Henry Rollins: Brexit Is Even Screwing Up My Record Collecting Habit
I am in seat 33H. The plane I am in, headed for Brussels, is on the ground at Dulles International Airport, not far from Washington, D.C. In less than an hour, I could be walking the streets of my old neighborhood. I find myself looking out the window, trying to memorize the color of the sky. At least once a year, I am at this airport and on the way to somewhere else, and it’s such a drag to be almost back in D.C. but then moving on.
The Brexit referendum in the U.K. is one of the most interesting things to have happened in the world for a long time. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that there was one vote assigned to deal with more than one issue, all of them quite complex. By voting to leave the European Union, England made a monumental decision that has countless ramifications, some of which might sit like landmines for a long time to come. Instead of addressing these very real matters, I wonder if it was just too simple a choice.
England is an amazing country, which I am luckily able to visit often, but I think it needs to take a moment and really think this through. I wonder, if the referendum were held again in the next three months, if things would turn out differently. As far as I have read, the referendum is not binding but merely a massive poll that was taken. Meanwhile, the rest of the EU countries are requesting that England make the quickest possible exit.
One thing is for sure: The world is changing and before this century is finished, things are going to be very different. As one who is frequently out in the world, I don’t like where things are going at all.
I didn’t think Brexit would have any effect on me, but it did, albeit ever so slightly. Days ago I was on eBay, going through all my bookmarks. Rarely is there an item by a band that I have not seen or at least seen listed, so when something new comes up, it is a big damn deal. I watch the bids to see if I can detect patterns, the rhythm of bidders squaring off and having real-time skirmishes as they up the price.
Anyway, there it was — a test pressing for the third studio album by U.K. Subs, Diminished Responsibility, made in Greece. Wow! I have never seen this listed anywhere.
I know what you’re thinking. Yes, I am fully aware of how completely ridiculous this is. The only defense I have against allegations that I am in need of a life is that I have always found pressing histories of records to be fascinating. The music on any record is, of course, the most important part, but it’s not the whole story. There is more to know and, quite often, some really cool information to be had.
This particular album by U.K. Subs was quite a change. The rhythm section of Paul Slack and Pete Davies left the band and were replaced with Alvin Gibbs on bass and Steve Roberts on drums. The resulting Diminished album got mixed reviews. Whatever. I first heard it at Ian MacKaye’s house right after it came out and thought was great. To this day, it’s one of my favorite albums.
Anyway, with the auction only hours away from ending, it suddenly disappeared, and my chance to bid with it.
No! My mind raced trying to figure out what had happened. Some bidder had contacted the vendor, made a deal and it was all over. Years from now, what had happened would be one of the great unanswered questions of my life. I have found that with a lot of test pressings out of Greece, five seems to be the number pressed. This is a 35-year-old record. I saw no chance of it ever turning up again.
Within minutes, I concluded that my life would not be complete without this record. How could I call myself a fan of the GEM label era of the Subs without the Greek test press of Diminished?! With my record collection now glaringly inadequate, I realized I would have to take drastic measures. I did something I very rarely resort to and contacted the seller. I asked this person what had happened and if the record was still for sale. I got a quick response in which he explained that the person he was selling the record for had concerns about Brexit and not getting enough money from the bid and had it withdrawn. The record was still in play.
Time to focus. I wrote the seller back and said I was very open to negotiation. Then the waiting game began. Every few minutes I would refresh my eBay mail page. Nothing.
Hours passed. Around 0300 hrs., I wrote again, just pinging the radar. I took a nap next to the computer. Finally the seller got back to me and, this time, signed his name. I had bought from him before. We resumed correspondence on our direct addresses. Deal made. Funds transferred. Record on the way.
From collector-boy heartbreak to great jubilation. I live for these moments of ridiculous and impassioned, low-impact intensity. A break from reality.
These days, I need them more and more.
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