The Vinyl Issue: Charity Shop Challenge

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They’re like kids in a candy store. It’s a Tuesday afternoon and the young Brit blues-rockers are taking part in a mammoth charity shop record-buying spree at Oxfam’s Marylebone Books and Music store. With £60 in the CR coffers and the record department to ourselves, we’re putting both band and retailer to the test. The question we’re asking is: are charity shops still a viable port of call for fantastic plastic?

Relishing today’s challenge, Kill It Kid have arrived a good half hour early and are already elbows-deep in the racks as CR approach. Bassist Dom Kozubik is sitting on a kick stool, nosing through a stack of 60s sevens. “This is Dom’s bread and butter,” says guitarist/vocalist Chris Turpin, referring to Kozubik’s ‘other’ job as a soul DJ as he himself combs the classic jazz shelf. Partner and co-vocalist/pianist Steph Ward is on the floor examining oldies, and drummer Marc Jones is grazing on a mix of rock and classical.

Informed by a healthy love of rock from their parents’ record collections, the band are clearly delighted to be making new discoveries. “This kind of record shopping is exciting,” says Ward. “You’re never sure what you might find.”

In spite of the band’s youthful embrace of the idea, vinyl’s renaissance could be something more often associated with the older generation.

“Not at all. I think it’s coming back for younger buyers,” says Ward. “Everything’s so throwaway now; people want something physical, and it’s a nice option to have a digital download code too.”

It seems important to you to see your work on wax.

“We did it ’cos we wanted a copy on vinyl ourselves at first!” laughs Jones. “It’s partly the artwork, too. If you collect music, get it on vinyl. It feels more physical and it’s just nicer, isn’t it?”

“Some people who buy our vinyl at gigs don’t even have record players,” admits Ward. “It feels nice to pore over it and to pull out stuff. It’s like a little packet of really exciting things.”

It must be quite a buzz when a record comes back from the pressing plant.

“It is,” nods Jones. “That’s the most exciting part.”

Oxfam Marylebone’s music guru is 67-year-old retiree Jag Patel. A self-confessed music nut, Ugandan-born Patel arrived in the UK in 1968, drawn to the music scene. He has over 90,000 albums in his own collection (“I had to build an extension on my house for them”), and although a book-keeper for much of his working life in London, it was after opening a newsagent in Hemel Hempstead that his addiction bloomed.

“In those days I never could afford vinyl,” he says, “but we have lots of car-boot sales around Hertfordshire, and in the 80s I’d get up early at the weekends to snap up cheap vinyl. In three hours I’d cover most of the North London car boots.”

This car boot education made Patel quite an expert, and his knowledge has been put to good use in this store since he began volunteering in 2007. The shop’s stock comes from donations, with benefactors looking to make space at home, or having re-bought essential favourites on CD. Patel tells us that the quantity of donations suffered a double hit in the last decade: the dawn of eBay and a nostalgic retention. Recently, though, he’s noted a sales swing to vinyl.

“Two years ago things had really slowed down,” he says. “Then in the middle of last year we saw it rise. New vinyls are coming as well, and it’s young people that are asking for them.”

Experience of the market – and use of Record Collector’s indispensable Rare Record Price Guide – means Patel can quickly recognise the collectables, cleaning up records and repairing covers to achieve a higher sale. “We haven’t had many rare things,” he muses. “The most expensive album was the Beatles’ White Album at £75 perhaps. If you get the rare stuff, it’s probably scratched or worn out.”

Nonetheless, vinyl sales are now up from eight per cent of turnover to nearly 15 on a good week.

“This year I was able to charge more. I’ll put £6 or £7 on an album and I’ll get that.

“We’ve a lot of passing trade, including tourists and the Royal College Of Music up the road. People are always curious about the roots of music, and the only way to learn is by buying it and listening to it.”

Back at the racks, our younger enthusiasts are still exploring. Kozubik admits his vinyl addiction is costly. “I spend more money on it than anything else. More than rent. But I did find a hologram cover of Their Satanic Majesties Request in a charity shop once.”

He’s not alone in the urge to splurge. Jones recently shelled out for an Alan Lomax anthology, only to find The Band’s Last Waltz three-disc set calling to him too. “Expensive, but I had to have it,” he grins. Ward reveals: “We spent about £40 on one album to get a live version of Springsteen’s No Surrender. There’s something about owning it, a sense of pride.”

Turpin has been quite wary so far. In his hands he has an EMIdisc dictation-machine flexi from 1948 and some pretty-looking Columbia 78s. “I’ve been reading up about the chitlin’ circuit, so I’m looking for jazz but I’ve gone down the aesthetic route,” he explains. “I have to be careful ’cos I collect vintage gear, and if I started spending properly on vinyl I wouldn’t be able to stop. Places like this, though, you could find three records for 50p that you’d never normally buy. It’s like an alternative music library.”

And at that point Ward shouts, “I’ve won!” holding up a 1920s shellac 10-inch. It’s on the Vocalion label, home to the stirring gospel music that’s a big influence on the Kid. The label design is a piece of art in itself, and they all crowd around to admire it.

It’s not the last time the band all coo over something cool, unusual or hilarious. Turpin finds a six-disc collection of Romanian folk music (“They have a Romanian folk section?” squeals Ward) to show to Kozubik, who’s just emitted an emphatic “Yes!” over a Mr Big single, and Jones locates a Pavarotti LP that seems to signal his future wardrobe.

But it’s Kozubik who’s got the greatest haul. “Faces, Creedence, Chi-Lites, Free Electric Band, Byrds…”

Turpin’s face is a mixture of incredulity and admiration. “Where d’you find that lot?”

Kozubik shrugs. “Sniffin’ ’em out, mate. It’s what I do.”

It’s all exactly the effect manager Patel hopes for.

“Shopping has to be an experience. It’s not just walking in and walking out. Your eyes settle on all fashions of product here, and it makes it more interesting for people. It’s more than a business. For me, the joy is collecting.”

**FIVE OF THE BEST: **The cream of Kill It Kid’s Oxfam crop

Jimmie Rodgers (99p)

Crying In The Chapel

(Contour, 1964)

Steph Ward: “We listen to quite a lot of country music, and Seymour Stein, who signed us to our label, loves alt.country and is always talking about Jimmie Rodgers. This is my chance to hear him, plus it has crying in a chapel – everything you want in a country song.”

The Five Pennies (£6.99)

OST

(London American, 1959)

Chris Turpin: “I don’t know much about this, but it was clearly a film with Louis Armstrong in. I’ve been reading up about jazz bands, and Louis Armstrong is a big figure in the development, so I’ll find out more about him with this.”

Mr Big (£1.99)

To Be With You

(Atlantic, 1991)

Dom Kozubik: “I remember this song from being on holiday with my mum and dad, and it’s a real singalong. It got us kids into guitar music. An awesome record that I can pull out at a party for everyone to sing along to.”

Bruce Springsteen (£1.99)

Born In The USA 7-inch

(CBS, 1984)

Marc Jones: “I’m just getting into Bruce, via these two [gestures to Turpin and Ward]. I love the fact that the artwork is actually him surrounded by fire. That’s a record company genius at work [the B-side is I’m On Fire].”

Deacon Blue (£2.99)

Your Swaying Arms

(Columbia, 1989)

Marc: “ Well, firstly the artwork is absolutely amazing. And secondly, Chris has co-written a song with this guy [Ricky Ross], so I wanted to hear a bit more of what they’re about.”