Belfast Record Fair

Organiser Robert Scott wants to bring back the wax in the Oh Yeah Centre

Why has it been so long since the last record fair in Belfast - has there been a renewed interest in vinyl?

I’m not quite sure why they died out before, probably something to with the rise of CDs at the time and a decline in punters. There is definitely a resurgence of interest in vinyl and it’s not just restricted to a lot of old duffers with too much time on their hands. Most young bands outside of the pop mainstream still issue some vinyl and of course Jack White is flying the flag.

The Undertones 'Jimmy Jimmy' recordDo you miss the days when music fans bought everything on vinyl?

I miss the times when you would go to a friend's house and the first thing you would do was to have a good look through their record collection. Depending on the records they had, they either commanded new respect as a friend or else they had to endure the derision as you plucked some embarrassing item (always held by fingertips as if it was toxic) from their collection. Sometimes the derision went on for years.

The fact that you didn't have 10,000 tracks on your PC meant that you were always hungry to find music you didn't have - to borrow or tape or buy yourself. Everyone had their own particular journey through music. Now that everyone has everything I'm not sure it's actually better for the music fan.

For those who listen to all their music as mp3s, what are they missing out on?

Every format has its pros and cons and fulfills a particular need. With mp3s, you can take your whole music collection around with you all the time, so it's handy for that. But for sheer music listening pleasure it's hard to beat vinyl as a format. The music is so much more lively, vibrant and, well, musical than most other formats.

When I'm on the move I listen to mp3s but when I want to hear music at its best it's either live music or vinyl. Mp3s and CDs often become just a background. Vinyl commands your attention because it has a greater dynamic range than the other formats in which the sound has been compressed.

The feel of something tangible, the artwork, the packaging, the lyrics etc are also part of the pleasure of records. They tell you something more about the artist. The pleasure in a tangible object should not be underestimated. Also, no matter how much your mp3s cost you, they have a re-sale value of zero. You'll probably get arrested as well if you try to sell them. It's also hard to make an ashtray out of an mp3.

Are there any rare records you've been keeping an eye out for recently?

I'm always on the lookout for that elusive gem - a copy of the Beatles' White Album sold recently for £20,000 (unfortunately it wasn't mine). It was numbered 0000005 - John, Paul, George and Ringo had copies numbered 0001 to 0004 and one of them probably gave number 5 to a friend. Number 6 would be nice to find!

On a more realistic level, any original records from the Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Hendrix etc that are in really good condition are worth hunting down. Condition is everything. Hardcore collectors really want to find a copy in the condition it first left the record shop. Lots of reggae, punk, prog, folk and even classical can be very desirable.

What are the most prized records in your collection?

Probably my most treasured records are not actually of any value to anyone else, but just family heirlooms and stuff I’ve had forever and played to death such as Bowie albums bought from any of the three or four record shops that used to exist in Bangor. The Record & Tape Centre (better known as the RTC), where we hung out most days after school bantering with Margaret and Harry; Aquarius Records with the legendary Angus where we went most lunchtimes; and Smyth’s For Records which we called into on our way to the RTC.

My favourite record of all-time is 'Chestnut Mare' by The Byrds, the sound of a 60s childhood in three minutes. All the records in the world to choose from, and my favourite is a song about a horse.

What was the first record you owned and (be honest!) what's the most embarrassing record you bought?

The first record I owned was 'Daydream Believer' by the Monkees, when I dragged my mother into the record section of the Co-Op in the mid-60s, managed by ‘Justin’ (who for some reason had his name and photo on the wall to alert you to this fact). I insisted that she and my brother also got one each. She chose a Patsy Cline EP (very cool) and my brother picked an EP by the Rangers Accordian Band (the shame!).

I don’t know what I’d be embarrassed by, but if the style police called I’d probably have to do a bit of explaining about the Chesney Hawkes single I possess, ‘Secrets of the Heart’ (and it’s great actually).

What can we expect down at the Belfast Record Fair?

The good thing is that apart from my own stuff I don’t know exactly what will be there. That’s half the fun. I have to be careful that I don’t leave with more records than I arrived with. There will very definitely be bargains to be had and rare gems as well as a good deal of classic rock, soul, punk and electronica etc. There will be picture discs, coloured vinyl, box sets, limited editions and EPs and 45s.

There's a saying, 'There's no such thing as too many records, just too little room'.

Totally agree, but not sure my wife does.

Belfast Record Fair takes place from 12 - 6pm on June 4, at the Oh Yeah Centre, 15 - 21 Gordon Street, Belfast. Selling rare vinyl from the 1950s to the present day and covering all genres of music, including CDs and books. Check out the Belfast Record Fair Facebook and the Oh Yeah website.

Eddie Mullan


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