The Beatles, The Beatles Again (a/k/a Hey Jude), Apple SW-385, 1970
This is a really weird one. Generally, a Beatles album is an example of a well crafted piece of pop music that will always stand the test of time. The Beatles never took the easy road, they we always expanding horizons. At least until this record came out. In case you couldn’t tell from the cover photography, these are four Beatles who are not exactly comfortable in their surroundings and seem lost in what they are doing. As it turns out, these pictures were taken at the last photo shoot the group ever had. As another sign of the band’s problems, the photo shoot was in August 1969 at John Lennon’s estate and this album was released at the end of February 1970. Apple was rotting at the core.
The not so creative force behind this record was Alan Klein, John Lennon’s choice to run the group’s business affairs. Mick Jagger had once remarked how Klein had saved The Stones from some British taxes, and that was good enough for John (and George & Ringo) to choose him to run their affairs (over Paul’s objections). With sales of Abbey Road slowing down, and with no new recording going on or any idea when Phil Spector might be done editing the Get Back/Let It Be sessions for release, Klein needed a “new” album in stores to keep up cash flows and justify his existence. The only thing to do was to look back to the group’s biggest hit, Hey Jude, and build an album of already released songs to go along with it.
Ah, but what songs! Since Hey Jude was never released on an album, the idea was to put it out with other past singles that had also never been released on an album in the US. While they didn’t look as far back as Vee-Jay released songs like Misey, There’s A Place, and Love Me Do, they did start with the six year old Can’t Buy Me Love. That song and I Should Have Known Better were both in A Hard Day’s Night, but that album was a United Artists release. 1966’s Paperback Writer and Rain are the other true oldies, with the rest of the songs being A and B sides from some non album singles. But the whole package reeks of a cash in, and it came along at a time when tempers were high with the group. This move didn’t help the internal struggles and three months later Paul announced he left the group. This album was a nail in the coffin.
Cost: $5, $32 Remaining
The Four Seasons, Ain’t That A Shame, Vee Jay 1059, 1963
I’ve written about The Four Seasons before, and how they were, for a while, the biggest group in the world. I’ve also written about Vee-Jay Records, and how this little R&B label in Chicago ended up with both The Four Seasons and The Beatles on their roster. This record came out at the time the band and the label had their falling out.
It was the fourth Vee-Jay album released by the group in one year. If that sounds like a lot, it’s because it was. As Candy Girl was reaching its #3 peak chart position, the group began to realize they hand’t been paid for any of it. The group not only sued, but also held back material from the company. Vee-Jay, always desperate for cash, would mine this album for singles and re-titled Re-Releases for a year.
And its not that good of an album! Stay!, a cover song that was a very good cover version, is the best song on it. The rest, however, is not the group’s best material. The group must have been exhausted from all the writing and recording that they were just pooped out. As was their record company, struggling to keep the lights on despite overwhelming success. I just wish it was an album I actually liked..
Cost: $5, $58 Remaining
The Jackson 5, ABC, Motown MS-709, 1970
It’s no secret that 1970 was the year of The Jackson 5. Besides The Beatles in 1964, no other artist exploded on the charts with such memorable songs as they did. This was their second album, and it yielded their second and third #1 singles. In a real passing of the torch moment, ABC knocked out The Beatles’ Let It Be from #1, and a few weeks later, The Love You Save replaced The Long And Winding Road.
This is real bubblegum soul music, both insanely catchy and seemingly simple, the songs are actually pretty intricate. Unlike their first album, which featured songs with much more mature material, this album’s tracks are similar lyrically to the title track. Reading the lyrics to ABC, you would think it was nothing more than a poem written by a 3rd grader. It takes real talent write and produce something so light and have it end up as something significant or silly. This album isn’t silly.
Ok, perhaps the inner sleeve is. Original period Motown albums all have printed inner sleeves featuring fan club news or new release ads. Jackson 5 inner sleeves though, took this to an all time high in a kitschy, Tito-Rific way. It remains unclear how many Soul-Mates Jermaine met or how many Marlon posters people paid $0.25 for, but reading one of these today is pretty great. Any Motown record is collectible, and double that for a Jackson 5 record. Because they weren’t usually bought by audiophiles, finding a decent one at a decent price is a challenge. There’s one less out there now!
Cost: $5, $117 Remaining
The Beatles, Introducing The Beatles, Vee Jay 1062, 1964
Whole books have been written about this album. Their themes deal with questions like: How did a small Mom & Pop Blues label from the South Side of Chicago wind up with a 5 year contract on The Beatles? How did Vee Jay Records manage to screw it all up so quickly? How many counterfeits were made of this record? And, why are there so many variations for this album’s track listing, outer jacket and record label?
I would imagine to find and buy all variations of Vee Jay 1062 would take a decade and thousands of dollars. An online source I just checked listed 16 cover variations and 31 label variations, and that’s just for legitimate copies. It would be nuts to try to figure out variations of fake VJ 1062 records made in the last 53 years. That guide tells me that this is a Version 2 (it includes Please Please Me and Ask Me Why, and not Love Me Do and P.S. I Love You) Mono cover with Please Please Me having a comma between the two Pleases.
The record is a version 2 mono copy, with the simple silver on black label, without a stylized Vee Jay logo or color band. It’s a fairly common combination, but I don’t care. No matter the version, this is a great, fun album to have in any collection. It’s the only album I know that features the songwriting team of “McCartney – Lennon”. And because the Vee Jay engineer didn’t know what to do with Paul’s “One Two Three FOUR!” count-in on the master tape of I Saw Her Standing There, and he apparently didn’t know how to edit very well, the album begins with Paul shouting “FOUR!” While it’s very easy to dismiss this album because all of the music has been reissued time and time again by EMI, I’d still call this record essential. Who cares if you get a fake one for $10!
Cost: $10, $225 Remaining
George Harrison, Somewhere In England, Dark Horse DHK-3492, 1981
George Harrison’s career had all but stalled by 1980. His custom label Dark Horse was distributed by Warner Brothers, and the early submission of this record was rejected for lack of commercial potential. In November, 1980, Ringo Starr came to Harrison’s home studio to collaborate on some songs for his next solo record. Harrison presented a nostalgic tune called All Those Years Ago to Ringo, but because it was too hard to sing, he rejected it. They did finish the backing track together though, and Harrison moved on to other songs.
A few weeks later John Lennon was murdered. Harrison, alone with his thoughts and an unfinished album, rewrote the lyrics to All Those Years Ago as a tribute song to Lennon. With Ringo’s percussion tracks already laid down, George asked Paul & Linda McCartney to come in and sing the background parts. With the three surviving Beatles all performing together on their first track since the I Me Mine session in 1970, suddenly Warner Brothers was very interested in the album. The public was too, and Harrison had his first big hit since 1973.
Despite the success, there’s still a touch of morbidity about the record. The other songs are paeans to God, tales of woe, or rants against the music business. It’s one of the easiest Harrison albums to find these days because it sold so well and 36 years on everyone who wants one already has it. I’m glad I have it, but I probably won’t play it more than once a decade.
Cost: $2, $235 Remaining
Peggy Lee, Latin Ala Lee, Capitol T-1290, 1960
I love a good Peggy Lee album, and this is one of her best. I already had this album, but when I saw it a a store with a bulk purchase scheme, in this case 5 albums for $10, and I had 9 chosen, I added it to my pile and quickly left. The jacket is in such good shape that I thought I could compare the one I had with this one and sleeve shift to create the best one from the two,
I’m not the only one who liked this album. Paul McCartney did too, and he learned The Beatles’ version of Till There Was You from this very record. While it’s hard to imagine The Beatles covering a Broadway show tune, Peggy Lee showed how to completely rearrange one into something uniquely hers. The Queen Mother herself applauded for The Beatles’ version when she heard it played live for her at the Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium.
Unfortunately, this was the record I spent $2 on. About 1/3 of its missing and it’s a cruel irony to read the original Capitol Records inner sleeve about “This Protective Envelope”. At least I got that and a near mint jacket. Sometimes one grades both sides of a record for how it plays, in this case, I would say that the right 2/3rds play much better than the left 1/3 does. As for me, I’m off to the tattoo parlor have “always look at a record before you buy it” placed on my arm.
Cost: $2, $243 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
Al Hirt, Honey In The Horn, RCA Victor LPM-2733, 1963
I do love a good Al Hirt record. While I’m clearly one of the few people to ever write that sentence (based on the price of his records today), I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s the thrill of finding a mint condition record for very little money that you have never head before and you completely fall in love with that I’m after, and the Used Instrumental bin is where I usually find them.
It’s not just that Al Hirt had some of the greatest nicknames this side of James Brown that makes me want to have all of his records. I really can’t tell you why The Round Mound Of Sound appeals to me so much. Al “He’s The King” Hirt made an amazing trumpet sound, and since “jumbo” was from New Orleans, he grew up learning from some the all-time jazz greats. That he recorded for RCA in the 50s and 60s makes his records all the more appealing to me, with them adding The Anita Kerr Singers to sing background parts with no lead vocals and enough echo to propel a Mardi Gras float down Bourbon Street.
This pristine $3 copy of his biggest selling record still wears its original shrink wrap. It’s not a particularly hard record to find, but I’ll buy virtually any record in this condition for that price. It’s just a bonus that I happen to really like it. Virtually everyone on Earth knows the hit Java, but not many people know that this album was one of two Hirt placed in the 1964 year end Top 10. That was the year of The Beatles, and this album peaked at #3 behind two Beatles albums.
Cost: $3, $265 Remaining
The Hollyridge Strings, Play The Beach Boys Song Book-Volume 2, Capitol ST-2749, 1967
As we learned back in December, The Hollyridge Strings were a Capitol Records studio orchestra that filled downtime at the studio by recording orchestral arrangements of other Capitol artists. The mostly re-recorded music by The Beatles, but “they” also issued cover albums by The Four Seasons, Elvis Presley, Nat King Cole, and yes, The Beach Boys.
Unlike the other artists, I suspect that Brian Wilson was thrilled to hear these orchestral versions of his creations. The same people that assisted him on his productions were the people behind The Hollyridge Strings, so it would be nice (!) to even sit in on the sessions for this album. This album is more interesting that the first Beach Boys Volume because five of the 12 selections come from the recently released Pet Sounds. It also includes California Girls, with its famous intro that Brian called his favorite composition.
Now, eagle eyed readers will look at this record and spot something…the record label says this is a Hollyridge Strings record, but the title is “The Beatles Songbook-Vol.5”. I was a little sad to see that, even though I don’t have Volume 5 of The Beatles songbook. But the record does indeed play The Beach Boys lineup from the cover. This, my friends, is whats called a label error, where the factory applied the wrong label to the record. They are very rare and often sell for twice what a correctly manufactured record would. That means this $1 purchase could be worth as much as $2!
Cost: $1, $386 Remaining
The Beatles, With Tony Sheridan & Their Guests, MGM E-4215, 1964
On June 22, 1961, in Hamburg Germany, Tony Sheridan recorded five songs backed up by a fellow English group he knew from the local club scene. The single My Bonnie did well enough in West Germany (#31), but it would be an unlikely candidate for a major label release in the US if it weren’t for the fact that the backing band was The Beatles. Actually, it still probably didn’t deserve a major label release. The songs are mainly public domain standards, with one incredible instrumental. Cry For A Shadow, originally recorded as The Beatle Bop, is the only song credited as written by John Lennon and George Harrison.
Naturally, there was no way that The Beatles would allow their image on a record that wasn’t really even theirs, so MGM, which licensed the Sheridan tracks from German Polydor came up with this bland green cover that screams THE BEATLES and adds a brief mention of the real artist Tony Sheridan “and their guests”. The “guests”, who are more like party crashers, are billed here as The Titans, but the tracks were released in 1961. As you can see, MGM did what most record companies did when an album had both stereo and mono versions. One extended cover “slick” was printed, and the appropriate edge was exposed, with the other edge covered by the back slick. Someone tore off the upper left corner of this mono record to expose the upside-down “stereo” printed on the front slick. It’s too bad, because real stereo copies of this album are very rare and worth hundreds of dollars.
There were other recordings made that day in Hamburg. With some extra time left in the session, The Ringo-less Beatles recorded four songs themselves. These got leased to Atco Records for yet another major label US release, with the single Ain’t She Sweet hitting the top 20. The two singles off this album My Bonnie and Why didn’t do as well, but these songs were issued countless times over the last 53 years. I suppose the same thing would have happened if MGM got their hands on a tape of John Lennon reading the phone book.
Cost: $5, $419 Remaining