In praise of junk
The late, lamented Barry Mitchell, who owned Wing Music in Bromley, once said to me that if he added together all the old Marshall, Vox, Selmer and other amps he had sold over the decades, they would have filled Bromley High St. Barry had been around for a few years and it was probably no idle boast but where, which was the point of his speculation, were the bloody things now, when they were worth a small fortune?
It’s a question that has often puzzled me, too. Back ‘in the day’ we would hurl beige AC30s in and out of Transits and Dormobiles, cursing that they weren’t those spiffing new Marshalls everyone else was using. As for Selmers, who wanted them? Well they do now!
Over the years, I’ve encountered a few of these relics but never managed to buy any for pennies and sell them for dollars or yen and in recent years I can’t recall having seen anything to stir the blood. Until a week or so ago, that is, when I stumbled, almost literally, across the ‘museum of Rock’ depicted in the accompanying photo. It was assembled on the grass in front of a cricket pavilion at a village fete ‘somewhere in England’, And yes, that is a genuine 1963 Strat, a pair of Selmer 2×12 valve combos and an actual 1960s Burns six string bass! Anyone out there care to put a value on this little haul?
I’ll not comment on the purpose they were being put to (trust me, it wasn’t a Jet Harris tribute band) and I will say that the owner knew damn well what they were worth, but as I drifted off into a nostalgic haze, Barry’s words came back to me, as you could be sure he would have sold most of that gear when it was new and he, wise old retailer that he was, would have scented a healthy profit had he been able to get his hands on it today, secondhand and for sensible money.
Quickly swapping hats and metamorphosing from MI hack into punter, can I just say that the absence of secondhand gear in music shops is one of the biggest laments I have about them these days? I know guitar shops no longer have overflowing ashtrays, faded Fenton-Weil posters on the wall, and only Monopole or Cathedral strings for sale, but how I miss the chance of finding an Epiphone Wilshire or a Harmony Rocket hanging, dusty and neglected (not to mention hopefully woefully underpriced)!
And yes, I know VAT and eBay and the sky-high prices of old tat killed the secondhand trade. But did it really? Or did we just believe what everyone told us? Having recently watched the latest teenage heartthrobs, The Lumineers, parading grizzled old Epiphones and Guilds on stage at Glastonbury, I get the sense that it isn’t just old guys like me who would visit music shops a bit more often if they could find something other than just more plastic coated Strats (and their imitators) hanging on the wall.