Neal Hefti, Hefti In Gotham City, RCA LSP-3621, 1966
Nestor Armral & His Continentals, Craftsmen C-8027, 195?
We are over 350 records in, and there is still over $90 left on my quest to buy 365 albums for $1000. I could run out the clock with interesting $1 records like the one on the right above. It’s a discount record on the Craftsmen label that features a young Mary Tyler Moore on the cover. It would be easy for me to gush about how they tried to make our Mary look like the Contadina Tomato girl, and how the low budget “Italian” instrumentals sound after 55 years or so.
But, no. I think i’d rather cut it close to the wire and spend the next two weeks spending that $92 down and find a better class of interesting records, like the one on the left. Neal Hefti is one of those artists that skirted the lines of fame & sales and producing & performing. As a performer, he led made a name for himself in the Big Band era, eventually working his way up to the Count Basie Orchestra. When Frank Sinatra started his Reprise label with Basie as one of his first signings, Neal Hefti came along as the conductor of the studio orchestra. By 1966, Hefti had moved on to RCA and work on film and TV scores.
It was a formidable assignment, as Hefti wrote, arranged and conducted possibly the most memorable TV theme song of the 60s. Both the Batman TV show and it’s theme song were instant hits, enough so that RCA gave its in house producer follow-up album. Hefti In Gotham City barely sold, but it is full of lush mid-60s instrumentals and incidental music from the show. It’s in near mint condition too, which, along with it’s rarity and TV show tie in, makes this a bargain record to find for the price.
Cost: $15, $77 Remaining
Gordon Fleming, Gigi, Golden Tone C-4035, 1960
I wasn’t paying all that much attention when I flipped though a pile of records at a vintage store when I first saw this record. I thought to myself that the cover model looked like Mary Tyler Moore, so I splurged $2 for if on a whim. It wasn’t until I looked through my new purchases, looking for TV themed records that I noticed that it IS Mary Tyler Moore on the cover of this discount record version of the stage and screen hit musical Gigi.
It turns out that MTM made her way into show business by being a cover model for the Tops and Golden Tone record companies. Both are long defunct discount labels based in Los Angeles, and they released generic covers of soundtracks and public domain songs by anonymous musicians and sold them at discount prices. To compete, they used attractive young girls for their record covers, and Mary Tyler Moore appeared on (it seems) about 12 of them in the late 50s and into 1960. Landing a gig as Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show in 1961 finally stopped this strange aspect of her career.
Gigi won the 1959 Oscar for Best Picture of 1958, and the Lerner & Lowe musical was a broadway smash before that. That made it a prime candidate for people to make cover version of the music. That’s about as kind as I can be to the actual music of this album. It’s not it’s badly made, it’s just not that well made. This really is one to buy for the cover, and judging by what it lists for on eBay, I got a screaming deal!
Cost: $2, $289 Remaining
The Chipmunks, The Alvin Show, Liberty LRP-3200, 1961
The Chipmunks were HOT! With two #1 Hits under their fur and several top 20 records, Ross Bagdasarian, AKA David Seville knew he had a good thing going and created an animation pilot that was picked up by CBS for the Fall 1961 season. This was the first time that Alvin, Simon & Theodore were fleshed out into distinct characters. Before, Chipmunk albums and 45 picture sleeves featured three identical chipmunks that were much more rat like in appearance. A weekly animation schedule required much simpler 1-D forms.
The record’s original owner helpfully wrote in ink the names of each chipmunk on the back. Alvin needed no introduction with his bright “A” on his red jersey, but I never knew that Simon was the tall one with glasses and Theodore was the shorter stout one. David Seville appears in a much thinner appearance than the portly Ross Bagdasarian was in real life. The foil of the show was Clyde Crashcup, a hapless inventor that the “boys” annoy and/or save in every episode. With the public now able to put a face to The Chipmunks, Liberty Records re-released all previous Chipmunk records with new covers that featured the new animation.
The record must have been very easy to prepare. The show had seven minute animation segments, and two of them are on the soundtrack album. Throw in the show’s theme song and incidental music, re-record the 1958 #1 hit Witch Doctor, and get it in stores! So it’s not a very musical record, but the classic animation voices of June Foray and Shepard Menken are really fun to listen to. I had this record growing up, I’m not sure why, but my copy had a massive scratch that made most of side two unplayable. Because I only had about two records, I came to know the stories on here without some crucial elements that the skips prevented me from hearing. It’s nice to finally hear the full version of Crashcup Invents The Bathtub!
Cost: $5, $318 Remaining
Earle Hagen, I Spy, Capitol ST-2839, 1968
I’ve had this record for a while, but it took this week’s theme of TV Show records to get me to listen to it. And, wow! It’s a really great album. It’s got the smooth west coast jazz sound that I love written from the perspective of mid century intrigue. I suppose having never seen an episode of I Spy, I wasn’t really too curious about it’s music. After all, the composer is Earle Hagen, which may not be a household name for most people, but as the composer of the theme song for The Andy Griffin Show (where I knew him from), he kind of scared me off.
But boy was I wrong. Part of the appeal of I Spy was that the show took place all over the world, so it called for different music for every episode. With the slick style of the show, a jazz theme song was written for it. What followed is three seasons-and 7 soundtrack albums!- of well crafted studio jazz. Collect ’em all…after I find all 7 albums that is.
This particular record was the first of two I Spy albums for Capitol. While it won no Grammys, Earle Hagen did win the 1968 Emmy for outstanding original score for this record. The previous soundtracks from the show came out on Warner Brothers, but it’s the same people involved. And wow, I managed to get through a whole I Spy blog post without mentioning Bill Cosby!
Cost: $2, $335 Remaining
Soundtrack, Laugh In ’69, Reprise RS-6335, 1969
This is an even easier soundtrack to produce than yesterday’s. It sounds like they just took pre-recorded bits from the show and strung them together into an album. The comedy bits from the sketch show could be played in any order from any episode. All they had to do was to take the least visual puns they had and segue them together.
The back cover pretty much gives the schtick of the show away. For some reason, the corniest puns of all time ended up making Laugh In the #1 TV show on the air when this record came out. I’m sure the jokes didn’t age well, TV writing got much better in the 70s as boundaries got expanded by people like Archie Bunker, but Laugh In certainly pushed the visual boundaries of the era. I don’t think people realized how corny it was, they were too busy looking at Goldie Hawn in a bikini doing the frug with “PEACE” written on her mid section.
So what if I don’t listen to this again. This record really is from a different era, and it was fairly priced at $2. Still, I’m glad I found it, even if I have to explain who Spiro Agnew was to anyone under 40 years old who listens to this with me.
Cost: $2, $351 Remaining
Original TV Soundtrack, Dennis The Menace, Colpix CP-204, 1960
This is the easiest kind of record to make. In attempt to cash in on the temporary success of their comic strip based sit-com, the producers of Dennis The Menace dusted off two old scripts from the show and edited them down into to two 12 minute episodes, one for each side of an album. The actors came in to read though it, record it, and voila! A soundtrack is born.
I have vague memories of this show being shown in re-runs. It was a predictable, light hearted comedy like Leave It To Beaver. Dennis bothered his neighbor Mr. Wilson in every episode, but it all worked out well in the end. At no point was Dennis arrested, and he didn’t bring and grandbabies home, but flower beds were overwatered occasionally. It’s really hard to imagine a show like this being produced today.
I don’t really know if this is a collectable record or not. Generally when something is collectable, it’s because there’s excessive demand for something people remember fondly, and I doubt very many people today even know there was a show called Dennis The Menace, let alone search out an obscure soundtrack album from it. I only really bought it because it was at a half price sale, and because I’ve never seen one before. I also like the graphics and weirdness of it. I listened to it once, and that will good enough for me for years to come.
Cost: $4, $353 Remaining
Soundtrack, All In The Family, Atlantic SD-7210, 1971
All In The Family was so controversial that the plot bounced around from network to network until CBS took a chance on it as a January 1971 replacement. Two weeks later, it was the #1 show in America and held that position until 1976. As befitting a huge TV hit, Atlantic Records won a bidding war to release a “soundtrack” album.
It’s really nothing more than excerpts from episodes from the brief first season of the show. The bits don’t really translate into an audio only format because it wasn’t just one of the best written shows of all time, but it was also one of the best acted shows. But it’s a nice, interesting souvenir. Plus it comes with an extended version of the famous theme song, Those Were The Days. On its own as a single, the 1:27 song hit #30 on the Adult Contemporary chart, but the album didn’t chart.
Still, the show was such a cultural force that Atlantic tried again with a second album. That one is really hard to find, but this record really isn’t. This still shrink-wrapped but cutout copy is nearly perfect and it set me back $2. So there’s really no need to jump on the first one you see, assuming of course, that you even want one of these records.
Cost: $2, $424 Remaining
Barbra Streisand & Kris Kristofferson, A Star I Born, Columbia BL 34403, 1976
Some albums get unfairly branded as one thing or another, but this is definitely a 70s album. A modern take on an old movie, it had every 70s trend going for it, and it hit the bullseye with all of them. So much so that this record came to define it’s time, something that is great at first, but a real burden when that time is out of fashion.
It sold over 4,000,000,000 copies in the US alone, and I’d say 3.9 million of those buyers felt embarrassed by keeping it in the house. That makes this one of the easiest albums of all time to find. There’s absolutely no reason to ever pay $4 for a mint condition, still sealed copy. It’ll be at every yard sale from coast to coast for decades.
But it’s an interesting enough thing to keep in a collection. Evergreen alone is worth a few spins a year, and the Kris Kristofferson live numbers sound like they were fun to be at. So, do, please. Pick one up an keep it on the shelf, it’s ageless (now) and evergreen (especially if you get one the has mold on it).
Cost: $2, $443 Remaining
$81 Spent, $2.61 per record
Johnny Lee, Lookin’ For Love, Asylum 6E-309, 1980
It’s safe to call Johnny Lee a one hit wonder. The title track of this album hit #5 on the charts thanks to it’s inclusion in the John Travolta movie Urban Cowboy. It was the perfect country bar band song for a movie, and the female background singer did her level best to sound just like Stevie Nicks. Outside of a follow up that peaked at #54, this was his only chart success. It’s a very common tale, but unfortunately for most people, this song is known for something else.
With the record still on the charts, Eddie Murphy did a parody of a mail order record commercial on Saturday Night Live. “Buckwheat Sings” became an instant classic as Murphy stuttered his way though the hits of the day dressed like the Little Rascals character from the 30s. “Lookin’ For Love” became “Wookin’ Pa Nub” and was born.
Maybe Lee’s problem was that the Country Music community didn’t really appreciate being branded as the latest dance fad for the larger community. A John Travolta movie didn’t help. Lookin’ For Love sounded very Country on 1980 Pop radio, but very Pop on Country radio. That’s never a good place to be for a recording artist, and Lee is still playing shows nightly in Branson.
Cost: $2, $453 Remaining
Soundtrack, Come On And Zoom, A&M SP-3402, 1974
Come on kids, lets make a show! That was the thought behind Zoom, a PBS show made for kids by kids that originally aired from 1972-1978. Produced in Boston and aired nationally, it had a real air of the 70s about it, from the cheap sets and production values, down to the “how do you feel” segments.
It was never a big hit, but I certainly remember it. The kids would dance and sing, not very well mind you, but free form expression was what it was all about, and each episode had a segment where they did something. Sometimes it was cooking, or organizing a magic show, but always in an effort to get kids motivated to do something.
Somehow, A&M released a cast album on the show. It’s pretty damned bad, but it does give me the chance to get the ridiculously catchy theme song anytime I want. Theres also a music track featured around the show’s mailing address, it’s most definitely the first zip code jingle I know of. In the wake of the success of Good Will Hunting, there was a fake news story going around that, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck were once cast members of Zoom, but there’s no proof. I’d say the soundtrack album is only for the real fans of the show.
Cost: $4, $474 Remaining