The Beatles, Beatles ’65, Capitol T-2228, 1964
The Beatles. Like fine wine, their records are considered the gold standard, and the ’65 vintage ranks among the best. Of course, this is a kind of white zinfandel Beatles album. A melange of leftover grapes fused together to make something that would appeal to the masses. While The Beatles were fine winemakers, personally crafting their records for the tastes of their fans, it didn’t always work out that way for their worldwide audience.
Whole books have been written about the group’s records and how they came to be. Suffice to say that they were very serious about giving their fans their money’s worth, never putting the songs from their singles on their albums, and putting 14 songs on every album. Record companies like Capitol felt differently, and they quickly realized that by adding the singles and shortening the albums, they could release more “new” albums than the group ever imagined. Beatles ’65 is one of the better Capitol creations, but its just a happy accident.
Of course, growing up with these records, I know their track listings by heart, When the group’s catalogue came out on CD in 1987, they were only released in the original UK format, meaning most of this record’s songs are found on Beatles For Sale. I don’t particularly care for that record, while I love Beatles ’65. In any case, I feel lucky to find a Very Good copy of this record for $4. Like my best bottles of wine, I’ll play it only on special occasions.
Cost: $4, $526 Remaining
The Everly Brothers, Songs Our Daddy Taught Us, Cadence 3018, 1958
If you look through a half a million albums in your lifetime, you’ll find a few gems in among all the Andre Kostelanetz records. This is one of them.
The Everly Brothers were probably the biggest act in music when, for their second album, they chose to record a non commercial roots record that had little to do with their hits like All I Have To Do Is Dream. It lived up to its non-commercial sales goal, but because of the unique and far ahead of its time reputation it maintains, the few original copies that did sell are highly praised collectables.
I found this one in a $2 bin, and while it’s a little beat up, it plays much better than it looks. The cover is worn, the labels aren’t perfect, but I don’t care. Years of looking has rewarded me with a pretty amazing find that I’ll keep forever.
Cost: $2, $530 Remaining
The Bee Gees, Spirits Having Flown, RSO 1-3041, 1979
IF you’re the biggest group in the world, and you’ve just released the bet selling album up to that point, you don’t really change up the formula too much for the follow up. Even if it brands you as only capable of being a disco artist at a time when the genre was dying. The Bee Gees sold more copies of this record in 1979 than they did of all albums in the 37 years since.
It’s not like it wasn’t a heck of a run. From 1977-79 they wrote and produced two platinum albums for their younger brother Andy, two multi-platinum soundtrack albums for Grease and Saturday Night Fever, and capped it all off this 20 million selling album. The three singles from it all hit Number One, giving them six straight chart toppers.
But that was it. Branded a disco act, this was probably the last true disco album to hit Number One. They complained about it, and they had major hits as songwriters for other acts, but The Bee Gees only had one more top ten single, and that was in the 1990s. I don’t think this is a cautionary tale for a young band not to emulate, though.
Cost: $1, $532 Remaining
Bing Crosby, Hey Jude Hey Bing!, Amos AAS-7001, 1968
Its got to be hard to tell someone that just because they can do something, it doesn’t mean they should do something. And by something I mean this album.
Bing Crosby has his first hit record in 1926. His last non-Christmas re-release to chart came in 1957. Its safe to say that by late 1968, he was not very relevant to the record buying public. Then why bother to go though this routine? Honestly, its as bad as it looks, with Der Bingo crooning his way through the year’s biggest hits. He absolutely massacres Hey Jude, someone who has never heard of him would absolutely believe that this was a joke recording. The album’s wikipedia page ends with a prophetic “The album was never released on CD”. Shocking…
Amos Records was a short lived label created by Jimmy Bowen. He worked for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records and left to form Amos with the hope of selling records recorded by people like Bing Crosby that once had major record deals but lost them due to failing sales. People like Frankie Laine, Mel Carter, Frankie Avalon and Johnny Tillotson all records for Amos. This was the company’s first release and as far as I can tell it’s only record to hit the charts. One glorious week at #162 made this Bing’s last charting album of newly recorded music.
Cost: $3, $533 Remaining
Simon & Garfunkel, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Columbia KCS-9914, 1970
New York has it all. Shows, Restaurants, History, Excitement, and Shopping to name but a few, are all great reasons to go there. Well maybe not so much shopping, if you’re looking for good quality cheap records. I was fortunate to spend a few days in The City recently and even had some time to check out a few local record shops. While I found a few things I was interested in, I was shocked at how much they were.
Take this decent copy of Simon & Garfunkel’s last great studio album. I brought it with from from the West Coast as part of a gift. It is a very solid copy that set me back $4. One shop I visited had a much worse version, complete with a seam split on the jacket and severe ring wear. It was offered at $20!
Maybe because real estate is so expensive there, shops have to charge more to stay in business. Also, I was looking in Manhattan, so maybe the prices are cheaper in the outer boroughs or New Jersey, but still, I came away with the feeling that New York isn’t a great place to shop for vinyl. I suppose it really is true that if you can make it there, you’re gonna make it anywhere.
Cost: $4, $536 Remaining
Jean-Paul Kreder Choir, Christmas Music Of France, Capitol International Series 10484
The Capitol International Series is a mainstay of any Goodwill record bin. Released in the 60s and 70s, they were American pressings of international releases. Most were recorded by people no one has ever heard of, but every now and then the series came up with a Ravi Shankar or Xavier Cougat record.
This flood damaged record isn’t one of the good ones. While I’m usually a sucker for an unknown French Pop record, a random chorus singing French Christmas music just doesn’t cut it. The stock photograph of a pretty French woman getting snowed on is a nice touch, but it doesn’t help the music.
So, because its a Christmas record, I’ll probably keep this in the Christmas section and see if I ever play this again. My guess is “non”, but we shall see.
Cost: $2, $540 Remaining
The Sinatra Family, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Reprise FS-1026, 1968
If you’re like me, finding a record like this is about as great a gift as one could ever hope to receive. I can’t imagine the nerve it would take for an artist to try something like this today. Getting the whole family together for a Christmas album, despite the fact that the whole family has no business singing anything.
I suppose it helps when Dad owns a record company. Especially when Dad is trying to remain relevant to record buyers by appearing younger than he really was. The times, they were a changin’ too, and the smooth vocal style that The Sinatras were known for was hopelessly out of touch with fans of Janis Joplin and The Doors.
So while this record may have failed at the time (the inch long cut out on the jacket implying that a retailer returned this to the distributor because it didn’t sell), today we have a kooky kitschy ding dong of a Christmas record that is just so much fun. The stand out track is the reimagining of The 12 Days Of Christmas, with all of “the kids” getting presents for their father. I can just imagine Frank Sinatra in the lavender tie Nancy got him or playing with the nine Scrabble sets that Tina oddly bought. Tina, by the way, makes Nancy seem like Maria Calas, with serious tempo and pitch problems that would have her booted from American Idol in the preliminary rounds. This record is a must to find, it’ll bring you comfort and joy all year round.
Cost: $3, $542 Remaining
Various Artists, Something Festive, A&M SP-19003, 1968
Corporate tie-ins and Christmas giveaways go hand in hand. They don’t always result in something actually worth getting. Every thrift store record bin has a vast selection of 1960s various artists “free with any purchase” Christmas albums. There’s always a cut from Mahalia Jackson, because she didn’t rock the boat too much on Civil Rights, usually something from Julie Andrews, because she never had a major recording contract to provide interference with, and then a random assortment of the D-List of whatever label put together the package.
This 1968 package, distributed through BF Goodrich tire stores, stand out from the bunch. Not only is it actually fairly decent to listen to, but the artists involved rival any compilation album I’ve ever seen. Goodyear for years (!) sold tires that came with a free Christmas record. BF Goodrich, late to the game, turned to A&M to come up with a rival product that they could give away too. Being a mid-sized independent, their artist roster wasn’t full of the kind of “talent” that a major label like Columbia could afford to keep on staff in the hope that they could sell some records. A&M had to produce hits to survive, and it’s reflected in this record.
Even the non-household names stand out. Liza Minelli was just about to burst out on her own as a cabaret performer, Burt Bacharach was trying to kick start a recording career after writing some of the biggest hits of the 60s, and Claudine Longet was happily married to Andy Williams and six years from killing her younger lover in a bizarre shooting incident. Anyway, this is one Christmas record I listen to year round. It’s really quite amazing how it all came together, and I would consider this a must find cheap record.
Cost: $2, $545 Remaining
Nat King Cole, The Christmas Song, Capitol SW-1967, 197?
I say it every single time. I hate re-issues. I never try to allow myself to buy them, but in a case like this I threw away $2 to actually have this music on vinyl. It doesn’t get more classic (assuming that’s a phrase) then a record like this. And it just sounds so much better on vinyl. Like I said, Christmas albums are a label’s best friend, and a perennial seller like this one is a cash cow.
Truth be told, I was in a rush and never bothered to check the record inside the jacket. That’s a huge rookie mistake to make because you never really know what’s inside a record jacket. Finding a warped classical record inside a Beatles jacket is about the ultimate fail, but buying a re-issue unknowingly is right up there.
This is the 1972-1979 Capitol label. As a kid, I bought my Beatles albums on this label. So despite it’s ugliness, I have a warm spot for it. Still, it’s not the label this record would have been issued on, so it’ll never have any value beyond what I sold it for. But I don’t mind. It’s Nat King Cole and The Christmas Song. I can re-gift it back to Goodwill when I find the real one, and until then, Let It Snow!
Cost: $1, $547 Remaining
The Holiday Singers, The Waltons’ Christmas Album, Columbia KC-33193, 1973
Who knew they ate this well in The Depression? For those who don’t know, and I suspect anyone born after 1980 would know, The Waltons was a TV show set in 1930s Virginia and features a huge family all living together on the mountain named after them dealing with all that life had to offer during that difficult period. Of course, every problem got resolved within the course of each episode and they all went to bed at night telling each other sweet things through the floor boards.
I had no idea they also had a recording career. Music was never an integral part of the show, and until I found this in a $2 bin I had no idea it existed. It just goers to show you the depths producers sometimes went to milk the profits from a show. It doesn’t seem as though anyone appearing on the show, outside of “Grandpa” Will Geer, also appears on the record besides Earl Hamner, the show’s creator and narrator. He also narrates the record and zzzzzzzzzzz.
Do I need to tell you that The Waltons was a CBS show? Naturally, this record came out on Columbia records, the recording arm of the nations largest network. Either way, the homespun family warmth sounds cornier today than it probably did for Christmas 1973. The snippet of the Waltons Theme isn’t the same recording as heard on the show credits…that was the only reason I bought this turkey, pun intended.
Cost: $5, $548 Remaining