm-trooper Jim Dowdall. WHAT DA?!!!!! Anyone in the whole place today could have been that stormtrooper; who the hell would have recognised if it was Jim under that mask 'n suit?. Come on, stating the obvious here, the hundreds of stormtroopers featured in the sci-fi epic couldn't be any more similar. If Jim was the one who accidentally banged his head in an early classic movie mistake/glitch then I'm slightly more impressed.

Jamie & I caught Dirk Benedict same place in November 08 savagely selling his soul & smile to the generally disinterested public who tended to point more then have their picture actuall taken with the 'star'. Richard Kiel aka 'Jaws' is scheduled for this November, now that's much more like it!

A quick final few minutes at another stall selling party tricks briefly rekindled my youthful obsession with magic and though amused by this "Cat In The Bag", the simple 'Wonderfool Box was bought for Sunday's entertainment post-BBQ with friends and their kids.

Farewell Jaarbeurs (I want to live in those halls!) and just made the flight in time, arriving at the clinically clean Terminal 5 about an hour later. Back home, appreciated all the birthday wishes sent digitally and physically; presents aren't as important as that short sincere phone call, txt, tweet etc

Sunday AM - BBQ preparations - picked up some salad bits from Golders Green and en route to Baskin Robbins for some old skool ice cream flava(s), was ushered into the Chabad's "Mitzvah Tank" (a mobile synagogue of sorts) where a Rabbi gave me a quick 'La Chaim', offering me a whisky shot in the process; bizarre but loved it! Then sunny afternoon with BBQ in full effect and nuff thanks again to my fiance for preparing the bulk of the whole birthday do.

Posted on April 19, 2009 at 11:53 PM

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