What 365 albums look like.
That is 2 full shelves of a Billy Bookshelf by IKEA, plus 62 album improperly stored on the top shelf, plus the first, last and a personal favorite from the past year. I promise that I only set the 62 albums down on their sides for a minute for the photograph and then properly stored them on the lower shelf. I just spent a year creating this collection, there is no way I want them to start getting ring wear now!
I know virtually everyone in the record world today is talking about the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but I went record shopping and spent my last dollar on Mrs. Miller’s Greatest Hits. Very few people celebrated the 51st anniversary of this record last month, and I wanted this blog to be more about the Mrs. Millers of the world. If you’ve never heard this record, please know that your $1 copy is out there somewhere, and it will make a nice warm up to a Florence Foster Jenkins watch party.
I never got to do a theme week of classic soul albums that used stock photos of white people to sell records.
I never got to show the lengths some people went to sell records, even when they had no business being in the record business.
I never got to do a side by side comparison of two records and poll my readers on which record was scarier. The answer would have interesting.
I do the warning label on the Falwell record though. Keep away from Excessive Heat like molten rivers of lava, swarms of locusts and plagues.
But I think I did manage to avoid a cheesy ending. Record collecting is a lifetime pursuit for me, and a lifetime pursuit doesn’t end after one year. I still have the first records I bought with my own money 40 years ago, and I hope I’ll be collecting for 40 more. From time to time, I’ll be blogging about my finds, so, please stay tuned.
The Beatles, The Beatles Again (a/k/a Hey Jude), Apple SW-385, 1970
This is a really weird one. Generally, a Beatles album is an example of a well crafted piece of pop music that will always stand the test of time. The Beatles never took the easy road, they we always expanding horizons. At least until this record came out. In case you couldn’t tell from the cover photography, these are four Beatles who are not exactly comfortable in their surroundings and seem lost in what they are doing. As it turns out, these pictures were taken at the last photo shoot the group ever had. As another sign of the band’s problems, the photo shoot was in August 1969 at John Lennon’s estate and this album was released at the end of February 1970. Apple was rotting at the core.
The not so creative force behind this record was Alan Klein, John Lennon’s choice to run the group’s business affairs. Mick Jagger had once remarked how Klein had saved The Stones from some British taxes, and that was good enough for John (and George & Ringo) to choose him to run their affairs (over Paul’s objections). With sales of Abbey Road slowing down, and with no new recording going on or any idea when Phil Spector might be done editing the Get Back/Let It Be sessions for release, Klein needed a “new” album in stores to keep up cash flows and justify his existence. The only thing to do was to look back to the group’s biggest hit, Hey Jude, and build an album of already released songs to go along with it.
Ah, but what songs! Since Hey Jude was never released on an album, the idea was to put it out with other past singles that had also never been released on an album in the US. While they didn’t look as far back as Vee-Jay released songs like Misey, There’s A Place, and Love Me Do, they did start with the six year old Can’t Buy Me Love. That song and I Should Have Known Better were both in A Hard Day’s Night, but that album was a United Artists release. 1966’s Paperback Writer and Rain are the other true oldies, with the rest of the songs being A and B sides from some non album singles. But the whole package reeks of a cash in, and it came along at a time when tempers were high with the group. This move didn’t help the internal struggles and three months later Paul announced he left the group. This album was a nail in the coffin.
Cost: $5, $32 Remaining
Laurindo Almeida, A Man And A Woman, Capitol T-2701 1967
Oh what a time it was! Before the British Invasion, there was another country that sent it’s music to North America. A huge bossa nova from the south arrived from Brazil, and like the British Invaders, there was a mad scramble for talent by the major US record labels. While the most prestigious names like Joao Gilberto were embraced by Jazz labels like Verve Records, others were singed by pop labels like Capitol.
Unfortunately for the Art Department, middle aged Brazilian guitar virtuosos didn’t have the teen idol appeal of, say, Herman’s Hermits, so they had their hands full with Laurindo Almeida. That’s why they went with a snappy mid century modern couple sitting on some groovy orange shag carpet for the cover, with just a small snapshot of the artist going over some sheet music in the studio on the back cover.
Artwork aside, this is a very fun album. “Standard” music was enjoying it’s last gasp of commercial success by the time this record was released, and no matter how great the musician is, major labels didn’t award contracts to virtuosos anymore. Most of the tunes are recognizable, with film hits, Beatles tunes, and Brazilian classics included. And even if you don’t recognize the name, virtually every has head the guitar playing of Laurindo Almeida. He performed on the soundtracks of over 800 films including The Godfather, and many musicians credit his Jazz Samba style of playing as being a major influence on their career. Not bad for a $1 record!
Cost: $1, $222 Remaining
Peggy Lee, Latin Ala Lee, Capitol T-1290, 1960
I love a good Peggy Lee album, and this is one of her best. I already had this album, but when I saw it a a store with a bulk purchase scheme, in this case 5 albums for $10, and I had 9 chosen, I added it to my pile and quickly left. The jacket is in such good shape that I thought I could compare the one I had with this one and sleeve shift to create the best one from the two,
I’m not the only one who liked this album. Paul McCartney did too, and he learned The Beatles’ version of Till There Was You from this very record. While it’s hard to imagine The Beatles covering a Broadway show tune, Peggy Lee showed how to completely rearrange one into something uniquely hers. The Queen Mother herself applauded for The Beatles’ version when she heard it played live for her at the Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium.
Unfortunately, this was the record I spent $2 on. About 1/3 of its missing and it’s a cruel irony to read the original Capitol Records inner sleeve about “This Protective Envelope”. At least I got that and a near mint jacket. Sometimes one grades both sides of a record for how it plays, in this case, I would say that the right 2/3rds play much better than the left 1/3 does. As for me, I’m off to the tattoo parlor have “always look at a record before you buy it” placed on my arm.
Cost: $2, $243 Remaining
The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Capitol SMAS-2653, 1967
While I sort of put down records like this yesterday, I only really meant that I’d rather have 20 fun albums for the $40 price of one clean copy of Sgt. Pepper. I never said anything about finding a $2 copy though. I’d seen this record for weeks before I bought it, sadly languishing in a $2 bin. It’s clearly been though a pretty serious flood sometime in in the past 50 years. The jacket is horribly warped, the spine is illegible, and there’s terrible ring wear.
But it did have the semi-rare insert card, a odd collection of thick paper pop-out tiara, badges and mustache. I know I tore mine apart when I first bought my first copy of this record, and I know I wasn’t alone in doing that, so finding an intact one is pretty rare.
So one day, I looked at the record, expecting to see a badly scratched, mold encrusted record. was planning on writing about why you should always save up for an especially nice copy of an essential record like Sgt. Pepper. But what I found inside was a decent looking original stereo album. I added it to my pile, and it was the first record I played when I got home. It’s the best copy I own! My guess is that the flood happened a long time ago and the record never got played again. That it cost $2 is amazing, and I can look for a better cover for it. So this column turned into one about taking a chance on something that looks like it’s inbox shape, but really isn’t when you get it home.
Cost: $2, $262 Remaining
$107 Spent, $3.45 per record
Various Artists, The Capitol Disc Jockey Album, Capitol SPRO-4650, November 1968
I don’t collect promos. I have them of course, because sometimes you’re happy to find any copy of a particular hard to find record, and a promo generally plays as well as a standard issue copy. In fact, promo collectors usually say that they play better because they likely were played a few times by industry professionals as either sampling or re-recording for broadcast from a tape. But since virtually all recorded music released since Edison’s wax cylinder #1 is available online for free, I prefer to look for standard issue releases for my collection. Promos usually have different labels or cover art and I like those things about my records.
Things like album though stand out. It’s mere existence is curious because it’s as though Capitol Records is saying that only Capitol records are worthy of airplay, like they’re some sort of premium brand for the recording industry. That’s obviously not true anymore than people choosing what book to read based solely on the publisher. Yes, there were many recordings of The Impossible Dream, but hey Capitol Records has a great one for sale this November by Al Martino that you’re just gonna love…
I have a few of these records, and it’s hard to tell if they’re collectible or not. I have one from 1964, but most information online suggests these were monthly releases from 1967-1970. They certainly are weird adult oriented albums, and it remains a mystery as to how the songs are balanced for airplay. These records all have a pretty girl and/or a hot car on the cover. In this case, the car is a 1969 AMC AMX, and the poor girl choking on the exhaust fumes from the massive V8 engine appears to be having a hard time deciding if she should vote for Hubert Humphrey or Richard Nixon in the national election. She is leaning towards Nixon however, and if Capitol continued this series a few years longer, it would have been a hoot to use the same model for the August 1974 edition.
Cost: $2, $281 Remaining
Earle Hagen, I Spy, Capitol ST-2839, 1968
I’ve had this record for a while, but it took this week’s theme of TV Show records to get me to listen to it. And, wow! It’s a really great album. It’s got the smooth west coast jazz sound that I love written from the perspective of mid century intrigue. I suppose having never seen an episode of I Spy, I wasn’t really too curious about it’s music. After all, the composer is Earle Hagen, which may not be a household name for most people, but as the composer of the theme song for The Andy Griffin Show (where I knew him from), he kind of scared me off.
But boy was I wrong. Part of the appeal of I Spy was that the show took place all over the world, so it called for different music for every episode. With the slick style of the show, a jazz theme song was written for it. What followed is three seasons-and 7 soundtrack albums!- of well crafted studio jazz. Collect ’em all…after I find all 7 albums that is.
This particular record was the first of two I Spy albums for Capitol. While it won no Grammys, Earle Hagen did win the 1968 Emmy for outstanding original score for this record. The previous soundtracks from the show came out on Warner Brothers, but it’s the same people involved. And wow, I managed to get through a whole I Spy blog post without mentioning Bill Cosby!
Cost: $2, $335 Remaining
Mel Blanc, Tweetie Pie, Capitol J-3261, 1963
You could say that Alan W. Livingston made Capitol Records. He was hired by the new company in the 1940s to create a line of children’s records. He created the character Bozo The Clown and wrote the 1951 novelty hit I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat for Tweetie Pie. later singed Frank Sinatra to the label. On becoming president of the label, he oversaw design of the famous Capitol Records Building in Hollywood. Despite how bushy was, he still dabbled in producing from time to time, and this album was one of his last efforts.
It was clearly Livingston’s strength to work with Mel Blanc, the famous Looney Tunes voice actor. I don’t know if the four stories on the album are new or not, but it’s classic Mel Blanc. For a children’s record, this one plays really quite well. But perhaps Alan Livingston shouldn’t have produced this album after all. He should have been reading his industry’s trade magazines instead.
I found a Billboard Magazine review of this album online. They sometimes come up by googling a record’s catalogue number, in this case Capitol J-3261. From the August 31, 1963 issue of Billboard, they wrote a special note of praise for Tweetie Pie in a review on page 75. But on page 37, in the International News section, I read that a man named Brian Epstein is planning a November trip to New York to find support for the three Liverpool groups he manages. One of these, The Beatles, is apparently selling an unimaginable number of record sales in the UK. Ireland reported that most EPs only sold a few thousand copies a year, but the new Beatles one sold 7,000 in one week. On the Hot 100 Chart, Del Shannon “bubbles under” at #108 with a cover version of The Beatles British #1 From Me To You. The man who passed on releasing the original version in the US on Capitol Records was Alan W. Livingston.
Cost: $2, $349 Remaining
The Beach Boys, Surfin’ Safari, Capitol DT-1808, 1962
How they managed to pull this off, I still don’t know. Sure, they were a phenomenally talented teen vocal group, but The Beach Boys took what is basically a novelty tune and turned it into a legendary 55 year career. I suppose if they lived a little farther away from Hollywood, California and its plethora of record companies it might not have happened, but all Murray Wilson had to do to get his boys’ group signed to a major label was find a Capitol producer and pester him into signing “his” group to release a single, Surfin’ Safari, that sold well enough for Capitol to take a chance on this album.
The group name, while cheesy and hard to sell once the surfing craze ended, was at least appropriate here. They were selling a surfing record, and they were boys. There’s an explanation of what surfing is, which was something The Beatles and The Rolling Stones never though to have on their records, and they really were boys. David Marks was just 14 and Carl was 15 when they played on this record.
It’s also pretty impressive that most of the songs were penned by the group too, something very rare in the fall of 1962. Sure, they’re not quite up to the level of their later work, but it was clear from this start that this group was going to be big. These records are often available in great shape for not much money, and now that I have all of them, it’s time for you to get out there and go surfin with me.
Cost: $4, $370 Remaining
The Hollyridge Strings, Play The Beach Boys Song Book-Volume 2, Capitol ST-2749, 1967
As we learned back in December, The Hollyridge Strings were a Capitol Records studio orchestra that filled downtime at the studio by recording orchestral arrangements of other Capitol artists. The mostly re-recorded music by The Beatles, but “they” also issued cover albums by The Four Seasons, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, and yes, The Beach Boys.
Unlike the other artists, I suspect that Brian Wilson was thrilled to hear these orchestral versions of his creations. The same people that assisted him on his productions were the people behind The Hollyridge Strings, so it would be nice (!) to even sit in on the sessions for this album. This album is more interesting that the first Beach Boys Volume because five of the 12 selections come from the recently released Pet Sounds. It also includes California Girls, with its famous intro that Brian called his favorite composition.
Now, eagle eyed readers will look at this record and spot something…the record label says this is a Hollyridge Strings record, but the title is “The Beatles Songbook-Vol.5”. I was a little sad to see that, even though I don’t have Volume 5 of The Beatles songbook. But the record does indeed play The Beach Boys lineup from the cover. This, my friends, is whats called a label error, where the factory applied the wrong label to the record. They are very rare and often sell for twice what a correctly manufactured record would. That means this $1 purchase could be worth as much as $2!
Cost: $1, $386 Remaining