What 365 albums look like.
That is 2 full shelves of a Billy Bookshelf by IKEA, plus 62 album improperly stored on the top shelf, plus the first, last and a personal favorite from the past year. I promise that I only set the 62 albums down on their sides for a minute for the photograph and then properly stored them on the lower shelf. I just spent a year creating this collection, there is no way I want them to start getting ring wear now!
I know virtually everyone in the record world today is talking about the 50th anniversary of the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, but I went record shopping and spent my last dollar on Mrs. Miller’s Greatest Hits. Very few people celebrated the 51st anniversary of this record last month, and I wanted this blog to be more about the Mrs. Millers of the world. If you’ve never heard this record, please know that your $1 copy is out there somewhere, and it will make a nice warm up to a Florence Foster Jenkins watch party.
I never got to do a theme week of classic soul albums that used stock photos of white people to sell records.
I never got to show the lengths some people went to sell records, even when they had no business being in the record business.
I never got to do a side by side comparison of two records and poll my readers on which record was scarier. The answer would have interesting.
I do the warning label on the Falwell record though. Keep away from Excessive Heat like molten rivers of lava, swarms of locusts and plagues.
But I think I did manage to avoid a cheesy ending. Record collecting is a lifetime pursuit for me, and a lifetime pursuit doesn’t end after one year. I still have the first records I bought with my own money 40 years ago, and I hope I’ll be collecting for 40 more. From time to time, I’ll be blogging about my finds, so, please stay tuned.
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
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
Ray Stevens, Everything Is Beautiful, Barnaby Z12-35005, 1970
Ray Stevens sure has had a career. After all, how many novelty acts are in the Christian Music Hall Of Fame? Able to top the R&B, Pop and Country charts, win Grammys, and have a network TV show, you’d think he’d be regarded as a household name. But probably due to the natural life span of a mostly novelty hit career and a notorious reputation of being a difficult person to do business with tend to keep him as an afterthought today.
This was probably his signature non-novelty record. If there’s one thing Ray Stevens has, it’s a sense of timing. It’s not everyone that could release a memorable Streaking record the week after a guy streaked on live TV at The Oscars. Chosen to host the summer replacement show for Andy Williams in 1970, Ray wrote Everything Is Beautiful for the show’s theme song and it took of like wildfire on the pop charts. It came along at a time when semi-christian themes we’re popping up in the Top 40, and it sounded wonderful next to Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit In The Sky and Ocean’s Put Your Hand In The Hand. Besides the #1 hit title track, the rest of the album is an odd mix of Rock hits of the day, and Ray Stevens is no Joe Cocker when it comes to them.
Barnaby Records was Andy Williams’ own label. Named for his dog, Williams only really started a record company because he bought the master tapes of the defunct Cadence Records to avoid a competitor from snapping them up, re-releasing them, and competing with his new Columbia recordings. Ray Stevens had the only real hits the label ever released. I suppose the next time I’ll listen to this record will be to calm down after Ray Stevens goes on another public rant about health care reform or climate change to remind myself that everyone is beautiful in their own way.
Cost: $2, $218 Remaining
Rick Nelson, Spotlight On Rick, Decca DL-4608, 1965
The Adventures Of Ozzie & Harriet was wrapping up its 14th season in early 1965 when this album came out. It was 8 years since Rick Nelson’s first hit, and 50 hit came in those 8 years. In 1963, Decca Records singed the hitmaker to a 20 year contract, but the show and the hits were drying up. The one single from this record, A Happy Guy only climbed to #82, and the album failed to chart.
That’s not to say it’s not a good record. Of all the teen idols who gained fame because of their parents, Nelson is among the most talented and creative of all of them. Ask Quentin Tarantino who used Nelson tracks on his hipster (and million selling) soundtrack albums. And, with 2-3 album releases a year for years, there are plenty of Nelson albums to pick up for very little money.
You can often find amazing records for next to nothing if you get out of the main bins of a record store. I found this mint condition original in an Oldies bin buried in the corner of a huge San Francisco record store. While you find Beatles and Beach Boys albums recorded years before this album was in the Rock section, the slightly less cool artists sometimes get demoted to bins with Connie Francis and Billy Vaughn records. But hey, their loss is my $3 gain.
Cost: $3, $245 Remaining
Sonny & Cher, Live In Las Vegas Vol. 2, MCA2-8004, 1974
There are 1001 books out there on the 1001 most essential records every vinyl fan must have to be considered a serious collector. Beatles records, Bob Dylan’s 60s albums, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, and The Rolling Stones all have multiple entries on these lists. Good condition original copies of these records are very expensive, averaging up to $40 each for records that virtually everyone already knows by heart. Songs from these albums get airplay on the radio everyday, and they languish on lists of best selling digital downloads. These are not obscure records.
This album isn’t on any of these kinds of lists. It spent a few weeks on the Billboard Top 200 album chart, climbing all the way to #175. With their hugely public split about to occur in 1974, this was the last album of new material of Sonny & Cher’s long career. Even though it’s mostly just an album of cover material, you get a sense of what a Vegas ballroom show was like in 1973.
So, while no one will ever call this an essential record, it is a fun one. When I ‘m making dinner or something, I’m much more likely to reach for a record like this than I am Dark Side Of The Moon. When friends come over and want to see my new discoveries, I pull out Sonny & Cher Live In Las Vegas Vol. 2 every time over The Velvet Underground. It’s fun records like this that I find essential, and I can have 1001 of them for the same price as the top 50 critically acclaimed records.
Cost: $1, $264 Remaining
The Smothers Brothers, Live At The Purple Onion, Mercury SR-60611, 1961
The Smothers Brothers began their long fruitful career in 1958 at San Francisco’s The Purple Onion. The same small beatnik coffeehouse launched the careers of The Kingston Trio and Phyllis Diller, and this record is both of it’s time and ahead of it’s time for where The Brothers took musical comedy in the 60s. They sing some of the the same folk songs as The Kingston Trio, but there’s a bite to them that is missing from the trio’s #1 albums for Capitol.
But this really isn’t an update on the nature of the record, I’m writing today to show the lengths record companies went to to sell two different kinds of records. Record sleeves of the classic vinyl era were made of cardboard that was then covered with what was called a cover slick. It was more economical to produce a color front slick with a black and white rear cover slick. But, because albums were released in both mono and stereo formats, front cover slicks had to differentiate between the two.
The easiest thing to do was design an elongated front cover slick, with this record being a prime example. The top edge would scream that this was a stereo record, suitable for those who had the money to invest in a true stereo sound system and pay 10% more to buy stereo records. The bottom part of the front slick would be reserved for the more economical mono record purchaser. The sort of Chevy Biscayne driving record buyer who’s home player was “affordable” or only had one speaker. The record company could then fold either appropriate edge onto the back of the cardboard sleeve and cover the non applicable part with the back cover slick. This Mercury jacket shows how easy it was to do. Plus, I get to choose between stereo or mono when I need to hear The Smothers Cover of Tom Dooley.
Cost: $2, $270 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 Partridge Family, Up To Date, Bell 6059, 1971
The Partridge Family, a nominees for Best New Artist at the 1971 Grammy Awards, were hot when this, their second album came out. David Cassidy was on his way to a brief stint as the leading national teen idol, and the records flew off the shelves. It was all fake in reality, but this record hit #3 as the TV show wrapped up its first season.
Like most teen idol records, this one is geared to appeal to the fans. In this case, 14 year old girls. For the first time, David Cassidy sings every lead, instead of the anonymous studio singers that sung half of the first album. He even got his first writing credit, but it was the two top 10 hits I’ll Meet You Halfway and Doesn’t Somebody Want To Be Wanted that really pushed the album’s sales. The latter song was absolutely hated by Cassidy and the show’s production was halted so producers and lawyers could convince him that he had to sing it, cheesy spoken interlude included.
Besides the hits and the dimples. what also was included was a cool custom Partridge Family text book cover! I had no idea that it did, but lo and behold, this pristine copy was neatly tucked inside this $2 copy. Usually, inserts like this got used or pinned up on a wall, so finding one in mint condition is pretty rare.
Cost: $2, $291 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