A crime

May. 4th, 2009 06:28 am
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[personal profile] fpb
A couple of days ago, I found through Freecycle that a family a mile or two from my flat was clearing out their cellar and giving away stuff - including a window cleaner, which I could use. By the time I got there, however, the window cleaner had been stepped upon and was past repair. However, what I saw in the skip where they were throwing away unsalvageable stuff simply took my breath away.

Let us start with the vinyl. From what I was able to recover - much of it seemed to have been buried under other debris and would require a motor shovel to get it out - they must have thrown away an absolutely first-rate collection of vinyl LPs of all kinds, from Frank Sinatra to the height of the sixties (Stones, Jethro Tull, Cream, Bob Dylan, Marvin Gaye, Aretha, Dionne Warwick, Pink Floyd, Byrds, Deep Purple) to a lot of hot eighties stuff (Sade, Eurhythmics, Alison Moyet, Echo & the Bunnymen, Dr.Feelgood, Joan Armatrading, Michelle Shocked, Tina Turner's "Private Dancer", Style Council, Everything but the Girl, New Order - my youth coming back to me) to world music (Nusrat Ali Khan, King Sunny Ade, a Russian chorus, Cajun music by Eddie LeJeune) and last but absolutely not least a number of incredibly rare, scholarly recordings from the American twenties and thirties: Cajun Music 1928-1938, Aunt Molly Jackson (an Appalachian singer, by profession a midwife), Champion Jack Dupree, a two-disc set of "the story of the blues", Big Maceo, Wobblies songs from the IWW, St Louis Blues 1929-1935, Howlin' Wolf; and just as a cherry on the cake, a couple of items by Dolly Parton and Queen, and two classical LPs. Now why had this treasury of music been thrown away? Because some - not even many; some - of the covers had been ruined by the damp. The damp, of course, does nothing to vinyl; but the fact that they could not sell them was enough to decide to destroy them. They evidently had never given a thought to the fact that a collector would gladly take them as they were.

But that was nothing compared to the comics. Literally hundreds of original 2000AD-Judge Dredd progs from the eighties; whole runs, it seems to me, of Watchmen and Alan Moore's Swamp Thing; dozens of Marvel and DC series including such things as Grant Morrison's Animal Man; and - believe it or not - what seems, from the little I could recover, to have been a run of the original Uncanny X-Men at least from 109 (the first Byrne-Austin) to the 170s or so. The whole thing, as I told to the family's faces, would have been worth literally thousands of pounds - if it had not been literally devoured by the damp and by mouse bites.

The story, as I can reconstruct it, is as follows. The wife's brother seems to have been a comics collector in the eighties, when that sort of thing was cool. He left for America "years ago" - to judge by the comics left, sometime about 1995 - and took only a part of his collection away. Now, already the fact that he seems to have left behind stupendous items like the Alan Moore Swamp Thing and the best writing Chris Claremont ever did makes me suspect his taste. However, the real crime was that he did not bag a single one of them. Plastic bags would not have kept out all the damp and the mold, but would have significantly reduced the damage, and would have discouraged the mice. And they are the only thing about collecting comics that is cheap. Bear in mind that by the time he left, the Moore Swamp Things, let alone the Claremont-Byrne-Austin X-Men, were already universally regarded as classics. Anyone who cared for the artform - or even only for the money spent buying them, which could easily be got back tenfold by selling the best of them back in good condition - would have taken the trouble to bag them.

I took away as many of them as I could. Many of them, perhaps most, are beyond saving, but I hope to at least be able to preserve a few. And it might give me an object in the future: to keep each damaged and unsaveable item until I have been able to buy another copy in good state, so that, in a while, I can rebuild the collection I could have had - and that the bastard could have had himself - if he and his family had taken the least amount of trouble to protect something that was already expensive and collectable when they left it to the mold and the rodents to party.

I'm An American, So...

Date: 2009-05-04 09:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] saturndevouring.livejournal.com
While reading your post, I had to look up what a "skip" was.

And as Sophocles reminds us, "How terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise."

I don't know much about the comics, but, the vinyl.

Aretha deserves better than to be tossed into a dumpter.

Re: I'm An American, So...

Date: 2009-05-04 09:48 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
I think that in America it's a "dumpster".

Date: 2009-05-04 05:35 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] luckymarty.livejournal.com
Ouch. "It's worse than a crime: it's a blunder." But cold comfort that they know better now.

On a related but more positive note, I've been meaning to drop you a short thank-you note: if it hadn't been for your essay on Kirby's 2001 comics, it would never have occurred to me to look for them when I ran across someone selling the (bagged!) comics out of his basement collection. I haven't been much of a comics collector for years now, but these are a keeper.

Date: 2009-05-05 02:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rfachir.livejournal.com
I got a Mahalia Jackson LP out of a dumpster once, but that was my best find. And my record player bit the dust three years later, so it was only a brief stay of execution. People who love vinyl have a ton of treasures from people who can't use the treasures any more. Good luck on with the new collection!

Date: 2009-05-05 05:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
If things are the same in the USA as over here - and I can't see why not - you can find brand new and cheapish made-in-China record players at any decent electronics shop, most of them with extra features such as CD players or MP3 recorders. Mine set me back some fifty pounds. Have a look: you might find something that suits you. And it's true that vinyl records are going for a song these days (unlike comics, alas). I actually prefer them to CDs: they are less temperamental and it is less of a disaster even if they get scratched or damaged.

Date: 2009-05-05 08:58 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mentalguy.livejournal.com
It isn't only that. In the US at least, is actually making a comeback.

So you are ahead of the trend. :)

Date: 2009-05-05 09:17 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
Oh yes, it's happening all over - in Britain and Italy too.

Date: 2009-05-07 07:38 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] dustthouart.livejournal.com
My favorite band, Joy Electric, regularly releases vinyl versions of its albums with bonus tracks not released elsewhere. It even released a 7" with no corresponding CD release until 2 years later.

I always found that kind of funny because Joy Electric is an electronica band--it's 100% synthesizers, so one would think Ronnie Martin would be all "new technology yes!". But then, I know at least one of the albums was recorded entirely on a synthesizer released in 1975, so maybe it's appropriate.

Date: 2009-05-08 04:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
Electronic music was BIG in the vinyl age. Look up Waldo de los Rios and Jean Michel Jarre.

Date: 2009-05-08 11:21 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mentalguy.livejournal.com
Not to mention Walter/Wendy Carlos, who had a great deal to do with bringing electronic music into the mainstream in the late 1960s.

Date: 2009-05-09 02:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fpb.livejournal.com
Indeed.

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