May 7, 2017 The Theme Week That Never Was

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The Dixie Cups, Chapel Of Love, Red Bird RBS 20-100, 1964

I really couldn’t believe my luck when I found this record in a $2 bin.  Not only is it the landmark debut of both The Dixie Cups and Red Bird Records, it’s also a rare Stereo copy that in mint condition is valued at $80.  This album is prized for being a true masterpiece of the 60s Girl Group sound, and there are songs written by Ellie Greenwich, Jeff Barry, Lieber & Stoller, and Phil Spector.  Any Red Bird release is very collectable, and this was the label’s first album release.  True, this isn’t a mint copy, but it still plays well and this is an amazing record without a bad track on it.

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The only reason I didn’t immediately feature it was because it also another landmark album of a more dubious fame.  This is one of the more famous record jackets from an African American group that feature white people (in this case represented by wedding cake figurines).  There is no picture of the group anywhere on the record, supposedly so as not to offend white record buyers in certain parts of the country.  It’s hard to imagine that as late as 1964 that this would still be a thing, but here it is.  I wanted to have a theme week of these covers, perhaps for Black History Month, but as luck would have it, this was the only affordable one I ever found.

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It stands to reason too.  These records are usually by Motown or Soul artists and came out in a time where the single was the preferred commercial format for music geared to younger buyers.  Albums of the 50s and 60s usually sold to adults and the pre-Beatles album charts are usually filled with soundtracks, broadway titles and adult themed music.  Original Motown records and other Soul classics didn’t sell in the same numbers and they are all very pricey to buy today.  You’ll just have to imagine the drawing of the mailbox on The Marvelettes’ Please Mr. Postman and the smiling white couple on a beach on The Isley Brothers’ This Old Heart Of Mine or be prepared to shell out $200 each for a copy of them.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $2, $170 Remaining

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April 29, 2017 What Not To Buy

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Bobby Vinton, There! I’ve Said It Again, Epic LM-24081, 1964

This is a terrible record.  There! I’ve said it again.  Yes, ok sure, President Kennedy had just been killed, and the #1 title track was a slightly better pop song than Dominique by The Singing Nun, but why did this nonsense sell so well?  How did it keep Louie Louie by The Kingsmen out of the #1 spot?  And why did Bobby VInton have such success during the most creative pop era ever?

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I really can’t explain it.  Vinton himself explained it as The Beatles and their contemporaries wiping out all of his competition, but I don’t buy it.  Jack Jones, Vic Dana, Wayne Newton and others were all in the same groove, but none of them came near the chart performances of records like this.  There! was one of two Vinton #1s in 1964 and its month at the top only ended when I Want To Hold our Hand exploded on the charts.  The album peaked at #8, but was still certified gold.

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It’s really that terrible of a record though.  It’s not some mid century modern classic pop record that you would want to play at a cocktail party, it’s a overly produced throwback to the big band era and just sounds awful today.  And so, despite the gatefold cover and deluxe packaging, this near mint copy was fairly priced at $1, marked down from $4.  You’ll find it in virtually every thrift store and garage sale, and basically any place cheaper records are sold.  No one who appreciated music would ever listen to it more than once.  Only buy it if you have too much shelf space, are trying to collect every record ever made, or you have too much money.  This will be a $1 record for the next few centuries .

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $4, $194 Remaining

April 12, 2017 The Most Blogged About Record Of All Time

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The Beatles, Introducing The Beatles, Vee Jay 1062, 1964

Whole books have been written about this album.  Their themes deal with questions like:  How did a small Mom & Pop Blues label from the South Side of Chicago wind up with a 5 year contract on The Beatles?  How did Vee Jay Records manage to screw it all up so quickly?  How many counterfeits were made of this record?  And, why are there so many variations for this album’s track listing, outer jacket and record label?

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I would imagine to find and buy all variations of Vee Jay 1062 would take a decade and thousands of dollars.  An online source I just checked listed 16 cover variations and 31 label variations, and that’s just for legitimate copies.  It would be nuts to try to figure out variations of fake VJ 1062 records made in the last 53 years.  That guide tells me that this is a Version 2 (it includes Please Please Me and Ask Me Why, and not Love Me Do and P.S. I Love You) Mono cover with Please Please Me having a comma between the two Pleases.

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The record is a version 2 mono copy, with the simple silver on black label, without a stylized Vee Jay logo or color band.  It’s a fairly common combination, but I don’t care.  No matter the version, this is a great, fun album to have in any collection.  It’s the only album I know that features the songwriting team of “McCartney – Lennon”.  And because the Vee Jay engineer didn’t know what to do with Paul’s “One Two Three FOUR!” count-in on the master tape of I Saw Her Standing There, and he apparently didn’t know how to edit very well, the album begins with Paul shouting “FOUR!”   While it’s very easy to dismiss this album because all of the music has been reissued time and time again by EMI, I’d still call this record essential.  Who cares if you get a fake one for $10!

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $10, $225 Remaining

April 5, 2017 I Loved Mono Yesterday, And Yesterday’s Gone

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Chad & Jeremy, Yesterday’s Gone, World Artists WAM-2002, 1964

Yesterday’s Gone was a minor British hit.  Released in the UK in November 1963, it managed to climb to #37 on the British charts.  The only thing good about that chart run was the timing.  In the wake of The Beatles’ success in the US with I Want To Hold Your Hand, every American record company tried to snap up every unsigned act imaginable.  The big labels got the big acts, naturally, but minor acts like Chad & Jeremy had to take what they could get.

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In fact, they were close to breaking up when their tiny UK label, Ember, leased Yesterday’s Gone to tiny World Artist Records.  Released in March , 1964, the single hit a respectable #21 in the US.  Their follow up, the UK flop A Summer Song did much better, hitting #7.  That justified this album, which also found a groove with US buyers.  Quickly signed to Columbia, they had hits into 1966 and major label releases through the decade.

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The reason I chose to write about the album though is the great lengths World Artists went to differentiate the mono and stereo versions of the record.  The stereo is pretty rare, and it came with a smaller cover picture and a gold jacket, while the mono has a larger picture on a white background.  The mono also has a sticker on it to remind folks that A Summer Song is included on the record.  I’ve yet to run into a small label that went to the trouble to print two different cover slicks for a record.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $3, $248 Remaining

March 14, 2017 No, Not THAT Ringo

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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.

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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.

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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.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $2, $308 Remaining

February 10, 2017 Grab Your Board

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Jan & Dean, The Little Old Lady From Pasadena, Liberty LRP-3377, 1964

Say what you want about Jan & Dean, but they made some great pop records.  This was one of the last great ones of their career, but it came about seven years in from Jennie Lee in 1958.  That’s a heck of a run for a duo whose music today sounds very much like a novelty act’s.  They cranked out 3-4 albums a year for Liberty between 1961 and Jan’s near fatal accident in 1966, and they all sold fairly well.  Their records will never compare favorably with, say, Simon & Garfunkel’s, and it seems like they pop up in sale bins all the time.  It seems like everyone who wants a Jan & Dean album already has it.

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I don’t think that was as true at the time.  “The little old lady from Pasadena” was a take on something a stereotypical used car salesman would have said, meaning it was already in the popular lingo.  The “lady” in this case was actually the old lady from an actual Dodge advertisement.  Jan & Dean were commercial “artists” more than all of their contemporaries were put together, so tying a record in to a current commercial wasn’t much of a stretch.  After all, car songs were huge in the summer of 1964, and this album was perfectly timed to take advantage of that.

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Aside from the car songs, there’s a whole lot about skateboarding.  With The Beach Boys sort of “owning” the actual surfing sound, Jan came up with the idea for Sidewalk Surfin’.  The song is really nothing more than a re-write of The Beach Boys’ Catch A Wave.  In true Jan & Dean style though, the album has a reminder to “be sure to get your Jan & Dean skateboard at your favorite shop”.  Unfortunately, my favorite shop must have run out.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $2, $412 Remaining

February 8, 2017 John, Paul, George & Pete. Pete?

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The Beatles, With Tony Sheridan & Their Guests, MGM E-4215, 1964

On June 22, 1961,  in Hamburg Germany, Tony Sheridan recorded five songs backed up by a fellow English group he knew from the local club scene.   The single My Bonnie did well enough in West Germany (#31), but it would be an unlikely candidate for a major label release in the US if it weren’t for the fact that the backing band was The Beatles.  Actually, it still probably didn’t deserve a major label release.  The songs are mainly public domain standards, with one incredible instrumental.  Cry For A Shadow, originally recorded as The Beatle Bop, is the only song credited as written by John Lennon and George Harrison.

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Naturally, there was no way that The Beatles would allow their image on a record that wasn’t really even theirs, so MGM, which licensed the Sheridan tracks from German Polydor came up with this bland green cover that screams THE BEATLES and adds a brief mention of the real artist Tony Sheridan “and their guests”.  The “guests”, who are more like party crashers, are billed here as The Titans, but the tracks were released in 1961.  As you can see, MGM did what most record companies did when an album had both stereo and mono versions.  One extended cover “slick” was printed, and the appropriate edge was exposed, with the other edge covered by the back slick.  Someone tore off the upper left corner of this mono record to expose the upside-down “stereo” printed on the front slick. It’s too bad, because real stereo copies of this album are very rare and worth hundreds of dollars.

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There were other recordings made that day in Hamburg.  With some extra time left in the session, The Ringo-less Beatles recorded four songs themselves.  These got leased to Atco Records for yet another major label US release, with the single Ain’t She Sweet hitting the top 20.  The two singles off this album My Bonnie and Why didn’t do as well, but these songs were issued countless times over the last 53 years.  I suppose the same thing would have happened if MGM got their hands on a tape of John Lennon reading the phone book.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $5, $419 Remaining