The Buckinghams “Kind Of A Drag”. U.S.A. 107, Mono
The more you look for affordable records, the more you’ll realize how hard it is to find albums from 1960s garage band sounding groups. I’d never seen this record before when I found it for $2 in a bin in a vintage shop, and I grabbed it in disbelief at my luck. I could say I was really pissed that they put the price tag right over the “Dr” in Drag, but, hey, it’s still The Buckinghams first album on the tiny U.S.A. label!
Also, the more you look for affordable records, the more you’ll realize how important it is to look for them alone. It’s no fun for your starving significant other to sit in a dusty vintage shop and watch you look through a thousand $2 albums to find the five worth spending $10 for. Knowing this, and in the spirit of “Ugh, alright already, lets go”, I grabbed my new treasure without a thought and we left, hoping a still sealed copy of Rubber Soul wasn’t lying in the next bin.
Getting home, I ran to my trusty Goldmine Record Album Price Guide to see just how rare this album is. The first pressings of include a song called “I’m A Man”, and they’re valued at $600 each! I wasn’t too upset though when I saw that a regular second pressing mono copy was still valued at $30. Even though its clearly not a mint condition sleeve by any means, it still looked like a real find.
The Buckinghams are the type of group they write stories about, a bunch of 19 year olds win a talent contest with the first prize being a recording session with a local studio. They make their record of mostly cover songs, but with an original tune written by a friend, and everyone they play it for likes it. A year goes by and they break up. Eventually, someone at a radio station finds the 45 and plays it on the air. Seven weeks later they knock The Monkees’ “I’m A Believer” out of number one, and hold The Rolling Stones, The Supremes and The Beatles behind them for two weeks. They get signed to Columbia and become the biggest American band of 1967, only to split with their producer and break up by 1970. Their records are among the best of the era, the precursors to Chicago and Blood Sweat & Tears, and they still draw crowds in their native Chicago.
The liner notes actually mention how “I’m A Man” is one of the album’s highlights, but the song isn’t on the track listing or the record. Apparently, U.S.A. Records couldn’t be bothered to rewrite them or they couldn’t get a rights clearance to it, adding to the amateurish look and feel to the whole package. As if the out of focus picture on the front wasn’t a tip off…
My heart sank when I took out the record. It’s not kind of warped, it is horribly warped! Sometimes a bend or slight curve on a record isn’t a big deal, but when it takes on the look of an orange peel, the record is shot. The first three songs on both sides are unplayable, including The Buckinghams cover of The Beatles “I Call Your Name” that was a very minor national hit. Original owner A. Blake probably took it to a party and left it sitting by the window on a hot day and that was that.
Fortunately, the #1 smash and title track “Kind Of A Drag” is the last song on side two and plays very well. It’s probably that the record warped a long time ago and wasn’t played much since, preserving the unaffected tracks for my enjoyment 49 years later. Still that silver lining doesn’t really make up for the fact of what might have been an amazing find.
Cost $2, $996 remaining