George Martin, Off The Beatle Track, United Artists UAS 6377, 1964
The Beatles didn’t have to look over their shoulders for someone trying to cash in on their fame. Their own producer George Martin jumped on the bandwagon too! In fairness, this record came about through The Beatles three picture film deal. United Artists took a chance on The Beatles before they even had a hit in the United States to make some low budget movies with the promise of getting a soundtrack album for their fledgling record label. It was a great strategy, as the A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack sold in the millions (and the film became the most profitable film of the year).
While The Beatles probably exceeded their contract by coming up with a whole album of new music, half of which never made it into the film, UA had all of the incidental and background music that did make it in. So why not try to sell that too and let Mr. Martin take the credit? This was actually a warm up record, with the movie music coming out later. Off The Beatle Track was the title George Martin suggested to The Beatles for their first UK album, so even the title was a re-tread here.
The Beatles actually seemed fine with the arrangement, mostly because it kept these orchestrated arrangements off of their real albums. But when the time came to fulfill their contact with a third film, there wasn’t much enthusiasm for it. When they found out they could farm it out to animation producers who would use voice actors to play The Beatles, the Yellow Submarine film was born. There also wasn’t much enthusiasm for a whole album of new music for it, so the Yellow Submarine album has four “new” Beatles songs, plus a few old ones used in the film, and a whole side of George Martin instrumental music that apparently drove John Lennon crazy.
Cost: $10, $560 Remaining
The Music Company, Rubber Soul Jazz, Mirwood MW-7002, 1966
It’s hard to say who’s idea this was. The Music Company seems to be just a collection of the famed Wrecking Crew, session musicians who recorded on virtually every hit record that came out of LA for 30 years. Being session musicians who got paid to show up and record, they wouldn’t have come up with this idea on their own.
There are the liner notes written by Al “Jazzbeau” Collins, a legendary San Francisco disc jockey who made KSFO “the world’s greatest radio station” with a mixture of jazz, pop and rock for discerning audiences. He would be the perfect choice to present a record like this, it would be his fans that this record was made for. But to my knowledge, he never went into the record business outside of producing local concerts in the Bay Area.
It must have been the concept of Mirwood Records, a short lived LA based jazz-pop label run by the elusive Randy Wood. He was one of the forces at Vee-Jay Records when they had both The Four Seasons and The Beatles under contract. But when that empire came crashing down, he moved west and started Mirwood in Los Angeles. No matter whose idea it was, this is a great record. I love anything the Wrecking Crew recorded, and they were probably working on this at the same time as they were recording the tracks for The Beach Boys Pet Sounds. This a pretty rough copy, but it’s something I’m going to keep looking for.
Cost: $1, $570 Remaining
Kings Road, The Long And Winding Road, Pickwick SCP-3239, 1970
Most of the schlocky discount Beatles records I have came out in the immediate aftermath of I Want To Hold Your Hand, meaning that the covering group didn’t have much genuine Beatles material to cover. But this one came out in 1970, months after the group broke up, but soon after this album’s title track hit #1 in June, 1970. “Kings Road”, whoever they were try their best to sound original, straining the word “you” on Revolution to sound like John, and trying to hit the high notes on The Fool On The Hill to sound like Paul. It doesn’t work at all. These songs were light years more advanced than the early Beatlemania hits and there was no way a Long Island discount label could make a record sound like George Martin or Phil Spector.
There are some hilarious liner notes that have a general Beatles summary, with the theme that all things must pass. The “author” calls himself the President of something called the Society for the Preservation Of Scholarly Liner Notes. Hilarious! What he couldn’t justify in his summary is why this record only has right songs…
Pickwick was perhaps the longest lasting discount record seller. They were somewhat successful at re-releasing deleted albums from an artist’s past, especially if the artist came up with a new hit. For example, when Tom Jones had his biggest hit in years in 1971 with She’s A Lady, Pickwick was right there with a “follow-up” which was nothing more than a repackaged 1965 British release. It must have worked, because Pickwick was there well into the 80s trying to fool people into buying what they thought was the song they were hearing on the radio. I fell for the cover of this records, and as soon as I saw the Pickwick label, I knew it was going to be awful. And I wasn’t disappointed…
Cost: $4, $571 Remaining
Sonny Curtis, Beatle Hits Flamenco Guitar Style, Imperial LP-9276, 1964
At the time this record came out, Sonny Curtis was most famous for being the infamous replacement for Buddy Holly in The Crickets. They put out some great records that made them Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame members in their own right, but their songs (like I Fought The Law) were best known after other people covered them. So landing a solo contract with Imperial Records in 1964 was a pretty good coup for an artist who hadn’t yet proven he could sell records. For a first release, why not do what everyone else seemed to be doing and record some Beatle music?
And, it’s awesome. It didn’t sell worth a damn, but this is one really well done record. It obviously came out later in 1964, with most of the songs coming from the Hard Day’s Night soundtrack. That alone makes it stand out from the other records this week, but the arrangements and the playing make this an enjoyable record.
Sonny Curtis is best known for Love Is All Round, the theme song for The Mary Tyler Moore Show. This album came out 6 years before that, and it just shows his versatility. This is likely to be my most favorite Beatles tribute record.
Cost: $5, $575 Remaining
Buddy Morrow, Big Band Beatlemania, Epic BN-26095, 1964
We’ve sort of moved from the schlocky discount Beatles knockoff records into the schlocky higher brow Beatles knockoff records. Buddy Morrow most definitely had an impressive career playing in and then leading big bands, beginning in the 1930s. Of course, by 1964, while there still was a big band scene, and rock & roll was just one type of music played on the radio, the sales of big band music was approaching zero.
So if groups like The Beatles and The Dave Clark Five were on top of the charts, Buddy was going to make sure his fans, who would probably sneer at buying a Beatles record, could still get their music, only done in the Morrow style.
The two Dave Clark Five songs on the album are probably only included because they shared the same Epic label with Buddy Morrow. If he was on MGM, there would have been two Herman’s Hermits records. Either way, this one doesn’t really make me feel glad all over.
Cost: $2, $580 Remaining
The Blue Beats, The Beatle Beat, AA Records 133, 1964
Of all the discount records I’ve featured this week, this one might be the most galling. I use the French references because one of the names of this album is “dance discotheque lp”. Now, the word discotheque took on a different meaning about ten years after this record came out, but it certainly also had a meaning in 1964. That is to say that that the swinging clubs of the 60s had their own kind of beat, and this album kind of personifies that.
Now don’t get me wrong, trying to sell this as a Beatles album is appalling because, well there’s not one Beatles song on it. It’s 100% instrumental, and all originals too Beatle Boot. The handy (and familiar) twist lesson on the back cover, I’d guess that the music on this record was a European twist record that was repackaged for US consumption with a Beatles “twist”.
The amazing this is, despite the packaging, it’s a pretty decent album of 60s background music. I don’t know, because there’s scant information online, about who the musicians are but they can play. I would imagine that owing to the next to nothing sales of this record, there is now no copyright to keep anyone from using this for whatever 60s based project on eight have in mind. There’s no songwriting credits, no record company information available, so have at it you creative types!
Cost: $3, $586 Remaining
The Manchesters, Beatlerama, Diplomat 2310, 1964
The ultimate discount label wasn’t going to be left out of the Beatles craze. After all, according to the liner notes on this album, “The Beatles and their music approach the hysteria of the twist and similar music”. Of course there’s just the one Beatles song, Please Please Me, and one other public domain song, My Bonnie, that The Beatles covered when they were in The Manchesters shoes in Hamburg in 1961.
Other than that, the rama that fills the rest of this album doesn’t quite live up to the hysteria of the twist. The drummer loses time more often than Ringo does, and the singer forgets the words more often than John did.
It’s an interesting curiosity, but I think I’d prefer to find volume one, or even Diplomat’s other Beatles knock off. The Beatle Buddies were supposedly an all girl band who recorded songs like He Loves You!
Cost: $3, $589 Remaining
The Liverpools, Beatle Mania In The USA, Wyncote 9001, 1964
Yet again, I found yet another badly done discount record of some group rush recording a copy of The Beatles in the wake of their phenomenal entry into the US market. Today’s group are The Liverpools, which makes sense because they sound like they’re from Liverpool, Pennsylvania. The court-room sketch artist who drew the cover appears to have had a thing for Paul McCartney, because all four Liverpools look like the bassist for The Beatles. No “recorded in England”, no photography, no description of the group at all, this is a bare bones effort that was designed to fool only the most gullible record buyer. I found a release date for this album of January 25, 1964, which would mean it was on sale before The Beatles first performed on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 9.
The cover “art” is really just a copy of the Billboard Magazine ad that Capitol Records placed around the 1963-64 New Years issue with a simple drawing of four haircuts and the simple tag line “The Beatles Are Coming”. Wyncote Records was a very short lived discount subsidiary of Cameo-Parkway records, the Philadelphia based independent label that dominated the early 1960s charts with one dance craze hit after another (helped by the natural promotional power of the locally based but nationally televised American Bandstand). This stunning piece of vinyl was the label’s first release.
Their label is a copy of Parkway Records, but I’m not sure that affected sales too much one way or the others. These were the kinds of records that would be sold out of the trunk of someone’s car or at a drug store. So while The Liverpools, if that’s really who they were, would only briefly be able to sell a few records to the unsuspecting. Now, it’s something I listen to form time to time just for a few laughs.
Cost: $4, $592 Remaining
The Buggs, The Beatle Beat, Coronet CX-212, 1964
For their schlocky discount version of The Beatles first US hit, Coronet Records spent a little bit more money than yesterday’s version from Palace Records. They actually have a photograph, cheaply and badly done to imitate the actual group’s hit album cover. While The Buggs may or may not have been the group who sang on the record, they certainly tried their best to look like The Beatles on Meet The Beatles. it was probably good enough to fool a few gullible kids or their grandparents, until they actually listened to the music of course.
There’s just the two Beatles songs, one of them trumpeted in bold letters on the front (along with “The Original Liverpool Sound”). The rest is just bad filler, sometimes based off of a riff from other Beatle songs, or with lyrics stolen from them along the lines of “I Saw Her Standing There, and now she’s mine”. It appears to be such a rush release that nobody bothered to proofread the names of the other Merseyside groups invading America including “Jerry (with a J) & The Pacemakers”!
Calling the group The Buggs was a particular kind of marketing genius. Books have been written about this subject, but when I Want To Hold Your Hand hit the US in January 1964, all previous Beatle records exploded onto the charts as well because they were all previously leased out to several small independent labels who quickly rereleased them. So a record shopper of the era would have been inundated with multiple labels issuing the real Beatles, and a record like this was there to pick up a few sales from people who were easily confused.
Incidentally, I shazam a few of these songs as they play. I’m pleased to note that I doubles the shazam total for “Swingin Thames” all by myself!
Cost: $2, $596 Remaining
The School Boys, Beatle Mania, Palace M-778, 1964
This one is really odd. I mean, I get that we all need to make money to live. I get that the buyer needs to beware. But still, these people put out this record and hoped to sell it to people who they know would instantly regret it. I’m not blaming the people who recorded the music heard on the record, they clearly didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. In fact, the people who sing I Want To Hold Your Hand and three other songs on side one don’t seem to be the same group that performs on the rest of the album.
The bulk of the record is clearly performed by an African American band that sounds more like The Drifters than The Beatles. The lead singer does his best to imitate the “Mmm-mmm” riff heard on Under The Boardwalk as often as possible. It’s almost as if they recorded most of this record in the Fall of 1963, never released it, and then added a white group’s hasty re-recording of The Beatles’ first hit before putting it out.
First things first, though, they should have known that there were only four Beatles, and not five, as drawn on the cover. Then, maybe find someone who could produce a better word salad than is served up on the back cover of the sleeve. It’s one thing to talk about haircuts and describe the port life of the residents of Liverpool, but it won’t really fool many people into thinking this was really the actual group that sings the song that is playing on the radio twice an hour. And 53 years after that record came out, it’s just all the more ridiculous to listen to this now.
Cost: $3, $598 Remaining