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