Olivia Newton John, Let Me Be There, MCA 389, 1973
For a superstar, Olivia Newton John had a long strange path to the top. A household name in Australia from the mid 60s, by the early 70s, she found some middling success in the UK, and one minor hit in the US, If Not For You. It was this album that was her first real US breakthrough.
But because she had several albums released in other countries, MCA cobbled together 10 songs from three albums and used 2 year old photography (from the 1972 album Olivia). On one hand, it’s kind of an early greatest hits collection from a brand new singer, but really, it feels kind of like a Beatles album released by VJ Records. There’s no coherent theme, and the songs swing wildly from adult contemporary to rock to country.
Which is why I was able to pick up this neat mint copy for $1.50 at a clearance sale. Olivia Newton John’s pre-Grease records have very little value these days. They’re really not terrible though, and I’m old enough to remember these songs on the radio, so it’s a nice addition to my shelf.
Cost: $2, $239 Remaining
Sonny & Cher, Live In Las Vegas Vol. 2, MCA2-8004, 1974
There are 1001 books out there on the 1001 most essential records every vinyl fan must have to be considered a serious collector. Beatles records, Bob Dylan’s 60s albums, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and The Rolling Stones all have multiple entries on these lists. Good condition original copies of these records are very expensive, averaging up to $40 each for records that virtually everyone already knows by heart. Songs from these albums get airplay on the radio everyday, and they languish on lists of best selling digital downloads. These are not obscure records.
This album isn’t on any of these kinds of lists. It spent a few weeks on the Billboard Top 200 album chart, climbing all the way to #175. With their hugely public split about to occur in 1974, this was the last album of new material of Sonny & Cher’s long career. Even though it’s mostly just an album of cover material, you get a sense of what a Vegas ballroom show was like in 1973.
So, while no one will ever call this an essential record, it is a fun one. When I ‘m making dinner or something, I’m much more likely to reach for a record like this than I am Dark Side Of The Moon. When friends come over and want to see my new discoveries, I pull out Sonny & Cher Live In Las Vegas Vol. 2 every time over The Velvet Underground. It’s fun records like this that I find essential, and I can have 1001 of them for the same price as the top 50 critically acclaimed records.
Cost: $1, $264 Remaining
Dobie Grey, Drift Away, Decca DL-75397, 1973
Despite the fact that his hair looks like Samuel L. Jackson’s in Pulp Fiction, this little pop-soul album from Dobie Grey became a modest #63 hit and spawned a top 5 single with its title track. By all accounts, he was a lovely man who passed away too early in 2011 at age 71, and Drift Away became his signature song in a 40 year career that went from Soul to Country Music. But none of that is why I’m writing about this record.
I’m featuring this record for two reasons, the first of which is that it’s significant because this was the last US release for the Decca label. Despite being one of the earliest commercial labels to exist, the Decca Gramophone brand began in London in 1914, by 1973 the US Decca label had been absorbed by MCA. Relations between the UK and the US labels were strained, and it was decided to simply retitle the US label as MCA Records. Despite the nearly 60 year history of being a major label, Decca drifted away with this album.
The other obvious reason to write about this record is the infamously misheard line in the chorus of Drift Away. Grey sings “Give me the beat boys and free my soul”, but millions of people heard it as “Give me The Beach Boys…”. Such a common mis-hearing is called a mondegreen. Certified as a new English word by Merriam Webster in 2000, mondegreen dates to 1954 and writer Sylvia Wright who always sang a Scottish folk ballad as “Lady Mondegreen” instead of the correct “…and laid him on the green”. If you’ve ever wanted to visit the famous Donzerly Lighthouse featured in The Star Spangled Banner, you’ve been singing a mondegreen by the dawn’s early light. My personal favorites include England Dan & John Ford Coley’s “I’m not talkn’ ’bout the linen” (…movin’ in) and The Rascals’ “you and and Leslie” (…endlessly).
Cost: $2, $277 Remaining
Werner Mueller, O, Tannenbaum, Decca DL-78388, 19??
Christmas music can just be so weird. Everyone has their own traditions and there are thousands of records to appeal to each one of them. Today, it’s Christmas on the Rhine, supposedly what you’d expect to hear in Germany.
When a Christmas record does a bit of business when new, it automatically becomes a record company’s best friend because they get to release it again year after year with no expenses beyond pressing and shipping them. People who loved it once, will still love it because it only gets played 2-3 times a year, so they buy it again hoping to remember holidays gone by. Records like this are the easiest to find of any kind ever.
Take this one for example. I didn’t buy it, it was given to me for free. Once people know that you “like” records, you receive all of their valueless records that they didn’t have time to go down to Goodwill and donate. Judging by the cover photo, this record came out in the 50s or 60s on Decca, but this one has a late 70s MCA label. That means it was in print for at least 15-20 years. There’s no reason to ever buy a record like this, unless you have $0.99 burning a hole in your pocket and you grew up in Frankfurt.
Cost: $1, $553 Remaining
Telly Savalas, Who Loves Ya Baby, MCA-2160, 1976
Sometimes I really earn my pay… Telly Savalas was a fairly large movie star who became a huge TV star in the 70s with the success of his police detective show Kojak. In New York City, where the show was set, people of a certain age still call it a “Kojak” when they find a convenient free parking space, because Telly always found three empty spaces in front of where he was going. After all, it’s not easy to park a brown Buick Century in Midtown. I bring all this up because Detective Kojak had a catchphrase, like so many 70s characters had…”Who Loves Ya Baby”.
The music is pretty terrible. Telly really can’t sing, and his deep smoke clogged voice isn’t helped by the high octave of the background singers. He gives a lot of spoken word intros, including one in front of Gentile On My Mind where he says “as a kid growing up in New York, ‘out west’ meant Jersey”. There’s a lot of groovy 70s guitars, but the material just seems so out of place and, honestly, trying too hard.
The record was only in VG condition, so somebody played this more than few times. I just don’t know why anyone would do that to themselves, but I have the evidence. I’m running short on Trying Too Hard records, but I do have a whole slew of treasures of albums made as a result being famous from a TV role. Maybe this album is a nice transition to a new theme week…
Cost: $2, $913 Remaining