WHAT WE SHOULD EXPECT FROM CRITICS (Third Maxim)

From Greil Marcus’ “Real Life Top Ten” column in the July/August 2012 issue of Believer Magazine:

“(6) Bo Diddley, Road Runner: The Chess Masters, 1959–1960 (Hip-O Select). I recently saw the first volume of this archival project, I’m a Man: The Chess Masters, 1955–58, priced at $200 at Amoeba Records in Berkeley; Amazon had it at $255.99. I have no idea why.”

I’ve referenced Marcus a few times since I started this blog. It’s pretty hard not to since he’s been a ubiquitous (and I have to acknowledge) interesting presence in rock criticism since virtually the first moment there was such a thing.

I seek out his column, which tends to move around, and anyone who reads both him and this blog could probably guess I owe something to his approach. Which is to say that, with some qualifications, I admire him.

Still…there are times when he makes me scratch my head.

The reason the particular Bo Diddley volume he references is priced where it is, is the same reason every other record is priced where it is.

It’s called supply and demand.

Hip-O Select is a reissue label that specializes in limited edition, definitive, collections of important Blues and R&B acts and labels (with a particular emphasis on Chess and Motown).

When the “limited” edition sells out it becomes rare.

When it becomes rare the price goes up. Sometimes way up.

If the sellers (i.e., those who now own a copy of the rare item in question and are willing to part with it) think they can get that price, it stays up.

If enough time passes and they can’t get that price it might come down.

My question is not so much how a major cultural critic could not know this, or even how a rock critic can know so little about basic record collecting….as how any functioning adult could not know this?

Which leads to MAXIM NUMBER THREE:

“Know your business.”

 

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