April 20, 2017 Keeping In Touch

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The Supremes, Touch, Motown MS-737, 1971

No, The Supremes’ hit making career didn’t end with the departure of Diana Ross.  In fact, their early post Ross records did quite well.  Just ask Elton John, who writes a glowing set of liner notes for this very album.  The hit single from it, Nathan Jones, later became a world-wide #1 for Bananrama.  And the artwork for Touch was copied for the film adaptation for Dreamgirls (ending all mystery about who the play was written about!).  While not may people know this record today, Jean, Cindy & Mary were clearly on a roll.

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The basics out of the way, this copy is a great way to show the lifecycle of an unsold album.  The 46 year old shrink wrap is still intact, amazingly, given the cutout of one corner.  The twin price tags reveal that this once full price record was sent to a discount store.  After they failed to sell it for $1.97, the price got dropped to 98 Cents!  After that failed as well, it got sent back to the distributer, who cut the corner off and gave it away or donated it somewhere.

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I don’t view that as a reflection (!) of The Supremes post Ross career.  Very few artists would ever escape a cut out record, and it would be very hard for a company like Motown to gauge not only how many of a particular record to produce, but to know where the demand would be strongest.  Touch sold about 100,000 copies in the US, a very decent showing, but that was still less than most Supremes albums sold.  I’m just thankful that I was able to find this unsold one.

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $2, $212 Remaining

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January 16, 2017 Dreams For Sale

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Martin Luther King Jr., The Great March To Freedom, Gordy 906, 1968

I don’t mean it in a condemning way, but I too have a dream, that one day I can own a copy of every Motown record issued in the 60s and 70s.  And that means trying to collect the four albums the company issued of Martin Luther King’s speeches.  It won’t be easy, this is the only one I’ve ever seen, and I was able to buy it for just $5 last year in Richmond Virginia.  This was the first of the King releases on Motown’s Gordy subsidiary, and despite the catalogue number of 906, it was just the fourth album released with a Gordy label.

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It probably helped that this speech was given in Detroit as far as Motown being there to record it, but Berry Gordy put his own name down as the record’s producer, something that supposedly was a real source of pride for him.  Gordy 908 was the “I Have A Dream” speech from the March On Washington and it was issued later in 1963.  Both Gordy 906 and 908 we reissued in 1968 after King’s assassination and sold much better than the first pressings.  Naturally, I found the 1968 version, easy to spot by the second version of the Gordy label on my record.  The yellow spear version debuted in early 1968, replacing the original yellow script and globe logo.  Second pressings still have the gatefold covers of the original, and are still more valuable than the 80s pressing on the Motown label.

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Before Twitter, the spoken word record was a real thing.  Politicians and Preachers made the most use of them, but there weren’t many that sold very well.  Motown wasn’t the only company that released King recordings.  There were many versions of the “Dream” speech, and many tribute albums that came out after King’s death that all sold well. Motown, always willing to sell a record to someone who wanted to buy it, actually started a special spoken word label to release more speeches and message records.  Called Black Forum, the label’s first release in 1970 was Martin Luther King’s “Why I Oppose The Vietnam War”

Today’s Summary:
Cost: $5, $481 Remaining

July 2, 2016 Who would do such a thing?

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Bob Booker & George Foster, The New First Family 1968, Verve 15054, 1966

So the idea for the American political week came from me trying to find one of the all-time great comedy records, Vaughn Meader’s The First Family.  It might have been the best selling record of 1963, and became almost unlistenable to everyone who owned it after the events of that year’s November 22.  There are a million very good to mint condition copies of it virtually anywhere vintage records are sold.  But as we know already from Bobbie Gentry on June 3, you can’t just automatically find the vintage record you’re looking for on any given day.  Instead, you have to buy the records you find when you have the chance to buy them.

In looking for that record, however I found the records that will become my first theme week with this blog.  Up today is the an almost unimaginable political fantasy.  Recorded in 1966 about the outcome of the 1968 election, I can’t really say much more about it.

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The reason being is that I found this copy in a bin for $3 in it’s still sealed 1966 shrink wrap.  So I can’t really describe this cover beyond the totally outrageous cover.  Mia Farrow in a skimpy bikini on Frank Sinatra’s back, Elizabeth taylor’s bust on Groucho Marx’s forehead while Richard Burton looks on in disgust, Dean Martin balancing a drink on his nose in front of Ed Sullivan, all in color, while the politicians of the day are in black and white.  It is fairly prophetic that if one had to pick five politicians who would factor the most two years before the election, these producers picked them dead to rights.

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Like every other sealed album I’ve ever bought, the one is a cut out.  There is a BB hole with a strange + mark that I’ve never seen before.  It could be that this record was rejected by two different retailers,  which I imagine would always be a risk with something so topical that the whole point becomes irrelevant after a certain period of time.  I really am tempted to just crack the seal and hear what this record is all about.  It’s just so hard to do to something that has survived intact for 50 years, but I’m not sure I’ll ever find any other way to ever hear whats inside.

Today’s Summary:

Cost: $3, $942 Remaining

June 3, 2016 Today IS The Third Of June!

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Bobbie Gentry “Fancy” Capitol ST-428, 1970

Today is the third of June, another sleepy piney Oregon day.  I know from my days in radio that at some point on June 3rd every station in some way has to mention, if not play repeatedly, “Ode To Billy Joe” by Bobbie Gentry for the opening line.  The song exploded up the charts and occupied 1/3 of the summer of love at number one.  The single sold millions of copies, strangely even went top 10 on the R&B chart, and earned 8 grammy nominations,  while the album knocked The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper” from the top spot.

Should be an easy record to find, right?  After all, the single pops up virtually anywhere, so any descent used record shop should have the album.  As I set June 1 for the start date of the blog, I knew the third album had to be “Ode To Billy Joe”.  Friends, today’s first lesson on record collecting is you can’t ever expect to find a particular vinyl record on demand.  Yes, I am aware of Ebay and online sellers, but the point here is to collect for less money so you can collect more.  No matter how hard I tried for a few months, I never did find a copy of the record.

Rather than throwing myself off the Tallahatchie Bridge, which actually became a thing once the song became a hit (not killing anyone because it was at most 20 feet above the river), I did spend a lot of time in the Bobbie Gentry bins and found something pretty special.  Today’s record is indeed “Fancy”.

I’m not able to go on about the impressive collection of tunes assembled or tell you how much better Gentry’s original of the title track is to Reba’s 1991 remake because this particular copy is still factory sealed!  Finding sealed records in a store is like getting a vintage port or bottle of wine from the year your were born.  You don’t just open them because you’re thirsty.  They may never get opened and only get more interesting to keep around.  I’m not going to open this record today just to have something to hear.

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It’s not all good news.  The giant hole punched into the upper right corner means that this record is a “cut-out”.  It was most likely shipped to a big retailer where it didn’t sell.  The record companies would take unsold records back, and rather than destroy them, they would punch holes, drill holes, or literally cut corners with a saw and then try to re-sell the records at discount prices to lower end retailers.  “Fancy”, as wonderful as it is now wasn’t a very big hit when it came out and I’m sure many copies were returned unsold.  So while it’s very rare to find a 46 year old record that has never been opened, the vast majority of the ones still out there are “cut-outs”.  People just didn’t buy full price records and put them away unopened any more than they bought new cars and then didn’t drive them to make a future collector happy.

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Maybe the crappy back cover kept some sales away!  Geeze Capitol, the third album from one of your biggest stars gets a plain, bookish back cover?  Bobbie Gentry deserved more than a 700 word essay!  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have it now, but even June Christy a decade before got some doodles and a picture on her back cover.

Today’s Summary:

Cost $10, $986 Remaining