The Limerick man Brian Cross's iconic cover photo for DJ Shadows ‘Entroducing’ album was a visual moment in time with its depiction of the imagined mystery of digging for records. This record cover with people shopping for records encapsulated Shadows intention of what to expect when the needle dropped on the wax, i.e a considered listening experience of a sampled work from other musical creations.
All of this was almost 15 years ago when it was still possible to spend an afternoon flicking through racks of covers hoping to chance on an obscure seventies nugget that would perhaps deliver some special piece of music as well as the fun of embarking on a musical mission as a fan or producer.
Looking now at the cover of ‘Entroducing’ is a romantic act. By visually announcing the process to an audience outside Hiphop sample seekers the interest in shopping for beats or forgotten/new music seemed to come and go within a couple of years. Of course this was helped in no small way by the transference of the act of digging to the Net. Irrespective of the debate on the death of vinyl, ‘digging’ in the way lovingly offered visually by Shadow is now a specialised act.
Reading the self proclaimed ‘crate diggers Bible’ the American Magazine ‘Waxpoetics’ as I do, it seems shadowesque figures now enjoy more than a the usual trip round the corner to their local oxfam. This Magazine bubbles with tales of Indiana Jones style missions to far flung corners of the world to obtain declining stocks of Brazilian funk and Polish jazz in existing commercial or private libraries. For the non professional its down to the less glamorous basement in Pery square.
The Visit by Robbery Records to the Pery hotel prompted me to take my camera to their occasional Record fair this Saturday as I wanted to have some visual record of the men who lug a large amount of used and vinyl into the hotels basement a couple of times a year. Having been a customer for a few years and realising that perhaps that I had been taking their visits for granted, I thought this experience may soon consist of memories instead of appointments.
In the days when Blackspot Records was the essential stop for the hot new beats, any Saturday when the fair was on was a big deal. Metalheads, indie kids Hiphoppers, junglists, and Deephousers all were up early. Two euro in and the tables await where neat signs point you to your preferred choices. The dealers are English and Northern Irish with their individual spots marked by a selection of their rarest discs on the wall. There are punk dvds, Zappa picture discs, a stall dealing in mostly in Elvis stuff and in between, my own favorite stash of late 80s Brit rave and old Disco.
Photographing the room at the morning I had seen it a lot busier. So many Heads were not there nor did I expect them to be. Some have sold their collections, some stopped buying but most have become convinced that Mp3 is now essential and the physicality of Vinyl is a detriment to their experience of music, DJs and non DJs alike.
One upbeat English dealer and myself have a good relationship and any thoughts of questioning him on his views about the trade seemed impolite. Of course after scoring the promo 12 of the KLFs ‘What time is love?’ I just got in the zone and we talked instead about the 20th anniversary reissue of a Miami Bass compilation.
Decades of travelling means these guys have the knowledge on most artists irrespective of whatever style of music and there is a lot of banter throughout the day between themselves and customers. I once saw a very respectable elderly lady enquire about Irish Showband albums before carefully pulling on a pair of surgical gloves to find the exact record she sought in the racks (of course I had no camera!). However, the fair is a direct experience of selling a 20th analogue format that sooner than later will not find itself on the road setting up in halls and basements around the country.
Before we turn off the lights though, the recent reissue of ‘Entroducing’ on Vinyl revisited its cover image where now the racks in the photo hold Shadows catalogue. If the industry still thinks this image generates some kind of cultural frisson that generates sales, then perhaps the Robbery Records racks still have another few years on the road. (www.Robberyrecords.co.uk)