Werner Mueller, O, Tannenbaum, Decca DL-78388, 19??
Christmas music can just be so weird. Everyone has their own traditions and there are thousands of records to appeal to each one of them. Today, it’s Christmas on the Rhine, supposedly what you’d expect to hear in Germany.
When a Christmas record does a bit of business when new, it automatically becomes a record company’s best friend because they get to release it again year after year with no expenses beyond pressing and shipping them. People who loved it once, will still love it because it only gets played 2-3 times a year, so they buy it again hoping to remember holidays gone by. Records like this are the easiest to find of any kind ever.
Take this one for example. I didn’t buy it, it was given to me for free. Once people know that you “like” records, you receive all of their valueless records that they didn’t have time to go down to Goodwill and donate. Judging by the cover photo, this record came out in the 50s or 60s on Decca, but this one has a late 70s MCA label. That means it was in print for at least 15-20 years. There’s no reason to ever buy a record like this, unless you have $0.99 burning a hole in your pocket and you grew up in Frankfurt.
Cost: $1, $553 Remaining
Elvis Presley, Moody Blue, RCA AFL1-2428, 1977
Naturally, it’s every record buyers dream to find a $2 record that turns out to be some rare collectible worth thousands. This isn’t one of them, despite my momentary hope that it was.
This was Elvis Presley’s last studio album. Moody Blue had been a decent size hit in early 1977, hitting #1 on the country chart, but only #31 pop. RCA wanted to release an album around it, but there wasn’t enough material recorded for one. A followup single Way Down came out in June, and the company took some live recordings and previously unreleased (and horribly overproduced!) tracks to release this album in July. They even pressed some copies on clear blue vinyl to tie in the theme of the title track.
But then the unimaginable happened. Elvis died, and suddenly this record was in serious demand, as was the Way Down single. RCA cranked up their pressing plants, and due to the sentiment, pressed all of the records on clear blue vinyl. An album that might have sold 75,000 copies sold over a million by the end of the year. Nearly 40 years later, one might find one of them in a $2 and think they made a real find. Oddly though, it’s the few thousand copies pressed on regular black vinyl that were pressed before Elvis died that are worth about $300 today. Because vinyl variations usually mean rare, people try to hawk one of these for outrageous prices, when it was fairly priced at $2.
Cost: $2, $554 Remaining
Brenda Lee, Coming On Strong, Decca DL-4825, 1966
For as big as she was from 1960-62, after The Beatles hit, Brenda Lee’s career was on the wane. She wasn’t alone, but she was perhaps the best selling artist in the world. She needed a hit by 1966, and got one in an enduring underground classic.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album is just meh. They used what seems to be a horribly outdated picture on the front and the back is nothing more than a bland description of the songs here and ads for her other albums that weren’t selling. The other songs are just covers of hits of the day that add nothing to the rocking title track.
When I say this is an underground hit, it comes from being mentioned in Golden Earring’s Radar Love. That cool rock song spurred interest in the 8 year old song, especially in the UK. So, I’ll listen to the one song I love here, but thats about it.
Cost: $2, $556 Remaining
ABBA, ABBA, Atlantic SD-18146, 1975
Today’s post gets back to the roots of this blog. Yes, sure, ABBA has an amazing collection of well crafted pop albums that dominated charts around the world from the mid 70s to the early 80s. But record collectors know them as the group destined to always have their records filed first once they take the time to organize their collection.
All price guides, chart collections, or album discographies have their listings alphabetically by artist name. And invariably the first group always listed is ABBA. So, it really doesn’t have much to do with their amazing success or their great albums, but inevitably you’ll find their records in the upper left corner of any serious collection.
And, or course, It’s not enough to keep ABBA first, but, as with any group, their records need to be filed chronologically by date. So until I find ABBA’s first US release, this record will remain the first one anyone will see when they start to look through my records.
Cost: $2, $558 Remaining
George Martin, Off The Beatle Track, United Artists UAS 6377, 1964
The Beatles didn’t have to look over their shoulders for someone trying to cash in on their fame. Their own producer George Martin jumped on the bandwagon too! In fairness, this record came about through The Beatles three picture film deal. United Artists took a chance on The Beatles before they even had a hit in the United States to make some low budget movies with the promise of getting a soundtrack album for their fledgling record label. It was a great strategy, as the A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack sold in the millions (and the film became the most profitable film of the year).
While The Beatles probably exceeded their contract by coming up with a whole album of new music, half of which never made it into the film, UA had all of the incidental and background music that did make it in. So why not try to sell that too and let Mr. Martin take the credit? This was actually a warm up record, with the movie music coming out later. Off The Beatle Track was the title George Martin suggested to The Beatles for their first UK album, so even the title was a re-tread here.
The Beatles actually seemed fine with the arrangement, mostly because it kept these orchestrated arrangements off of their real albums. But when the time came to fulfill their contact with a third film, there wasn’t much enthusiasm for it. When they found out they could farm it out to animation producers who would use voice actors to play The Beatles, the Yellow Submarine film was born. There also wasn’t much enthusiasm for a whole album of new music for it, so the Yellow Submarine album has four “new” Beatles songs, plus a few old ones used in the film, and a whole side of George Martin instrumental music that apparently drove John Lennon crazy.
Cost: $10, $560 Remaining
The Music Company, Rubber Soul Jazz, Mirwood MW-7002, 1966
It’s hard to say who’s idea this was. The Music Company seems to be just a collection of the famed Wrecking Crew, session musicians who recorded on virtually every hit record that came out of LA for 30 years. Being session musicians who got paid to show up and record, they wouldn’t have come up with this idea on their own.
There are the liner notes written by Al “Jazzbeau” Collins, a legendary San Francisco disc jockey who made KSFO “the world’s greatest radio station” with a mixture of jazz, pop and rock for discerning audiences. He would be the perfect choice to present a record like this, it would be his fans that this record was made for. But to my knowledge, he never went into the record business outside of producing local concerts in the Bay Area.
It must have been the concept of Mirwood Records, a short lived LA based jazz-pop label run by the elusive Randy Wood. He was one of the forces at Vee-Jay Records when they had both The Four Seasons and The Beatles under contract. But when that empire came crashing down, he moved west and started Mirwood in Los Angeles. No matter whose idea it was, this is a great record. I love anything the Wrecking Crew recorded, and they were probably working on this at the same time as they were recording the tracks for The Beach Boys Pet Sounds. This a pretty rough copy, but it’s something I’m going to keep looking for.
Cost: $1, $570 Remaining
Kings Road, The Long And Winding Road, Pickwick SCP-3239, 1970
Most of the schlocky discount Beatles records I have came out in the immediate aftermath of I Want To Hold Your Hand, meaning that the covering group didn’t have much genuine Beatles material to cover. But this one came out in 1970, months after the group broke up, but soon after this album’s title track hit #1 in June, 1970. “Kings Road”, whoever they were try their best to sound original, straining the word “you” on Revolution to sound like John, and trying to hit the high notes on The Fool On The Hill to sound like Paul. It doesn’t work at all. These songs were light years more advanced than the early Beatlemania hits and there was no way a Long Island discount label could make a record sound like George Martin or Phil Spector.
There are some hilarious liner notes that have a general Beatles summary, with the theme that all things must pass. The “author” calls himself the President of something called the Society for the Preservation Of Scholarly Liner Notes. Hilarious! What he couldn’t justify in his summary is why this record only has right songs…
Pickwick was perhaps the longest lasting discount record seller. They were somewhat successful at re-releasing deleted albums from an artist’s past, especially if the artist came up with a new hit. For example, when Tom Jones had his biggest hit in years in 1971 with She’s A Lady, Pickwick was right there with a “follow-up” which was nothing more than a repackaged 1965 British release. It must have worked, because Pickwick was there well into the 80s trying to fool people into buying what they thought was the song they were hearing on the radio. I fell for the cover of this records, and as soon as I saw the Pickwick label, I knew it was going to be awful. And I wasn’t disappointed…
Cost: $4, $571 Remaining
Sonny Curtis, Beatle Hits Flamenco Guitar Style, Imperial LP-9276, 1964
At the time this record came out, Sonny Curtis was most famous for being the infamous replacement for Buddy Holly in The Crickets. They put out some great records that made them Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame members in their own right, but their songs (like I Fought The Law) were best known after other people covered them. So landing a solo contract with Imperial Records in 1964 was a pretty good coup for an artist who hadn’t yet proven he could sell records. For a first release, why not do what everyone else seemed to be doing and record some Beatle music?
And, it’s awesome. It didn’t sell worth a damn, but this is one really well done record. It obviously came out later in 1964, with most of the songs coming from the Hard Day’s Night soundtrack. That alone makes it stand out from the other records this week, but the arrangements and the playing make this an enjoyable record.
Sonny Curtis is best known for Love Is All Round, the theme song for The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This album came out 6 years before that, and it just shows his versatility. This is likely to be my most favorite Beatles tribute record.
Cost: $5, $575 Remaining
Buddy Morrow, Big Band Beatlemania, Epic BN-26095, 1964
We’ve sort of moved from the schlocky discount Beatles knockoff records into the schlocky higher brow Beatles knockoff records. Buddy Morrow most definitely had an impressive career playing in and then leading big bands, beginning in the 1930s. Of course, by 1964, while there still was a big band scene, and rock & roll was just one type of music played on the radio, the sales of big band music was approaching zero.
So if groups like The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five were on top of the charts, Buddy was going to make sure his fans, who would probably sneer at buying a Beatles record, could still get their music, only done in the Morrow style.
The two Dave Clark Five songs on the album are probably only included because they shared the same Epic label with Buddy Morrow. If he was on MGM, there would have been two Herman’s Hermits records. Either way, this one doesn’t really make me feel glad all over.
Cost: $2, $580 Remaining
Joshua Rifkin, The Baroque Beatles Book, Elektra EKS-7306, 1965
As we’ve seen, people did virtually anything to jump on The Beatles bandwagon. Besides blatant knockoffs designed to confuse people, some companies came at the same target with somewhat more noble pursuits in mind.
Producer and arranger Joshua Rifkin conducts an unknown group of studio musicians (branded as the Baroque Ensemble Of The Merseyside Kammermusikgesellschaft here) performing Beatle melodies as Bach would have imagined them. It’s pretty tedious at first, then you kind of get into it.
Elektra, as evidenced by the folk singer drawn into all their early labels, considered themselves a higher brow record label for the material they released. This “concept” album was apparently the idea of their president, and Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame Member Jac Holzman. Again, the noble experiment, with its pithy liner notes, was designed to show that The Beatles were serious musicians. So, I give this record a B+ for effort. I just don’t want to have to listen to it very much.
Cost: $2, $582 Remaining