Introducing…

On December 10th 1964 Beatles fans across America were treated to the first long playing album of the The Fab Four in this country:

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No not that one! That one would come out ten days later. This album, Introducing… The Beatles (England’s No.1  Vocal Group) was rushed out by Chicago record label Vee-Jay, launching a months long soap opera of legal wrangling, backroom deals and giving birth to an underground counterfeit operation that lasted well into the 70s.

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The story goes like this: The Beatles recording company, EMI, had a top 20 hit in the UK with the song Love Me Do. But British acts weren’t selling outside of Great Britain. EMI subsidiaries (like Capital Records in the US), downright refused to issue these Beatles singles in the States.

Another EMI affiliate started shopping The Beatles around to other US record companies. Several labels passed before Vee-Jay records, known mostly for their R&B and gospel lineup, signed the deal.

Ironically, The Beatles were tacked on to the deal that Vee-Jay really wanted. There was a singer named Frank Ifield who Vee-Jay wanted to release in the US and the EMI deal made them except the Beatles as well.

Vee-Jay received both stereo and mono master tapes from the current UK Beatles album Please Please Me. Rather than  just issue the Please Please Me album, Vee-Jay released several Beatles singles in 1963… but none of them got any real traction on the charts.

Vee-Jay eventually settled on the track listing that became Introducing… and begin preparations for a July 1963 release of the LP.

Also during this time, Vee-Jay’s president got into some gambling debt and started pilfering money from the label to cover those. This threw the operation into turmoil and some shady business practices on the part of Vee-Jay got them into some trouble with the EMI and their contract was deemed null and void.

With the popularity of The Beatles now growing worldwide, Capitol Records decided it was time to jump on The Beatles band wagon. Capital announced plans to  release a Beatles album,  sponsor an advertising Blitz  to herald Beatlemania into the States and The Beatles  got a booking on The Ed Sullivan Show for February 1964. Vee-Jay, strapped for cash but sitting on this treasure trove of Beatles material in its vault, decided to rush out their album Introducing… just edging out the official Capital release of Meet The Beatles.

Within days Vee-Jay had ordered all three of its processing plants to start pressing the Introducing… album. Even though the pressing masters were assembled and the front cover was ready, Vee-Jay had not decided on a back cover for the album. They got around this problem by first duplicating the inner sleeve on the outer cover and, when those ran out, just printing a plain white rear cover with nothing on it! Finally official rear cover was designed and produced. It was just simple white with two columns of black text identifying the songs on the record.

Less than a week after Vee-Jay released Introducing… they were served with a restraining order. It seems that in their haste to capitalize on the latest Beatles hit, Love Me Do, they included that song and its B-side, PS I Love You, on initial runs of Introducing…, two songs did not have the rights to!

A version 2 was developed, replacing the two songs with Ask Me Why and Please Please Me, which they had already released as singles.

The legal battles continued through most of 1964, with restraining orders and injunctions issued by Capital, counter suits by Vee-Jay, and Vee-Jay furiously printing records in the lull periods to get around these legal problems.

Finally a settlement was reached in which Vee-Jay could issue any of the Beatles songs under its control in any way they saw fit into October 1964 at which point Capitol Records would regain control.

All these shenanigans amounted to lax consistency standards at dozens of pressing/printing plants resulting in numerous different label configurations on Introducing…

All together, it is estimated that there were just over 1.3 million copies of Introducing… released by Vee-Jay. The vast majority of these were in the monophonic format with less than 50,000 stereophonic copies printed and sold. The scarcity of original pressing of this album made it a ripe target for counterfeiters trying to make a fast buck on record collectors.

As early as the late 60s, counterfeit copies of Introducing… were showing up on the market. Most were fakes of the rare stereo version first pressing which included the songs Love Me Do and PS I Love You. This counterfeiting went on through the 70s, purportedly with mob connections attached. It is estimated that Introducing… was counterfeited millions of times over the years. Some estimates I’ve seen believe that there are at least 10 fakes on the market for every legit copy.

There were several “tells” that an astute observer could look for to separate the fakes from the real deal.

Originals had covers with glossy paper both front and back. The printing was sharp and clear and the sleeves were grey or brown cardboard with quarter-inch flaps holding the back side to the front side. The front cover photo had a shadow of George in the background on the right side of the record. Counterfeit versions often had blotchy printing on the rear cover, especially in the word “Honey” in the song title for A Taste Of Honey.

Label variations and disc printing of the vinyl record itself was even more telling. The album title “Introducing the Beatles” and the artist “The Beatles” both have to appear above spindle hole. If the title and artist are separated by the spindle hole, your record is a fake. Labels needed to be gloss or semi-gloss with rainbow colored bands and bright sharp silver print. The color band is especially important as many fakes have it ragged, offset or forgetting the color green all together. The dead wax of all originals is 1 inch or less in thickness, many counterfeits had more than 1 inch thick dead wax. Also in the dead wax were matrix numbers both scribed and machine stamped on originals where as counterfeits don’t have any machine stamping.

Finally, the biggest tell of all was in listening to the record. Due to the fact that the stereo version was most rare, most counterfeits pretend to be the stereo version. If your record does not say stereo on the label or does not play in stereo when the cover purports to be a stereo record, it is fake. Finally, an original is a pretty good sounding record! (even better than the corresponding Capital releases) The fakes I’ve heard sound like poo!

I have two copies of this album in the collection, one real stereo version and one awesome counterfeit. Can you tell the difference?

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Front covers

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Rear covers

There are many other variations too including some black label pressings.

The best of source I’ve found for identifying Introducing… the Beatles is this awesome site: http://rarebeatles.com/photospg/introvj.htm

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I Read The News Today,Oh Boy!

45 years ago today, January 7, 1972, in the British weekly paper The St. Cleve Chronicle & Linwell Advertiser, a scandal was revealed.

The Society for Literary Advancement and Gestation (SLAG) reversed their previous decision and stripped young Gerald Bostock of his first place prize in the Literary Competition.

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The distinguished SLAG committee reconvened a panel of judges and held an inquiry with child psychiatrists. These psychiatrists found that “Little Milton’s” work was “extremely unwholesome toward life his God and Country“.

the riveting lead story in this week’s SCC&LA in no way detracts from other important stories of the era including non-rabbits, unfinished wars, emperor penguins (stuffed or whole) and numerous people dying on Christmas.

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Environmental protests, sand castle magic, wedding announcements and recipes don’t take a backseat either!

And of course there’s a crossword and a connect the dots… for the children.

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To say that the major beat group Jethro Tull had a one-track mind when recording “Little Milton’s” poem would be an understatement.

Great Voice In The Sky

Every once in awhile you will be listening to some piece of music… a new album, an old friend, or getting into the back catalogue of an artist that you already know when, out of blue, comes a sound that absolutly floors you! A voice so perfect that it makes your heart skip a beat.

It demands your full attention. Conversation is paused. Work stops. Drowsiness  retreats toward lucidity. If driving, you must pull over.

My first experience with this phenomenon came while listening to the Pink Floyd album Dark Side of the Moon. It was probably the first time I’d heard the record, lifted from an older brother’s bedroom at a friend’s house one summer afternoon.

It was the end of side one, which we had listened to second in order to get at the good stuff on side two first. There was a slow part with some random voices saying God knows what and then Boom! The Voice!

After the chills subsided, all of us goosebump covered pre-teen boys looked at the wide-eyed friend next to us and mouthed “what the fuck!” in unison.

It turns out the voice belongs to a woman named Clare Torry, uncredited on the DSOTM album, and, unfathomably, somewhat lost to obscurity thereafter.

I’d have never known this except for the fact that Torry sued the band in 2004 for songwriting royalties and settled in 2005, ever after being credited with co-songwriting lyrics for Great Gig In The Sky with Richard Wright.

Torry did have a career as a successful session / backup singer for most of the seventies and eighties, singing a lot of jingles, TV theme songs and what not. She did manage one 2006 release of original material on an album but it was not critically acclaimed.

I dove into my record collection to find any other vocals by Clare Torry. Other than DSOTM, my finds were the Alan Parsons Project Eve album where Torry sings lead vocals on the song Don’t Hold Back. The Meatloaf album Bad Attitude from the mid-eighties where Torry sings on two songs, Modern Girl and (uncreadited again, WTF?!?) Nowhere Fast,  backing vocals on the Culture Club song The War Zone (very GGITS-like) and a Tangerine Dream record called Le Parc where Torry’s vocal can be heard on the final track Yellowstone Park.

Honestly, none of the above rose to the level of Great Gig In The Sky, but the essence of that performance remains intact.

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So, happy belated birthday to Clare Torry, who turned 69 on November 29th.

 

 

Pour Some Shuggie On Me

On November 30th one of my new musical crushes turned 63… Johnny Alexander Veliotes, Jr., also known as Shuggie Otis.

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My introduction to Mr. Otis came in a box of musty unloved vinyl records at a thrift store in a small town in the North Idaho Panhandle. I’ve never heard the name Shuggie Otis before and I’m sure he had never heard of me either!

Once I got it home and cleaned up, I was startled at how funky and fresh this 1974 album, Inspiration Information, sounded. It’s laid-back without being lazy, inventive arrangements sometimes layered with lush strings, sometimes with electric organ or horns, one song calling you out on the dance floor the next inviting you back to the couch to chill.

Credits on the back cover show that Otis played every instrument that’s not a horn! He also produced and arranged all of these tracks.

I was sold! I needed more…

It turns out that this is an easy artist to collect! Shuggie only put out three studio albums, but, owing to the admiration of more recent success stories like Prince, David Byrne and Lenny Kravitz, they’ve all been reissued!

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So, happy birthday Shuggie Otis! I’ll be on the lookout for some of your other work with your father’s band and other collaborations that exist out there on vinyl. Until then, best wishes and thanks for these three great records!

Buyer Beware

Last weekend I attended my first ever record fair (or record “show” as they call them here in the US).

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It was in a section of North Seattle known as Lake City, a four and a half hour drive from my home.

Not only did I attend this record show I participated as a seller!

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I’ve always been interested in attending one of these events. And following some blogs here on WordPress got me more excited! Unfortunately there were none to be had in my area which is why we made the trip to the wet side of the state.

I had been gearing up for this event for months. Through summer and fall I dug up as many decent vinyl records as I could find. From The pedestrian to the exotic, I found around a thousand LPS and countless 7 inch singles to use as my inventory.

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Many of the more valuable or desirable albums I kept in my own collection. Some were listed for online sales and some turned out to be better copies of things that I already owned (upgrade!)

Last Saturday, inventory secured and plans made, we headed west to the big city to make our millions.

It all started off well enough. Meeting a friend for dinner and drinks in an area known as Ballard, we visited a record store called Bop Street Records. The friendly proprietor, named Dave, gave us the grand tour and some good conversation. When I told him that I was in town for this record show he was immediately interested in my inventory. I pulled the boxes of 45s out of the truck and let him have first dibs.

After a bit of negotiation we settled on a deal; $100 for all!

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My first sale, sweet!

Load-in for the record show itself was 8 a.m. Sunday morning. The event was scheduled from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., but there was a pesky football game in the early afternoon that I figured would cut into attendance.

What I wasn’t expecting was the feeding frenzy that took place minutes after we walked in the door!

Other dealers and sellers were picking through our crates of stuff before we even had a chance to set up. Vultures!

In fact, the busiest hours of the whole day were between 8 and 10 a.m.! After 10 a.m., members of the general public started filtering in to sample the already picked through remains.

We started off at a reasonable set price of $5 per record. After things started to slow down we begin decrease in the price to finally end up at $2 per record as the show came to a close.

Other sellers followed suit and we were able to score some bargains for ourselves as well!

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Just a sample 

All in all, we probably broke even. We sold enough records to pay for the trip and added a few records to the collection.

We made some good contacts and met some nice people along the way. Will we ever do this again? I learned a lot and would do some things differently next time, but it was a blast so yes!

Maybe it’s time for a Spokane record fair?

Cindrumella Story

On November 20th 1973, rock and roll fantasy became reality.

That was the day that the Who opened their US Quadrophenia tour at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

From the “truth is stranger than fiction” archives, the story goes that Keith Moon, suffering from stage fright, took a handful of pills that turned out to be horse tranquilizers and washed them down with a bottle of brandy.

Somewhere during first set, Moon passed out face first on his drumset.

Revived after several minutes, but still shaky, Moon proceeded to pass out again during the next song!

Frustrated, Pete Townsend asked the crowd if anyone there knew how to play drums. Hands were raised and a lucky Cinderella was chosen from the masses to sit in with one of the most influential bands of all time.

This real life Cinderella’s name was Scot Halpin. Although the story has morphed over time, the fact remains that Halpin did sit in Keith Moon’s chair at that infamous concert and play drums with the Who for a couple of songs!

Sadly, Halpin died from a brain tumor in 2008. How this story has not been made into a movie is beyond me!

Here’s the proof:

Both Sides of the River

One of the most interesting aspects of collecting vintage vinyl records has been my introduction to new-to-me artists.

Some names I would recognize but realize I was unfamiliar with their music. People like Jesse Colin Young and Jerry Jeff Walker. Even Jethro Tull, who I had a “greatest hits” relationship with, has surprised me with the beauty of their lesser known material…

And, for a buck or less, why not take a chance on some new-to-you artist?

That’s how I came across the album River by Terry Reid… yard sale, $0.50 per album, decent shape, why not?

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Home, cleaned and spinning on the turntable, I was not expecting the voice that came out of the speakers… a fearless but yet intimate tenor vocal sounding more like a jazz saxophone than a male human.

The voice was imperfect, sometimes a sliding, sometimes soaring, sometimes slurring, jumping octaves with seemingly little regard for rules and regulations of pop songs. This dude was Billie Holiday reincarnate!

How had I missed knowing Terry Reid? It seems I’m not alone. His career arc has served to keep him just below the horizon of obscurity. A quick Google search later and fantastic story unfolded:

In a band as a teenager, Reid was selected to open a show for The Rolling Stones at Royal Albert Hall. Befriended there by Graham Nash, he was encouraged to sign on to Columbia Records.

Just 17 years old at the time, Reid caught the attention of veteran hitmaker Mickie Most, who signed on as manager and also produced Reid as a solo pop star.

A US tour with Cream followed and Reid became a critical, if not commercial, success. That’s when things really got good!

Reid was noticed by superstar Jimmy Page who was reforming a group after the breakup of The Yardbirds. Page asked Reid if he would consider becoming the frontman for his new band…

And Reid declined!

He was already committed to a second album and a world tour supporting the Rolling Stones. He did, however, recommend a singer and a drummer that he thought would fit in with Page quite well: Robert Plant and John Bonham.

Through the end of the 60s, Reid released a self-titled solo album and toured extensively with bands like Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac and Jimi Hendrix.

Things must have seemed pretty bright for Terry Reid during this time because lightning struck a second time: Reid was asked to join the band Deep Purple! Again he declined preferring to forge his own path.

He then had a falling-out with his management and basically dropped out of the music business for a couple of years while legal matters were sorted out.

A couple years into his legal hiatus, Atlantic Records bought Terry Reid’s contract from Columbia and work began on the album River.

This album really has a loose feel to it, with almost stream-of-consciousness like lyrics. The words in the song feel almost secondary to the delivery.

The band, a shifting lineup of musicians, is anchored by multi-instrumentalist David Lindley and bassist Lee Miles. Drumming and percussion was handled by Alan White (who went on to join Yes) and Willie Bobo on the title track.

Once again critically, if not commercially successful, River captures a moment in time shared by this then 23 year old creative genius.

For fans of River, there was always a rumor floating around that the recording sessions produced more songs that were not included. Perhaps even a whole albums worth it!

In 2016 these rumors became fact as with the release of Terry Reid – The Other Side Of The River.

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Beautifully produced and packaged, this album contains alternate takes and unreleased material from the River sessions. For a fan of Reid and his masterpiece,  it is a must own.

Today is Terry Reid’s 67th birthday. Ever a critical darling, Reid keeps up with a very active touring schedule. Live records, guest appearances on other people’s albums and opportunities keep coming his way. It was recently announced that a team of filmmakers is crowdfunding funds to make a documentary about Reid’s life and career. I donated and I can’t wait! Happy birthday Terry!

I wonder what would have happened if he would have joined Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple? Would those bands have been better? Worse? Would River exist?

I, for one, am glad things turned out the way they did.

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