Jack Brown, Tells It Like It Is, QCA Records 90854, 1968?
I now I said yesterday that my last month would be dedicated to the best of affordable vinyl, so some of you might be surprised to see this and not Highway 61 Revisited featured today. The truth is that I absolutely loved this record. Yes, sure, I bought it for the cover, the plainness of it all giving the buyer no idea at all what this is even all about. It looked to me like the kind of homemade religious sermon record that sometimes pops up at Goodwill, but this is so much more than that.
It turns out that Jack is a reformed addict and felon who spent years in prison alongside some of the most notorious criminals in American history. If the sleeping habits of The Birdman Of Alcatraz are interesting to you, then by all means pick up a copy of this album. Jack has a gravelly voice and doesn’t seem to get it when the teen audience on the record laughs when he relays how he “smoked that Mary-Juana and sniffed that cocaine”. He matter of factly relays assaults, robberies and stabbings like he’s Grandpa Walton spinning a yarn. Jack really doesn’t care for the glamorization of Bonnie & Clyde, because in real life Bonnie was not attractive looking and Clyde was a practicing homosexual. Their killing spree across the Midwest is also an issue, but apparently not as much.
Jack really is worth listening to, and without this bizarre document he left behind, virtually no one alive would be able to know about it. Jack Brown is too common a name to research this one particular Jack Brown, and Wikipedia has nothing on the album or the man. Safe to say when I listen to this stirring tale that I am the only one on Earth to be having that singular joy. That’s a pretty good deal for $3.
Cost: $3, $186 Remaining
Dr. Murray Banks, What You Can Learn From The Kinsey Report, Audio Masterworks LPA-1210, 1956
The first thing I learned from this record is that Dr. Murray Banks missed his calling. Instead of being a Clinical Psychologist, a professor, and an in demand public speaker, he should haver been a stand-up comedian. At least he tries really hard to be one on this, his first of many self-help records he released from the 50s to the 70s. The Queens accent only adds to the charms of the lecture. When he tells stories of people who were interviewed by Kinsey, it’s like getting sex advice from Archie Bunker.
I suppose the comedy approach is what allows Banks to explain the material without coming off as creepy or perverse in the Eisenhower years. He has to explain some things that are probably not as taboo as they once were, and the record sounds even more dated when he delves into the “proper roles for genders”. Apparently Mrs. Dr. Murray Banks enjoys being home with the children while Dr. Murray Banks travels the country talking about sex to college co-eds.
What makes this record a must for a cocktail party though are the stories. One man who reveals his interest in a particular horse got irate when the interviewer asked if it was a male horse or a female horse. The man insisted that the horse was female and didn’t want anyone to think he was a queer. Speaking of queer, Audio Fidelity, the highly technical company that helped pioneer stereo records, released this record on the Audio Masterpiece label. I suppose it would have been difficult for Dr. Murray Banks to land a major label deal and Audio Fidelity came to the rescue. At least they didn’t go all out on describing the technical aspects of recording this lecture. That it’s in mono is just fine, lest we hear a horse screech from one channel to another.
Cost: $2, $285 Remaining
David Niven, The World’s Most Famous Love Letters, Roulette R-25034, 1958
I usually try to come up with a snappy headline for each album I blog about. For this one, I really struggled. I thought trying to tie-in to one of David Niven’s great film roles would be the way to go, something along the lines of “The Bridge On The River Sigh”, “Around The World In 33 1/3 Days” or “The Pink Vinyl” would work, but listening to this utterly bizarre record, I kept coming back to Joey Tribbiani’s catchphrase “How You down’?” for the best way to describe this miraculous find.
It’s not just the Austin Powers/Partridge Family blue velour suit (complete with frilly ascot) that drew me in, it was the premise of this record to begin with. Why on Earth would anyone need something like this is much more interesting to me than the cover. Original owner Jim Monroe became one of the lucky few original owners of this rare piece of vinyl, and I would like to thank him for not listening to his record more than a few times. It is a flawless record, except for the material.
Each track has an appropriate musical score, but it really is David Niven reading some very cheesy old letters. It’s now my go to for audio clips of someone saying “My live in Vienna is now a wretched one” or “Inwardly I’m wasting away”. This record is why I search out the oddball albums. For $2, I now own a very rare (it doesn’t even show up in Niven’s Wikipedia page) record that really shouldn’t be, yet clearly does. I hope Jim Monroe felt like he got his money’s worth, because I know I did.
Cost: $2, $287 Remaining
Edd Byrnes, Kookie, Warner Brothers W-1309, 1959
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again; it’s very hard to start a record company. Virtually all available talent that can sell records already has a record label, and without that talent you won’t sell many records. Warner Brothers had the good fortune to have major film and TV production talent, and after the strange success of Tab Hunter’s recording career, Warner’s added an exclusive audio clause in all of their video contracts.
77 Sunset Strip, a Warner show produced for ABC, debuted just as the new policy came into effect. The show was a laid back affair about private investigators solving the problems of the most fortunate and beautiful people on Earth, all set to a smooth jazz sound. Warners first released a soundtrack alum from the show, but the breakout success of a minor character named Kookie quickly led to a novelty hit and this follow-up album. Kookie was famous for constantly combing his hair and speaking solely in late 50s teen slang.
The album is no longer as ginchy as it once was. Byrnes doesn’t really sing, he just sort of mumbles his way through his the script while arranger and conductor Don Ralke’s music plays underneath. It’s interesting to listen to, but the nagging thought you’ll have after about 90 seconds is “why was this ever a hit”. Then you’ll have 28:30 more to scratch your head and try to translate the words into 21st century English. It’s not the kind of scene I usually dig dad, but while the record didn’t send me straight to snoresville pops, I don’t find it to be the maximum utmost. Later, like dig.
Cost: $5, $293 Remaining
Lorne Greene, Welcome To The Ponderosa, RCA LSP-2843, 1964
Welcome to the Ponderosa, and one of the strangest #1 records of all time. I had seen lists of the top records of 1964 long before I ever heard Ringo, and with it being the year of The Beatles and all, I just assumed that the song the knocked The Shangri Las Leader Of The Pack from the top spot was an ode to the famous drummer. It’s not as if the song got any airplay at all. Finding this album though, I learned that Ringo tells the tale of Johnny Ringo, one of many tedious western tales talk-sung by TV’s own Ben Cartwright.
Bonanza was the biggest shows on TV in 1964, not necessarily because it stood out from any other western show, but because it was one of the few that was shot and aired in color. Anyone catching a rerun today would be mystified about it having any success at all. But with the show NBC’s biggest hit and NBC owning RCA Records, several Bonanza albums were released. Ringo’s success proves that even as late as December 1964, Rock & Roll was just one genre of popular music.
This isn’t really a soundtrack album. Even the famous Bonanza theme is re-recorded with pretty awful original lyrics. Greene had an amazing voice, but he wasn’t much of a singer. The songs are all mini western dramas, and most come with a spoken introduction that sets the stage for the tale that follows. Unfortunately, what follows is as dated as the show. It’s an interesting find, but not really one with spending 29 minutes with, let alone an evening.
Cost: $2, $308 Remaining
Leonard Nimoy, Mr. Spock’s Music From Outer Space, Dot DLP-3794, 1967
This is by far the most expensive record I’ve featured in the nine months I’ve been writing this blog. I got it at a record show in Eugene, Oregon and I was able to talk the seller down from $15 to $12. I’ve gone for a week and not spent $12 on records, so this is a big deal for me. But ooooh, what a record this is. It’s a true cult classic, the subject of a million blog posts already, and I felt that my little column wouldn’t be complete without featuring it. I’ve also never seen one in person, just online, where it trades for much more money. As I write this, there’s a still sealed original copy listed for sale at $799. This one isn’t perfect, but it’s still in it’s 50 year old shrink wrap and it plays great.
The people who buy this record generally don’t but it for the music. Trekkies like to collect anything related to their favorite show and this record is certainly a must for any Star Trek fan. It also didn’t sell well in it’s original run, so there aren’t many on the market. It’s only “logical” that demand will always outstrip supply on this puppy.
But that’s a shame because the music is really, um, far out. The producer and arranger, Charles Graem, later had a fairly big hit with the theme song to the low budget horror soap opera Dark Shadows, and I hear elements of the Graem Sound all through this album. Nimoy seems to be almost an afterthought, he’s not even on every track, but he talk-sings his heart out. I’ve played this one quite a bit in the 10 days I’ve owned it, and it will live long and prosper in my collection.
Cost: $12, $337 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