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