From the Stacks

From The Stacks: ‘The Best of La Bamba’

Flea markets aren’t what they used to be, vinyl-wise, but now and then something interesting happens so I still hit the flea on a regular basis.

Like the time I found an album from J. Dilla’s personal collection, for example. That’s a story I’ll be telling from my nursing home someday. “Yeah, we’ve heard it, old man. Take your medicine and be quiet.”

Striking gold is rare these days, but that’s okay. I’m just looking for bad or cheesecake album covers when I hit the flea–junk for a buck kinda stuff. While looking for fun junk one recent morning, I found a John Abercrombie album on ECM. Not a J. Dilla level score, but a ten dollar record that I knew I’d spin regularly. “How much are the records?” I asked.

“They’re a dollar each, except this one. This one is worth 25 dollars,” my camouflage-clad seller said, and he held up the copy of The Best of La Bamba that you see here. He didn’t just hold it up–he presented it as if it were the jade monkey’s paw.

“I think I’ll just take this one,” I said, and I showed him the Abercrombie record.

“You sure? This one is really rare, see,” and he held up his phone to show me an eBay auction for a Best of La Bamba CD with an asking price of 25 bones. No one had bid on it because, well, because it was a CD full of “La Bamba” covers priced at $25.

I could have argued with the guy. I could have explained that asking price and selling price aren’t the same thing, or that CD prices and LP prices differ. Instead, I just assumed that he was a flea market hustler who was sure he’d spotted a sucker, albeit a flea market hustler who didn’t realize his dollar John Abercrombie album was really a ten dollar record.

“No, just this one, thanks.”

“I’ll give it to you for three bucks. Twenty-five dollar record.” He swung the paw of the jade monkey before my hypnotized eyes.

I sighed. “Let me see it.” I flipped it over and saw the Rhino logo. I collect pre-Warners Rhino records, so while I had no interest in listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir’s take on Ritchie Valens’s biggest hit, I knew at that moment this record was coming home with me. I’m sure the dude thought he hustled me, but what did I care? I was one album closer to a complete pre-Warners Rhino collection, and I had a new John Abercrombie album to listen to, anyway. That’s not a bad day at the flea.

Expect to pay 5 dollars in a record store for this one, or three bucks at a flea market, apparently. Unless you meet my guy–then it’s a $25 record. He has proof! Happy hunting.


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