Obsessions, Passions, Perversions

New Times music critics reveal their deepest, darkest record-buying secrets

For most people, music is a very personal matter. Songs, albums and artists carry a significant and significantly different meaning for each of us. That's especially true with music critics. While we do get to reveal a little bit about our passions and taste through our writing, polls like annual Top 10 lists are often impersonal barometers that don't give an accurate portrait of the men and women whose work you see in the pages of this section. That's why we've decided to reveal a little more of ourselves and sate your ravenous appetite for year-end lists (or beginning, as it were) with this, our Top 10 Personal Obsessions list. You'll find that some of us are online record-buying junkies, others use CDs as a means of fear management, while some specialize in collecting stuff that most rational thinking humans would probably pass on. In any case, the next few pages should allow you frightening glimpses deep into our souls and record collections.

Top 10 Things I Bought on eBay

Bob Mehr

My name is Bob, and I'm addicted to eBay. But I'm not alone. In fact, several of my co-workers have also been stricken with eBay-itis, a seemingly incurable disease that compels the victim to spend hundreds of dollars on items that are worthless to almost everyone else. For example, the guy in the office right next to me, we'll call him "Dwight," has been known to drop hundreds for posters of late-period Joan Crawford films. While another of my New Times brethren, "Annie," constantly regales me with stories of how she gets antique cookie jars for really cheap, "like $200." Normally, I scoff when I hear of people making such ridiculous purchases. Don't they know that for the same $200 they can get a mint-condition Replacements Let It Beposter or a multi-disc Dylan '66 live boxed set? Since most of my disposable income has been going into the coffers of those hawking hard-to-find, out-of-print and import CDs (the term euphemistically used to describe illegal bootlegs), I decided to offer my Top 10 eBay purchases as evidence of my own particular mania.

1. Tommy Keene, Based on Happy Times (Geffen). For power-pop aficionados, this is the holy grail of out-of-print CDs. Basically abandoned by Geffen after its release in 1989, the commercial failure of this unheralded masterpiece ushered in Keene's almost five-year absence from recording. Shortly after hitting stores, compact disc copies of the album vanished. Only a few thousand CD copies were reportedly ever made, and most of those headed to the cut-out bin. Hunters at used-record stores have been known to scour the aisles for this elusive treasure. Though the disc sells regularly on eBay for upward of $30 (or as much as $75 in one instance), I was able to get mine for the unbelievably low price of $25.50, due mostly to a mid-September glut of the disc on the auction site.

2. Beatles, The Complete BBC Sessions (Great Dane). An exhaustive nine-disc bootleg chronicling the Fabs' radio appearances from 1962 to 1964. Although the quality is sometimes murky, most of the 257 tracks are indispensable listening for Beatles fans who came away unsatisfied with Capitol's official Beatles Live at the BBC release in 1994. Manufactured in Italy by Great Dane Records in 1993, it includes cuts from the lads' performances on The Beat Show, Saturday Club, Pop Go the Beatles, The Ken Dodd Show and Top Gear. The most amusing aspect of the collection for me was hearing the songs preceded by sometimes indecipherable Liverpudlian banter, and various shout-outs to "Susie in Chemsfordshire" and "Brian in Hexbury on Glen" and almost everyone else who wrote the moptops a fan letter. The set also includes a handsome 36 page booklet with rare photos and extensive, if sometimes inaccurate, liner notes. Another steal, as I was able to get this for $123.50, considerably less than the $280-plus that the previous set went for.

3. Beach Boys, Smile Box (unreleased). Thedefinitive and most sonically impressive collection documenting the greatest album never released. Three discs of studio alternates and a fourth featuring the album as it was purportedly to have been sequenced. (For a full run-down of the history of this particular bootleg set, check out Robert Wilonsky's article in the December 23 edition of New Times.) This was a must-have for me, and I got it for a relative bargain at $135. Smile bootlegs have been around for ages, but the sound quality, packaging and format of this makes it the ultimate, that is until Capitol releases the official version, something that may happen as soon as this year.

4. Professionals, I Didn't See It Coming (Virgin). This sophomore album from the post-Pistols group fronted by Steve Jones and featuring Paul Cook is one of the true lost treasures of the postpunk/New Wave era. This is a legit rerelease of the group's 1981 album. It was reissued last year as a Japanese import, and I was able to pick it up for just under 20 bucks. I don't know if it really qualifies as a guilty pleasure, but I've always enjoyed Jones' singing immensely. Cuts like the disc opener, "The Magnificent," and the anthemic "Payola" feature some of Jonesy's best vocal work ever.

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