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
Van Morrison, Moondance, Warner Brothers WS-1835, 1970
Sometimes a remarkable album comes out by someone you’d least expect from. Yes, Van Morrison had made bit of a name for himself as the lead singer of Them, and with a slightly bubblegum-ish 1967 hit single, Brown Eyed Girl. But who knew he had THIS in him? Brown Eyed Girl was a big enough hit that he got a major label deal with Warner Brothers, and Morrison spent most of 1968 preparing his Warner’s debut, Astral Weeks. It was a very jazzy and abstract record that was a hit with musicians and critics but didn’t really sell.
Moondance was the follow-up, and Morrison spent most of 1969 writing and recording it in Woodstock New York. When a half million hippies rolled into town, Morrison left for the city where he finished the record. Dropping a needle on side one, the record opens with And It Stoned Me, a song that literally jumps out at you. From there, you’re drawn in deeper and deeper until it ends. Crazy Love, Moondance, and Into The Mystic are classics of their-or any other-era. Yes, I love this record.
Oddly, there were no hit singles from Moondance. Come Running and Crazy Love were both released as singles, but neither charted. For some bizarre reason, Moondance was released as a single at the height of the Disco era in 1977, when it climbed all the way to #92. The album only reached #29 on the charts, but despite failing in all of the traditional measures of a hit album, Moondance still sold over three million copies. It has probably never been out of print. Naturally, I held out for an original Warner Brothers copy, with its gatefold cover and extensive liner notes.
Cost: $7, $19 Remaining
Danny Bonaduce, Danny Bonaduce, Lion LN-1015, 1973
Lately we’ve seen the perceived quality of my featured records improve as the price goes up. But what happens when the weird record budget also rises? You guessed it, they get even weirder. Some records that have no merit musically or struggle to entertain in a straightforward way, and also barely sold, can have real value as collectables. It helps if the “artist” on these records is also known for something else. Like William Shatner, whose The Transformed Man record included a stunning cover of Mr. Tambourine Man, Danny Bonaduce was on a semi successful TV show. As “Danny” the wisecracking bassist for The Partridge Family (who never actually played a note), Bonaduce somehow managed to get a record deal as a solo artist. No, this really happened.
It’s not that he sings badly, it’s more like he doesn’t sing at all. This is a horribly overproduced record, to the point where I seriously doubt it’s really even his singing. But the real crime against humanity here is the material. Danny Bonaduce was 13 in 1973 and yet his producers felt originals like Save A Little Piece For Me, a song not about birthday cake, and I’ll Be Your Magician, a song about seduction. It’s really hard to listen to a pre-pubescent voice sing about using his magic wand to make “your resistance disappear”.
Lion Records was a short lived budget label from MGM. Budget labels were used when material came along that might tarnish the company’s main label. In this case, MGM had a very good reason to release this on Lion, as the label folded just after this record came out. I had heard about this record, and couldn’t believe it when I found it for $8 the other day. It’s not a perfect copy, with original owner Patty York’s basement having flooded at some point. Patty also dated the record on August 15, 1978, which would have been 5 years after the record came out, and 4 years after The Partridge Family was cancelled. Still, it’s an incredible find, and I think I got a deal at $8.
Cost: $8, $150 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
The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Capitol SMAS-2653, 1967
While I sort of put down records like this yesterday, I only really meant that I’d rather have 20 fun albums for the $40 price of one clean copy of Sgt. Pepper. I never said anything about finding a $2 copy though. I’d seen this record for weeks before I bought it, sadly languishing in a $2 bin. It’s clearly been though a pretty serious flood sometime in in the past 50 years. The jacket is horribly warped, the spine is illegible, and there’s terrible ring wear.
But it did have the semi-rare insert card, a odd collection of thick paper pop-out tiara, badges and mustache. I know I tore mine apart when I first bought my first copy of this record, and I know I wasn’t alone in doing that, so finding an intact one is pretty rare.
So one day, I looked at the record, expecting to see a badly scratched, mold encrusted record. was planning on writing about why you should always save up for an especially nice copy of an essential record like Sgt. Pepper. But what I found inside was a decent looking original stereo album. I added it to my pile, and it was the first record I played when I got home. It’s the best copy I own! My guess is that the flood happened a long time ago and the record never got played again. That it cost $2 is amazing, and I can look for a better cover for it. So this column turned into one about taking a chance on something that looks like it’s inbox shape, but really isn’t when you get it home.
Cost: $2, $262 Remaining
$107 Spent, $3.45 per record
The Philadelphia International All Stars, Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto, Philadelphia International JZ-34659, 1977
I know I just wrote the other day about promos and how I never buy them. Naturally, that meant I was bound to discover a record I’ve always wanted to find moments after publishing that, but with a promotional label on it.
The first time I ever heard The Philadelphia International All Stars’ Let’s Clean Up The Ghetto, all 8:42 of it, I couldn’t believe it. It’s really half of a monologue about garbage, crime and cockroaches by the great Lou Rawls followed by four minutes of amazing Funk & Disco. The fact that I was driving in rural Argentina at the time made it seem even more unreal. It was one of those times when you hear a song you love, but have no way to identify it so you can look for it later. I had to ask all kinds of record people about this bizarre Lou Rawls social commentary until one of them knew about it enough to tell me what it is.
And what it is is an attempt by the beginning to fade Philadelphia International Record Company to stay relevant in the later 70s with the rise of disco music. It’s basically a compilation from the roster of the label in 1977 with the added “all star” track specifically written to give it a relevant theme. Of course, songs about hot smelly garbage don’t get much airplay so the record never really sold. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not a great record to have, with the Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff production team at the height of their game. Since it didn’t sell, it’s a pretty rare record to find, and I was thrilled to find this promo for $1! It took me over a decade to find this one from when I first heard it, and while I’ll keep looking for a standard release, I’m really happy to have this version, ring wear and all.
Cost: $5, $272 Remaining
Lalo Schifin, Music From Mission Impossible, Dot DLP-25831, 1967
This is a real TV Soundtrack. Unlike the fleshed out Jazz songs from the similar I Spy, the Mission Impossible music seems to be mostly incidental or background music. There’s the marvelous theme song for the show of course, but the other tunes were clearly meant to be played underneath a scene from the show where someone is doing a car chase or evading a gunman.
That doesn’t mean it’s bad! The 1967 release date of the record meant that the very 60s instruments like the harpsichord and the sitar are featured through. They are obviously tweaked into a strange mysterious drama sound, but it’s really great background music. Lalo Schifren, despite the German sounding name, is very much an Argentine composer, and he used the influences of Tango and Samba in his long list of Hollywood credits. The Theme From Mission Impossible has just been added to the Grammy Hall Of Fame.
The original owner of this copy of this somewhat rare record, Judy Short, obviously kept her copy flat, which created some pretty strong ring wear. Like most soundtracks, I think this was an impulse purchase and once she grew tired of hearing the theme song, she stopped playing the record. It plays flawlessly, especially on Side Two which may never have been played. This record used to be fairly easy to find, but since Tom Cruise made a film franchise out of it, the original record is disappearing from bargain bins. I didn’t have to think twice about picking up Judy’s record for $2.
Cost: $2, $328 Remaining