have a confession to make. Not to you, the dear, sympathetic Guardian
readership, but to my girlfriend, and possibly my accountant. On the
19th of July, at 1.18pm precisely, I spent £122 buying a seven
inch single from eBay. It’s a purchase I’ve been planning
in general for the past eighteen months and intently for the last six
days, and now that it’s over, now that I’ve won (and how
ironic that word feels at the moment), I feel an uncomfortable mixture
of elation, guilt and stone cold fear.
The record in question is “Do It” by Pat Powdrill, my favourite
northern soul single of all time. I’m playing an mp3 of the song
as I type this, and even on the umpteenth listen it makes my pupils
dilate and my heart beat thicker and faster against my ribcage. Vinyl
copies crop up on eBay once or twice a year and go for ridiculous sums
- $483 in 2008, and $308 in 2010. So not only have I bought a single
that sets off fireworks inside my head, I’ve snapped it up for
a bargain price.
That’s the theory, at least. The reality, of course, is very different.
At a time when money worries are more acute than ever, and with two
children to provide for, isn’t spending £122 on a seven
inch an indulgence at best, and reckless at worst? I’m lucky that
I run a northern soul club called Great Big Kiss, so I can rationalise
my purchase as something I need for the night. Yes, I can play “Do
It” off CD, but spinning the original vinyl feels more worthwhile
somehow, as if the connection with the song, and the time in which it
was written and released, is stronger, deeper. But still – I know
I don’t need this. And yet I have to have it.
There’s one more worry. I’ve been collecting vinyl seriously
for a few years now, starting off with 50p purchases at boot fairs before
moving on to heftier buys on eBay. To begin with, I’d agonise
over spending eight pounds on a mere seven inch, but once I’d
smashed through the £10 barrier (“I’m In A World Of
Trouble” by The Sweet Things, for £12.99), it all became
easier suddenly. I’m in my early forties. I hardly go out anymore,
as we’ve got kids, so I don’t spend what I did on eating
out or drinking. So blowing money on records seems almost justifiable.
Have I stumbled into a very middle aged addiction?
It certainly seems that way. When I make bulk buys (48 singles from
Canterbury’s Indoor Market, for example, ranging from The Shangri-Las
to Ramsey Lewis), I feel bloated, like I’ve had one binge too
many. And when I haven’t been on eBay for a while, I start to
feel itchy, and I’m disappointed when the postman doesn’t
deliver any packages, even though I know I haven’t bought anything.
Plus I’ve been keeping some of my record buying a secret. On my
first attempt to buy “Do It”, during a visit to my Mum’s
in April, I furtively stayed up until 1.16am, and bid $220. When I admitted
why I was so tired the next day, my girlfriend wasn’t impressed.
This time, though, I knew I’d get it. For three days, my bid of
£9.99 was the only interest, and I daydreamed about the steal
of a lifetime. But even when it had crept up to £81.99 an hour
before the end, I felt certain. And although £122 is a rash outlay,
I’m hoping my fee for this piece will cover it, and my girlfriend,
who’ll find out by reading these words, will be forgiving. Which
just leaves me with that stone cold fear. What if my copy of “Do
It” isn’t as pristine as described? What if it’s finally
delivered and - as with the vinyl version of C86 that I spent £24
on earlier in the year and still haven’t returned – it skips?
An edited verson
of this piece was published in The Guardian here.
After publication, Pat Powdrill's producer Nick Risi (pictured above),
commented: "I am very pleased to read the above article about my
1966 production of Pat Powdrill's 'Do It' selling for £122.00
on Ebay, which usually sells for around £200.00 This old 45 Vinyl
disc has been made so popular thanks to Northern Soul Music. I wish
I had kept a box load."
Mary Malone, Pat Powdrill's sister, also got in touch. She wrote: "Ian,
my sister Patty would be so proud and amazed after all these years that
her music is still selling. I remember sitting in the studio on a folding
chair singing along with her as she recorded her songs. Of course, the
producer politely escorted me out of the sound room and into the control
room and I watched her from behind the thick glass partition. I learned
a great deal about singing and followed her to all her voice lessons
and studio sessions. She would be so happy now if she were with us.
She was an amazing person and I love her very much. Thank you for keeping
her memory alive."