Diana Ross, Diana, Motown M8-936M1, 1980
Hard as it is to imagine considering her superstar statue, Diana Ross’ solo career was fairly disjointed. Yes, there were #1 hits every so often, but there never was a remarkable ground breaking record until this one. That I was able to find a really great copy of it for $2 is not a testament to how good it is, but because it sold millions of copies and, well, people don’t like to move with albums.
The legend goes that Ms. Ross was hanging out at Studio 54 one night and heard (and met) producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards. Their group Chic blended funk and soul in a very clean modern way. Ross, knowing a good thing when she heard it, asked Rodgers and Edwards to produce her next album. She told them she wanted to turn her career upside down, and come out with a whole new sound.
Rodgers and Edwards responded with amazing material, that Motown hated. Their own producer sat down with Ross and stripped most of the disco sounding guitar riffs and sped up the playback speed of the tracks before releasing it. Rodgers and Edwards sued of course, but the public didn’t care. The backstage drama still produced Diana Ross’ biggest album.
Cost: $2, $253 Remaining
Hall & Oates, Voices, RCA AOL1-3646, 1980
As the jacket might indicate, times have changes since this album was released. Hall & Oates were not exactly a hot property when this record came out, proven by the first single released from Voices, How Does It Feel To Be Back, struggled to reach #30 on the charts. A remake of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, climbed to #12, but still, the album was barely holding on to the top 100.
For some reason, RCA went for a third single. Kiss On My List started off slowly, but hit #1 about 9 months after the album came out. It was so big that RCA changed the cover of Voices from a black and white montage to this bizarrely styled, very 80s photo. A fourth single, You Make My Dreams, hit #5, and Hall & Oates were suddenly huge pop stars. Voices stayed on the album charts for 100 weeks, just shy of two years.
There was another #1 song on the album. In 1985, Paul Young covered Everytime You Go Away, and it topped the charts. Not that looking back into the Hall & Oates catalogue will turn up any other million sellers, it’s a pretty remarkable achievement to have.
Cost: $3, $433 Remaining
Johnny Lee, Lookin’ For Love, Asylum 6E-309, 1980
It’s safe to call Johnny Lee a one hit wonder. The title track of this album hit #5 on the charts thanks to it’s inclusion in the John Travolta movie Urban Cowboy. It was the perfect country bar band song for a movie, and the female background singer did her level best to sound just like Stevie Nicks. Outside of a follow up that peaked at #54, this was his only chart success. It’s a very common tale, but unfortunately for most people, this song is known for something else.
With the record still on the charts, Eddie Murphy did a parody of a mail order record commercial on Saturday Night Live. “Buckwheat Sings” became an instant classic as Murphy stuttered his way though the hits of the day dressed like the Little Rascals character from the 30s. “Lookin’ For Love” became “Wookin’ Pa Nub” and was born.
Maybe Lee’s problem was that the Country Music community didn’t really appreciate being branded as the latest dance fad for the larger community. A John Travolta movie didn’t help. Lookin’ For Love sounded very Country on 1980 Pop radio, but very Pop on Country radio. That’s never a good place to be for a recording artist, and Lee is still playing shows nightly in Branson.
Cost: $2, $453 Remaining
Dolly Parton, 9 To 5 And Odd Jobs, RCA AAL1-3852, 1980
Country Music has waves of popularity on the pop charts from time to time, and the very early 80s was certainly one of those times. Eddie Rabbitt, Crystal Gayle, Roseanne Cash & Ronnie Milsap were having pop hit after pop hit in those years, but none of them were, ahem, bigger than Dolly Parton was.
I read somewhere that (unbelievably) 1980s cars are going up in value on the collector’s market. I think the same may be true for 80s records. While I might not have forked over 200 pennies for this a few years ago, I think records like this in good shape will never be this cheap again and will become scarce with the resurgence in vinyl collecting.
This album was one of the biggest sellers of its era, thanks to its inclusion in the film of the same name, so its really easy to find for not much money…now. Huge selling pop records almost always have a limited number of owners who want to hold on to a record for 37 years, so they turn up all the time. I’ve even been noticing a few Thrillers pop up in vintage stores, and Prince’s records can’t be far behind. But for now, I’m happy to have Dolly to listen to 8 hours a day.
Cost: $3, $499 Remaining
Elmo & Patsy, Will You Be Ready?, Oink 8021, 1980
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again today. You never know what you’re going to find when you look through a bargain bin of records. It’s unknown how long this essentially homemade bluegrass record sat around in Al & Joanne’s house before they dropped it off with a bunch of other records in order to clean out their basement or move. It ended up at a fairly decent local record store with a really large $1 bin.
At first glance, this record would seem to be a prime candidate for a $1 bin. Homemade bluegrass records, whether brand new or 36 years old, generally don’t have much value. What drew me to this record though was that it was recorded by Elmo & Patsy. Virtually everyone on this planet knows Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer, but a much smaller subset of that group know that it was recorded by a Bay Area veterinarian called Dr. Elmo and his then wife Patsy. It’s just that no one bought Grandma for the incomparable artistry of Elmo & Patsy anymore than people watch The Godfather because Al Martino plays the wedding singer.
So, I can easily see how a bored record clerk would not recognize the name or even bother to turn the record over to see that Elmo & Patsy signed this copy “with every best wishes” to Al & Joanne. While Elmo & Patsy aren’t exactly John & Yoko to an autograph collector, it’s still a pretty neat thing to find. Especially since they haven’t signed anything together since their 1985 divorce decree. This record came out the year after Grandma was recorded, but three years before it was championed by Dr Dimento and became a worldwide sensation. I think they just seem to be a couple with day jobs that played bluegrass at night, blissful in their lack of success. They never made another non-Christmas record, and probably not just because Al & Joanne stopped being fans.
Cost: $1, $649 Remaining
Donna Summer, The Wanderer, Geffen GHS-2000, 1980
Donna Summer was probably the biggest music star in the world by 1979. But such a rise usually comes at a cost. She was signed to Casablanca Records and producer Giorgio Moroder, and it was really out of her hands which direction her career went. As it turned out, she wasn’t a Bad Girl at all, but a true believing Preacher’s Kid who found herself playing a role she didn’t feel comfortable with.
So it was a natural that when David Geffen came calling, Summer left Casablanca for his new label. This album was rush recorded and rush released to capitalize on her immense fame. Perhaps they should have taken more time…
It’s not that it’s a bad album, it’s just not a great album. It’s not great material and it’s not well produced. I would go so far as to say it’s overproduced. With such a lot riding on it, they really should have made sure that there was one sure-fire #1 hit on it.
Cost: $2, $849 Remaining.