The Grateful Dead, American Beauty, Warner Brothers WS-1893, 1970
For the 364th album that I am featuring during this year long exercise, I’ve chosen something by The Grateful Dead. The perennially touring San Francisco based band that made a career out of touring and selling a peaceful laid back vibe for 30 years rarely had a hit record, but this one came close. In classic Deadhead style, American Beauty took four years to achieve Gold status, and 16 years to reach Platinum. The Grateful Dead never worked well with a deadline….
1970 was the year of the twin classic Dead albums. Workingman’s Dead came out in February, while American Beauty was released in November. Both are highly influenced by Country and Bluegrass, along with a healthy dose of hanging out with Crosby, Stills Nash & Young. For a while there the drugs were somewhat under control, and the band decided to really focus on writing and recording, in part to impress their new label, Warner Brothers. When Rolling Stone last updated their Top 500 Albums list, Workingman’s Dead came in at #262 and American Beauty came in at #258. They really are fraternal twins.
Perhaps this record came in a tad higher because of the “hit” single Trucking’. I always loved the fact that The Dead were so popular despite the fact that for years the #64 high chart position of Trucking’ was the biggest single the band ever had. It wasn’t until A Touch Of Grey from In The Dark hit #9 in 1987 that Trucking’ was finally surpassed. Because they have always been in demand, Grateful Dead albums are truly collectible today. Finding this record for $8 is a minor miracle, especially given its condition. Generally I try to play a record once before writing about it, but this clean copy of this amazing piece of Dead memorabilia has been in high rotation on my turntable since I found it.
Cost: $8, $11 Remaining
The Rolling Stones, Aftermath, London PS-476, 1966
In their 55 year career, The Rolling Stones have released 30 studio albums, 23 live albums, 25 compilation albums and 120 singles. With all of that output, and despite their legendary status, not all of their records are pricey collectables that collectors search out. Perhaps those 25 compilations have something to do with satisfying the demand for their music to the point where original albums like this one sometimes end up in bargain bins. Aftermath, along with most of the group’s pre Jumpin Jack Flash material just isn’t as collectable as a comparable Beatles record or later Stones classics like Exile On Main Street.
Naturally, this is very ok by me. This may not be the most critically acclaimed Stones record, but it is the first one where all of the songs were written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Brian Jones shows what a flair he had for experimentation with new sounds and instruments by playing Sitar, Marimba, and something called an Appalachian Dulcimer to give this record sounds that no other pop record had yet incorporated. It so impressed The Beatles when it came out and they were recording what would become Revolver that Ringo only half jokingly proposed calling their new record After Geography.
Perhaps part of the reason this decent copy sold for $3 has to do with the quality of the original London Records manufacturing. These records don’t appear to have the same feel to them that a Capitol, Columbia, or RCA record does. Their covers usually have ring wear and split seams and the vinyl seems to be of a lesser grade. Also, like The Beatles, The Stones’ the pre-1967 US albums were different than the UK versions. This version has different artwork and 4 fewer songs than the UK release, including the US Top 10 hit Mother’s Little Helper. Whatever the reasons, these are great albums to have in a collection and the prices will never be better.
Cost: $3, $178 Remaining
Rod Stewart, Foot Loose And Fancy Free, Warner Brothers BSK-3092, 1977
For a hit 70s album, this Rod Stewart record trades at 80s flop prices. It’s odd really, how some artists straddle the very fine line between “classic” and “cliche”. Rod Stewart is one of them. While a similar selling Eagles or Fleetwood Mac album in similar condition would cost $8-$10, this record cost me $1 and there are plenty of copies online for $0.50. Heck, even an Al Stewart album costs $2.
And this is a pretty listenable album. The big hit off it, You’re In My Heart, was not only a #4 hit, but also a really nice follow up to Stewart’s biggest hit Tonight’s The Night. It’s not only self penned, but there’s no one else I can think of who could pull off the lyrics and still sound credible. The rest of the album is a familiar mix of minor hits and Motown covers, but it’s actually pretty listenable.
This near mint copy even has it’s usually missing lyric insert. These things rarely survive intact, and it just firm up what I think about records like this. They will never be cheaper, and as time passes, they will be sought out. I wouldn’t rush out and teach high and low for this one, but I also have plenty of room on my shelf for it.
Cost: $1, $200 Remaining
Elvin Bishop, Struttin’ My Stuff, Capricorn CP-0165, 1975
Elvin Bishop is one of the most accomplished blues guitarists of all time. He’s in the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame and The Blues Hall Of Fame. He played with most of the other greats in both Rock and Blues music too. But most people, when they hear the name Elvin Bishop, think of a hit single billed as “Elvin Bishop” that features another singer.
Gravelly voiced Bishop is quoted as saying his limitations as a vocalist improved his songwriting. So when recording this album, he asked one of his background singers, Mickey Thomas, to lead sing a ballad called Fooled Around And Fell In Love. No one really thought much about it at the time, but a few months later, the song was released as a single and it zoomed to #3 on the charts. With no mention of Mickey Thomas on the record, legions of fans thought that Elvin Bishop was the singer.
Unless of course, they heard the rest of the album. There, you hear the gruff Bishop Struttin’ His Stuff, which really is, I have to say, a fantastic name for a mid 70s blues rock album. It’s a fun album, but I also have to say the best part is the 4:44 extended version of the single I though for 35 years was by “Elvin Bishop”.
Cost: $2, $436 Remaining
The Doors, Waiting For The Sun, Elektra EKS-74024, 1968
Even if you don’t listen to it, when you find a $2 Doors album in decent shape, buy it. For how limited their output was, they made a few albums that only continue to grow in value as time goes by. Because every day 1500 boys turn 15, and they love The Doors.
This isn’t one the “great” doors albums, but it has one of the great Doors songs, Hello, I Love You. Collectors of 45s will search high and low for early pressings of the single when the title was officially Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name, but that never made it on to the album. This one did come with a neat sticker to help sell the album after the song hit #1.
The rest of the record is really far out if you’re under the spell of The Lizard King, but pretty tedious to sit through if your mojo is no longer risin’. But records like this are essential to collect, especially if you can find them at a good price. You not only get the hit, but you get completely bizarre 1960s nonsense like Yes, The River Knows. And you can always sell it for double to a 15 year old!
Cost: $2, $703 Remaining
John Cougar Mellencamp, Uh-Huh, Riva RVL-7504, 1983
It’s great to find 80s albums that you always wanted to buy when they were new, but never quite had the money at the time. John Cougar Mellencamp was always one of those artists who was everyone’s second or third choice to listen to. Not anything that you’d ever turn off if it came on, but not necessarily something you needed to have.
At the time though, Trhiller was out, The Police released Synchronicity, and then Prince issued Purple Rain. This record always seemed a less valuable addition to my teenaged collection then those gems. But now, to find a mint copy, priced right at $2, it isn’t something to think twice about adding to my stack.
While it’s not American Fool, it does have some of Johnny Cougar’s best songs. In fact, my favorite song of his, Pink Houses is here. And the rest is all good to finally hear 33 years after I bought Michael Jackson’s opus. I guess the best analogy would be on a plane, and the movie is something classic you missed seeing at the time but now you just can.
Cost: $2, $705 Remaining
Grand Funk, We’re An American Band, Capitol SMAS-11207, 1973
1973 was a great year for Rock & Roll. The Rolling Stones and The Who were keeping the British Invasion alive, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were perfecting album oriented Rock, and the Solo Beatles were each reaching their creative peaks with Rock, Pop, Country, and Folk sounds. Meanwhile, in the colonies, Grand Funk somehow managed to do all of that in just one record. It really doesn’t hold up well today, but this record just amazingly took all that came before it and foreshadowed so much that came after it that it reeks of the summer of ’73.
It has it all! The shinny gold cover, with only the group name and title on it oozed coolness like The Beatles White Album. The gatefold cover that opens up into a creepy named photo of the band on one side and a custom icon of a pointing finger especially designed for the record seems just like something The Stones would have thought of, while the music somehow was pop enough to fit seamlessly next to Delta Dawn by Helen Reddy, AND D’Yer Mak’er from Led Zeppelin. That’s no easy feat, even if it’s all pretty funny looking and sounding today.
My $1 copy not only plays really well, but deep inside the inner sleeve was the remnants of a sticker sheet that must have come in the package! It looks like it must have been a sheet of 4, but there’s still one left, and it looks as good as new. So I’m set if for some reason they happen to reunite and do a world tour, I can look like a true fan, and not just some guy who flips through bins of $1 records. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Cost: $1, $727 Remaining
Peter Frampton, Frampton Comes Alive!, A&M SP-3703, 1976
The Wah-Wah fuzz guitar sound of the 1960s peaked in popularity in 1976. Peter Frampton was a fairly unknown English rocker when this live record came out and made his career literally come alive. Being 10 at the time, I’m here to tell you this album was literally everywhere during America’s Bicentennial year, especially if you had an older brother.
Recorded in New York and California in the Summer of ’75, you have to wonder what they were smoking to be so excited about a performer that wasn’t really all the popular before this. Sure, there are a lot of covers, but it’s the original tunes that stand out. Plus, making a guitar seem to talk is a pretty neat trick. That alone is worth looking for it.
The neat packaging is also far out. The outer cover opens up to for a cheap poster, but in a neat trick that I find annoying now, the slot for the records is at the top (and bottom when opened up), making it very possible for the record to cease to be Alive! after it crashes to the floor.
Finding a decent copy is pretty easy. The album sold about 8 Million copies in the US, and sometimes it seems like only about 250 original buyers have hung on to theirs. It’s not hard to filter through 6-7 copies in a used record store. As I type, I notice that discogs.com has 126 copies for sale beginning at $0.56. Perhaps I overpaid at $2, but this copy is pretty clean, or at least it was before I took pictures of in a desert fossil bed.
Cost: $2, $774 Remaining
Creedence Clearwater Revival, Pendulum, Fantasy 8410, 1970
Just because they haven’t (yet) had a bio-pic made of them doesn’t mean that Creedence Clearwater Revival doesn’t have a drama filled rags to riches story with a great soundtrack. Their career was peaking when this record came out, but it was all about to implode. By definition, a Pendulum swings both ways.
Puns aside, CCR was showing the strain of three full years of recording and touring by the end of 1970. Frontman John Fogerty, who wrote every song on this album, felt like he was carrying the largest load in the band, while his brother Tom was asking for more control but was being rejected. Throw in a greedy record company that was more of an enemy than a friend, and it’s a combustible combination.
In the end though, it’s the last great CCR album. It’s more full produced than the others, but the flowing simplicity of Fogerty’s songs still shines through. The band’s strain’s can be heard on Have You Ever Seen The Rain, so it’s a little bittersweet. But like all CCR albums, they can usually be found for not much money.
Cost: $2, $845 Remaning
Fleetwood Mac, Rumors, Warner Brothers BSK-3010, 1977
The good news about some landmark albums is that they sell in the millions and people get tired of them. True, you don’t really find Beatles albums in decent shape in bargain bins, but what became the best selling album of all time not long after it’s release is fairly easy to find. I may have overpaid for it at $4.
It is the classic album of the 70s. The hits are great, the non hits are great, they looked great, they sang great, they played great, so it deserved to sell in the millions. And it deserves a spot in every record collection. Thankfully for us bargain record shoppers, original owners like Mr/Mrs. Mitseff don’t always agree and toss out their once loved albums.
This decent copy even came with it’s original photo and lyric insert. These are always highly prized plusses to look for, and this one is in great shape. They’re rare because the are separate from the record and inner sleeve, and people usually either lost them or tacked them on a wall as a small poster.
The non-lyric side has a fun picture collage of the band doing everything you’d expect from a 70s rock band on tour. People are smoking funny looking cigarettes with abandon, there are some really big eyed smiling faces, and the candid photos often contain cans and bottles in the corners. The decent condition of this insert made me ok with a $4 splurge.
Unlike most 70s bands, Fleetwood Mac didn’t usually record a 11:37 version of, say, Dreams that the record company would edit down for the single. That’s both good, because what you hear in the album is what you know from 39 years of radio play, and bad because there’s no learning anything new from the album that you didn’t already know from the 45.
Cost $4, $953 Remainng