John Lamb, Published October 29 2013
Fargo Record Fair gives classic sounds a new spin
Vinyl records, those black 12-inch discs your parents, or even grandparents spun music from, keep turning back into favor.
A New York Times story in June quoted one industry source estimating 5.5 million vinyl LPs would be sold in the United States this year, up from 4.6 million in 2012. Another source stated about 25 million albums were pressed domestically in 2012, with even more coming in from Europe and Asia.
Daft Punk, the electro-duo behind the song of the summer, “Get Lucky,” sold 19,000 vinyl copies of their new album, “Random Access Memory,” in the first week of its release. The disc sold 339,000 copies in that week, making the LP 6 percent of overall sales.
Nowhere in the area will the vinyl resurgence be felt – and heard – more than at the Fargo Record Fair on Saturday at the Howard Johnson. More than 20 vendors will set up shop, peddling tens of thousands of albums, from the obligatory offerings to obscure titles.
“I’ve found I can’t predict what people want,” says Record Fair organizer Dean Sime. “There’s a huge vinyl heavy metal following. That surprised me.”While some men devote their free time to motorcycles, classic cars, hunting or fishing, the 45-year-old’s hobby is music. The basement of his family’s north Fargo home houses more than 4,000 LPs, 3,500 CDs and a hundred books about music. He’ll bring about 1,000 titles to Saturday’s show.
He’s been buying albums for four decades, spending one decade working for Discontent when it was still a record store known as Disc & Tape. But he’s reluctant to call himself a collector.
“I’m a very undisciplined collector. I am very impulsive. I buy whatever looks interesting,” he says.
While he still buys three or four new LPs a month, he’s become more selective, looking to finish off catalogs from certain artists, or upgrade copies of what already owns.
Currently he’s looking for copies of self-titled debut of The Modern Lovers, the band featuring Jerry Harrison from the Talking Heads and Jonathan Richman. He’s also looking for a copy of Richman’s solo album, “Jonathan Goes Country.”
But there are boundaries to his passion.
“I have a limit,” Sime explains. “Thirty dollars is my limit. I’m a cheap collector. I’d rather have four other records than one expensive record …. I have some albums that are worth more than $30, but I didn’t pay that.”
He picked up a copy of P.J. Harvey’s 1995 album “To Bring You My Love” for a few bucks. Now it can fetch up to $60.
The most he’s sold an album for was $25 for a copy of “The Angry Young Them” the 1965 debut of the Irish band Them fronted by Van Morrison.
“It’s pretty easy to sell established artists like Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison. Those just seem to go every year,” says Scott Schulz, another fair vendor.
“Every year someone asks me if I have a copy of ‘Moondance,’ ” he says, referring to Morrison’s landmark album. But this year he doesn’t have a single copy to sell.
Still, Sime doesn’t buy as an investment and only sells to cull his collection.
If he was looking at it as a business venture, he’d invest in the Fab Four.
“I cannot believe people are always looking for The Beatles,” he says, adding he has none to sell. “They’ve always been there. At some point you’d think the flame would go out, but it just won’t.”
Beatles albums can indeed be a good investment.
Gary Pierce will have a table on Saturday, but he’s also looking for an original copy of The Beatles’ 1966 album, “Yesterday and Today.” The first pressing featured what is known as “the butcher cover,” with the band wearing butcher smocks and posing with animal cuts and doll parts. In 2006 an unopened copy went for $39,000 in an auction.
The 55 -year-old Pierce mostly collects classic rock and ’60s psychedelia.
“Anything oddball is good, too,” he says.
The most he’s ever paid was $60 for an album by the Texas psychedelic group featuring Roky Erickson, 13th Floor Elevators.
While he’s sold an Eddie Cochran album for $50, he prices most at $5, or three for $10.
“The cheaper stuff sells better,” he says, adding that Led Zeppelin IV is always a favorite.
Cheap is the name of the game for Dustin Ellingson. The 29-year-old bought 20,000 titles from a collector in Oklahoma and sells each for $1 at the show.
He’s quick to point out the collection consisted of odd regional acts, Lawrence Welk and Barbara Streisand.
“And those aren’t really selling this year, or last year, or the year before that or the year before that,” he says.
Still, he makes enough to pay to have a friend help him for the day, take him to lunch and talk music with other collectors.
“It’s just fun to dig through the collections everyone brings,” he says. “You get more excited with what you discover than disappointed in what you don’t find.”
“It’s not so much to make a lot of money as it is to make someone’s day,” Schulz says. “It’s kind of like karma.”
His highest priced single sale was a nearly mint copy of Ween’s “Chocolate and Cheese” for $40.
Another former record store employee, Schulz says that he has, “way more stuff than I could ever play.”
Still, he’s always looking, particularly for old country blues from the 1930s and ’40s.
Even if he found such vintage 78 rpm albums, he couldn’t listen to them: He hasn’t hooked up his turntable since moving to Fargo in 1997.
If You Go
WHAT: Fargo Record Fair
WHEN: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday
where: Howard Johnson, 301 3rd Ave. N., Fargo
Info: Admission is $2. For more information visit www.facebook.com/FargoRecordFair
Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533