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
Traffic, John Barleycorn Must Die, United Artists UAS-5504, 1970
The era of the Anglo-American super group was in full swing by 1970. Like conference realignment in college sports, once the teams star switching around, it takes a while for the dust to settle. The Hollies and The Byrds may not have had much in common, but their cast offs created some really great music together. This album could be one of the more wacky combinations of them all.
Steve Winwood was the teenaged lead singer for The Spencer Davis Group. He quickly left to form Traffic, which had immediate success before breaking up in 1969. Winwood joined Blind Faith with Eric Clapton for their one terrific album. The plan for this album was for it to be Steve Winwood’s first solo record. But when he showed the first few tunes to some of his old Traffic bandmates, they decided to re-form and finish the record as a Traffic album.
I just wish it was a better record. It isn’t bad per se, but there’s no hidden gems or hit singles. There are only six songs, but they’re all really long and border on freeform improvisation. Because of the band’s reputation, it sold really well, peaking at #5 and being certified Gold, but because it kinda stinks, it’s a very easy record to find today. It sold as well as the average Led Zeppelin album, but people actually want those records and not this one. I’ll give it a listen every n ow and then, but John Barleycorn really did die here.
Cost: $2, $387 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
Elmer Bernstein, The Music From Marlboro Country, Special Products Division Of United Artists SP-107, 1967
I’ve seen old ads for Marlboro, from the era when it was considered a women’s cigarette. I’m not sure when the big switch happened, but this album certainly came out in the era of The Marlboro Man.
It’s really nothing more than several variations of the theme from The Magnificent Seven. Was that the background music for their TV ads? I’m thankfully too young to really know, and I don’t care enough to look it up. But I could certainly see a smoking cowboy riding across the plains to it. Perhaps not the Bossa Nova version, but still.
I love corporate give away records. Just smoke a carton or two of Marlboro and give the company your personal information, and you get a record that you’d probably never listen to! They turn up in flea markets and Goodwill bins, usually in very good shape, because, really. It’s the kind of record from a bygone era that people love to hear now and unleash their inner Don Draper.
Cost: $3, $769 Remaining