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 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
Gary LeMel, The Gary LeMel Album, Vee Jay VJS-1129, 1965
I had never heard of Gary LeMel when I found this record. The liner notes on the back told me that he was 25 years old in 1965, and single. He was a nightclub singer who was born in England but grew up in Arizona. The songs on his album were a mix of pop standards and fairly current hits. There’s not much more information about him online other than he became a hugely successful label executive for Casablanca, Boardwalk, Warner Brothers and Columbia Records.
I certainly did enjoy the record. Not as in I felt moved by his music, but rather than this is literally listening to the worst hotel act ever. Like a serious version of Bill Murray’s Nick The Lounge Singer. There’s the spoken word intro On Broadway, and enough “Hey”s, “Yeah”s and “Whoa”s to keep any mid century modern fan happy.
No, I shelled out 100 pennies for this treasure because it came out on Vee Jay Records. Yes, I bought this for the label. The mint condition inner sleeve didn’t hurt, but I try to buy anything from Vee Jay. They were the small independent Chicago based R&B label that somehow or another had The Four Seasons and The Beatles signed to multi year contracts and managed to screw it all up and go bankrupt. The Gary LeMel Album came out about a year before they turned out the lights, so the inner sleeve promotes the few Four Seasons records they still had the rights to release, but nothing from The Beatles. In fact, their discography shows only 18 albums, mostly greatest hits packages and foreign releases, so it’s pretty obvious that there were problems. But it makes it totally understandable why they would release a record like this.
Cost: $1, $748 Remaining