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
The Beatles, Beatles ’65, Capitol T-2228, 1964
The Beatles. Like fine wine, their records are considered the gold standard, and the ’65 vintage ranks among the best. Of course, this is a kind of white zinfandel Beatles album. A melange of leftover grapes fused together to make something that would appeal to the masses. While The Beatles were fine winemakers, personally crafting their records for the tastes of their fans, it didn’t always work out that way for their worldwide audience.
Whole books have been written about the group’s records and how they came to be. Suffice to say that they were very serious about giving their fans their money’s worth, never putting the songs from their singles on their albums, and putting 14 songs on every album. Record companies like Capitol felt differently, and they quickly realized that by adding the singles and shortening the albums, they could release more “new” albums than the group ever imagined. Beatles ’65 is one of the better Capitol creations, but its just a happy accident.
Of course, growing up with these records, I know their track listings by heart, When the group’s catalogue came out on CD in 1987, they were only released in the original UK format, meaning most of this record’s songs are found on Beatles For Sale. I don’t particularly care for that record, while I love Beatles ’65. In any case, I feel lucky to find a Very Good copy of this record for $4. Like my best bottles of wine, I’ll play it only on special occasions.
Cost: $4, $526 Remaining
Bing Crosby, Hey Jude Hey Bing!, Amos AAS-7001, 1968
Its got to be hard to tell someone that just because they can do something, it doesn’t mean they should do something. And by something I mean this album.
Bing Crosby has his first hit record in 1926. His last non-Christmas re-release to chart came in 1957. Its safe to say that by late 1968, he was not very relevant to the record buying public. Then why bother to go though this routine? Honestly, its as bad as it looks, with Der Bingo crooning his way through the year’s biggest hits. He absolutely massacres Hey Jude, someone who has never heard of him would absolutely believe that this was a joke recording. The album’s wikipedia page ends with a prophetic “The album was never released on CD”. Shocking…
Amos Records was a short lived label created by Jimmy Bowen. He worked for Frank Sinatra’s Reprise Records and left to form Amos with the hope of selling records recorded by people like Bing Crosby that once had major record deals but lost them due to failing sales. People like Frankie Laine, Mel Carter, Frankie Avalon and Johnny Tillotson all records for Amos. This was the company’s first release and as far as I can tell it’s only record to hit the charts. One glorious week at #162 made this Bing’s last charting album of newly recorded music.
Cost: $3, $533 Remaining
George Martin, Off The Beatle Track, United Artists UAS 6377, 1964
The Beatles didn’t have to look over their shoulders for someone trying to cash in on their fame. Their own producer George Martin jumped on the bandwagon too! In fairness, this record came about through The Beatles three picture film deal. United Artists took a chance on The Beatles before they even had a hit in the United States to make some low budget movies with the promise of getting a soundtrack album for their fledgling record label. It was a great strategy, as the A Hard Day’s Night soundtrack sold in the millions (and the film became the most profitable film of the year).
While The Beatles probably exceeded their contract by coming up with a whole album of new music, half of which never made it into the film, UA had all of the incidental and background music that did make it in. So why not try to sell that too and let Mr. Martin take the credit? This was actually a warm up record, with the movie music coming out later. Off The Beatle Track was the title George Martin suggested to The Beatles for their first UK album, so even the title was a re-tread here.
The Beatles actually seemed fine with the arrangement, mostly because it kept these orchestrated arrangements off of their real albums. But when the time came to fulfill their contact with a third film, there wasn’t much enthusiasm for it. When they found out they could farm it out to animation producers who would use voice actors to play The Beatles, the Yellow Submarine film was born. There also wasn’t much enthusiasm for a whole album of new music for it, so the Yellow Submarine album has four “new” Beatles songs, plus a few old ones used in the film, and a whole side of George Martin instrumental music that apparently drove John Lennon crazy.
Cost: $10, $560 Remaining
The Music Company, Rubber Soul Jazz, Mirwood MW-7002, 1966
It’s hard to say who’s idea this was. The Music Company seems to be just a collection of the famed Wrecking Crew, session musicians who recorded on virtually every hit record that came out of LA for 30 years. Being session musicians who got paid to show up and record, they wouldn’t have come up with this idea on their own.
There are the liner notes written by Al “Jazzbeau” Collins, a legendary San Francisco disc jockey who made KSFO “the world’s greatest radio station” with a mixture of jazz, pop and rock for discerning audiences. He would be the perfect choice to present a record like this, it would be his fans that this record was made for. But to my knowledge, he never went into the record business outside of producing local concerts in the Bay Area.
It must have been the concept of Mirwood Records, a short lived LA based jazz-pop label run by the elusive Randy Wood. He was one of the forces at Vee-Jay Records when they had both The Four Seasons and The Beatles under contract. But when that empire came crashing down, he moved west and started Mirwood in Los Angeles. No matter whose idea it was, this is a great record. I love anything the Wrecking Crew recorded, and they were probably working on this at the same time as they were recording the tracks for The Beach Boys Pet Sounds. This a pretty rough copy, but it’s something I’m going to keep looking for.
Cost: $1, $570 Remaining