In the summer of 1993, I began corresponding with Marshall Jarman. As mentioned in previous entries, Marshall was a Bowie and Prince mail order specialist. Over the ensuing seven years, I would write him letters, he would respond in kind, send me catalogues and flyers before I would place orders and then send money before I would receive brown packages from him full of Bowie goodness. It was a simple process. His prices were always generous and you knew where you stood. Enter the internet!
With the advent of online shopping and auction sites, music fans embraced new methods of obtaining their guilty pleasures in quicker time and less effort. I tried to move with the times but I was a lonely kid who didn’t fit in with Australian culture so I preferred sending and receiving letters with no just Marshall Jarman, but other music fans in England. Every so often, I would place pen pal adverts in the British music papers then begin corresponding with other people some 11,000 miles away. We’d swap mix tapes, photo’s, life stories and sometimes even sweeties. It was my way of escaping a culture I have never particularly enjoyed here in Australia.
Marshall’s catalogues always made for riveting bedtime reading. I loved and adored them, sifting over the monumental items he always had on offer for sale. His bootleg lists were something else all together. I often wondered where he had actually managed to get hold of most of this? He once had a copy of “Liza Jane” going for just £350. Being a teenager and not having regular work, £350 was a lot to spend at the time so I decided against buying the 7″ single and plumped for some bootlegs instead. Also, the exchange rates were not the best. At this point in time, one Australian dollar would buy you just 35 British pence! To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how I would have protected such a rare and sought after record?
In future blog entries, I will delve a little deeper into the actual detailed content of Marshall’s catalogues. They made for a fabulous reference point check when I went to local record fairs and the like.
As 1995 rolled around, Bowie was touring again and that meant loads of new bootlegs. CD and video bootlegs were my preferred choices as the vinyl bootlegs were funnily enough, easy enough to pick up in Australian record stores. Bowie was doing lots of TV appearances between 1995 and 1999 so that meant a regular VHS tapes would appear in my post box. Marshall would sell the videos for around £15 and they often had nice artwork and contained around 3 hours of footage. Bargain! The outside and earthling era was a great time to be a Bowie fan. Why you ask? Well, he didn’t give a shit and was, once more making outside of the box music.
The concerts of the era included obscure song selections and fascinating re-workings of his better known material. During television interviews, he was so incredibly intriguing and I would watch the VHS tapes over and over and over again, often wearing them out so I would make spare copies just in case. My high school film & television unit had double VHS recorders and my teach would let me make copies of the videos I received for prosperity.
I only have a small handful of MJ’s catalogues left these days. I’m glad I kept them. They are a fascinating insight into collecting Bowie memorabilia during one of his most curious periods. As the new century dawned, MJ moved online and he vanished in some ways into the World Wide Web along with a new generation of Bowie dealers who had sprung up out of nowhere. With that, prices began to creep up year by year and it seemed that with the passing of time, collecting Bowie started to lose it’s appeal for some of us. For a seven year period mind, Marshall Jarman’s mail order business dealings were a major highlight of my days. Next time I am in England, I will have to track him down and have a beer.