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I 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."








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