Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bloody Expensive Black Sabbath

Who would've thought there were so many well-heeled Black Sabbath fans. As I've tried to procure an original UK pressing of Paranoid, I'm learning one needs to have a lot of cash on hand to get a clean copy. Recently I bid on one on eBay and lost out by $7. The winning bid was $198, not including postage from Britain. Why would I be willing to pay nearly $200 for a UK original pressing when I have a clean US original pressing? Because the UK pressings sound so much better than the US pressings. It's the country-of-origin rule. The UK records were made from the original master tapes. The US records were made from inferior copy tapes. The difference is huge for Black Sabbath records. I want to hear that chunka-chunka, heavy metal sludge in high fidelity.

I picked up an original UK pressing of Volume IV in a record shop in Soho on my last visit to London a couple of years ago. That's when I discovered the truth. In addition to the sound quality, the Vertigo record label is as cool as it gets. Even more so when it's spinning on the platter. One of my collecting goals is to get the first four Black Sabbath albums on the original UK Vertigo label.

Shortly after I returned from London, I came across an original UK pressing of Black Sabbath's first album at Amoeba. I didn't blink at paying $100 for it, which is the most I've paid for a single record. It turned out to be an even better decision than I thought, because this copy turned out to be a rare early pressing with "A Philips Record Product" on the label. This signifies the very earliest pressing, as the label was switched shortly after the record was released. I had no idea at the time. It doesn't really matter to me, but it matters to well-heeled Black Sabbath record collectors. And I mean really well-heeled. I've been tracking UK Vertigo Paranoid sales on eBay for the past few weeks. A near mint copy sold for over $1,000. That's crazy money for a rock record. As far as Paranoid, the most desirable copies have inside the gatefold a credit to "Jim Simpson, Big Bear Management", which signifies the very earliest pressing, just like the "A Philips Record Product" on the label does for the first album.

I've resorted to eBay, because in all the time I've spent at record stores and swaps, the only original UK Vertigo pressing of a Black Sabbath album I've come across is the one I bought at Amoeba. Well, I think I've procured a UK Vertigo pressing of Paranoid on eBay. It was newly listed as a "Buy It Now" item. The counter on the page indicated I was the 8th person to view the page. The posted photo of the album cover showed quite a bit of ring wear. The photo of the label showed it was clearly an original pressing. The item description was sparse, describing the vinyl as in very good condition with slight surface marks. That could mean anything. There was no mention of the "Jim Simpson" credit. The seller didn't seem too knowledgeable, as he was mainly a bookseller. For $69 shipped from the UK, I took a gamble and bought it. We'll see how it turns out in a couple weeks when the UK Vertigo Paranoid arrives on these shores.

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