In Melbourne, Australia, for two days of press before my shows start. I will be here for a few weeks. I have been to this country well over 30 times. It’s always good to be back.
Road manager Ward and I arrived yesterday on no sleep from Wellington, New Zealand. As sideways as we felt, we knew that we had to drop our gear, turn around and report to Vicious Sloth Records. This is something we have been doing for years. Their prices will often cause your credit card to spontaneously combust, but the Sloth has some of the rarest titles of any store I have ever been to and I have never seen any piece of vinyl in there less than Ex+ condition.
I was on the lookout for records on M Squared and Innocent, two Australian avant/electronic/outsider labels from the early 1980s. At this point, if you’re going to find any titles from either label, it will either be in Australia or from a collector in Europe. At V-Sloth, I secured a pristine copy of Palimpsest by Essendon Airport. Yes, it has the insert!
It’s always great to find records in the country in which they were pressed. For me, it’s an ultimate acquisition and makes locating titles via mail order, which I often do, seem almost insincere.
A few days ago, in Auckland, I made a great find in a store where I usually find nothing.
In the previous century, I finished a tour of Australia and New Zealand in Auckland. Usually I start in NZ and finish in Australia. I had hours before my flight, so I hauled my pack to a record store called Real Groovy for some unhurried searching. It’s a great store with a friendly staff. They have a ton of vinyl and their prices are always fair.
What I thought would be an average perusal through several bins of LPs ended up being one of the best record store days I have ever had, to the point to where it almost ruined me for anything less. It was as if several major collections had all been collated into the store’s stock and I was the first person to get access.
It was a weekday and late morning, so there was hardly anyone in the place. I have never seen so many Joy Division bootlegs at once outside my place. Class Is, Dante’s Inferno, Death Trip, Stroszek’s Last Stand, all just sitting there, priced to be leavin’ on a jet plane with me. Great quality copies of Zappa must-haves Hot Rats, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Apostrophe and Bongo Fury, a Sugarcane Harris solo album, my favorite far-out Beach Boys titles like Holland, Pere Ubu albums and mid-period singles. It was incredible.
That was 18 years ago. I have been back to Real Groovy so many times since and never had a day like that. Now I go there with no expectations, knowing I will never have a time like I did all those years ago, but I go nonetheless. You always go to the record store.
On our day off in Auckland, road manager Ward and I made our way through the rain to Real Groovy’s new location, across from where the old one had been, and went right for the vinyl. After about an hour, as usual, I had found nothing and was waiting for Ward when I remembered I still needed to take a look in the alternative compilation section for a record that I knew wouldn’t be in there — but if you don’t search, you will never find.
Several LPs in, I saw it: a copy of the Back-Stage Pass LP. I know what you’re thinking — it had to be the U.K. pressing on Supermusic, or the one out of Poland on Pronit. It’s always one of the two, right?! Even though I was in Auckland, it wouldn’t be the New Zealand pressing on RTC, because after years of looking, I had never seen one anywhere.
With great anticipation, I turned the sleeve over — and there was the RTC logo. Score! Earlier this year, I had found the Polish pressing in Warsaw and even managed to locate a test pressing of the U.K. version. But for years the NZ pressing had escaped me, until Real Groovy, which had denied me for damn near two decades, finally saw fit to relent and give me a break.
What in the hell does one do with several different pressings of the same record, you ask? You play them, of course, while pulling all the other copies out and, with the help of a magnifying glass, make notes on the label and matrix data. Useless information that no one gives a damn about is one of my favorite things. Think about how lonely a fact would be if it lived for decades without anyone staring at it and saying, “Ah-HAH!”
I live for this. The more arcane and inconsequential the record-pressing information, the better.
So starting yesterday, RMW and I embark on about 20 shows that will take us from here to Perth, with a lot of record stores in between. Two days from now, I have a 13-hour press slog in Sydney, which I am not exactly looking forward to. But a few hours afterward, one Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds will be playing and, no matter how tired I am, I will not miss this show. I saw him and the band play a few weeks ago at the Echo and have been thinking about it ever since.
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It is September in Australia. The days are cool to cold, it rains a lot, and there is one show after another. In other words, everything is fine.