The Tote’s Bruce Milne sorts through his 6000 or so records, a collection he’s selling to pay off some of his debts.

The Tote’s Bruce Milne sorts through his 6000 or so records, a collection he’s selling to pay off some of his debts. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

WEEKS after closing his Tote Hotel, Bruce Milne is having to sell a lifetime of vinyl records to clear his debts from the former music venue, hit by liquor licensing laws and security costs.

About 6000 albums and singles will be up for sale today.

”I don’t have a choice, I need to sell the collection to pay off the debt,” Mr Milne said. ”I’m sad but you can’t define yourself by your possessions.”

His debt has ballooned out to about $100,000 and he hopes the sale at Crate Digger Record Fair at Fitzroy music venue Yah-Yahs will lessen the load.

Mr Milne’s collection includes first-prints and original vinyl records, some of which are the only known recordings by Australian punk and 1960s garage bands collected over decades. Other records come from his time as founder of record labels Au-Go-Go and In-fidelity, and include the first pressed records of now-successful bands like Magic Dirt, Spiderbait, God and the Meanies.

Among the collection for sale will be international acts that were also licensed to Au-Go-Go. These include the first Australian vinyl pressed for Sonic Youth’s first four albums, the first of which has a handwritten cover and is numbered ”one” of 1000 copies.

Others include original editions of albums by bands like the Velvet Underground, The Stooges and The Cramps and rare German and Japanese album covers.

Although sad about selling his collection, Mr Milne said it was a business decision and while he may not be able to buy a first edition of the Velvet Underground and Nico or the Ramones’ first album, he can buy a reprinted version with the same music.

”I have got to be unemotional about it to get it done. I am sad because (wife) Adele and I love playing records. I guess I’ll have to play them on an iPod; it’s not the same, though.”

Some rare records will be held back, however – like his original version of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins first album At Home With Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, which is valued at about $3000.

He hopes The Tote’s closure will inspire music fans to join a march in Swanston Street on February 23 to help save live music in Melbourne.

”Through all the debt and regrets, there’s a chance people power is going to do something – that will be a great legacy for the Tote to have.”

From the crate

■ Radio Birdman’s first EP Burn My Eye signed by the entire band during their first tour. $400

■ Sonic Youth Silver Pack, with first two albums, Australian edition numbered 1 of 1000, includes poster. $150

The Velvet Underground and Nico Japanese version with ”peelable” banana. $100

White Light/White Heat, the Velvet Underground first pressing. $800

Batman, original television soundtrack to the TV series. $100