IT SHOULDN'T HAPPEN TO A RECORD COLLECTOR - THE PERILS OF PICTURE SLEEVES - BY JIMMY KENT.
Now, I know I would be stating the bleeding obvious that a mod has an eye for the ethically pleasing especially when it comes
to clothes, scooters & records so it shouldn’t come as any big surprise to anyone that an increasing number of record collectors now target EP’s & 45’s with picture sleeves from around the world
During the early 80’s when I first started Collecting vinyl seriously it was virtually impossible to get your grubby mitts on a Japanese Tamla Motown EP. In fact it was a world where the internet was called The Yellow Pages and the only way you knew about records being sold was via record lists. The amount of times I had to get up early on a Saturday morning ( even before Swap Shop came on) waiting for that list to be pushed through the letterbox, praying athat the postman wouldn’t be held up in anyway.
Thankfully today due to the wonders of modern technology it’s easier to find these gems despite being accompanied with a hefty price tag.
I’ve been asked many times why do you pay such exorbitant prices for a record with a picture sleeve when I could have just bought the basic release for less than half the price. The answer to that is very easy, it just looks cooler. If you need anymore convincing just compare the basic release with the picture sleeve of Zoot Money’s Big Time Operator.
I would be lying if I said that collecting picture sleeves was anything than plain sailing as I was recently reminded of this whilst trawling through the discography of Japanese garage gods The Spiders. Despite my best efforts & documentary evidence on YouTube I couldn’t find another website that mentioned a particular elusive EP of theirs. After speaking to a friend & expert on Japanese releases who warned that even Tamla Motown releases on The Globe label are not fully documented.
The main drawback with picture sleeves especially if you DJ with them is that even though they look attractive every country has it’s own definition of sound quality. For the general ruling is that the majority of Japanese releases play loud
and proud whilst French releases are usually very quiet . But you can only use a very q guide line as always there are alway exceptions. On a few occasions I have forgotten this guideline and writing this article reminded me of the first time I played The Shirelles - Like Putty In Your Hand. Due to the record arriving five minutes before we left to travel to the venue. In my haste
I played the record without checking the sound quality & before I knew it I was frantically searching for the master volume control on the decks.
To witness how popular collecting picture sleeves has become you just have witness the activity on Lionel Romano’s eXcellent Early Sounds Facebook page. Even though the web page doesn’t specialise in picture sleeves , a lot of the items on sale are. To say that the people who regularly buy from this web page (including myself) are very competitive would be an understatement. The best analogy I can think of is being on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and taking part in the Fastest Finger First section but with a lot more people. Previously I had moaned about the difference in sound quality this qpqwebsite describes each item in minute detail as well as providing pictures of both the slee Jill vinyl as well as a sound file of hthe actual record.
Just before the pandemic I had read that stealing rare vinyl was on the increase. So I thought that it would be a prudent step to insure my collection but that was easier said than done. I spoke to companies such as Lloyds of London who smugly retorted that they couldn’t believe that our treasured lumps of plastic could be worth that much. I replied that they insured lumps of wood on a regular basis so what was the difference ? Only to have the phone slammed down on me.
One of the more frequent selling points I see on an ad is that the picture sleeve has been signed by the artist. Unless it’s accompanied with some sort of providence or certificate of authenticity ignore it as it’ll probably be a fake. According to my sources there was a trend in certain European countries where fans would practise writing their favourite star’s signature on the sleeves. Why ? I shudder to think.
And finally …
Whilst writing this article I was reminded of the most upsetting moment a record collector will ever witness. In the 80’s there use to be a trend ( which thankfully is no more) called The Trainspotter. This was an individual who was always armed with writing pad & pen. They were always stood at the back of the DJ booth ready to jot down the details of what the DJ played. It was on night that I decided to go down to a local event to support a friend & DJ. I noticed that there was a ‘Trainspotter’ in the booth. After an hour I witnessed the saddest moment I had ever seen. Whilst looking at what had been played the ‘trainspotter ‘ knocks over a record box lid onto a pile of records smashing a copy of Shirley Edwards - Dream on Shrine into 2 pieces. Not only was the owner of the record inconsolable but needless to say the ‘Trainspotter’ was never seen again.....
Words - Jimmy Kent