Michael Jackson, Thriller, Epic QE-38112, 1982
“Next time, I’m going to make them have to give it to me” Michael Jackson reportedly told his mother after not winning Album Of The Year for Off The Wall at the 1980 Grammy Awards. They did give it to him at the 1984 Grammy Awards, and the accolades have never stopped for this record. 65 million worldwide sales (with at least one in Bolivia), 33x Platinum in the US alone, with every song on the record except The Lady In My Life charting as a single somewhere in the world. This is an essential record.
Even though it sold 1,000,000 units a week at its peak in the Summer of 1983, you really don’t see very many copies lingering around in the usual places. I think it’s a combination of people getting rid of every album except Thriller, and others snapping up every copy they can find because of a perceived upside in value. But I’d bet that I see 75 copies of Brylcreem Presents: Sing Along With Connie Francis for every one copy of Thriller where I shop for records (which incorporates the entire Pacific Coastline of the continental US). While I never really encourage online shopping unless it’s absolutely necessary, a quick glance at Thriller on Ebay shows that it mostly trades at $20-$25 with original sealed copies being offered starting at $129, and the aforementioned original Bolivian pressing being offered at $340.
Naturally, finding this one for $8 feels like a bargain. It’s not perfect, it’s almost as if someone used the inner sleeve as a dish towel, but the record plays well. 80s records seem to hold up better than records from earlier eras do, but that could also be because stereo equipment also improved by the time this album was released. I suppose I’ll be one of those people that buys every under market copy of Thriller that I find too, and while that’s true for many essential records, I’ll actually listen to them.
Cost: $8, $158 Remaining
Bobby Vinton, There! I’ve Said It Again, Epic LM-24081, 1964
This is a terrible record. There! I’ve said it again. Yes, ok sure, President Kennedy had just been killed, and the #1 title track was a slightly better pop song than Dominique by The Singing Nun, but why did this nonsense sell so well? How did it keep Louie Louie by The Kingsmen out of the #1 spot? And why did Bobby VInton have such success during the most creative pop era ever?
I really can’t explain it. Vinton himself explained it as The Beatles and their contemporaries wiping out all of his competition, but I don’t buy it. Jack Jones, Vic Dana, Wayne Newton and others were all in the same groove, but none of them came near the chart performances of records like this. There! was one of two Vinton #1s in 1964 and its month at the top only ended when I Want To Hold our Hand exploded on the charts. The album peaked at #8, but was still certified gold.
It’s really that terrible of a record though. It’s not some mid century modern classic pop record that you would want to play at a cocktail party, it’s a overly produced throwback to the big band era and just sounds awful today. And so, despite the gatefold cover and deluxe packaging, this near mint copy was fairly priced at $1, marked down from $4. You’ll find it in virtually every thrift store and garage sale, and basically any place cheaper records are sold. No one who appreciated music would ever listen to it more than once. Only buy it if you have too much shelf space, are trying to collect every record ever made, or you have too much money. This will be a $1 record for the next few centuries .
Cost: $4, $194 Remaining
Robert Clary, Meet Robert Clary, Epic LN-3171, 1955
This the first TV related album where the album is a prequel to the TV show, but I’m including it anyway. Robert Clary, Cpl. Louis LeBeau on Hogan’s Heroes, tried to make it as a singer/actor/cabaret artist for years. This record, which came out a decade before the TV show that made him famous, shows that he is a very talented guy. It may not be my exact taste, but it’s a really fun record to listen to.
Clary sings and tells jokes and it sounds like dances on the record. He also used those skills to help himself survive The Holocaust. He was abducted by Nazis from his native Paris and sent to the concentration camp, where he was one of the only ones from his family to survive. It’s harder to imagine a more difficult road to stardom, and Clary had to answer all kinds of questions about acting in a sit-com set in a German camp.
It’s also a really great addition to have to my collection. A well made cabaret style album is always great to have around the house, especially a French one. Robert Clary is still alive at 91, but this 62 year old record still sounds fresh. Hogan’s Heroes sure didn’t.
Cost: $8, $310 Remaining
The Hollies, Stop! Stop! Stop!, Imperial 12339, 1967
The Hollies were a British Invasion group that had real legs. Their North American successes were nothing compared to their boatload of UK hits, but they still had hit after hit here into the 80s. This title track became just the group’s second top 10 US hit at Chrstmas 1966, and Imperial put out this album. It has both sides of the single with the rest of the album made up of songs from an earlier British album called For Certain Because.
It must have driven the band crazy to have their music be released chopped up like that. Modern singles paired with old album tracks doesn’t help anyone build a career. In early 1967, the group signed with Epic records. I’m sure the lack of any sort of creative direction on the part of Imperial was a motivating factor. The back copy of this record is frankly really appalling.
But other changes were coming too. Graham Nash soon got really tired of the pop direction the band was heading. With serious creative differences going on, he left the band in 1968 with the thought of being a songwriter. Running songs by some friends one day, they decided they sounded pretty damned good and Crosby Stills Nash & Young were born.
Cost: $2, $466 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
Looking Glass, Looking Glass, Epic KE-31320, 1972
By far one of the most popular one hit wonder hits of all time is Brandy. I would bet money that it’s been played on the air every day since it was released in May, 1972. With a song that great, that has multi-generational appeal, how is it that the band who made it almost completely forgotten? To be fair, until I (just) watched a vintage clip of them singing their fine girl, I had no idea who in the band did what. Even though I probably would have picked this photo out of a line-up as being the one and only Looking Glass.
But I do have a theory as to why they only had the one hit (yes, I know they had a charting follow-up single, but who the hell knows what that was). It’s because the rest of the album doesn’t sound like their hit. It doesn’t sound like the same band did the other songs, like they were recorded a few years before. I think this is true for a lot of one hit wonders. Back when people bought CDs, many of the bought the Sheryl Crow album that had All I Wanna Do on it, and dumped it quickly. The rest of that record was harsh compared to the one song people know.
So the Looking Glass cracked up after this, but it’s still a heck of a single. Owning this album makes the case for only collecting 45s of groups like this, but I’m glad I found this one. Every record collection needs as much Brandy as possible.
Fun Fact: Brandy as a girl’s name went from #353 in popularity in 1971 to #82 by 1973. So if you’re named Brandy and you’re 43-44 years old, this record is probably where you got your name from.
Cost: $2, $759 Remaining
Mike Douglas, The Men In My Little Girl’s Life, Epic LN-24186, 1966
January, 1966, and the Top 10 has hits by The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Simon & Garfunkel, oh, and a record by the host of a local Philadelphia afternoon talk show host. Mike Douglas was a fairly big name at the tail end of the Big Band area, but by the early 50s, he found himself trying to maintain a career, when a local tv station in Cleveland hired him to do an afternoon variety talk show. TV led to a recording deal with Epic Records.
The Mike Douglas Show did really well, and by 1965 it was being nationally syndicated. It was cheap to produce, but it attracted really big names while creating a genre all on it’s own. There probably would be no Oprah without Mike Douglas. This record, though, was really from another time.
It’s just a big bunch of schmaltz. I’m sure it was bought by fathers who didn’t relate to Simon & Garfunkel and bought this to maintain a sense of control. In the end though, the woodstock generation grew up and life moved on. This is more of a novelty record now, hilarious in it’s imagery, and why you pretty much have to buy this record to be able to hear.
Cost: $2, $843 Remaining
Charlie Rich, Behind Closed Doors, Epic KE-32247, 1973
Charlie Rich was known as The Silver Fox, probably from the hair color that became his trademark from an early age. He was also known for a very compelling body of work that he produced in a 30 year career in Rock & Roll, Country and Pop. Unfortunately, in the music business, he was known as a cantankerous guy to deal with. One of my favorite youtube videos to watch is of a drunk Charlie Rich announcing the 1975 Country Performer Of The Year Award. He lights the announcement card on fire before he reads out the name John Denver to show his disgust.
But he did make some amazing records. This was by far his best selling one, but his early Rock & Roll records for Sun and (Sam) Phillips International are amazing. I love is one off single for RCA of Nice & Easy, and his late 60s Hi Records releases are well regarded northern soul classics.
There’s more to this one too beyond the two huge hits. It’s almost as if this is the great 70s album that Elvis never made (Charlie Rich got his Sun contract because he sounded a little like Elvis!). This one is also worthy of a few spins a year.
Cost: $1, $881 Remaining