Tuesday, 9 August 2011

San Francisco part 11 - The Charity Shop Challenge

Some of you may remember last year I did a Charity Shop Challenge where I trawled through North and South London in search of some decent records. It was good fun albeit not that successful so I had high hopes when I set out to do another Charity Shop Challenge in the Bay Area of California. It didn't really pan out but I thought I'd document it anyway - don't get too excited now...

We opted for one of two yellow vehicles available to us - the less petrol hungry car over the rather more thirsty but more manly truck. Annie my driver for the day had a well studied itinerary to follow so we set out full of optimism. Well we set out.

First stop was a Goodwill in Pleasant Hill although given I did the challenge about a month ago this may not be entirely accurate. Feel free to correct me. Goodwill is a US wide thrift store (by which I mean charity shop but I will bow to the correct colloquialism in this instance) and they tend to be hanger-like by comparison to the UK equivalent but no less full of shit.

I was greeted by a sizable chunk of vinyl in the 'Entertainment Room' that I proceeded to sift through at veritable speed.

First find of the day was 'The Pink Panther' soundtrack by Henry Mancini with a rather dashing sleeve. Alas the vinyl within was pretty battered which is often the case with children's favourites.

Twenty minutes or so later I'd foraged through the entire batch without finding too much to prick my interest although 'The Big Lebowski' on laser disc was tempting for at least three seconds. I did however find this lp by a female Canadian singer/songwriter called Anne Murray from the early seventies that I took a gamble on. I'm not one for keeping lists but I recalled a thread on Very Good Plus extolling the joys of a record called 'Snow...' something or other by a female singer songwriter from the early seventies. Which was enough to pay a buck for. It looked like it wouldn't be utterly horrible anyway.*

I also chanced upon this rather confusing Bath Football Club year book as well. Americans have this rather unusual sport called American Football you see, much of which is played with their hands which even the most ardent fans have to watch sped-up Benny Hill style given how fantastically dull it is. They call it football. Silly eh? So this book confused me further. I couldn't recall a Bath football team of any significance; after all Bath is full of posh people and as we all know posh twits play rugger. Further investigation confirmed that this was indeed a filthy rugby artifact. So like I say rather confusing but I'm sure it's due to my street-cat working class ignorance rather than some unholy transatlantic printing specification...

I hurled the foul relic back from whence it came and popped over the road to a massive Salvation Army thrift store.

Unfortunately there were no records to be seen. A cursory glance at the books suggested Americans aren't as free of beard-faced berk Bill Oddie as one would hope. Incidentally my Bay Area guide for the day Annie scored big time in here with a choice Fred Perry top.

We left promptly and drove to another huge thrift store known as St Vincent de Paul Society.

I negotiated my way to the records and set about prospecting for vinyl gold. Or something.

There were some interesting records here but everything I would've spent my hard-earned dollars on seemed to be half eaten; bizarrely given that 99% of the rest of the tat had little or no sign of mastication. My first evidence - Sly and the Family Stone's super topically themed 'There's a Riot Going On'. I don't think they actually made the record way back in 1971 with England's summer of 2011 in mind but at the same time I wouldn't wish to rule it out. I'd bite your arm off for this record usually. Unfortunately it looks like someone already did.

Second point of evidence - an interesting looking Lee Michaels lp. Clearly not quite as palatable as the Sly record given the meagre helping of the top left hand corner but still enough to put me off taking a dollar gamble. It's probably worth mentioning I'm not ideally suited to these Charity Shop Challenges (Thrift Store Challenges) at the best of times given a combination of being perpetually skint and not wanting to introduce vinyl tat into my beautiful collection but the problem here was exacerbated by the fact I was going home to London in little over a week and already had a couple of records to take back.

The next vaguely tempting find was the Bread debut lp - again I vaguely recalled esteemed record collector Jarkatajive (Hugh to his friends) singing its praise a while back but I also got the distinct impression he was taking the piss. What's more I've heard Bread records (indeed I've had weird dreams involving Bread records and Wrongtom in the past - it's okay - he knows...) and without wishing to start Bread related beef (the worst kind of beef) I'm pretty much indifferent to their noodle armed seduction rock. Unless someone's stroking my hair at least. Also it's worth the noting the dog neglected to take a chomp of that particular record so it was obviously fucking rubbish.

A short ride over to Concord (I think) brought us to ARF. I forget what ARF stands for but at the time my brain inexplicably linked it to 80's space alien ALF (Alien Life Form?) and as stupid a thought as it was it was also far too insignificant for my brain to over-write so the minute I saw the following image again I immediately paused to think about the plight of the destitute space alien.

At 25c each the records I could have easily bought the entire box and stayed within the predetermined £10 budget ($16ish) but for the fact each one was shitter than the last.

And Olivia Newton-John isn't nearly as attractive as you may have been led to believe.

We left and made our way to this Goodwill shop again in Concord skipping around some kind of intimidating red-neck booze-and-metal street party.

A promising heap of vinyl before me I set to work with much enthusiasm. Honest.

Against all odds there were some okay records amongst the rubbish. As a big John Fahey fan I nearly would've bought this had I not bought and subsequently sold a cheap reissue of it some years ago. In terms of niche records it's a particularly dull Christmas album that could never quite get a shoe-in against Sufjan Steven's sprawling festive box set.

This, now this I should've bought. It's probably utter fucking garbage but seriously how did I leave this behind? A Bollywood soundtrack of a football film. Damn my miserly ways. (It's subsequently been brought to my attention this record is actually from Israel. It even says it on the sleeve.)

Which brings me to my third bit of evidence. Dick Hyman's 'The Electric Eclectics Moog' lp - a veritable monster of a record and accordingly enough it had been chomped on by something rather ungainly. Featuring the wigged out proto Detroit techno of 'Minotaur' and more significantly the whoosh-bonkers spacefunk-shuffle of 'Give It Up Or Turn It Lose' it's a gem of a record. Except the vinyl was even worse than the sleeve and I've got it already. In fact I've had it long enough to remember playing it out at my one djing residency probably over ten years ago. Which isn't just the lamest brag you'll read for some time but also a frightening reminder of the ageing process. Moving swiftly on...

At this point I was feeling a bit jaded and had had enough of being ferried around the Bay Area like the record nerd equivalent of Little Lord Fauntleroy but Annie had a couple more thrift shops in mind. We drove on to the store below - I forget what it was called - 'Kids for Jesus', 'Jesus Touches All Of Your Children' or something similar - I definitely remember it being Christian.

And it had a plentiful selection of vinyl too.

Amongst a fair bit of Christian vinyl and the usual suspects I found this lp but seemed to recall it being Blues heavy rock the likes of which make me want to punch the elderly. But ultimately not much to write home about (although just enough to regurgitate and write in a blog a month down the line).

Annie was determined to make a success of the day so she forced me to one last thrift store fittingly titled Annie's Attic.

There were a few records but not much of note although having had another look at this photo up close the Beny Moore/Perez Prado looks worth a gamble on cover alone but I think at this stage I was pretty much ready to call it day.

We made one final stop at Half Price Books Records and Magazines which has a couple of branches around the Bay Area. It doesn't really count as a charity shop but it did manage to restore my faith in the vinyl gods as I found 'The Notorious Byrd Brothers' and David Crosby's 'If Only I Could Remember My Name' for a few dollars a-piece. Of course this only seemed to undermine the point of charity shop record hunts even more so.

So what did I learn? Foreign charity shops can be equally as dull as UK ones? Or perhaps more to the point I'm not really cut out for charity shop record trawls anymore. *Oh and my single purchase of the day Anne Murray's 'Snowbird' is fucking fetid shite which brings to mind a bad 'Una Paloma Blanca'. Which is pretty fucking bad (drum breaks or not).

Apparently I was getting confused with The City's 'Snow Queen' featuring a very young Carole King. 1970ish, female singer featuring snow in the title. Rookie mistake...

1 comment:

Norman Watkins said...

It’s great that you took this challenge, despite your not-so-good experiences with charity shops in the past. You are certainly picky when it comes to buying records, and it's great that you managed to find at least a few hidden gems after the long trip, and you didn't go home empty-handed at the end of the day. I hope the following year of charity shop challenge was more successful. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Norman Watkins @ eBay Giving Works