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You’re only buying that for the cover, you dirty sod,” the owner of the stall says to me. In my hands I’m holding a vinyl copy of Madonna’s 1984 album Like a Virgin, with the pop provocateur led across the sleeve in the whoriest wedding dress you’ve ever seen.Here, I’ll show you something better...” He takes me over to a box before flicking through a chunk of records and pulling out an album by some obscure German songstress who is completely topless on the sleeve. “Hows about that, then?”

This is the Vinylman record fair at the Brighton Centre; two floors of vinyl, cds and memorabilia to pore over in what is the musical equivalent of one of those obscenely large lottery wins by a smug couple in Hampshire.

The fairs have been held for well over twenty-five years by Geoff Finch, the previous owner of Music Meltdown, one of Brighton’s best record shops, and the fairs attract collectors and dealers from up and down the country. Strolling in the volume of music is staggering and it takes a good few seconds for the eyes to adjust to the boxes and boxes of records. Still, there is enough here to please both the curious punter and the serious collector. Entry is a couple of quid and you could take a few pounds to spend and easily come away with a handful of 45s or you could part with one of your arms for a slice of black gold in the form of a mint-condition rare Beatles bootleg. The choice, as they say, is yours.

The experience of buying the wares on offer is made all the better by the friendliness of the stall owners. I certainly didn’t encounter any of the traditional icy aloofness that musos take pleasure in dishing out and instead found myself chatting with many of them; mostly about how great David Bowie is (I was on the hunt for a copy of Station to Station, eventually finding one for £2 which plays beautifully).

There are many record fairs held up and down the country but how many can boast being held plum on one of the great British seafronts? If you want to take a break (and I suggest you do – I was in there for over two and a half hours, emerging later in a confused daze) you can go outside and take in Brighton’s classic coastline and that potent sea air.

Without an iPod or a laptop in sight, record fairs such Vinylman are great places to renounce the digital age and get back to basics with your music purchasing; to find your eyes lighting up as you discover an unexpected treasure and then running an incredulous hand over the sleeve, to reacquaint yourself with the joy of browsing.

Check out the next Vinylman fair on Sunday 4 September (09.30 -16.00). You won’t be disappointed.

Photos and words by Jack Prescott 08/06/11

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