Michael Jackson, Thriller, Epic QE-38112, 1982
“Next time, I’m going to make them have to give it to me” Michael Jackson reportedly told his mother after not winning Album Of The Year for Off The Wall at the 1980 Grammy Awards. They did give it to him at the 1984 Grammy Awards, and the accolades have never stopped for this record. 65 million worldwide sales (with at least one in Bolivia), 33x Platinum in the US alone, with every song on the record except The Lady In My Life charting as a single somewhere in the world. This is an essential record.
Even though it sold 1,000,000 units a week at its peak in the Summer of 1983, you really don’t see very many copies lingering around in the usual places. I think it’s a combination of people getting rid of every album except Thriller, and others snapping up every copy they can find because of a perceived upside in value. But I’d bet that I see 75 copies of Brylcreem Presents: Sing Along With Connie Francis for every one copy of Thriller where I shop for records (which incorporates the entire Pacific Coastline of the continental US). While I never really encourage online shopping unless it’s absolutely necessary, a quick glance at Thriller on Ebay shows that it mostly trades at $20-$25 with original sealed copies being offered starting at $129, and the aforementioned original Bolivian pressing being offered at $340.
Naturally, finding this one for $8 feels like a bargain. It’s not perfect, it’s almost as if someone used the inner sleeve as a dish towel, but the record plays well. 80s records seem to hold up better than records from earlier eras do, but that could also be because stereo equipment also improved by the time this album was released. I suppose I’ll be one of those people that buys every under market copy of Thriller that I find too, and while that’s true for many essential records, I’ll actually listen to them.
Cost: $8, $158 Remaining
Phil Collins, Hello I Must Be Going!, Atlantic A4-80035, 1982
Yes there was a time when Phil Collins was the cool one. When only the coolest people knew about him or bought his records. Sure, it didn’t last long, and he became the everywhere 80s pop star that everyone has an opinion on. It was all on the verge of happening when this record came out.
Sure, the purest of Collins-istas looked past the cheesy cover of The Supremes’ You Cant Hurry Love, even as it became Phil’s first pop top 10 single in the US. We looked at the album tracks, so full of innovated rhythm tracks, and soul style horns. And they were really good.
It all came crashing down with Against All Odds, but this album, and its predecessor Face Value have enough tracks to keep cheap vinyl buyers happy without having to hear Sussudio!
Cost: $2, $504 Remaining
Unknown, Aerobics Country, Upstart Records UPS-1, 1982
Another day another fitness routine. And if you thought yesterday’s entry was obscure, this one really, um, takes the cake. Not only does no one fess up to being the “artist” here, but this is the one and only apparent release for Upstart Records. The record is billed as “the down-home way to aerobic fitness with easy to follow vocal and visual instructions”, as if I needed any motivation to bend over repeatedly while listening to You’re The Reason Why God Made Oklahoma.
Besides some generally boring liner notes and general heath statistics about heart rate and body mass index, there really isn’t much instruction on the jacket. And while the blue bathing suit and cowgirl hat wearing model looks good, I doubt she relied on this record for her body type, no matter how much she loves a rainy night.
But I still love upstart records, like this one from Upstart Records of Arlington Texas. I hope they weren’t under any illusions of outselling The Beatles, or even Slim Whitman, but it is an accomplishment to get this far in the record business. No matter how awful it turns out.
Cost: $2, $518 Remaining
June LaSavia, How The Waist Was Won, Plantation Records PLP-52, 1982
Fitness records were all the rage in the early 80s. Jane Fonda sold millions of records, and soon there were a million copycats. This is one of the worst ones I’ve ever seen. Mainly because it is so rare and there is literally zero information available about Ms. LaSavia, I am amazed that I even found such a thing. There are probably more still sealed copies of Revolver floating around out there than used copies of this.
It doesn’t happen very often, but June LaSalvia has no wikipedia page. Discos.com, the awesome record database and eBay style market has this record listed, but that’s it. There are exactly two discographies of Plantation Records, and this record isn’t listed. Discogs has it listed, and it appears that this was the last Plantation release of new material. There were five more releases for the company, but they were all re-issues or compilation albums. The company appears to have folded in 1983.
Despite the horrible name, Plantation did have a number one hit in 1968 with Jeannie C. Riley’s Harper Valley PTA. But once that novelty wore off and she left the label, they only put out records sporadically from then on.
Cost: $2, $520 Remaining
Richard Simmons, Reach, Elektra E1-60122, 1982
It’s a new year and that means resolving things. If you’re like me, that means working on being fit. And if you’re really like me, that means listening to cheap fitness records. Laughing and trying 35 year old exercises totally counts as cardio.
There really isn’t much here that helped me break a sweat. I may not have Nick Jonas’ abs, but I can put both hands over my head and breathe. I hope that means that I’m more of a Jane Fonda client than a Richard Simmons patient.
But there’s no denying that Richard Simmons was on top of his game. This record came out on a major label, Elektra, that went all out for it. Any gatefold cover is twice as expensive to make as a regular one, and at the time, he was able to promote it on his now daily talk show. It’s a real trip to listen too. The music has the same early 80s electronic sounds as the hits of the day, until you get to the shrill vocals that try to motivate you to keep breathing. If I ever get to DJ an 80s party, I might throw in a track or two from this just for a laugh.
Cost: $2, $522 Remaining
Smokey Robinson, Where There’s Smoke…, Motown 5267ML, 1982
I don’t buy re-issues. Mostly because, despite the obvious use of having records around, I’m not building a music collection. Virtually anything, well outside of some of the weird records I find, can be found online at any time from anywhere with virtually no expense of storage issues. So, what I’m really doing is collecting original records with an eye for the unusual. Re-issued records just get in the way and take up space for original records.
Motown actually makes it pretty easy to spot a reissue. They usually have a small print original release date, in case the thinly pressed record and thick paper vs. cardboard sleeve wasn’t clue enough. It’s just that I’ve never seen this record, and it has the long version of my favorite Smokey Robinson solo single. So I tossed it in my pile at the $1 sale without thinking twice.
Pulling out the record made me sink a little. Smokey only put out records on Tamla (Tamla 366 in this case), so seeing the Motown label defines it as a reissue. Cousin’ still works well on it, so it’s a small loss, and this will hold the place for the original I hope to find one day. I’d really be upset if I thought I was getting the 1960 Hi, We’re The Miracles for $1, but it’s not a huge tragedy.
Cost: $1, $617 Remaining
Charlene, Songs Of Love, Prodigal P6-10018S1, 1977
It’s every now and then that you find something in a record bin that probably doesn’t belong there. Most people know Charlene from the syrupy 1982 hit single I’ve Never Been To Me, most likely from the drag queen lip-synched film version from 1994’s The Adventures Of Priscilla Queen Of The Desert. What isn’t commonly known is that the song pre-dates all of that, having come out in this flop of an album in 1977.
Back then the song had a long, spoken intro that no drag queen could be inspired to do. It was just a run of the mill 70s girl song, a factory version of introspection. When it became a hit five years later, it was almost a parody of the genre, which the movie solidified. Charlene herself had been dropped from her contract and was working in a shop in London when she had a surprise hit.
The amazing bit is, this was a Motown (!) record! Prodigal was the last attempt by the independent label to break into the pop market. Like V.I.P., Weed, and Melody, the label never made any inroads. When the single hit, Motown re-released an album with different songs and cover on the Motown label that sold much better. So, I’m really happy that I found this original copy, with the intro to the hit that I’d never heard before. And I’m glad I didn’t have to go to Nice or The Isle Of Greece to find it.
Cost: $2, $851 Remaining