The Beach Boys, Surfin’ Safari, Capitol DT-1808, 1962
How they managed to pull this off, I still don’t know. Sure, they were a phenomenally talented teen vocal group, but The Beach Boys took what is basically a novelty tune and turned it into a legendary 55 year career. I suppose if they lived a little farther away from Hollywood, California and its plethora of record companies it might not have happened, but all Murray Wilson had to do to get his boys’ group signed to a major label was find a Capitol producer and pester him into signing “his” group to release a single, Surfin’ Safari, that sold well enough for Capitol to take a chance on this album.
The group name, while cheesy and hard to sell once the surfing craze ended, was at least appropriate here. They were selling a surfing record, and they were boys. There’s an explanation of what surfing is, which was something The Beatles and The Rolling Stones never though to have on their records, and they really were boys. David Marks was just 14 and Carl was 15 when they played on this record.
It’s also pretty impressive that most of the songs were penned by the group too, something very rare in the fall of 1962. Sure, they’re not quite up to the level of their later work, but it was clear from this start that this group was going to be big. These records are often available in great shape for not much money, and now that I have all of them, it’s time for you to get out there and go surfin with me.
Cost: $4, $370 Remaining
Cass Elliot, Don’t Call Me Mama Anymore, RCA APL1-0303, 1973
Mama Cass was really ready for a make over in the early 70s. Gaining fame as a member of The Mamas & The Papas, Cass Elliot earned her nickname, even though she came to despise being called “Mama”. After three failed solo albums billed as “Mama Cass” on her old record company Dunhill, she signed with RCA as simply “Cass Elliot.
The first two RCA albums also flopped, so for her third, Cass got motivated to make a clean break of anything related to ‘Mama’ even if that meant putting together a cabaret act and leaving rock music behind. After all, her biggest solo hit Dream A Little Dream Of Me was an old American Pop standard and the new musical direction was aimed towards that bullseye.
I just wish it were better. She had one of the most amazing pop voices of all time, it was strong yet sensitive. But these songs, recorded live at a cabaret club in Chicago, are just bad. Yes, she sings her hit, and a couple of other has of the day, but the rest is just pure schmaltz. The era of the cabaret was dying by the mid 70s, and it was not a sign of a strong career move to make. Not that it mattered for poor Cass Elliot. She died of heart failure just months after this record came out. This bad album was the last one she released.
Cost: $2, $374 Remaining
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Four In Blue, Tamla 297, 1969
Could Smokey Robinson look any more bored if he tried? In fact, all of The Miracles look like they’re phoning this album in. What with Motown planning Diana Ross’ departure from The Supremes, Smokey decided to stay with The Miracles for one more year. If it wasn’t for the surprise and unplanned success of The Tears Of A Clown, that might have happened too.
This album makes it seem as though Smokey was trying to cost to the finish line. There are no hits here, and the album has more covers than any other Miracles album up to this point. The Motown art department also had an easy the here, putting four random candid shots on the black and white back cover with not one word of a liner note.
Albums like this are fairly easy to find in great condition. If this had classic Miracles track on it, the cover would have been torn up and the record all scratchy. As it is, this original album plays like new, and I can wonder why The Miracles tried their hand on Hey Jude whenever I want (even though I probably won’t very often!).
Cost: $3, $376 Remaining
The Beau Brummels, Introducing, Autumn 103, 1965
The Beau Brummels are famous, and not just because they’re one of the few groups that come alphabetically between The Beatles and The Bee Gees in every record collector’s well organized library. The band, formed in San Francisco in 1964, was the first successful group of the “San Francisco Sound” that went on to include The Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead. This album was produced by another living legend, Sly Stone, and the success of it inspired him to form his own group.
It’s also no joke that it’s a really great record. It has the group’s two biggest hits, Laugh Laugh, and Just A Little, and most of the rest are band originals. Their name and sound convinced the record buying public that they were a British band, and that no doubt helped them break through. With such a pedigree, it’s no wonder that this record is so highly collectible. The fact that’s it’s a stereo copy only makes it more valuable. I felt very lucky to find it for $4.
Despite the worn cover, it plays really well. Autumn Records wasn’t around too long, so it’s great to find a decent copy of what was probably their best selling album ever. When Autumn ended (!), The Beau Brummels signed with Warner Brothers. The predictable creative differences and personnel changes doomed them however, and the group ended by 1969. Being the Bay Area favorites that they are though, they reformed several times over the years and appeared at one festival or another.
Cost: $4, $379 Remaining
The Hues Corporation, Freedom For The Stallion, RCA APL1-0323, 1973
What we have here is clearly a second pressing. The cover of the original album has been altered to include the huge notice that THIS Hues Corporation record contains their big #1 hit from June, 1974, Rock The Boat. Sure, lead off single, Freedom For The Stallion is included too, but people only bought the album for the hit. I’ve seen a million of these, and not a one of the original cover without the printed ad on the front.
But what a hit! Many people cite Rock The Boat as the first disco song to hit #1, and it’s a natural transition song from the early 70s R&B sound and into the later 70s Disco sound. I also love the clever name the group chose. “The Children Of Howard Hughes” didn’t get past the eagle eyed lawyers in the RCA legal department, but Hues Corporation did. The play on the Hughes name and Hues of colors is pure one hit wonder genius. It was pretty much over for the group after this record, what with personnel changes and declining sales, but this is a good album.
Unfortunately for those looking for the record 44 years after it came out, it was pressed on RCA’s flimsy dynaflex vinyl. Designed to weigh less and bend more, these flimsy records just don’t stand the test of time. Some people call the format “dynawarp” because it doesn’t take much to permanently reshape these records into something unplayable. This one is in great shape, so I’ll be careful to store it on an angle inside a protective plastic sleeve, and keep it out of direct sunlight.
Cost: $3, $383 Remaining
The Hollyridge Strings, Play The Beach Boys Song Book-Volume 2, Capitol ST-2749, 1967
As we learned back in December, The Hollyridge Strings were a Capitol Records studio orchestra that filled downtime at the studio by recording orchestral arrangements of other Capitol artists. The mostly re-recorded music by The Beatles, but “they” also issued cover albums by The Four Seasons, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, and yes, The Beach Boys.
Unlike the other artists, I suspect that Brian Wilson was thrilled to hear these orchestral versions of his creations. The same people that assisted him on his productions were the people behind The Hollyridge Strings, so it would be nice (!) to even sit in on the sessions for this album. This album is more interesting that the first Beach Boys Volume because five of the 12 selections come from the recently released Pet Sounds. It also includes California Girls, with its famous intro that Brian called his favorite composition.
Now, eagle eyed readers will look at this record and spot something…the record label says this is a Hollyridge Strings record, but the title is “The Beatles Songbook-Vol.5”. I was a little sad to see that, even though I don’t have Volume 5 of The Beatles songbook. But the record does indeed play The Beach Boys lineup from the cover. This, my friends, is whats called a label error, where the factory applied the wrong label to the record. They are very rare and often sell for twice what a correctly manufactured record would. That means this $1 purchase could be worth as much as $2!
Cost: $1, $386 Remaining
Traffic, John Barleycorn Must Die, United Artists UAS-5504, 1970
The era of the Anglo-American super group was in full swing by 1970. Like conference realignment in college sports, once the teams star switching around, it takes a while for the dust to settle. The Hollies and The Byrds may not have had much in common, but their cast offs created some really great music together. This album could be one of the more wacky combinations of them all.
Steve Winwood was the teenaged lead singer for The Spencer Davis Group. He quickly left to form Traffic, which had immediate success before breaking up in 1969. Winwood joined Blind Faith with Eric Clapton for their one terrific album. The plan for this album was for it to be Steve Winwood’s first solo record. But when he showed the first few tunes to some of his old Traffic bandmates, they decided to re-form and finish the record as a Traffic album.
I just wish it was a better record. It isn’t bad per se, but there’s no hidden gems or hit singles. There are only six songs, but they’re all really long and border on freeform improvisation. Because of the band’s reputation, it sold really well, peaking at #5 and being certified Gold, but because it kinda stinks, it’s a very easy record to find today. It sold as well as the average Led Zeppelin album, but people actually want those records and not this one. I’ll give it a listen every n ow and then, but John Barleycorn really did die here.
Cost: $2, $387 Remaining