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Words: Mark O’Shaughnessy © | Artwork: Smashed Hits ©

Sid & Johnny

Welcome along once again, dear readership....

I’ve found myself in many uncompromising situations down the years in my unending quest for the black gold, but most of those scrapes were during the years when I travelled the world looking for rare records. Now my search is largely confined to the UK, I thought I’d never again find myself scared witless in that same way anymore, but how wrong I was…

It was a fairly uneventful Tuesday morning in our Bath shop last July. It was quiet, as is typical for that holiday month, and I was sat behind the counter feeling hot, hot, hot. My phone rang and a local-sounding voice asked, “do you buy records then?” My eyes rolled gently inside their sockets, as this is generally a precursor to somebody offering up a whole load of valueless Classical, Country and Western or Easy Listening LPs.

“Yes, we do buy records,” I said, “but we need to know what they are, can you bring them in?” My response was met with: “Too many”. Just that, then silence. At this point, I normally cut the conversation off quickly, but I had a funny feeling about this one, so arrangements were made for me to go over that very evening and have a look.

He lived just a few minutes outside town. I parked up, grabbed my toolkit (no, not a crowbar!) of fingerless gloves and headtorch and fought my way down the hugely overgrown garden path and rang the door bell.

This guy answered the door in his vest and underpants, no lie. He had on a housecoat too, but as it was untied around his bulging tum, his ‘goods’ were dangling about inside his y-fronts for one and all to see and his unpared toenails were actually poking through his slippers. A wall of stench hit me square between the nostrils.

I shut my eyes and contemplated my next move – should I turn and leg it or enter the House of Horrors? Of course, in I went. The house niffed was like an airlock stuffed with a thousand pairs of smelly socks, unreal...

Iconic - Paul Simonon

Not one window anywhere was open, all the doors and vents were shut and, despite the tropical conditions outside, the heating was on. The temperature inside must have been 30 plus. I politely refused the offer of liquid refreshments as I stealthily peeked over my shoulder to double-check where the front door was and mentally sketched out my exit route.

Finally, he asked: “Do you want to come upstairs?” I closed my eyes again before he continued: “…to see the records.” I breathed a sigh of relief before walking up the stairs a little too closely behind him. I stifled a laugh thinking what on earth I was doing in this madhouse, before continuing upstairs (natch). More locked rooms, more shag-pile, no air, heat teeming in through the vents. Eventually, he opened a door and I prepared myself for the worst. But, there in front of me, boxed in around 30 or 40 brown supermarket banana containers sat one of the most stunning Punk and New Wave collections I’d ever seen, all in plastic sleeves. Take me now, Lord...

Let me say here once again that the record game attracts a way higher than usual proportion of what I’ll charitably call ‘eccentrics’ than most other walks of life, and it’s often in crazy or scary situations such as this that we find our best and most interesting hauls.

I’ll quickly drop in a few nuggets from this find for the Punk collectors among the readership: Hong Kong Garden by Siouxsie and The Banshees in it’s original gatefold sleeve, Damned Damned Damned with the Eddie & The Hot Rods cover, Anarchy In the UK on EMI, Turn To Red by Killing Joke on 10”, Buzzcocks first-press Spiral Scratch, White Riot by The Clash on what we in the trade call a ‘big A’ demo, only a few known copies, well into three figures… a goodie. On and on it went, I was quaking in my Converses.

Siouxsie Sioux

My love of record collecting started as a 13-year-old Brummie schoolboy in 1977, so as a young punk I was around when a lot of these records were first released – I knew instantly that I was looking at a serious collection here. All the time I was looking through the boxes, this guy was stood right behind me, and I could feel his hot breath on my neck as the belt from his towelling housecoat fluttered in the air.

Something had compelled me to go to his house on that steaming hot afternoon to liberate this incredible collection, a set of records that I’m still working through to this day. It was mind-boggling. So, once again, fledgling diggers out there: never let an unusual scenario put you off the search for collectable vinyl, because you just never know what you will find out there in La-La Land…

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