Do the Popcorn- How Belgium Saved Black Music Part 2: The Quest for Records

Partly because it shares common ground with the soul and mod scenes and partly because it is odd enough to capture one’s interest, popcorn has spread outside Belgium in small pockets. A lot of this interest is driven by the quest for rare records.

Within niche fields like popcorn, record-buying can easily become a dangerous addiction, especially given the fewer and fewer chances to find bargains in the internet era.

Sometimes collectors focus on specific songs and being able to obtain these ‘fetish’ records becomes a mission. Belgian DJs Mario Heylen and Pe ‘Mr Small’ Van Der Heyden, for example, especially look for versions of Fever, Summertime and Sixteen Tons.

Mario Heylen 3 popcorn picks:

“This version has only been released on 7″ as a Spanish EP.”

Although pricey 7” are often seen as a symbol of prestige among collectors, Alex Claretto, 24, DJ and record collector- who has been digging in flea markets for nearly a decade- believes that is possible to build a well-respectable collection without spending too much money.

What matters is how obscure a record is, but obscure doesn’t mean expensive.

He says: “In popcorn what really matters is whether you can dance to a record and how obscure it is, but obscure doesn’t mean expensive”

Given the retrospective nature popcorn was born with, it is still possible to enrich the scene with new records which can both be previously unreleased tapes or forgotten tracks which rhythm fits the popcorn sound, especially if we consider that many tunes have been long ignored by other black music-based scenes.

Alex ‘Rural Soul’ Claretto 3 popcorn picks:

Alex says: “You just need to be patient and make efforts to build a web of contacts and one could eventually discover ‘vinyl mines’, places even full of stock copies.”

Record prices are actually quite relative and for some records it does not even exist a quotation. Alex explains that this especially applies to vinyl on small labels with a very limited run which are sought after by a restricted niche of people, like popcorn lovers.

After the vinyl comeback on-line prices have witnessed an inflation that does not help making clarity in the market.

“Record-buying is a great form of financial investment.”

Federico Voria, owner of record label Soulful Torino, believes high prices are due to record collectors getting older and economically wealthier. He says: “Getting older they have more knowledge and records once discovered become less obscure, so the request rises, available copies lower and prices act consequently.”

Federico ‘Jimmy Soul’ Voria 3 popcorn picks:

“This is an obscure Motown single. there’s not much to say, just listen to it.”

“A very rare exotic RnB record with a ska rhythm. It has been played in the popcorn scene for ages at -10 pitch. Now it gets played at the right speed”

“Instrumental, exotic, odd – Great to play in the dark.”

Federico admits that in the past he would have seen as crazy spending $500 for a single, but now that is acceptable.

He says: “The secret is being able not to take money from your wallet but just selling some other records and getting the money together. Record-buying is a great form of financial investment.”

The research activity – the so-called ‘digging’ – is a big part of a DJ life. Pe ‘Mr Small’ says: “It’s all about the sound, the search, digging in dusty crates, beautiful labels, the joy of discovery.”

Pe ‘Mr Small’ Van Der Heyden 3 popcorn picks:

” It took me a while to get a copy…big favourite of mine”
“I got a nice promo copy (which you don’t see very often). One of the first popcorn 45’s I bought.”
“This one is not a typical popcorn sound, but it is one of my favourite versions of Fever, which I collect on 45.”

A never-played-before mid-tempo gem abandoned in a garage somewhere in the US or an Italian cheesy pop promo B-side can be turned into floor-fillers and rapidly grow in price.

I’d rather prefer that a record has a crackle than play the cheap repress that everybody can buy with a few clicks.

A record’s press is another hot issue among collectors. Federico explains that nowadays in the market there is “an obsession for first presses.”

Mario admits he only spins original 45s. He says: “I’d rather prefer that a record has a crackle than play the cheap repress that everybody can buy with a few clicks. The search is important.”

“The records a man finds during his collecting journey can be compared to the women he meets through his life […]”

What remians central to popcorn, though, is the music. Alex says: “The records a man finds during his collecting journey can be compared to the women he meets through his life: you could find thousands but only a few will leave a mark in your heart.”


Read more about Popcorn here:


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