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Repression Depression

The French love a scandal. Perhaps it comes from a deep sense of justice and suspicion of institutional lies. Perhaps its the kind of dissatisfaction with the status quo that compelled them to take human history forward on 14th July 1789.

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Or maybe in some cases its disgust, disdain and a special kind of slow burning rage at being ripped off. Robbed, even, by mysterious bearded men, multinationals, lost tapes and murky contracts acting together to create a false dawn for vinyl lovers everywhere. And a product labelling scandal to shame even the slingers of horsemeat horror burgers.Philippe's hatred of fakery provoked him to send me into a long, dark, and hairy journey for this week's blog. And I've ended up learning more than I wanted to about my own record of total vinyl idiocy.Reissue. Repress.Two words that should usually be spelled with four letters and a sneer. Yet commentators and music hacks often greet news of a Reissue with spiritual bliss, as if some lost sonic saint has been conjured back from the dead. Sometimes, magic happens. But if there ever was a zone where Buyer Beware should be the mantra, the world of resurrected vinyl is it.My own shame in this area is huge. When I first caught the Black Gold Bug I assumed New was Nude as in a record free from the pain of years and ready to get down with me.I was amazed that copies of classics too battered for the Rat racks could cost as much or more than a brand new shiny slab...of lies. I now need to shave as much evidence of 4 Men With Beards from my collection as possible. Represses and reissues are a minefield at best and crappy con trick at worst. Like some kind of phone box based pharma deal, you know its wrong and will disappoint but still sometimes feel you've got no choice. But how and why did repressing become depressing?A lot of records didn't hit hard or wide at the time, as the Northern Soul and Hip Hop heads have always told us. This means that prices and even the chance of never finding a copy of a great record at all are often way too high to bear. And of course labels always find a way to sell us what we already own, again and again. Add general indifference to quality control and shifty old licensing deals into the mix and smell the reality. Philippe cited Bill Fay as an artist whose originals require a mortgage to purchase, but is sadly debased by bearded rubbish reissues.If we're honest with ourselves, the golden age of vinyl had its fair share of dodgy output. Traxx famously would sand down grooves on unsold stock and heat it up again to get stamped anew. Shoes, bits of tyres and car seats also debased a lot of classic reggae records. In these sad cases, even a CD gives a better sound.After the stagflation horror of the 70s, everything got cheaper and nastier. Records were pressed on vinyl so thin you could almost see through it while you struggled to keep it from floating away. And so it went on during the dying days of mass market vinyl. Fewer records made, and made badly. This is why when you hit the late 80s even massive hits cost some serious cash on wax.As the majors left the field, the reissue hyenas stalked in to pick on the waxy corpse.The big labels thought no-one but old people and weirdos wanted vinyl so anyone who came knocking with pen and paper got some kind of love. Much like the no doubt bearded truckers who were licenced to make 8-track tapes of LPs well into the early 80s. Leave the eccentrics to it, collect a few pence from the fools and knock back another martini.Less glamorous parts of the business - local distributors and wholesalers - realised they could gorge on a fat, forgotten slice of the pie for no risk. All they had to do is remember to pay the label some small change for every record they slung out. No studio bills, marketing, royalty cheques or whatever. Bottom feeding genius.Countless companies now have the right to reissue records. Mysterious entities like "Scorpio" allegedly can knock out as much from EMI's stable as they want. 4 Men With Beards, part of Runt distribution, also have rights to mess about with EMI, Universal, Philips and other big catalogues.When its easy to get a decent master, like an analogue dupe or a massive digital file from it, they sometimes sort of try.But most of the time scanned artwork, a CD master and thin, cheap vinyl in a toilet paper sleeve that scuffs it before you touch it is the way. Bubbles, pits, warps, hair and even fingerprints add to the fun. Blue Note, Atlantic and anything at all "cult" or "classic" are common victims. They can be as cheap as £10 but that's more than your favourite record store would charge for a lovely 70s reissue or even an original.Scorpio and friends make no promises beyond offering a cheap knockoff of a rare, expensive or even just popular LP. It's the honest approach to sonic skullduggery.The MegaAudioPile 299 gram Virgin Vinyl lot should do better. They coat their covers with stickers shouting Mastered From The Original Tapes Etc. A bootleg cassette in a Mongolian street market is mastered from the original tape. It's just a rather long way from it. And these days no-one knows where that tape is, or can be bothered to look.If you're going to throw out a few thousand bits of product to hipsters, why spend time and money hunting round mislabelled reels in some basement when a nice shiny CD or even a clean copy of the vinyl is available? And if you are one of the majors, are you going to post your precious vault tape to some hippies in Eindhoven rather than send a digital file? Sometimes the file is fat enough that it doesn't do damage - but all too often its thinner and dumber than the ones used to make ringtones.At least with ringtones you know what you're buying - its clearly labelled. Reissue records have less honest labelling than the worst £0.79 for 12 buttburga bags in an illegal butchers.This is the real problem. Sony's lot now are getting better - using notes and the dead wax again to show who mastered it where and how. Sundazed is even more obsessive about sources and telling the whole story. The Beard Boys and most others can't be bothered, and have plenty to hide.But what's your story, friends of Rat? Are there any reissues that you've warmed to, or been taken for a ride by?And if you're riding anywhere this Saturday, it should be to check our astonishing New In. We have Soul, Jazz funk, African grooves, R&B, blues rock, classic rock, hip hop, UK grime 12"s and a pinch of disco. Here's the detail...Icehouse, DR Ross one man band, Slave, Bonnie Bromlett, Sammy Jones & rum runners, Pete Rock, Soul Affair Orchestra, John Surman, Slum village, Edwyn Collins, The misunderstood, Steeleye span, The rolling stones (many many rolling stones records out this week, I wonder why...?), The Circle City Band, Freez, Giants, Bob Lyle, Ashta Puthli, Throbbing Gristle, Chris & Cosey, George Martin Orchestra, Mikey Dread, Band du Mali, MC5, Anvil, Frank Zappa, Leonard Cohen, Dylan, Beatles Hendrix...and more more more!

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