I never considered it viable to become a collector of Neil Young rarities: there are just too many, some of them decades old, and too many other people want them so the prices are high. It is, however, possible to track down the limited and obscure recordings of the likes of Alasdair Roberts, The Clientele and The Magnetic Fields without devoting more than a few hours a year to the job and taking out an extra mortgage. Especially with the aid of saved internet searches and alerts.
Singer Susan Anway featured only on the first two Magnetic Fields albums, before leaving to pursue an education in dental sculpture, which she then reconsidered and ended up studying metalworking and silversmithing instead (source). However, she also recorded at least a couple of other songs that featured, with Stephin Merritt singing, on later albums: Take Ecstasy With Me (from Holiday) and Crowd of Drifters (from Charm of the Highway Strip).
The last of these is only available on a 1990 compilation, Marvels of Insect Life - Doctor Death's Volume IV. So I set up an alert on eBay to let me know if a copy of this became available. Sure enough, one did — and a vinyl copy, too, for extra kollector kudos. I won it for only $6 in the auction, though the postage from America more than doubled the price.
A few weeks later, this record arrived. Crowd of Drifters is only on the CD and cassette versions of Marvels of Insect Life, not the LP. I hadn't checked the item description very closely.
However, all was not lost. The songs on the record — not one of them by an artist or band I've ever heard of elsewhere — are pretty decent, if you like that kind of thing (American indie/electro-pop with a debt to OMD and New Order).
And this story does have a happy postscript, to be written anon. In the meantime, I wish you all the best for 2011, and an enjoyable celebration to welcome it in. Me, I'm spending the rest of the evening editing and laying out a newspaper while babysitting.
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