Lou Rawls, Tobacco Road, Capitol ST-2042, 1963
I struggled with this one a bit. On the one hand, not enough people know about Lou Rawls or his amazing voice. On the other hand, that voice was amazing partly because of all the cigarettes he smoke, only to die from lung cancer. Yet here he is singing about tobacco.
Most people know the album’s title track from the British Invasion remake by The Nashville Teens, but Lou’s version is as soulful as they come. I’m not sure if this is the version where the teens found the song, but the timing of the two records makes me probably thin yes. Lou got his start following his mentor Sam Cooke around the gospel circuit, only to sing back up on some of Sam’s biggest hits, notably Bring It On Home To Me, so he was pretty well known in music circles, even if his early albums didn’t sell very well.
If Lou is known at all, it’s for his photo disco albums he made in the 70s for Philadelphia International. But his 60s Capitol albums are really great and fairly easy to find and well worth searching out.
Cost: $1, $646 Remaining
The Beach Boys, Surfing’ USA, Capitol T-1890, 1963
The eternal city is a great place to find a classic record from a group that was perceived as a fad. Surfing’ USA was a huge hit for The Beach Boys, the follow up album to Surfing’ Safari, but Capitol Records was treating the group as a fad who’s popularity would soon end. My evidence? The stock photo of an anonymous surfer is on the front cover, instead of a smiling picture of the happy group.
Capitol didn’t really bother too much with the back cover either, using an outtake from the Surfing’ Safari cover photo shoot, along with some random studio shots. Mainstay Al Jardine wasn’t yet prepared to leave dental school for something so foolish as recording for Capitol Records, so The Wilson brother’s neighbor, 14 year old David Marks is still in the group as rhythm guitarist.
This copy of the record, still in it’s original shrink wrap came with me on my recent tour of Europe. I was interested in seeing if there was a market for selling fairly easy to find records in places where they aren’t very easy to find. So much so that I couldn’t find a record store in Italy to offer it to. Anyway, having a near mint condition of one of my favorite group’s best early records is a good thing.
Cost: $3, $656 Remaining
John F. Kennedy, A Memorial Album, Premier Records 2099, 1963
The best selling record of December, 1963 didn’t belong to The Four Seasons or The Singing Nun (even though her Dominique was the Number One single, and it’s album also hit the top spot). By the second week of December, this record sold four million copies in just six days. It’s kind of amazing that the tiny discount label Diplomat was able to get that many printed and into stores, but it was a special moment for the country, and the demand for Jimmy Gilmer & The Fireballs was waning.
Supposedly, the record was priced at $0.99, with proceeds going to the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation for “mental retardation”, but I would imagine Premier getting something out of the deal. The speeches were all in the public domain, so it really wasn’t much to edit them from the WMCA Radio station tribute that was produced on November 22 into a cheap album and whip up some cover art and get it into stores. This copy has a “Super Special” price sticker of $0.44 on it, so the demand must have fallen off quickly. I can imagine once the pain of the news wore off, buying an album to constantly remind one of the assassination didn’t seem very necessary. The record apparently hit the charts, but since it essentially got zero airplay and that was a factor in chart position, it didn’t hit the top 10.
People always think when they see this that it must be some really rare collectable, but the truth is, it’s not. I don’t think anything produced as a future keepsake never turns out to become one. This record is really easy to find and I probably overpaid for it at $2. But it was still in the original shrink wrap, and that means that it’s in better shape than all my other $1-2 copies. With the US election a week away, I think it’s a great week to do another presidential theme week!
Cost $2, $679 Remaining
Various Artists, The Big Sounds Of The Sports Cars, Capitol T-2004, 1963
Dude, drag sounds were gnarly in 1963! It’s hard to imagine today, but a huge record label released an entire album of nothing but car sounds. And it sold!
Gears! Corners! Thrills! A Sonic Masterpiece! It is literally the best ever record for terrorizing elderly neighbors in the history of the world. Beyond that, I can’t imagine a reason why anyone thought this was a good idea to record and release. It really is just a collection of cars revving their motors for 40 minutes.
It’s luckily, the record is in mint condition, so there are no pops in the exciting car sounds that might require a tune up. But again….why? Why is this a thing??
Cost: $2, $711 Remaining
Various Artists, The Motor-Town Reveue, Vol. 1, Motown MT-609, 1963
Even when she was just one singer in the opening act for The Marvelettes, Diana Ross still found a way to be front and center of a Motown live album. This must have been quite the concert to attend, with I don’t even know how many top ten records recorded by these groups. With The Supremes as the opening act, you know it’s gonna be a good show.
I just wish they had recorded it better. When I found this, I almost couldn’t believe my luck. Any Motown album is worth buying at $2, but even though this one is only the 9th album released on the label, it’s just not that great to actually listen to.
True, the record isn’t in great shape, which never helps. But the recording is so primitive, probably just like the microphones and acoustics were, that it’s kind of painful on the ear. It’s not just Motown, The Beach Boys first Number One album was “In Concert” as well, and The Beatles tried to record one too, with the tapes turning out so badly that they shelved the idea. The eventually were released, in 1977, as a historical document, not necessarily as something to listen to and enjoy. This is a nice record to have, but it’ll be a while until I drop a needle on this one again.
Cost: $2, $723 Remaining
Various Artists, Rock And Roll And Girls, Girls, Girls, Modern Sound 515, 1963
My other discount “various artists” find of the week was this compilation of knock off recordings, all covers of 1963 hits with female names in their titles. Unlike yesterday’s selection, this one is on the Modern Sounds label instead of the Hit Records label, but like yesterday’s selection, it was a Sam Phillips recording engineered by Billy Sherrill.
This production crew, in their down time from writing and producing American popular music classics, looked for cheap up and coming talent to re-record the hits of the day. The records were then sold at a discount to the real recordings, usually at non traditional outlets like drug stores or from the trunk of someone’s car.
Even though this record is in pretty bad shape, I’ve never seen it. Knowing the actual music so well, it’s jarring to hear the copies, noble efforts that they are. There’s not one the comes close to the feel of the original, and it’s hard to imagine these recordings being hits on their own. But they’re fun as hell to listen to!
Cost: $2, $776 Remaining
Various Artists, Current Hits Volume 7, Hit Records 1007, 1963
It’s funny what people do for money sometimes. Sam Phillips heard an unemployed truck driver named Elvis Presley and signed him to his Sun Record Company. Billy Sherrill was the country version of Phil Spector, and became a huge songwriter with tunes like Stand By Your Man and The Most Beautiful Girl In The World to his credit. But in 1963, despite all their incredible success, they oddly made this record.
There’s obviously not any artist credit, let alone pictures, but the back cover does have a hilarious write up of how hard the producers had to work to find a singer in Nashville Tennessee who could sing the Japanese lyrics of Sukiyaki. The actual Japanese singer they found refused, so one of their “contract singers” “came through with flying colors”. Having heard the results, I can honestly say that Kyu Sakamoto neededn’t have worried about the competition.
No matter what they wrote in the liner notes, this record is just a compilation of the efforts of the Hit Records stable of unknowns who were signed by Sam Phillips to re-record the hits of the day cheaply and then hope to fool as many people as possible into buying their record instead of the actual hit record. The lower price these records sold for may have helped the sales, but oh, the disappointment when these actually listened to what they just bought.
Yes, they’re terrible records, but they’re very rare to find and funny to listen to. In fact, until I found a few a few of them in a clearance bin. I always buy Hit Records 45s, I treasure my version of Please Please Me by The Buggs, but I never knew they released albums.
Cost: $3, $778 Remaining