Blowing money on records – ‘a very middle-aged addiction’
I have a confession to make. Not to you, the dear, sympathetic Guardian readership, but to my girlfriend, and possibly my accountant. On 19 July, at 1.18pm precisely, I spent £122 buying a 7in single off eBay. It’s a purchase I had been planning in general for the previous 18 months and intently for the six days before I actually stumped up, and now it’s over, now I’ve won (and how ironic that word feels at the moment), I feel an uncomfortable mixture of elation, guilt and stone-cold fear.
The record in question is Do It by Pat Powdrill, my favourite northern soul single of all time. I’m playing an MP3 of the song as I type this, and even on the umpteenth listen it makes my pupils dilate and my heart beat faster against my rib cage. Vinyl copies crop up on eBay once or twice a year, and go for ridiculous sums – $483 (£295) in 2008 and $308 (£232) in 2010. So not only have I bought a single that sets off fireworks inside my head, I’ve snapped it up for a bargain price. That’s the theory, at least. The reality, of course, is very different. At a time when money worries are more acute than ever, and with two children to provide for, isn’t spending £122 on a single an indulgence at best, and reckless, at worst? I’m lucky that I run a northern soul club called Great Big Kiss, so I can rationalise my purchase as something I need for the night. Yes, I can play Do It off CD, but spinning the original vinyl feels more worthwhile, as if the connection with the song, and the time in which it was written and released, is stronger, deeper. But still – I know I don’t need this. And yet I have to have it.
There’s one more worry. I’ve been collecting vinyl seriously for a few years now, starting off with 50p purchases at boot fairs before moving on to heftier buys on eBay. To begin with, I’d agonise over spending £8 on a mere 7in, but once I’d smashed through the £10 barrier (I’m in a World of Trouble by the Sweet Things, for £12.99), it all became easier. I’m in my early 40s. I hardly go out any more, because we’ve got kids, so I don’t spend what I did on eating out or drinking. Blowing money on records seems almost justifiable. Have I stumbled into a very middle-aged addiction?
It seems that way. When I make bulk buys (48 singles from Canterbury’s indoor market, for example, ranging from the Shangri-Las to Ramsey Lewis), I feel bloated, like I’ve had one binge too many. And when I haven’t been on eBay for a while, I start to feel itchy, and I’m disappointed when the postman doesn’t deliver any packages, even though I know I haven’t bought anything. Plus, I’ve been keeping some of my record buying a secret. On my first attempt to buy Do It, during a visit to my mum’s in April, I furtively stayed up until 1.16am, and bid $220 (£135). When I admitted why I was so tired the next day, my girlfriend wasn’t impressed.
This time, though, I knew I’d get it. For three days, my bid of £9.99 was the only interest, and I daydreamed about the steal of a lifetime. But even when it had crept up to £81.99 an hour before the end, I felt certain. And although £122 is a rash outlay, I’m hoping my fee for this piece will cover it, and my girlfriend, who’ll find out by reading these words, will be forgiving. So that just leaves me with that stone-cold fear. What if my copy of Do It isn’t as pristine as described? What if it’s finally delivered and – as with the vinyl version of C86 that I spent £24 on earlier in the year and still haven’t returned – it skips?
Photograph: bruciebonus / Alamy/Alamy