Obsessions, Passions, Perversions

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

3. Grateful Dead, Dick's Picks Vol. 14 (Grateful Dead Records). Sure, I could have ordered this choice set (Boston Music Hall, 11/30 and 12/2/73) directly from www.dead.net. The Dead have the right idea. The artists should issue their own live archives and beat the bootleggers at their own game while keeping rabid fans happy. At the same time, I'm addicted to the music store shopping experience: the racket on the stereo, the colorful displays, the lure of uncovering hidden treasures in the bins, the erotic thrill of rubbing asses with a roomful of anal-retentive obsessives. That's something a mail-order or online retailer can't replicate, and it's also why, as suggested above, I love my work.

4. Bob Marley, Songs of Freedom box (Island). In early November, Island Records reissued this four-CD anthology; it initially came out in '92, sold a million copies, then went out of print. The new version comes in a 6" x 6" box, scaled down from the original 6" x 12" package, and contains the same liner notes. It's not remastered, however, nor does it have any bonus material, so why all of a sudden people would be trading in their old copies is beyond me. (Those were numbered editions, by the way, ensuring their collectibility forever.) But in the space of a month, no less than five copies came in; I finally own one.

5. Pink Floyd, The Early Singles (Columbia). Ha! While we normally don't take in fragments of boxed sets, this bonus disc from Floyd's Shine On eight-CD box was an exception. I don't need that bloated, ultra-pricey box anyway -- I've got pristine vinyl copies of all the albums! And now I've got some of the oddball stuff I'd never picked up. The only thing I can't figure out is why someone would break up their box in the first place . . . wait, I get it: too much "quirky" shit written by that Syd Barrett wing nut (half of the disc's 10 songs) and not enough from Roger "Mr. The Wall" Waters.

6. Larry Norman, Something New Under the Son, Only Visiting This Planet, So Long Ago the Garden, Stranded in Babylon, In Another Land, Live at Flevo, The Best of Larry Norman (various labels). My co-worker at the trade counter was gonna pass on these seven CDs; luckily, I heard him laughing to another employee about the goofy "Jesus music" that a customer was trying to trade in. Curious, I poked my head out of the office -- holy cow, a stack of Larry Norman reissues, some with bonus tracks! Norman was in the great '60s pop/psych group The People ("I Love You" was a big hit) and later went on to earn a reputation as the Ted Nugent of the Christian music scene. More recently, Frank Black covered a Norman tune (badly, I'm sad to report), so perhaps Norman's star will rise among the rock community's intelligentsia. Meanwhile, with this much Norman to spin, I'm in heaven. So to speak.

7. Bruce Springsteen, Up Close radio special (Media America/Jones Radio Network). A poorly kept secret of the record industry is that radio stations' music directors make a tidy little living (untaxed, by the way) on the side by selling station promos. Unfortunately, we're usually talking multiple copies of the latest Stone Temple Pilots rec, not anything of substance or inherent collectibility. Which very nearly had me reeling my peepers back into their sockets the other day when a certain local FM jock toted in a tub o' tunes containing this absolute gem. Not only does it represent one of the very, very few radio discs Springsteen has ever consented to do -- a three-CD set, it features interviews regarding the '99 E Street Band reunion plus music from the Tracks box -- it's one of those things you just don't see in many record stores, period. That's because it comes with no artwork (just a timing/cue sheet for deejays' reference) and in no jewel boxes -- the kind of nondescript presentation that your average minimum-wage record store bonehead tends to ignore. I do my best to educate my fellow trade counter workers on what is and what is not collectible (Bob Dylan is; the Wallflowers are not), and how to fairly price promos, imports, out-of-print rarities, etc., so that customers don't get lowballed and we, as retailers, don't wind up posting our product at inflated prices. But with turnover so high these days, it's a never-ending struggle on my end.

8. Jimi Hendrix Experience, "Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?" 45 (MCA). This seven-inch, orange wax platter was a limited promotional edition accompanying certain copies of the '98 Hendrix collection BBC Sessions, but I never saw it until recently. Vinyl is so devalued these days it's amazing anyone would even lug it into stores for trade. But once in a while, people do (I scored a copy of the Giant Sandworms debut, a white-wax EP, a couple of years ago, much to my delight), and as with my comments on promos above, a knowledgeable person working the trade counter can be a godsend both to the customers and to the store. Me, cocky? You bet.

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