Thursday, 13 October 2011

Record Shopping In The Money Jungle With Ellington, Mingus & Roach

‘You can’t know everything,’ I said (with a smile) to the young guy in the recorde shoppe who confessed (sheepishly) that he was listening to the ‘Money Jungle’ album by Ellington, Mingus & Roach for the first time. It was playing as I walked in – Ellington’s bold melodic blocks bolstered by Mingus’s gut-wrenching bass, both riding Roach’s muscular rhythm machine – what an album. 
   Next year is the session’s 50th anniversary (Sept 17th) – make a date in your diary so you can go pick an ‘African flower’ from a ‘warm valley’, hitch a ride on a ‘caravan’, get ‘wig wise’ if your bald head needs one – it’s a ‘very special’ album, best listened to in ‘solitude’, perhaps, before returning to the ‘money jungle’ (those may all be track titles from the album, or I’m going mad, you decide).
   Yes, the money jungle, we all live in it, so I cut through the concrete foliage now and then to get to a recorde shoppe and support them. I was in one the other day which felt like a mausoleum. The basement had closed, sectioned off with a chain onto which a sign was attached reading ‘The basement is closed because you (underlined) didn’t spend enough money’ – the cheek – just the kind of sentiment to endear the shop to customers. Underneath someone had written in biro something like ‘Or the records were too expensive’ – the punter strikes back.
   I can’t see recorde shoppes surviving much longer, which I know everyone’s been saying for years, but without working out every possible angle to attract punters they look doomed. They can book bands to play (one sure way of keeping me away that day), sell online and so on. Once a year we get the ‘Record Shops Booming’ article in  the press. I’d like to think it’s true, especially in this climate, but the money jungle today is hardly conducive to spending more on music than you need to, is it? I guess (imagine) that the true supporters of music shops are comfortably off and feel secure in their jobs. That or they have a bad music habit that can’t even be satiated by downloading files on the ‘net. New vinyl’s attractive, but seeing the prices, I just wonder ‘Why?’
   Once upon a time long ago, children, I bought regularly from ye olde recorde shoppe called ‘Mole Jazz’ in Kings Cross, London, and even then the second-hand vinyl was cheap. The upside to this downside is that if you still like vinyl of a certain vintage the prices are very good. The old stuff is all I’m interested in; the covers that look their best sized 12 x 12, which display the artwork, photography, typography as it should be seen. As regular readers will know, I’m a sucker for a slice of stylish history.
   I picked ‘Money Jungle’ up from Mole Jazz in the 80s.  It’s heavyweight vinyl, the kind that doesn’t bend easily, unlike the later stuff made of plastic cups recycled from the CBS factory canteen. My brother worked there in the 70s (the record plant, not the canteen). He got me the Sex Pistols album, but how it got home in one piece, I don’t know, because he hated them, and I’ve since realised what a token of affection that must have been.
   ‘Long Play Stereo’...‘Made In Great Britain’ ...‘Use Emitex cleaning material’...‘Important. This record is intended for use only on special stereophonic reproducers’ – ah, yes, the ancient text of times gone by...I do love my copy of ‘Money Jungle’, not only as an astonishing session, but an object, as vintage vinyl-buyers do. Here’s hoping that the best recorde shoppes survive life in the money jungle for at least as long as the music made by Ellington, Mingus and Max Roach.

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