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:

IMG_20170110_135559.jpg

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.

IMG_20170110_135815.jpg

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?

img_20170110_134716735

Front covers

img_20170110_134746041

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

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.

1483761565646-2004630533

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.

1483761698605831408006.jpg

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.

1483761816560-793994254.jpg

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

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?

IMG_20161113_104511.jpg

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.

IMG_20161113_104553.jpg

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.

IMG_20161113_104126095.jpg

 

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:

IMG_20161107_191202.jpg

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.

 

Happy Birthday Mr. Berry

I’ve been thinking a lot about Chuck Berry in the weeks leading up to his 90th birthday.

It started when I happened to see the documentary/concert film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, recently. The all star concert (and contentious backstage interview segments) filmed in St.Louis just days before the subject’s 60th birthday.

I was reminded how, upon seeing the film when it was initially released, it felt like artists paying tribute to a legend by giving him a send-off into the golden age of retirement. It also felt like Chuck was having none of it!

Then they released a vinyl copy of the Voyager “golden record“, the Space Bound compilation to the cosmos, including Chuck’s Johnny B. Goode.

Then the articles started showing up in my newsfeed. Everyone from Rolling Stone to Esquire magazine paying tribute to one of the greatest pioneers of rock and roll music.

Today, my social media pages are full of well wishes for Mr. Berry from former students like Mick Jagger and little Steven Van Zandt.

For my part today I am going to break out my copy of The Great Twenty-eight, the phenomenal compilation of Chuck’s 1955 to 1965 recordings for Chess Records.

IMG_20161018_162935678.jpg

So happy birthday Chuck Berry, we couldn’t have done it without you!

PS… today, on Chuck Berry’s website, he announced that he would be releasing a new album in the coming year… his first since 1979!

PSS… just heard the news that Phil Chess, one of those most instrumental in getting Chuck’s music out to the world, passed away Tuesday at the age of 95. RIP Mr. Chess!

Cirque du So-Love

I had previously written a post about the remixed remastered reimagined versions of Beatles songs that were the soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil production of Love.

IMG_20160929_183623073.jpg

My wife had seen the production on a previous trip to Las Vegas. She had never really been a Beatles fan, but came back singing the praises of both the show and the music.

We recently had occasion, owing to a family wedding, to visit Las Vegas and Love was on our to-do list.

The specialty theater was near capacity on the Thursday evening we visited the Mirage casino on the famous Las Vegas Strip. Sheer curtains trisected the stage and cables, ropes and ladders hung ominously over the black void just one row and one isle away.

Incidental music, while people were coming and going toward their seats, was familiar Beatles, but in instrumental form. The ushers expertly guided lost zombies to their proper rows, the lights dimmed and the fog machines started running full tilt. Characters emerged from somewhere off stage and hastened us all to welcome the production.

As the lights came down the experience begins with the familiar tones of the song Because. Actually it was just the familiar and lyrics, these were stripped bare of the music we’d all been accustomed to and really set the stage for the remainder of the production.

For the next 90 minutes dancers, acrobats, magicians and contortionists filled the stage, and the sky above, with one interpretation after another the 60s seen through the lens of this reimagined Beatles music.

As a Beatles fan, it was fun to try to pick out characters from their songs and other more obscure references about the band in the production. Of course Sergeant Pepper played a recurring role, as did Father McKenzie, the girl from She’s Leaving Home, Eleanor Rigby and Jude.

Many of the props reflected icons from the Beatle years, especially prominent items and characters from Yellow Submarine. Several Volkswagen Beetles were featured and at least one had a license plate that read LMW 28IF.

The show was fantastic and these little details made it especially thrilling for a Beatles fan. If I had it to do over again I think I would try to relax a little bit and not attempt to be a know-it-all… a Beatles who’s who scorekeeper as the thing was going on. There was a certain Wizard of Oz, pull the curtain back, attempt on my part, just trying to figure out how everything worked. It was a little like going to a magic show and trying to decipher the illusion rather than letting yourself get caught up in the moment.

In doing so I totally missed some of the more subtle experiences; the bubbles used in the Strawberry Fields segment smelled like strawberry for instance…

The bottom line is I would highly recommend this show to anyone who happens to find themselves in Las Vegas. Love has been presented in this theater twice a night for over 10 years now… who knows how much longer it will be in production?

IMG_20160929_183553052.jpg

Ps… while in the Las Vegas area, armed with a car and some time on my hands, I hit up a few thrift stores looking for vintage vinyl. I managed to score a couple dozen mid fifties to early sixties Jazz records. I’ll likely blog about the cream-of-the-crop some other time but had an interesting experience with our TSA security trying to get them home. I got pulled out of security line and had to explain the odd image on the X-ray machine in my carry-on bag:

IMG_20161003_092207976.jpg

Lucky for me the TSA agent was an old guy so he knew what a vinyl record actually was!