I have yet to embrace the current trend for expensive heavyweight vinyl but earlier today I felt a degree of warm satisfaction when I encountered a display of vinyl albums in my local Sainsburys, especially since one of the 14 albums on the rack was Nick Drake’s Pink Moon. Personally I’d have gone for Five Leaves Left but I’m not about to quibble over such details since the concept of Sainsburys, of all places, selling a vinyl album by Nick Drake, of all people, seemed truly remarkable. Nick Drake? Mainstream? In a supermarket? Well, knock me down with a ten-ton truck as Morrissey sings on another of the albums I clocked.
The other 13 vinyl albums on display were a bit more predictable though by no means uninspired. Bowie leads the field with three (Hunky Dory, Ziggy & Nothing Has Changed, the most recent hits compilation), followed by The Beatles (Pepper & Abbey Road), with one each from AC/DC (Back In Black), Eagles (Hotel California), Led Zep (IV), The Smiths (Queen Is Dead), Foo Fighters (hits comp), Nirvana (Nevermind), Bob Marley (Legend) and Adele (25), the only contemporary album they’ve chosen to stock. The prices ranged from £12 to £18.
Intrigued by the whole concept, when I got home I googled ‘vinyl records in Sainsburys’ and up came an item on their website that listed which vinyl albums would be stocked: all of the above plus Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black, F Mac’s Rumours, Led Zep’s first album and the debut albums by The Specials and Stone Roses. I can only assume that these have already sold out or were deemed unsuitable for Guildford. Interestingly, Hunky Dory wasn’t on the list (thought it was in stock) and I’m a bit surprised that Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon wasn’t there, maybe also Abba Gold or an Eagles hits comp.
A note on their website states that this is a ‘selection of 2016’s best sellers to date’. What they mean, of course, is ‘2016’s best selling vinyl albums to date’. Over in the CD racks a few weeks ago I was staggered to see about a dozen Bowie albums on sale, obviously catapulted into the charts by his recent death, and I’d have thought that Let’s Dance – if it’s available on vinyl – would have been a wiser choice than Hunky Dory if commercial potential is the criteria for selection.
At the bottom of the display, which I really ought to have snapped with my camera-phone, was a 3-speed portable turntable on sale at £80 on which to play your albums. I’m assuming the other two speeds are 45 and 78rpm. Does anyone really play 78s these days?
Nevertheless, who would have thought that of all the many wonderful albums released by Islands Records during the seventies, the only one that would make it onto the shelves of a supermarket in 2016, in the same format as it was released it in 1972, would be Pink Moon, recorded solo in just two days by a singer songwriter who would be dead two years later – and which was probably Island’s least successful album of the decade.