In 1994, a significant book was published that shook the Bowie collecting circuit to its core. Of course, it was none other than Marshall Jarman’s World 7″ Discography 1964-1981 publication. For the first time, there was a genuine bible collectors could refer to when looking for the obscure 7″ singles, many of which, would be unknown to a great number of us otherwise. Personally, I was only new to this collecting caper which made this publication an incredibly important research tool for my efforts. This was also a time before the internet so you cannot imagine just how valuable owning a copy was.
Bowie’s stocks were still at a low in 1994 so many rare and hard to find singles were not too expensive to get ones mits on. Marshall had separated the bulk of the book into acetates, pre-RCA into 1971 and finally, RCA up to 1981. Each listed release from known regions was listed and many of the sleeves were included as well. Over the years, this book became an incredibly important source of information as I scoured record stores, markets, record fairs and later internet sites like eBay in search for the valuable gems.
So, how did I come to find a unique publication in Australia? Marshall had mentioned it in one of his letters and I later found a flyer in a record store with the details of a local collector who was selling copies on behalf of Marshall. It was a Saturday morning in the second hand Rocking Horse store that I saw the flyer pinned to a notice board with a landline phone number to call. Less than a week later, I had a copy in my hands and what followed was a valuable education in collecting 7″ singles from one David Bowie.
The highlight of sifting through the pages of this discography book was the discovery of a magnificent array of picture sleeves issued all over the world. There were some incredibly beautiful pressings (some dire ones too) that showed up just how creative the designers were particularly in the 1970’s. I must admit, it seemed like RCA were happy to milk the Ziggy era for all it’s worth well into the later part of the decade. Kind of how Parlaphone are now but with different coloured vinyl re-releases of albums and picture disc singles. The milking of Ziggy Stardust always puzzled me because there was just so much more about Bowie beyond July 1973 to capture the attention. By the middle of the decade, Bowie had long since moved on more than a couple of times.
Ziggy aside, some of the more intriguing picture sleeves appeared in 1977 with the release of Low and “Heroes” as, with an increasing popularity off the back of Young Americans performing so well in the United States, there were some stunning designs drawn up for a variety of different single releases and many territories now producing picture sleeves on a perminent basis. Countries like Holland and Belgium would often import German issued singles to save costs. And eastern block nations would not produce or import Bowie singles at all which created a tremendous black market.
My ex-wife, raised in Slovakia, told me of the incredible black market prices people would pay for British and American records right up to the point of the early 90’s. I can only imagine that it would have been a similar story in many communist nations at the time. When residents were found to be in possession of these illicit releases, they were confiscated and destroyed. I have pondered over the amount of Bowie records that may have seen their end in places such as Bulgaria?
When I look through my vast array of books on not just Bowie but other artists, movements and novels, I try to think of which publications have served me best? Without doubt Marshall Jarman’s World 7″ Discography book has sat at the top of the tree since I first bought a copy some 23 years ago now. It’s proved to be a most valuable source of inspiration and information and led me through countless nights in bed or at the table whilst I have pondered which single to track down next and so on. I remember buying a massive collection of Bowie singles from a collector back in 2005 from which, Marshall’s book allowed me to decide with ease as to which singles I would buy and which I would leave be. In the end, I picked up around 145 singles and spent a considerable amount of money but it would not have been possible without Marshall’s book.
The book itself has exchanged hands for insane amounts of money over the past decade or so through eBay and fan forums. I paid a princely sum of £20 in 1994 but have since seen it sell for well over the £300 mark which is just astounding. Thankfully, I had the foresight to indulge in getting three copies back in the day. Two of which I still own. The third, I sold for cost price three years ago to a collector in Denmark. The £20 I invested in 1994 has probably saved me no end of money in the years since. Well, £60 for the three copies. And yes, we know there were a few errors in the original publication but there is an updated release due out in the coming weeks so keep your eyes peeled for that!