Yesterday I went to Daglfing Flea Market which is held at the Daglfing Trabrennbahn race track on the outskirts of Munich. The race track holds harness racing meetings where buggies are pulled by horses. You can usually see the horses being trained on the track during the flea market- so on a Friday morning on the edge of a big city you have the niche little world of harness racing – with its own rules and practices and routines, taking place next to the niche little world of flea markets – which also has its own rules and practices and routines.
I hate when people trot out the clichè “you couldn’t make it up”. It’s a rubbish sentiment for all sorts of reasons, not least because it has the stench of the comments section about it, but the main reason why I dislike it is because the world constantly makes itself up in weird, daft, funny and occasionally thrilling ways; ways that are never boring, or wearisome or, most importantly, predictable. Things are ‘made up’ in ways for everyone to see, not just in literature and art and cinema and music (all four of which annihilate the “you couldn’t make it up” sentiment effortlessly), but also in the small details, in the day to day stuff, in conversations, in the lives of others.
I went to Daglfing Race Track yesterday and I watched people practicing a form of chariot racing and I saw a man selling a bear’s head
and that was just for starters…
FIRST STALL: CLASSIC ROCK.
The first stall I went to had crates and crates of awesome classic rock and pop. I bought these from amongst the seller’s stock.
I didn’t buy the rest of his stock which included more Bowie (pretty much the canon – all German pressings), AC/DC, Beatles, more Jethro Tull, Pink Floyd, Maiden etc. (you get the picture) because I already own most of them.
The man running the stall was selling his friend’s record collection for him – his friend was in a wheelchair so couldn’t sell them himself. I said that his friend had pretty similar tastes to mine and the seller told me told me that his friend had always been obsessed by buying records and had spent a fortune but that his friend’s wife hadn’t minded as it had stopped him chasing other women and spending money on chasing other women.
Was this just banter? Had the man’s friend been a cock-happy womaniser? Had he tamed his instincts and found a form of marital compromise by becoming a Bowie completist?
Obviously I didn’t ask these questions. Nor did I ask the bigger question as to why the seller was telling me this about his friend – a good friend I assume, seeing as he was doing him a big favour by selling his LPs. Sexual infidelity, physical frailty, friendship, classic rock, the shadowy figure of the wife in the background – all component parts of what could have been a rather epic and human tale. But it was a tale that has remained untold. Ah well.
The records were priced lower than what I would normally expect to pay at a stall run by someone who knows the going price – and the seller was haggleable so i got a reduction on the ones I bought. I was very happy with all 5 purchases
1. Never Let Me Down.
I own most things on vinyl that Bowie released between 1967 and 1982 and I own almost nothing post 1982. I keep meaning to sort that out so finding Never Let Me Down at a fairly reasonable price is a good place to start.
2. Best Of Uriah Heep
I saw Uriah Heep last Monday In Berlin supporting Status Quo. It’s the first time I’ve seen them and I liked their daft brand of hippyish, proto metal and slightly proggy nonsense. I just delight in the daftness of stuff like this and I’m pretty much committed to continuing to take seriously the act of not taking some stuff seriously
3. Best of Jethro Tull Vol 2
This is an Italian compilation which I’ve never seen before. I love the cover with Ian Anderson playing a clarinet.
4. White Album
Years and years ago I left my copy of the White Album behind in a flat that I finished renting and I’ve never got round to buying a replacement. This one was in nick good and the price was ok – but it didn’t have the poster or photographs that originally came with it. I’m pretty happy with this. (The photo makes the cover look tan. It’s a bad photo. It’s white).
5. Bowie Rare
This was the best thing I found yesterday. I had this on cassette, taped off a mate, when I was 15.
The First Job Lot
I could have bought all of the records at this stall for about €1000 I reckon – I have just about enough money in my business account to do that – and I think if I sold them on at carboot sales in England over next summer they would sell quickly and I would end up with a profit of at least £500. If I’d been in the UK, with my car I probably would have done that – but I’m in Germany and I don’t have a car so I walked away form that little business deal. I’m still dwelling on this decision.
SECOND STALL. THE FRIENDLY MASSEUR
The woman at this stall spoke good English. She kept saying “bloody” this and “bloody” that but in a way where the emphasis was ever so slightly ‘off’, it kind of gave her fluency charm. The ability of almost everyone in Germany to speak English, sometimes almost colloquially, seems to me to part of that German openness to the world, a mark of this country’s outward looking ways – ways that are increasingly looking like being our best chance of salvation what with every other major industrial nation going mad.
She asked me about how long I’d lived in Munich and asked me what I had seen and done. I told her that I had hardly been into the City so she got a map out of her glove compartment and began to mark places I should visit; where the best Turkish cafes and Turkish market is, where to drink around Munchener Freiheit – where the best cafes in Schwabing are, where the best pizza, burger and Mexican restaurants are. We talked about our kids (her eldest was teaching in Nairobi) and our holidays (she was about to go to Marrakech) and she gave me her card. Her name was Kim, she was a masseur, she did house calls, she charged €50 an hour. This isn’t the first card I’ve been given at a carboot or flea market – it’s quite common to be given them – but it’s the first one that offered me a massage by a qualified masseur at competitive rates.
As well as being a qualified masseur Kim also worked one day a week for an agency. I wasn’t clear as to what the agency was but I think it was an advertising agency. She was selling piles of brand new CDs by artist like Chvrches, La Roux, Imagine Dragons and Tocotronic (who are my favourite German band). I bought a few and I bought a couple of records from her. I paid €2.50 for each of them
The Second Job Lot
I should have bought all of Kim’s CDs. She had about 50.
If I’d bought more I think I would have got a lower price than €2.50 per unit and most of these CDs are currently going for about a fiver at Amazon. I sell the bulk of my stuff at Amazon using the FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon) method. I ship my stock to the Amazon warehouse and they do everything else. Ah well. The 2nd opportunity of the day that I missed.
THIRD STALL: THE ANGRY HOUSE CLEARANCE TEAM
One of my favourite stalls at Daglfing are the house clearance men who have a stall – or rather an area of rough grassland, and a small shed, at the edge of the carboot. I’m not sure where they’re from; S.E. Europe I think, but I learnt a long time ago that at carboot sales (or in Nth London cafes) it’s not always a good idea to ask too many questions about where people are from. Anyway – I don’t know where they’re from but where they’re at at 10 am on a Friday morning involves drinking, and chain smoking and arguing with each other – really arguing with each other.
God knows what the argument was about this time but it was loud and aggressive enough to have people backing away.
This is my favourite part of the flea market. Stuff is just dumped in boxes for you to rummage through and the prices are next to nothing.
In the past I have found ropey old porn mags and people’s diaries and soundtrack LPs. This week the stuff I found there was just as daft
The House Clearance Gallery
Some of this will be sold in the UK for small profits, a couple of things will be Xmas pressies. Some will thrown away.
STALL FOUR. THE JOB LOT.
As I was leaving the flea market with €3:40 in my pocket I saw a stall I’d missed with a pile of LPs. These LPs, about 40 in all, were a mixture of 80s pop compilations and Schlager (Schlager is German easy listening. It’s hateful). The dealer said I could have the lot for €5* – I told him I only had €3:40. “That’ll do” he said.
So I ended up with a pile of crap records.
Some of these, the 80s compilations, will sell for a quid each at UK carboots. The rest will, after I’ve laughed at the terrible covers, go in the bin.
The covers really are brilliantly bad
*This happens a lot at the end of carboots – I’ve piles of pirated Bollywood DVDs, entire appalling record collections, boxes of magazines and piles of books all given to me.
I found this record at the Daglfing Fleamarket yesterday (read more here)
I was 15 when I fell for Bowie big time. One of the reasons why my adoration was so complete was that in 1983 Bowie, always a multi faceted artist, was at his most multi faceted. He was in the charts with Let’s Dance, there was the back catalogue (consisting of a run of LPs pretty much unrivalled in pop and rock) and he also had just released the 5 track Baal EP of songs by Brecht.
And then there was the release of this LP which had Bowie doing versions of songs by Brecht and Brel and Chuck Berry. My teachers at school and my Mum and Dad didn’t have the faintest idea of who Brecht or Brel were so it was up to me to pursue this sort of stuff – which is something I’ve continued to do in a pretty chaotic and pretty unproductive way ever since.
A million people have made the point that Bowie’s music was always an argument against the tedious, parochial life of England in the 70s and 80s. It was a way out of that world. For me this LP was part of that process. If you listen to this LP as an impressionable 15 yr old you’re going to wonder about Brecht and when you follow up on it you enter into a world of revolutionary politics and Weimar Germany. You will learn about revolutionary approaches to theatre, approaches which raise fundamental questions about the nature of theatre and of art. In much of his theatre Brecht would deliberately distance the audience from the action in a way which would force a response from the audience that was intellectual rather than emotional.
By coincidence I was just thinking about all that Brechtian stuff in relation to Bowie’s song “Heroes”. Last week I went to Berlin and whilst there I went on a walking tour of Bowie’s Berlin (which was excellent – I really recommend it). The song was recorded in the Hansa studios in 1977 in what was then the still rather desolate centre of Berlin, just yards away from the Berlin Wall. Bowie was in Berlin, in part, to put his life back together after chronic drug addiction in LA. So you have a man trying not be the person he was in a city still smashed up and carved up the terrible history of the C20th.
The song means a lot to the people of Berlin. Bowie played it at a gig near the Reichstag, which was by The Wall, a couple of years before The Wall came down. Large crowds of East Germans crowded by The Wall to listen to the gig. Bowie dedicated “Heroes” to them and the whole concert is seen as one of the key moments that lead up to the collapse of the Wall. I don’t begrudge the song being part of that history but I’m not sure it quite fits and I do begrudge it being used to symbolise Olympic success, like it’s some big, daft power ballad, as what happened in London 2012
I don’t think think that there is anything Brechtian about this song. The song is highly emotional and it is fully intended to pull at the audience’s heart strings – which is the sort of ‘bourgeois twaddle’ that Brecht set his hat against. However I do think that the Brechtian notion of distancing yourself from the emotional content of art does constitute a tiny bit of what’s going on with this song. Bowie, and Eno (the song’s producer) and Fripp (the song’s guitarist) are too smart and too knowing to have just churned out a big “bourgeois twaddly’ power ballad – the song is way more subtle than that.
All the various part of the songs are doing slightly different things. The producer Eno and the guitarist Robert Fripp create a big swollen epic wall of sound that churns on, almost hypnotically, until it fades away. This churning, rolling, slightly drone-y music intensifies in a way that forces Bowie’s voice to greater and greater levels of intensity – levels that becomes almost histrionic. By the end of the song this almost unhinged singing works in pretty clear contrast to the swollen and droning and, at times, almost languid music; Bowie is almost screaming out the desire of the characters in the song to be something they’re not and the song never quite resolves itself – instead it just fades out. In this context what Bowie is singing sounds less like something affirmative – We are Heroes – and more like something desperate and needy – We can be “Heroes”. The song isn’t about triumph over adversity or being a hero. It’s about the longing for those things, love that is desperately hoped for but is never the thing itself; it’s about moments of time clung to in the face of things unravelling. “Heroes” is about longing and love, I think,which is it told by someone who isn’t what they want to be.
And therefore, perhaps, there is something slightly Brechtian about putting the title “Heroes” in inverted commas. Maybe that little grammatical device, whilst hardly being the same as an actor breaking the 4th wall or suddenly commentating on his or her dramatic predicament, does call for a slight intellectual distancing from the song’s emotional content. This is pop music that is smart enough to create distance from itself.
When I take myself seriously I will always be on the side of ‘intellectual distancing’ in its war against ’emotional content’ though that war does appear to be almost lost.