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.

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!

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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Running Down A Theme

I once dressed as Tom Petty for Halloween. The Tom Petty from the You Got Lucky music video to be exact:

Sure, I could’ve been mistaken for a hobo, or a chimney sweep, or just some dork in a trench-coat and a dumb hat… but in my mind, I was the leader of the dystopian gang the unearthed a boombox full of great tunes! I recalled this failed costume attempt recently while brainstorming dress-up ideas for Halloween 2016.

This memory seed took root and was nourished by news that all 16 of his studio albums will be re-issued in two enormous box sets of vinyl in December. Wow!

A post by Vinyl Stylus fueled the fire and the next I knew I committed four hours last Sunday to watching the Peter Bogdanovich documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers called Runnin’ Down a Dream:

I then spent most of Monday with my Tom Petty/Traveling Wilbury record collection:

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From the 1976 self titled debut Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers through 1985’s Southern Accents, I don’t know that I can name another artist with as consistent multi-album run of great records.

Sure, You’re Gonna Get It suffered from a sophomore slump, but it still has Need Too Know and Listen To Her Heart on side two!

Anyway, the movie is great. It has a lot of insight into the band, personalities, and the recording industry of their heyday. It It also has great guest appearances from the usual suspects.

 

Me And Kenny

I’ve had a long and complicated relationship with Kenny Loggins.

It all began in the early seventies with the Loggins penned Danny’s Song… but I’m sure it was the Anne Murray version that I came to love first.

Soft rock hits like The House On Pooh Corner competed along side like-themed songs of the day Muskrat Love and Disco Duck.

Later radio-friendly edits of Your Mama Don’t Dance and Angry Eyes solidified Kenny Loggins’ spot as one of the great soft rock hippie songwriters of the era.

I lost track of Kenny in his solo years… until this happened:

Although these movie masterpieces weren’t really my thing, they made Kenny’s music culturally iconic above and beyond whatever he could have done otherwise.

I rediscovered Kenny Loggins music over the past couple of years, both with Jim Messina and solo. I find it to be earnest and soulful, even funky at times! Sure, there’s a lot of sappiness in there too, but sappy can be good when you’re in the right mood.

I got to see Kenny and his fantastic touring band here recently. His debut solo album, Celebrate Me Home, came along. It was like visiting with an old friend.

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Sometimes You Just Need to Chill

The best of tool I have in my HiFi Arsenal to achieve chillness is a pair of headphones:

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Having to sit tethered to your stereo is a great way to avoid all of those pesky life distractions; cooking, cleaning, working… you get the idea.

To boot, adding a set of headphones to your HiFi rig can extend your chilldom into the late night/early morning hours.

I decided to get chilly recently and do a comparison of my collection* of vintage and not so vintage headphones. Here’s a rundown ranked for your enjoyment:

**

Realistic Nova 10:

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From the early seventies. Some realistic branded headphones were actually made by reputable companies. The Nova 10 is not one of those. These things are cheap lightweight plastic and uncomfortable! To boot they sound like poo! They’re lacking in both low and high frequency with just a punchy mid-range. I found some specs on these things online and they were, let’s just say unimpressive.

Zenith 4 channel:

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These things are heavy and bulky but, because there are two speakers in each can, they are pretty comfortable. Used here in stereo mode, they are pretty muddy sounding and lack anything resembling a high-frequency signal. I’m keeping them around because they look neat and, someday, I will own a quadraphonic source that I can not enjoy through this horrible sounding headphones.

Panasonic EAH-20:

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These headphones have slightly better high frequency than the last couple of pairs but the size of the earpiece is rather confining. There is a flat-screen just inside of pad that rests right on your ear. The plastic ear pads are hot and the speakers to sit so close to your ears that these things seem loud in comparison. Overall the sound of these cans is best described as congested, everything all stacked up on one another with no separation between the individual bits of music.

Koss K-6:

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Circa 1971 now we are getting into some of the hi-fi headphones! The K-6 has a roomy earpiece with a curved cover over the top of the speaker that fits your ear really well. These have good bass response and mid-range but are still lacking in high frequency. Even so, this is the first usable pair of headphones I’ve tried today. Just OK.

Koss KO-727B:

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Also from 1971, these headphones have a sound somewhat like an equalizer set to a :-). They accentuate the low frequency and the high-mids and have slightly better high frequency response than the K-6. To boot, out of all of these hard-shelled  can type headphones so far, these seem to isolate  external sounds the best. The 727 B are definitely a keeper.

Sony MDR-V600:

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These have been mine since 1995. I mixed a lot of live concerts and radio programs with these headphones. They’re lightweight and comfortable. The first truly full range headphones I’ve tried today. They’re a little bit bass heavy but still give good detail… detail that was lacking in the ’70s Koss cans. I can now hear reverb layers, echo and other bits of material in the source.

Sennheiser HD 201:

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These things are lightweight (under 6 ounces) and sit low profile over your ears. The sound is a bit thin compared with the Sony and they do lack a bit of detail but are more balanced on the whole. The cord with these is like 20 feet long so it also makes it easy to get positioned across from your stereo rig.

Sennheiser HD 650:

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God I wish these things were mine! Unfortunately they’re just on-loan from a good friend (who now wants them back!) The generous earpiece is covered in a microfiber material that is super comfortable for extended listening. The first thing you notice is that the frequency response is flat, flat, flat! You don’t hear a booming bass or a sizzling symbol, the sound is almost too perfect! They are very detailed and you can hear things from the source material that you missed with most of the other headphones here. One thing that I’m having trouble describing is the bass response. It’s very percussive, not in a booming way, but almost like you feel the beat of a bass drum in a live setting. It’s unlike anything I’ve heard from any other speaker or headphone before. The only hesitation I would have in buying these headphones is that they need power! Trying them out on a portable source like a phone or an iPod was not enough to drive the headphones. I had to use an external headphone amplifier to match the volume of the other headphones. The other potential drawback is these cans have an open back so if you are listening to them in a confined space, everyone else gets to enjoy your music too! The final criticism, also having to do with the open back design, his these were the least sound deadening headphones here. I could hear a lot of things going on in the room that were silent with the other cans.

*Other than the Sennheiser HD 650, all of these headphones came from thrift stores and ranged in price from $1 to $3. So, if you are interested in adding some old cans to your set-up, keep an eye open there!

** as a source I played one of my go-to records, Dire Straits – Making Movies, on my dual 1219 turntable through a Fisher 400c reciever.