It's not often you'll see Pierre Boulez and Anton Webern's names in the same sentence as 'Bladder', but that's the kind of crazy place this is. Ha-ha. Truth is I wouldn't have this box set if my bladder hadn't been fit to burst.
I'd got off the bus in Kentish Town yesterday morning and had the tough choice of walking home whilst desperate for a pee or going to the café, where I could use their toilet. I'd had one coffee already, although I do occasionally unleash the hedonist within and indulge in two whilst foraging for kulture in town. I already had a bag full of books but going to the café would mean absolutely having to check out the charity shops nearby. Decisions, decisions...it's not easy being me...in Kentish Town...having spent a fair bit already but faced with more shops...
So I went to the café, where I like to sit watching the dregs of society hobble past (not that I feel superior, of course, but look at the state of her! And why do slobs insist on walking around in tracksuit bottoms?!). One mad man did go by, alerting me to his presence by barking unfathomable words at the top of his voice, thus interrupting the creative flow pouring onto the notepad on the table before me...such lines as: 'Ought to really get LJ to cut my hair tonight', and 'Why am I writing? I have nothing to say' - oh yes, Kerouac's got nothing on me when it comes to spontaneous prose, I tell you....
So of course I went into the charity shop and having looked at the books then went to the vinyl in a fit of optimism because there's never anything there but utter shite and I do wonder if those bastards who share rare electronic music claiming to have done so from albums they found for $2 are just winding us all up because I've never, ever found anything that good for that kind of price. Well, I've found things like this, but they're hardly essential listening, you'll be surprised to learn.
But there sat Webern's Complete Works Opp 1-31 conducted by Pierre Boulez. The sleeve notes state that it's Volume One, but another was never released. I wonder why...it couldn't have been because this box set didn't reach sales expectations, surely. Wasn't the world clammering for Webern records in 1978? No?
The cover clinched it, of course. I mean, look at it - Kandinsky's 'The Black Circle' (1923). Did the Columbia people choose it because that black circle looks like the kind people always used to gain so much pleasure from on their hi-fidelity stereos? I wonder. Was Kandinsky thinking of the 10-inch record in relation to the modernist world and all that Jazz? I dunno.
Oh, and more than that, or at least equal to that, was the price tag. £1.49. Yes, £1.49. The records had to be in a terrible condition for that price, surely, but as soon as I tried to pull one from it's sleeve and felt that gentle resistance immaculate vinyl puts up, as if trying not to be spoilt, I knew I was onto a winner - all pristine, every one of the four discs. A Cliff Richard album would be priced more highly, but then, they've more chance of selling that, presumably. Who wants a box set like this? A man with a comfortably empty bladder, and only slightly emptier pockets, thank you.
Oh, and by the way, Boulez's recording's of Webern were No.1 in The Wire's "100 Most Important Records Ever Made" back in '92.