David Niven, The World’s Most Famous Love Letters, Roulette R-25034, 1958
I usually try to come up with a snappy headline for each album I blog about. For this one, I really struggled. I thought trying to tie-in to one of David Niven’s great film roles would be the way to go, something along the lines of “The Bridge On The River Sigh”, “Around The World In 33 1/3 Days” or “The Pink Vinyl” would work, but listening to this utterly bizarre record, I kept coming back to Joey Tribbiani’s catchphrase “How You down’?” for the best way to describe this miraculous find.
It’s not just the Austin Powers/Partridge Family blue velour suit (complete with frilly ascot) that drew me in, it was the premise of this record to begin with. Why on Earth would anyone need something like this is much more interesting to me than the cover. Original owner Jim Monroe became one of the lucky few original owners of this rare piece of vinyl, and I would like to thank him for not listening to his record more than a few times. It is a flawless record, except for the material.
Each track has an appropriate musical score, but it really is David Niven reading some very cheesy old letters. It’s now my go to for audio clips of someone saying “My live in Vienna is now a wretched one” or “Inwardly I’m wasting away”. This record is why I search out the oddball albums. For $2, I now own a very rare (it doesn’t even show up in Niven’s Wikipedia page) record that really shouldn’t be, yet clearly does. I hope Jim Monroe felt like he got his money’s worth, because I know I did.
Cost: $2, $287 Remaining
Gordon Fleming, Gigi, Golden Tone C-4035, 1960
I wasn’t paying all that much attention when I flipped though a pile of records at a vintage store when I first saw this record. I thought to myself that the cover model looked like Mary Tyler Moore, so I splurged $2 for if on a whim. It wasn’t until I looked through my new purchases, looking for TV themed records that I noticed that it IS Mary Tyler Moore on the cover of this discount record version of the stage and screen hit musical Gigi.
It turns out that MTM made her way into show business by being a cover model for the Tops and Golden Tone record companies. Both are long defunct discount labels based in Los Angeles, and they released generic covers of soundtracks and public domain songs by anonymous musicians and sold them at discount prices. To compete, they used attractive young girls for their record covers, and Mary Tyler Moore appeared on (it seems) about 12 of them in the late 50s and into 1960. Landing a gig as Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1961 finally stopped this strange aspect of her career.
Gigi won the 1959 Oscar for Best Picture of 1958, and the Lerner & Lowe musical was a broadway smash before that. That made it a prime candidate for people to make cover version of the music. That’s about as kind as I can be to the actual music of this album. It’s not it’s badly made, it’s just not that well made. This really is one to buy for the cover, and judging by what it lists for on eBay, I got a screaming deal!
Cost: $2, $289 Remaining
The Partridge Family, Up To Date, Bell 6059, 1971
The Partridge Family, a nominees for Best New Artist at the 1971 Grammy Awards, were hot when this, their second album came out. David Cassidy was on his way to a brief stint as the leading national teen idol, and the records flew off the shelves. It was all fake in reality, but this record hit #3 as the TV show wrapped up its first season.
Like most teen idol records, this one is geared to appeal to the fans. In this case, 14 year old girls. For the first time, David Cassidy sings every lead, instead of the anonymous studio singers that sung half of the first album. He even got his first writing credit, but it was the two top 10 hits I’ll Meet You Halfway and Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted that really pushed the album’s sales. The latter song was absolutely hated by Cassidy and the show’s production was halted so producers and lawyers could convince him that he had to sing it, cheesy spoken interlude included.
Besides the hits and the dimples. what also was included was a cool custom Partridge Family text book cover! I had no idea that it did, but lo and behold, this pristine copy was neatly tucked inside this $2 copy. Usually, inserts like this got used or pinned up on a wall, so finding one in mint condition is pretty rare.
Cost: $2, $291 Remaining
Edd Byrnes, Kookie, Warner Brothers W-1309, 1959
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again; it’s very hard to start a record company. Virtually all available talent that can sell records already has a record label, and without that talent you won’t sell many records. Warner Brothers had the good fortune to have major film and TV production talent, and after the strange success of Tab Hunter’s recording career, Warner’s added an exclusive audio clause in all of their video contracts.
77 Sunset Strip, a Warner show produced for ABC, debuted just as the new policy came into effect. The show was a laid back affair about private investigators solving the problems of the most fortunate and beautiful people on Earth, all set to a smooth jazz sound. Warners first released a soundtrack alum from the show, but the breakout success of a minor character named Kookie quickly led to a novelty hit and this follow-up album. Kookie was famous for constantly combing his hair and speaking solely in late 50s teen slang.
The album is no longer as ginchy as it once was. Byrnes doesn’t really sing, he just sort of mumbles his way through his the script while arranger and conductor Don Ralke’s music plays underneath. It’s interesting to listen to, but the nagging thought you’ll have after about 90 seconds is “why was this ever a hit”. Then you’ll have 28:30 more to scratch your head and try to translate the words into 21st century English. It’s not the kind of scene I usually dig dad, but while the record didn’t send me straight to snoresville pops, I don’t find it to be the maximum utmost. Later, like dig.
Cost: $5, $293 Remaining
Jimmie Walker, Dyn-O-Mite, Buddah Records BDS-5635, 1975
This is one of the more noble attempts at fame for an album produced from the fame of a hit TV show. Good Times was a top 10 show spun off from a top 10 show (Maude) that was also spun off from the #1 show All In The Family. It’s probably always the hope of a family sitcom producer to have the eldest son on the show become a teen idol, and while that wasn’t really the case here, there’s no doubt that “JJ” made the show a hit.
By trade, Walker got his start in stand up. So when it came time make a sudden fame based album, recording a comedy routine seemed like a better choice than making a subpar funk album. Go with your strengths, right?
Except that comedy was going through a big change in the 70s. Censorship battles were largely over and the new freedom allowed Richard Pryor and George Carlin to go where no comic had gone before. Walker tries here, but the material just doesn’t work. At least if it did work in 1975, it doesn’t work now. Turning a TV catchphrase into a stand up set would be hard enough, but this performance is not what I would call dynamite.
Cost: $2, $298 Remaining
Eddy Albert, The Eddy Albert Album, Columbia CS-9399, 1966
CBS was on a roll with “rural” comedies in the 60s. The success of The Beverly Hillbillies led to a dozen similar shows featuring the rural mindset triumphing over the more complicated urban one. Green Acres was one of the more successful ones, it frequently was in the top 10 ratings for most of its six year run. That kind of success allowed stars Eva Gabor and Eddie Albert all kinds of outside projects, and this album was one of them.
You wouldn’t know from his acting roles that Eddie Albert fancied himself a double if not a triple threat. The liner notes on his album talk about his success on the nightclub circuit, but I’m convinced that this album wouldn’t exist without him having a top 10 TV show. With Green Acres airing on CBS, it was a natural for Columbia Records to release The Eddie Albert Album. The disclaimer that blares on every side of the record that this is the star of Green Acres kA’s sure to capitalize on the sudden star fame of the singer.
It’s odd then that he chose the hits of the day to record. I faulted Lorne Greene for boring me to death with western tales, but it’s perhaps even meaner for Eddie Albert to torture me with Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright. Yes, he can sing, but it’s a real departure from Green Acres, and fans of the show would not like this record. Even the theme song is re-recorded in a less hayseed style, as if Albert is trying to sell the show to a different audience than the one that watched the show.
Cost: $8, $300 Remaining
Lorne Greene, Welcome To The Ponderosa, RCA LSP-2843, 1964
Welcome to the Ponderosa, and one of the strangest #1 records of all time. I had seen lists of the top records of 1964 long before I ever heard Ringo, and with it being the year of The Beatles and all, I just assumed that the song the knocked The Shangri Las Leader Of The Pack from the top spot was an ode to the famous drummer. It’s not as if the song got any airplay at all. Finding this album though, I learned that Ringo tells the tale of Johnny Ringo, one of many tedious western tales talk-sung by TV’s own Ben Cartwright.
Bonanza was the biggest shows on TV in 1964, not necessarily because it stood out from any other western show, but because it was one of the few that was shot and aired in color. Anyone catching a rerun today would be mystified about it having any success at all. But with the show NBC’s biggest hit and NBC owning RCA Records, several Bonanza albums were released. Ringo’s success proves that even as late as December 1964, Rock & Roll was just one genre of popular music.
This isn’t really a soundtrack album. Even the famous Bonanza theme is re-recorded with pretty awful original lyrics. Greene had an amazing voice, but he wasn’t much of a singer. The songs are all mini western dramas, and most come with a spoken introduction that sets the stage for the tale that follows. Unfortunately, what follows is as dated as the show. It’s an interesting find, but not really one with spending 29 minutes with, let alone an evening.
Cost: $2, $308 Remaining
Robert Clary, Meet Robert Clary, Epic LN-3171, 1955
This the first TV related album where the album is a prequel to the TV show, but I’m including it anyway. Robert Clary, Cpl. Louis LeBeau on Hogan’s Heroes, tried to make it as a singer/actor/cabaret artist for years. This record, which came out a decade before the TV show that made him famous, shows that he is a very talented guy. It may not be my exact taste, but it’s a really fun record to listen to.
Clary sings and tells jokes and it sounds like dances on the record. He also used those skills to help himself survive The Holocaust. He was abducted by Nazis from his native Paris and sent to the concentration camp, where he was one of the only ones from his family to survive. It’s harder to imagine a more difficult road to stardom, and Clary had to answer all kinds of questions about acting in a sit-com set in a German camp.
It’s also a really great addition to have to my collection. A well made cabaret style album is always great to have around the house, especially a French one. Robert Clary is still alive at 91, but this 62 year old record still sounds fresh. Hogan’s Heroes sure didn’t.
Cost: $8, $310 Remaining
The Chipmunks, The Alvin Show, Liberty LRP-3200, 1961
The Chipmunks were HOT! With two #1 Hits under their fur and several top 20 records, Ross Bagdasarian, AKA David Seville knew he had a good thing going and created an animation pilot that was picked up by CBS for the Fall 1961 season. This was the first time that Alvin, Simon & Theodore were fleshed out into distinct characters. Before, Chipmunk albums and 45 picture sleeves featured three identical chipmunks that were much more rat like in appearance. A weekly animation schedule required much simpler 1-D forms.
The record’s original owner helpfully wrote in ink the names of each chipmunk on the back. Alvin needed no introduction with his bright “A” on his red jersey, but I never knew that Simon was the tall one with glasses and Theodore was the shorter stout one. David Seville appears in a much thinner appearance than the portly Ross Bagdasarian was in real life. The foil of the show was Clyde Crashcup, a hapless inventor that the “boys” annoy and/or save in every episode. With the public now able to put a face to The Chipmunks, Liberty Records re-released all previous Chipmunk records with new covers that featured the new animation.
The record must have been very easy to prepare. The show had seven minute animation segments, and two of them are on the soundtrack album. Throw in the show’s theme song and incidental music, re-record the 1958 #1 hit Witch Doctor, and get it in stores! So it’s not a very musical record, but the classic animation voices of June Foray and Shepard Menken are really fun to listen to. I had this record growing up, I’m not sure why, but my copy had a massive scratch that made most of side two unplayable. Because I only had about two records, I came to know the stories on here without some crucial elements that the skips prevented me from hearing. It’s nice to finally hear the full version of Crashcup Invents The Bathtub!
Cost: $5, $318 Remaining
The Brady Bunch, The Kids From The Brady Bunch, Paramount PAS-6037, 1972
Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The Brady Bunch was one of those shows that kept getting renewed just because ABC didn’t have any better ideas. The only reason people know about it today is because they made just enough episodes to qualify for syndication, and it was so cheap to air that it filled the afternoon schedules of independent TV stations for decades. In its original run, it was never a ratings success, so the producers tried various was of getting new viewers.
With the huge success of The Monkees, and the pretty decent success of The Partridge Family, having the Brady kids sing on the show seemed like a good way to write a few episodes and maybe even sell a few records. The show was produced by Paramount TV and it helped that the studio had just started Paramount Records, new labels are always in need for unsigned talent. In this case, it didn’t really matter if the “artists” could actually sing, they had a show on network TV. They also had a brief Saturday morning cartoon, and the cover art of this album features the animation of “The Brady Kids” from that show instead of the actors themselves. Both The Brady Bunch and Paramount Records ended in 1974, with the studio selling the label to ABC Records.
While there was only one Brady record that ever charted (Meet The Brady Bunch, 1972, #108), this album has two of their best known songs. Both It’s A Sunshine Day and Keep On were featured in the January 23, 1973 episode of the show entitled “Amateur Hour”. The songs and the choreography are so bad that they are impossible to ever forget. Why they gave solos to every kid when half of them obviously couldn’t carry a tune is beyond me. This copy has a sticker on the front cover that tells me of the impressive drum breaks on an obscure track called Drummer Man. Club DJs often look for unusual or funky drum tracks to weave into a mix, but I have a hard time imagining a rave on Ibiza being treated to the drum breaks from The Brady Bunch.
Cost: $5, $323 Remaining