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
Wham!, Make It Big, Columbia FC-39595, 1984
It’s Record Store Day today, and while that doesn’t mean much for most people, it meant that I was up early to see what the festivities were like here in town. One shop was having a massive $1 sale that I knew would take hours to get through, while the other celebrated by stocking up on Record Store Day specials re-issued by the record companies. While I’m constantly amazed at some of the records that get re-issued, I noticed at trend this year. There were some specials from new music, but it was 80s remixes that really were popular. Madonna and Michael Jackson, but mostly Prince all had “new” records in the stores, custom made collectibles that went on sale today.
It made me realize that 80s records are probably going to start becoming hard to find at a decent price soon. I know that original copies of Thriller and Purple Rain are already in Beatles territory price wise, so records like this can’t be far behind. I ran back to the $1 sale and focused on as much 80s music as I could find. At $1 each, these records will have nowhere to go but up in value. If Prince is like The Beatles, then Wham! records will price out like The Dave Clark Five pretty soon.
And this is a really great Pop record. A worldwide #1 in 1984, it solidified George Michael as a superstar and relegated Andrew Ridgeley to the latest in a long list of lesser known sidekick. Ridgeley is very much like & Oates and And Messina of pop duos gone by. But still, I’m pretty pleased to get a mint condition $1 copy of this record.
Cost: $1, $207 Remaining
Bobby Darin, That’s All, Atco 33-104, 1959
This could be my best $1 album purchase ever. Some of the songs on this record are among the most famous of all time, with Mack The Knife being played somewhere right now. Yes, this album sold well for an album at Christmas 1959, but it’s fairly easy to find today. Why I can’t tell you, but get one when you see it. It’s a heck of an album. As simple as the cover might seem, if you really look at it, you see someone determined to be a success. And this record made that happen.
The back cover kind of shows the age of it. When was the last time a telegram was featured on a record jacket? But Sammy Davis Jr. was right. The record is so good that you almost want to hate Bobby Darin for making it. One thing about this particular record is the green pen mark in the upper right corner. I can’t say for sure if it’s genuine, but somebody signed “Bobby Darin 2/14/60” there.
Atco was the second label of the ATlantic Record COmpany. Ahmet Ertegun, the jazz crazed founder of Atlantic, let his brother Neshui start the label to feature acts that wouldn’t dilute the purity of the jazz oriented Atlantic label (but would still sell!). Early Rock & Roll acts certainly were not pure enough to be on Atlantic and Bobby Darin found himself on the new Atco label. This was Atco’s fourth album release, and the second by Bobby Darin, making the label’s success very much because of the success of this record. Again, if you see one, get it.
Cost: $1, $217 Remaining
Hall & Oates, Voices, RCA AOL1-3646, 1980
As the jacket might indicate, times have changes since this album was released. Hall & Oates were not exactly a hot property when this record came out, proven by the first single released from Voices, How Does It Feel To Be Back, struggled to reach #30 on the charts. A remake of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling, climbed to #12, but still, the album was barely holding on to the top 100.
For some reason, RCA went for a third single. Kiss On My List started off slowly, but hit #1 about 9 months after the album came out. It was so big that RCA changed the cover of Voices from a black and white montage to this bizarrely styled, very 80s photo. A fourth single, You Make My Dreams, hit #5, and Hall & Oates were suddenly huge pop stars. Voices stayed on the album charts for 100 weeks, just shy of two years.
There was another #1 song on the album. In 1985, Paul Young covered Everytime You Go Away, and it topped the charts. Not that looking back into the Hall & Oates catalogue will turn up any other million sellers, it’s a pretty remarkable achievement to have.
Cost: $3, $433 Remaining
Frankie Valli, Closeup, Private Stock 2000, 1975
The Four Seasons were not doing too well by the early 70s. Their records weren’t selling and they were dropped from their record label, Philips. Bizarrely, they signed with Motown Records, who also dropped them after an album and a half. The group paid $4000 to buy one of their unreleased tracks back. It was money well spent, and released as a Frankie Valli solo single, My Eyes Adored You went to #1. This was the album that they made to accompany it.
When I say they, I mean the bedrock partnership of Valli, Bob Gaudio and producer Bob Crewe. By the time this record rolled around, records got released under the name Frankie Valli, The Four Seasons, and Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons, but it didn’t matter. It’s all the same people on the records.
The record also has one of the first songs I can think of on a pop record that is longer than 10 minutes. This is not necessarily a disco album, but some of it is proto-disco, with all 10:09 of Swearin’ To God as my evidence. One other fun fact is that the female vocalist is a young Patti Austin. It’s a great album for what it is, and it’s always great to find a long album version of a single that you know so well.
Cost: $2, $456 Remaining
Nat King Cole, L-O-V-E, Capitol ST-2195, 1964
The House That Nat built tried to keep their beloved Mr. Cole in their studio as much as possible. This was the fourth album and final album that he recorded for Capitol in 1964. Fourth in this case because it’s an amazing achievement nowadays for an artist to release four albums in a decade, and final because Nat King Cole died a few weeks after the record was released.
You would never know that these were the output of the amazing singer’s last recording sessions. He was in really good voice despite having fatal lung cancer. I prefer to think that is why this album peaked at #4, and not because it was a brand new record of a legend that has just died.
Its a really great album too. The title track is one the the most remembered of all of Cole’s songs. Because it mostly appealed to adults (the LOVE single only peaked at #28) this album is pretty to find. It’s rarely pricey and usually in great shape. I’d go so far as to call this one essential.
Cost: $2, $464 Remaining
Brenda Lee, Coming On Strong, Decca DL-4825, 1966
For as big as she was from 1960-62, after The Beatles hit, Brenda Lee’s career was on the wane. She wasn’t alone, but she was perhaps the best selling artist in the world. She needed a hit by 1966, and got one in an enduring underground classic.
Unfortunately, the rest of the album is just meh. They used what seems to be a horribly outdated picture on the front and the back is nothing more than a bland description of the songs here and ads for her other albums that weren’t selling. The other songs are just covers of hits of the day that add nothing to the rocking title track.
When I say this is an underground hit, it comes from being mentioned in Golden Earring’s Radar Love. That cool rock song spurred interest in the 8 year old song, especially in the UK. So, I’ll listen to the one song I love here, but thats about it.
Cost: $2, $556 Remaining
The Mamas & The Papas, Dunhill D-50010, 1966
Some bands, like The Rolling Stones, can last forever. Others, like The Mamas & The Papas tend to collapse like a flan in a cupboard just as soon as they form. Just a few months after the success of their first album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears, the group was rushed back into the studio to record it’s follow-up. Sophomore albums have a notorious reputation for being weak, usually because artists have all the time in the world to develop material for their first record, but then have next to no time to try to equal or better what was done over years of practicing and writing. Still, the Mamas & The Papas had the musical chops to try to pull it off.
They just didn’t have the personality traits to do so. Not that John & Michelle Phillips had anything close to a traditional marriage, but with Michelle going around in public with Gene Clarke of The Byrds, the rest of the group decided to fire her, just as Monday Monday was falling out of the op 40. Enter Jill Gibson, a show biz veteran and Michelle Phillips look alike was hired to be the new Mama. They even took a nice cover photo with the new lineup for the record. But a few recording and concert dates later, the group decided that things weren’t “right” with the New Jan (Jill in this case) and re-hired Michelle.
But it seems like Dunhill Records was in such a hurry to get the album out that they cut a few corners to do so. Rather than take a new group photo, they just used the old one they had and superimposed Michelle onto Jill, and voila! A sophomore album is born. Never mind the obvious color differences between Michelle and the rest of the group, or the fact that they spelled “Denny” as Dennie, Dunhill wasn’t going to spend time or money to slow this record from hitting the stores. And musically, it’s really great! We just have no idea who’s actually singing on it.
Cost: $2, $681 Remaining
$55 Spent, $1.77 per record
Dawn, Dawn’s New Ragtime Follies, Bell 1130, 1973
I might be one of the only people alive to shed a tear about finding a copy of this record. Don’t get me wrong, I would shed more tears over finding a $2 copy of Pet Sounds in the same condition, but this one gets me because I remember being at my grandparents house when my grandfather (born in 1909) came home in his brand new 1974 Oldsmobile Cutlass with a brand new copy of this record for us to listen to and celebrate. It’s a wonderful memory of an awful album.
In the scheme of things, it’s not awful in an uncommercial way. Say Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose was the #3 follow up to the #1 single of 1973, Tie A Yellow Ribbon On The ‘Ole Oak Tree, and no doubt it’s repeated airplay on 77 WABC that fall that led to my grandfather purchasing the last album of his life (I did find a mint copy of Glen Campbell’s Southern Nights 45 among the records when my grandparents finally sold their house in 1997, but no album newer than this one).
Still, this record was the sort of music industry product that came out in a time of real change. It appealed to the oldest and the youngest record buyers at the time when the music business was fracturing into irrevocable subsets that remain today. But it’s records like this that people who had ANY kind of personal connection to that they go nuts for now. Finding a copy in good condition for a decent price is something that no collector should let get away.
Cost: $2, $823 Remaining
James Taylor, One Man Dog, Warner Brothers BS-2660, 1972
James Taylor was so hot he was cool, or was it the other way around? Seventies jargon escapes me from time to time, the point being that by the time his third Warner Brother’s record was released in the fall of 1972, the art department felt comfortable enough to leave off any name, title, song listings, or other credits on the jacket (the legal department made sure the copywriter information discretely appears in the bottom right corner of the back side). That’s a pretty confident statement of the public’s support and trust that a big company felt that no visible acknowledgment of what this record is would be good enough to sell it.
Times were changing a bit by the end of 1972, and this album’s singles failed to make much of an impact on the charts. The acoustic singer songwriter vibe that seemed so fresh a few years before was getting a little stale with people like Elton John and Cat Stevens coming up with songs of depth and feeling that you could also dance to. Still, the album hit #4 and sold in the millions, and without any major hits, that combination makes this one of the easiest James Taylor records to find.
Discount record shoppers can pull out the record and look at it (which they should always do to make sure the right record is inside as well as to check the condition). So it’s no big deal to not find Fire And Rain or You’ve Got A Friend on this record, that’s why it costs $2 and not $10. But you do get a great rainy morning record that sounds brand new and not 45 years old. In keeping with the discount spirit of this record, this is the first time I’ve ever seen the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders coupon neatly cut out of the inner sleeve and redeemed for a cutout record from the Warner back catalogue. I hope that record didn’t get wet in the same basement flood that this record did…
Cost: $2, $847 Remaining