Thursday, August 28, 2008

Different Sides of Record Collecting:
Some of the oddball bits o'vinyl in my heap...
Ever since I was a kid, I used to like to go into thrift stores and second hand shops, where I could get records cheap...what a deal it was, to get a record for a nickel or a quarter, and prices aren't really that much different today; depending on where you go, you can still score vinyl for 50 cents or a dollar. I've found a lot of records in great shape, as if people were dumping their long-cherished vinyl collections and converting to CD or later formats. And I've found lots of great used vinyl over the years. The Thrill Of The Hunt, as applied to record bins. I still remember finding an almost-mint copy of a Beatles album for fifty cents. I just about had a heart attack right then and there at St. Vinnie's.
Once, a record shop owner told me, "record collecting isn't a hobby, it's a disease", and I think he's right. In my case, it's terminal. I'm still buying old vinyl discs which I haven't heard yet...and sometimes, it's actually the 'oddball' stuff that catches my eye: You probably remember Bobby Sherman, the teen-idol on such old TV shows as "Here Comes The Bride"; he had big early '70s hits, like "Little Woman", "Easy Come, Easy Go" and "Julie Do Ya Love Me". Hey, I like good pop songs; I don't care who they're by. And I really liked the strong brass arrangement on "Little Woman". Of course, the B-side of the record could sometimes be a delight, or something unusual, and in this case, this B-side definitely was...

When I first saw this B-side, I thought it had an unusual title. And I looked under the title of the song, where the writer's credit is, and there it says "B. Dylan". Back then, I hadn't heard a whole lot of Dylan stuff, other than "Like A Rolling Stone" which had been on the radio several years earlier. So here it is, folks, Bobby Sherman singing a Bob Dylan song, "One Too Many Mornings". Hearing Bobby Sherman doing Dylan is almost as strange as hearing Bing Crosby singing "Hey Jude" (which he actually does; I have the record!).
You might remember that even way back in the '60s, the two big Cola makers, Coca-Cola and Pepsi were doing battle, trying to get folks to drink their cola, because after all, their cola is the BEST...personally, I'm a Pepsi person. Coke is okay in a pinch, but I'm a member of the "Pepsi Generation". I remember back in the '80s, when Coke began selling "Classic Coke", which was the Original Coke, and they came out with a New Coke, which to me, tasted like Pepsi! Boy, were cola drinkers in the nation up in arms over that. Getting back to Pepsi, here's a record I won on a radio contest a long time ago, way, waay back in the '60s...

So when Diet Pepsi came on the scene back in the early '60s, commercials showing young sleek beauties in swimsuits drinking the stuff were plastered all over yer TV screen, the implication of course, being that, "hey, if you wanna look like THIS, you'll drink THIS"..."You can be skinny as we are, if you drink DIET PEPSI"...and a catchy little tune called "Music To Watch Girls go By" (which sounds to me that it's by The Tijuana Brass), supplied the background music. Pop singer Andy Williams came out with an underwhelming Vocal version, which wasn't his best tune ever; it's got too many words crammed into the space of a short song.
This next record release was probably just the thing bird owners were looking for, back in the '60s. Wanna teach yer parakeet how to talk? Well, all you have to do is get your bird to sit still long enough to listen to the record, and try to learn by it himself, because you could follow the instructions on the record and say "Pretty Bird, Want A Cracker?" fifty million times, and your parakeet would still be sitting in the cage thinking to himself, "what strange noise is that person making, and why doesn't he shut up and bring me some more FOOD?"

Hartz Mountain released this "Parakeet Training Record" way back when; on the label, in addition to a picture of a Parakeet in a mortarboard-type Graduation cap, are the immortal words, "A Hartz Mountain Release". On the record, a comely female voice says things like "pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, want a cracker? want a cracker? want a cracker?", while the announcer-guy says, "a special kind of voice, clear with diction and ripe with enunciation can better teach your bird to talk" or some such thing. At the end of the record are actual recordings of a parakeet trying to talk. I say "Trying" because the bird, after all that training work, is still hard to understand. It's much easier to sleeve the record, stuff it back into the record collection, give the bird some food, and walk away.

For those who are looking for something different in their Musical Diet: In their day, they were Hot Stuff. These were Some Heavy guys. Some of the instruments in their repertoire include bicycle horns, washboard, shakers, whistles and duck calls, as well as 4-string rhythm guitar, clarinet and stand-up bass. You guessed it (or not)'s Hezzie, Ken, Gil and Gabe, the HOOSIER HOT SHOTS, a novelty band whose '78s were really popular in the 1940's, and sang all kinds of goofy songs which the public ate up like flapjacks on a 30-below-zero winter morning. Later on, after record albums first hit the scene, little budget labels that sold records at astronomically low prices snapped up a lot of these old acts, most of whom were past their prime, but still, these cheapo albums with newer recordings sure sounded a lot better than the old original '78s in terms of sound quality...

Are You Ready, Hezzie? Here they are, the Hoosier Hot Shots, issued on the cheapo-cheapo "Tops" label, in all their glory, doing such masterpieces as "I Like Bananas Because They Have No Bones", "Them Hillbillies Are Mountain Willies Now" and "Meet Me By The Ice House, Lizzie", and this album probably came out in the early 50's, because it features an oval takeup groove, like you find on the old '78s, where the groove going up to the label would actually cause the tone arm to swing back and forth. (Never could understand why oval takeup grooves were used.) Later on, some of this material was used on another, shorter, Hoosier Hot Shots album. I know this, because for some reason, I got a Hoosier Hot Shots album for Christmas back in the '60s. It was on the world-famous "Spin-O-Rama" label, and featured 8 of the 12 songs that were on the Hot Shots album pictured above.

I noticed back in the 60s and 70s, when a group Really Got Famous, the record company sometimes would issue that group's records on a Vanity Label, featuring a design totally different from the standard label which the Record Company commonly used. For example, in the 1970's, after the group Chicago (who recorded on Columbia, the company with the Red Label) got really, really big, their record labels began to use the Cover Photos on the record label. Pictured Below, at left, is "Chicago V" (one of their best albums) from 1972, which featured "Saturday In The Park"; the cover showed a 'wood-cut' version of the Chicago logo, and that cover design made it inside, to the record label itself...

But, it turns out that Vanity Record Labels were being used long before the 1960s. Below, I have a record by Paul Whiteman, a hugely popular bandleader back in the "Roaring" 1920's; this record was issued in Australia of all places (don't know if it was released in the U.S. in this form), and, it's also a Columbia Record. Columbia's '78s back in those old days usually employed a black label, but this label is just a wee-bit different...

Really catchy label design, huh? And that's definitely Paul Whiteman's likeness on the label. On this record, Mr. Whiteman advises you to "Get Out and Get Under The Moon", although he does it in instrumental fashion; several vocal versions of this long-forgotten song came out around the same time this record was released. I bought some '78s from a guy in Australia, and he included this record FREE on my Ebay order, which I thot was kinda cool.

Finally, we arrive back in the '60s from our trip into the Roaring Twenties...imagine yourself sitting at breakfast, slurping up your Kookie Chocolate Sugar-Frosted Crunchy Cubes or whatever went into your cereal bowl. And as you turned the cereal box around to read the cartoons or whatever went onto the back of those boxes, instead, THIS is what you saw...

...yep, an Actual RECORD, featuring the ARCHIES (that world-famous cartoon group that didn't really exist) on the back of that cereal box! Trouble was, you had to eat bowls and bowls of your Kamikaze Crispy-Crunchy Sugar-injected Krackle-puffs before the box was empty, at which point you could take out the ol' scissors and cut the record (which was laminated with a thin sheet of plastic) from the back of the box. The record label would often advise you, "if record slips on turntable, tape a nickel, or a quarter, or an old DC battery label to surface to insure proper play". You could then play the record 3 or 4 times before it wore thru to the cardboard. Ironic, that on the back of the cereal box, is a record by the Archies, who's biggest hit was, "SUGAR, SUGAR".

With my goofy little digital cam, perhaps I'll do more of these weird postings using photos taken deep inside the cavernous dungeons which comprise my record collection. But I'm done with this one. I'm typing this in the daytime. I think I'll follow Paul Whiteman's advice, and "Get Out There And Get Under The Sun"...


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