I’m at my favourite record store in Cape Town bemoaning the lack of decent second-hand vinyl these days, when the conversation shifts to collectable South African records – is there such a thing you may ask, as a collector’s market for SA vinyl?
Among aficionados both local and international one thing is certain – LP’s from around the world have become more and more collectable when it comes to certain artists, but more importantly, SA vinyl from the early 1950’s onwards has not escaped the attention of serious collectors worldwide.
“So, what’s the value of a decent copy of Time to Suck by that notorious band SUCK, on the Parlophone label?” I ask.
“Well,” says the owner, “we’ve recently sold a copy to a Russian collector for 20 G’s.”
“Whaaaaat?” I croak, choking on my croissaint!!! 20000 rand for a piece of plastic!!
In 1970 when the record was released, you could buy a new copy for R1.99 at the local record shop, so do the math – it’s about a million and some percent profit over 50 years.
Even cryptocurrencies can’t beat that performance it seems, so what’s going on?
And here’s the story: during the late 60’s local Johannesburg-based music promoter Clive Calder saw currency in 5 of the then ” happening ” groups of the time viz. Freedoms Children, Hawk, Otis Waygood Blues Band, Abstract Truth, and ominously, SUCK.
They began recording for Calder at EMI and each released albums over a period of some 5 years, in the process creating some of the most vital and original music ever to be released on these shores.
In most cases only very limited numbers were stamped at EMI’s plant and sold to the public, and unlike European and American markets, were never released again. This is why their values have skyrocketed over the years. In most instances the groups themselves never became wealthy individuals, Calder later built a multi-million-pound music empire in the UK.
Unlike cryptocurrencies which have become huge investment traps, vinyl has some unique qualities which are much more attractive: you get something tangible. a large piece of plastic with a concentric layer of grooves, a central label identifying artist and record company, and most importantly – a hole in the centre!
Removed from a sleeve, most of which are visually gratifying to the eye, the shiny disc is placed on a turntable and the phono cartridge does the job of conveying the music to your ears. Unlike your cryptocurrency, the LP record doesn’t spin out of control over bad news in the marketplace, it keeps appreciating in value over the years with successive hearings.
The thing that really intrigues me with the Suck album is this – essentially, it’s a collection of heavy rock cover versions, only one original song on the entire record. Played with some ferocity, you can’t help thinking these are some pretty mean dudes involved. The cover doesn’t help, a young boy sitting in front of somebody’s bass drum.
That drum belonged to Savvy Grande, who whacked the skins for Suck, along with cohorts Andy Ionnides, Louis “Moose “Forer and Steve Gilroy.
Open the cover and there you see the gringos in all their glory, in the heyday which saw them become the most notorious group in the country: they beat a path of musical mayhem and destruction around the country, eventually disbanding because no theatres would allow them to play.
“I certainly didn’t get any money from Suck” says a chagrined Savvy, “instead I invested in the restoration of motorcycles, some of which are sold to collectors around the world, some ending up in museums in countries such as Portugal”. Cryptocurrencies don’t interest me at all, I prefer to earn a living using my hands and my technical skills.
Steve Gilroy, a savvy Englishman who came to SA in the 60’s has a different story:
After Suck disbanded, he started a publishing company in Johannesburg, and then began experimenting with home-made beer-making. After several years he expanded his skills into brewing fulltime. He established Gilroy’s in Muldersdrift, which has become popular for his craft beers and his Up Yours poems.
Talking it up has been the making of cryptocurrencies worldwide, but the vinyl revival has ensured that collectors around the globe have achieved more than satisfactory returns from their own collection investments – probably on a far greater measure both aurally and visually.
For those who have SA collectibles the news is good – those shiny plastic discs contain gold – kids, check out dad’s or grandpa’s record collection, there’s bound to be something valuable in there – so much more exciting than sitting on the pc chasing after shadows in the crypto world!
Garth Chilvers / Tom Jasiukowicz
Garth Chilvers and Tom Jasiukowicz published History of Contemporary Music of South Africa, 1994, Toga Publishing.
Record Store Day is an annual event, founded in 2007, held on the third Saturday of April each year to celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store. The day brings together fans, artists, and thousands of independent record stores across the world . We are creating an area that allows our customers to celebrate what is vinyl & music. I have asked the finest record stores in Cape Town to take part in this collaboration.
The Mabu Vinyl Blue Trommel Basement, to give it its full official name, is a section of the Mabu Vinyl Storeroom, which is situated in Oranjezicht, just a short distance from the Mabu Vinyl shop in Gardens.
While Mabu Vinyl’s well-known shop in Rheede Street will always be filled to the rafters with lots of great records, CDs, DVDs, books, cassettes and other cool stuff, the Blue Trommel Basement is mainly for those vinyl customers and collectors looking for the more collectable and rare records.
“The Basement” (or “The Trommels”), as these rooms are affectionately known, is where the more valuable and collectable records that come into Mabu Vinyl, all in top-end condition, can be found. Here you will find a wide selection of international and SA pressings, some of which are sold on eBay, as well as to private buyers and collectors from all over the world who visit the Basement.
There are plenty of LPs, 10″ albums, 7″ singles, 12″ maxis, and rare CDs in stock in the “The Trommels”, which is run by Jacques Vosloo, who personally inspects all the new incoming vinyl for imports in either mint or excellent condition, as well as South African pressings in the same shape.
A small section of “The Basement” stock can be found in the Mabu Vinyl shop, to give customers an idea of what stock is there and the prices, but anyone wanting to see more records in that condition, can arrange an appointment with Jacques to visit the Basement.
Due to the facts that The Basement is based at a private house, and Jacques is sometimes out looking at batches of vinyl, appointments to visit the Basement can only be made by contacting Jacques directly and arranging a time. The address and directions will be given at that stage.
Please phone or SMS Jacques on 0799228585 between 11am and 3pm, Tuesdays to Fridays, to make an appointment to visit the Blue Trommel Basement in Oranjezicht, Cape Town.
Record Store Day is an annual event, founded in 2007, held on the third Saturday of April each year to celebrate the culture of the independently owned record store. The day brings together fans, artists, and thousands of independent record stores across the world” . We are creating an area that allows our customers to celebrate what is vinyl & music. I have asked the finest record stores in Cape Town to take part in this collaboration.
There’s something about carefully
placing the needle into the groove of
a record, then carefully having to lift
it again to turn the record around and listen
to the other side. It’s the kind of interaction
with music you just don’t get when
listening to a CD in the front-loader of your
car or a digital file on your phone or MP3
The allure of vinyl has seen many a
music-lover dedicate a room or more to
house precious collections, with Martin
Scorsese and Mick Jagger even naming
their TV series homage to the 70s US
recording scene in honour of the format.
With World Record Store Day (April
16), on the horizon, Atlantic Sun speaks to
two vinyl enthusiasts, record store owner
Stephen Segerman and Paul Waxon, DJ
and organiser of one of the city’s hottest
Stephen, the co-owner of Mabu Vinyl
record store owner, and also one of the
men who initiated the search for folk
singer Rodriguez documented in the film
Searching for Sugarman, said that it is great
to see the younger generation coming into
his store and buying records.
“I can only talk from experience from
my own shop which is now 15 years old –
and according to the Oranjezicht residents,
that is a long time for a record shop in
Stephen, who says he “grew up going to
record stores and loving record stores” was
born and raised in Johannesburg and
studied at Wits University. He worked with
his dad at a jewellery factory for 20 years
and in the 90s he decided to move to Cape
“I watched as CD’s came and records
disappeared and people gave up on them.
I didn’t, because I didn’t want to give up
my records.” Stephen said his business
partner, Jacques Vosloo, started the shop
on Kloof Street, not far from their current
location in Rheede Street.
“Across the road, where Vida Café is
now, was a double shop. It was a secondhand
shop called Kloof Mart and it was his
dad’s shop. Jacques bought a batch of
records and turned part of the shop into a
record store.” This was the beginning of
Mabu Vinyl. They have been in there current
location for the last eight years. “I’d
been a big customer in his shop and
helped him advertise. In the 13 years that
we’ve built this shop and moved here
(about eight years ago) we’ve seen nothing
but the rise of vinyl. Vinyl has been massive
and come back.”
He said that originally the shop just
focused on dance, trance and house
“This is what kept vinyl alive. Slowly as
DJs started using computers and CDs, pop,
rock soul and jazz records became popular
again. There were record shops where you
could buy (vinyl) records which there hadn’t
been for years.”
“With electronics you won’t be able to
touch things, put a needle on it and get that kind
of quality. We’ve watched records become popular
with the younger generation which is wonderful.
There are thousands of records out there.”
At Mabu Vinyl, they only sell second-hand
records. “We have a saying that the universe has to
bring it to us. In the old days these records were
analogue and you could feel the sound. These new
records are made digitally and then converted to
vinyl. It doesn’t have the same soul,” said Stephen.
“People nowadays download tracks but we grew
up listening to whole albums. You had Ziggy Stardust
and you would put it on your record player.
You looked at the cover to find out who the musicians
were. After 20 minutes you had to turn it over
and listen to the other side. I still think that people
who love music want to hear the whole album.
What we’ve seen now is that this analogue world has
come back. It has a place and it is not going anywhere
because these records are valuable.”
“We are supportive of World Record Store Day
but we are not going to go out and get new records
just for it. We are a 365 day celebration. We are all
music addicts and it is wonderful that this addiction
has bought records back.”
DJ Paul Waxon said he has been collecting vinyl
records since he was young and started his WaxOn
events, at The Waiting Room, two and a half years
ago because he just loved playing music.
“I have been collecting records and DJing for a
long time. I stopped for a while when everything
went to digital. I went away on a holiday with my
friends and I realised how much I missed playing
music to people.”
He said that he also knew that the only way he
would get back into it again would be with vinyl
records. “I’m not a purist but I didn’t enjoy playing
the CDs and MP3s. I started my event because I
wanted to play music in the way I wanted to.” Vinyl,
he said, was the only format being played in the
clubs up until the early 2000s, and it was this scene
that contributed to keeping vinyl alive when many
vinyl pressing plants were shutting down.
It was the introduction of CDs to the market
which pretty much killed off vinyl sales. Then came
digital formats such as MP3, which turned the
music industry on its head, challenging recording
companies and music stores to reconsider their traditional
ways of looking at the music business.
Over the past few years, however, vinyl has
regained its popularity. “They started Record Store
Day to create interest in a broad way,” said Paul. “It
put some weight behind and sales started growing
on a very rapid scale. We are close to the point
where vinyl will outsell CDs in the next couple of
But it hasn’t all been positive, with record pricing
often in the upper-hundreds as everyone seeks
to cash in on the renewed interest in the vinyl
Now the big major record labels have jumped
on to it. The people that kept the plants open were
doing small indie rock bands and electronic music.
They are reissuing albums now that are already
there and also overpricing the new records. I saw
a Saturday Night Fever album for R500.
“I feel like we should promote our own music in
this country. If we want to promote Record Store
Day we have to find a way to support local music
and not just bring in old re-issues.
“There is a lot of music from the 60s and 70s that
sit in our record stores and nobody cares about it.
Then what happens is people overseas find them
and reissue them. Then they become popular. We
need to value our own music more. If I find the
right store, I walk out of there really happy.”