Martin Luther King Jr., The Great March To Freedom, Gordy 906, 1968
I don’t mean it in a condemning way, but I too have a dream, that one day I can own a copy of every Motown record issued in the 60s and 70s. And that means trying to collect the four albums the company issued of Martin Luther King’s speeches. It won’t be easy, this is the only one I’ve ever seen, and I was able to buy it for just $5 last year in Richmond Virginia. This was the first of the King releases on Motown’s Gordy subsidiary, and despite the catalogue number of 906, it was just the fourth album released with a Gordy label.
It probably helped that this speech was given in Detroit as far as Motown being there to record it, but Berry Gordy put his own name down as the record’s producer, something that supposedly was a real source of pride for him. Gordy 908 was the “I Have A Dream” speech from the March On Washington and it was issued later in 1963. Both Gordy 906 and 908 we reissued in 1968 after King’s assassination and sold much better than the first pressings. Naturally, I found the 1968 version, easy to spot by the second version of the Gordy label on my record. The yellow spear version debuted in early 1968, replacing the original yellow script and globe logo. Second pressings still have the gatefold covers of the original, and are still more valuable than the 80s pressing on the Motown label.
Before Twitter, the spoken word record was a real thing. Politicians and Preachers made the most use of them, but there weren’t many that sold very well. Motown wasn’t the only company that released King recordings. There were many versions of the “Dream” speech, and many tribute albums that came out after King’s death that all sold well. Motown, always willing to sell a record to someone who wanted to buy it, actually started a special spoken word label to release more speeches and message records. Called Black Forum, the label’s first release in 1970 was Martin Luther King’s “Why I Oppose The Vietnam War”
Cost: $5, $481 Remaining
Bing Crosby, Hey Jude Hey Bing!, Amos AAS-7001, 1968
Its got to be hard to tell someone that just because they can do something, it doesn’t mean they should do something. And by something I mean this album.
Bing Crosby has his first hit record in 1926. His last non-Christmas re-release to chart came in 1957. Its safe to say that by late 1968, he was not very relevant to the record buying public. Then why bother to go though this routine? Honestly, its as bad as it looks, with Der Bingo crooning his way through the year’s biggest hits. He absolutely massacres Hey Jude, someone who has never heard of him would absolutely believe that this was a joke recording. The album’s wikipedia page ends with a prophetic “The album was never released on CD”. Shocking…
Amos Records was a short lived label created by Jimmy Bowen. He worked for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records and left to form Amos with the hope of selling records recorded by people like Bing Crosby that once had major record deals but lost them due to failing sales. People like Frankie Laine, Mel Carter, Frankie Avalon and Johnny Tillotson all records for Amos. This was the company’s first release and as far as I can tell it’s only record to hit the charts. One glorious week at #162 made this Bing’s last charting album of newly recorded music.
Cost: $3, $533 Remaining
The Sinatra Family, We Wish You A Merry Christmas, Reprise FS-1026, 1968
If you’re like me, finding a record like this is about as great a gift as one could ever hope to receive. I can’t imagine the nerve it would take for an artist to try something like this today. Getting the whole family together for a Christmas album, despite the fact that the whole family has no business singing anything.
I suppose it helps when Dad owns a record company. Especially when Dad is trying to remain relevant to record buyers by appearing younger than he really was. The times, they were a changin’ too, and the smooth vocal style that The Sinatras were known for was hopelessly out of touch with fans of Janis Joplin and The Doors.
So while this record may have failed at the time (the inch long cut out on the jacket implying that a retailer returned this to the distributor because it didn’t sell), today we have a kooky kitschy ding dong of a Christmas record that is just so much fun. The stand out track is the reimagining of The 12 Days Of Christmas, with all of “the kids” getting presents for their father. I can just imagine Frank Sinatra in the lavender tie Nancy got him or playing with the nine Scrabble sets that Tina oddly bought. Tina, by the way, makes Nancy seem like Maria Calas, with serious tempo and pitch problems that would have her booted from American Idol in the preliminary rounds. This record is a must to find, it’ll bring you comfort and joy all year round.
Cost: $3, $542 Remaining
Various Artists, Something Festive, A&M SP-19003, 1968
Corporate tie-ins and Christmas giveaways go hand in hand. They don’t always result in something actually worth getting. Every thrift store record bin has a vast selection of 1960s various artists “free with any purchase” Christmas albums. There’s always a cut from Mahalia Jackson, because she didn’t rock the boat too much on Civil Rights, usually something from Julie Andrews, because she never had a major recording contract to provide interference with, and then a random assortment of the D-List of whatever label put together the package.
This 1968 package, distributed through BF Goodrich tire stores, stand out from the bunch. Not only is it actually fairly decent to listen to, but the artists involved rival any compilation album I’ve ever seen. Goodyear for years (!) sold tires that came with a free Christmas record. BF Goodrich, late to the game, turned to A&M to come up with a rival product that they could give away too. Being a mid-sized independent, their artist roster wasn’t full of the kind of “talent” that a major label like Columbia could afford to keep on staff in the hope that they could sell some records. A&M had to produce hits to survive, and it’s reflected in this record.
Even the non-household names stand out. Liza Minelli was just about to burst out on her own as a cabaret performer, Burt Bacharach was trying to kick start a recording career after writing some of the biggest hits of the 60s, and Claudine Longet was happily married to Andy Williams and six years from killing her younger lover in a bizarre shooting incident. Anyway, this is one Christmas record I listen to year round. It’s really quite amazing how it all came together, and I would consider this a must find cheap record.
Cost: $2, $545 Remaining
Arco Guthrie, Alice’s Restaurant, Reprise RS-6267, 1968
Happy Thanksgiving! Yes, it’s mean to label an artist for one little aspect of their life’s work, especially one that was produced when the artist was 20 years old, but this record is an important part of assembling an American Thanksgiving dinner. It’s just one of the things that you know by heart and you’ve heard for years, but it just takes on a special meaning when you drop the needle on it just after you put the bird in the oven. Sorry Arlo. I know it’s not what you’re about or what you set out to do, but for 18 minutes and 40 seconds of every year, you’re a one hit wonder.
Yes, there’s a side two. And Arlo had bigger hit records, as well as carried on the musical legacy started by his amazing father Woody Guthrie. But, geese it’s just nice to have a Thanksgiving tradition that has a nodding recognition of approval from those in the know. So who really cares too much about the talented artist behind the tradition. Gene Autry was so much more than Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, and misc fans know the difference between him and Elmo & Patsy. The same goes for Arlo Guthrie.
So, yes, Arlo, accept the fact that you’ve made littering into the ultimate out, that going with the flow is what makes a great thanksgiving, and that a tradition is a tradition. Alice’s Restaurant is an easy record to find, and it’s a guaranteed record to get played at least once a year. There aren’t too many records I can say that about.
Cost: $4, $629 Remaining
Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66, Look Around, A&M SP-4137, 1968
I don’t know how I got 5 months into this project without featuring a record from Sergio Mendes & Brasil ’66. Their records sold in the millions and they’re really easy to find at really cheap prices. The group hit the sweet spot between Bossa Nova and Pop with records carefully crafted by the finest LA studio musicians. While their sound was passed in the 70s and 80s, today their records are the perfect vinyl background music to any hipster dinner party. This record is one of their best, and I was thrilled to find this near mint copy yesterday.
It came out at the peak of their fame, and owing to the looney rules that The Oscars had at the time, they got to perform Their version of The Look Of Love at the awards ceremony. Dusty Springfield’s version, the original recording from the film Casino Royale, was crushed on the charts as a result. There’s also the first charting version of The Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends, which was another huge hit for them.
And then there are the whitewashed versions of period correct Brazilian pop music. Not that that’s a bad thing, considering how influential the Bossa Nova sound was in the 60s. A Brazilian would be horrified by these remakes, they would probably sound like Pat Boone remaking Long Tall Sally, but I love them. I wish I could tell you why these records are so easy to find, all I can say is that I will keep looking for the rest of them.
Cost:$2, $640 Remaining
Diana Ross & The Supremes, Live At London’s Talk Of The Town, Motown MS 676, 1968
It’s a big no-no to take pictures in a casino. At best, you’ll be asked to stop, and at worst, arrested. But I have a fool proof method for pulling it off. Find a casino that was at one point the swankiest nightclub on Earth. Then find a still sealed copy of a live album recorded at said nightclub. Take said album into the former club and now casino, and look for the stage. Then ask to photograph said album on said stage.
Apparently, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney we’re in the audience in February 1968 when this album was recorded on this stage, all of which was a revelation to the staff that was working at the casino. They were so happy to see my record that they said I could take as many pictures as I want, as long as I didn’t show any players.
I had a harder time getting a photo of the album outside the building. I’m guessing by the looks I got that no-one in 2016 London knows that the now run down Hippodrome knows that it was once a very hip place, or what a vinyl record is. But no matter, it’s a sealed Supremes record coming home for a day.
Cost: $6, $659 Remaining