Interview: The record dealer who discovered a lost Lennon-Jagger track


2015-06-26 13:55:49


Interview: The record dealer who discovered a lost Lennon-Jagger track

Record dealer Tom Fisher has an ear for a bargain, and great advice for your collection

Tom Fisher has lived out every record collector's fantasy.

In 1999, the record dealer discovered a unique piece of music history, lost for 25 years.

And not only did Tom discover it, he made a sensational 6,900% profit on it four years later.

That piece of music history was the acetate of a 1974 John Lennon-Mick Jagger collaboration: blues track Too Many Cooks.

Featuring Lennon on guitar, Jagger on vocals and Ringo Starr on drums, the acetate formed part of a crate of records Tom took a punt on for 20. That 20 turned into 1,400 for Tom when he sold the acetate at auction.

Tom runs the hugely popular Rat Records in Camberwell, south London - collectors queue up before opening time on a Saturday morning to grab the bargains. He has sold an estimated 650,000 records and is always on the hunt for that next big find. Which is what he was up to when we caught up with him on the M25 last week.

Tom told us how he unearthed the Lennon-Jagger track, what the internet age has done to record prices, and how less than 1% of records are investment material.

Paul Fraser Collectibles: You discovered the onlyvinyl acetate of a Mick Jagger-John Lennon collaboration a few years back. Tell us more.

Tom: I bought a crate of records from a bloke who said he was Ronnie Wood's builder.

Ronnie had given him the records, which then got knackered in a flood. However at the bottom of the box was a blank acetate I had a feeling about it and did a lot of research once I had heard it and recognised the vocalist [Jagger] and style.

Ronnie WoodRonnie Woods builder sold Tom the lost acetate for 20

It was bought by an un-named buyer at auction. Let's just say there is a great previously unheard track on the 'Best of Mick Jagger' CD.

What other great discoveries have you made down the years?

I did pretty well out of a very low numbered Beatles White album, and a Joy Division 7" and booklet this year. Took a fair bit of work to find the right buyers though!

Which artists and albums are most popular with your buyers?

Beatles, Stones, Dylan, Miles Davis, Velvet Underground, Hendrix, Zeppelin, Marley, Fela Kuti, Floyd, Clash, Smiths, Pixies. And then everything obscure in the specialist genres.

Conversely, who is the artist you have most trouble shifting?

Vinyl customers are not really interested in many of the best-selling mainstream artists: U2, Queen, George Michael etc apart from very unusual items in their back catalogue. Avoid pop music and artists with lessened artistic credibility.

What are the rarest records that have come through your doors?

A comprehensive bagpipe album collection! Scottish pipes, Galician pipes, Breton pipes The staff thought I was mad but I sold it in the end. To a piper!

Who are your customers? 55-year-old ex punks? 19-year-old hipsters? Mostly men?

In the last two years we're seeing a lot more young (ie under 25s) people, and more women. It's still generally men, but now our customers are mostly 18-55, and usually really enthusiastic.

You've sold records in Camden (north London), Greenwich and now Camberwell (both south London). Are buyers' tastes different depending on whether you're south or north of the river?

Not really in London, as punters tend to visit lots of shops. When I had a market stall in Oxford, we did sell more folk and prog rock.

Do you view vinyl as long-term investment material?

No. That would be land, and gold! Records are a mass produced item, but within the field there are certain specific artists and genres that are always desirable, but it's less than 1% of all vinyl. We have to work really hard with a big turnover to make money.

Tom FisherTom Fisher's Rat Records in Camberwell is so good it even coaxes north Londoners south of the river

If you want to play safe, buy classic rock LPs in great condition and reggae and its subgenres pre 1979. However, I think the prices of the classic 60s period: up to the end of the Beatles, will eventually fall as the owners die or get shot of their collections. It happened with rock 'n' roll.

The internet has polarised record values. Many things that were previously hard to find are freely available, but the prices for the most desirable items are higher.

Are there any records you think are particularly undervalued?

You need something which is a limited edition, with nice packaging, is somehow cool and has an emotional appeal. Condition is paramount. It happened a few years ago with obscure British psychedelic folk, then original disco 12"s by lesser artists.

Fela KutiFela Kuti: a popular artist with vinyl collectors

Alternatively, you could get great condition copies of the best bits of back catalogue of a much loved major artist who might die!

You also sell CDs. Are there any rare promo/limited edition CDs worth keeping an eye out for?

Here I would say try very limited editions by the major collectable artists, but people don't love CDs like they do vinyl.

What are the gems in your own collection that you will never sell?

Lightin' Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Howlin' Wolf.

What's your number one tip for a novice record collector?

If you want to buy vinyl, get yourself an in-depth, great condition genre collection of the music you love and know about, look after it and listen to it on a good system, loud! It might turn out to be worth money but you will get pleasure from it.

Tom Fisher runs Rat Records in Camberwell, London. He's always on the lookout for new stock and always has plenty in. Click here to take a look.

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