Get back into Vinyl – With this Collection

Get back into Vinyl – With this Collection

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Everyone’s getting back into vinyl so I’ve had a look through the boxes to come up with a small pile of inexpensive “essentials” for collectors. These albums feature quite a range of music talents and at £30 for the collection of ten aren’t going to break the bank. As usual, with all my albums, the ten that form this collection are in lovely condition and I’ve got two full sets to go on the stall this Thursday.

Let’s take a closer look at the albums…

Beatles, Help was the fab fours 5th album released in 1965. It reached number 1 position were it stayed for 9 weeks and spent 37 weeks in the charts. It has 14 tracks including the singles “Help”, “You’ve got to hide your love away”, “You’re going to lose that girl”, “Ticket to Ride” and “Yesterday” and was of course the soundtrack to the film of the same name.

Wings, Red Rose Speedway. This was Paul McCartneys 4th and Wings 2nd album since he left the Beatles and includes amongst other tracks the single “My Love” which was a US number 1 hit. The album stayed in the UK album charts for 16 weeks in 1973 and reached number 5.

John Lennon & Yoko, Double Fantasy was Johns 8th album since leaving the Beatles and gave him a number one album in the UK album charts for 2 weeks in 1980. The album contains 14 classic tracks including hits “Starting Over”, I’m losing you”, “Beautiful Boy” and “Woman”

Despite only making the number 2 spot in the UK, Madness, One Step Beyond was in the album charts for well over a year (longer than the 3 albums above combined) a total of 78 weeks. This was there first album (1979) and arguably their best featuring the title track, “My Girl”, “Night boat to Cairo” and “The Prince”. It started a two tone phenomena that heralded the “Nutty Boys” as kings of the charts  in the 80s (no other act stayed in the charts longer during the decade)

If you didn’t know it already, “Sheer Heart Attack” is evidence indeed that Queen were once a progressive rock band.  This album oozes talent – it’s simply stunning. Play the opening track “Brighton Rock” loud and repeat often ! It was Queen third album and reached number 2 in the UK, staying in the charts for 46 weeks boosted by singles, Killer Queen and Now I’m Here.

Not nearly as successful as his first album, Mike Oldfields “Incantations” only reached number 14 in the charts in 1978 but it did have the added bonus that it’s a double LP so you got considerably more tunes for your money. It spent 260 weeks less on the charts than Tubular Bells but it’s still a very interesting album which  gets better and better the more you play it.

Kate Bush, Lionheart spent a whopping 36 weeks on the charts reaching number 6 in 1978. It was her second album and contains the hit single Wow.

Ultravox (23 weeks highest position number 4 ), Tears for Fears (82 weeks highest position number 2 ) and Billy Joel (95 weeks highest position number 2 ) complete the collection .

When you add up all the weeks these albums have spent in the charts it comes to a lot of weeks, as Kate Bush would say – Wow!

Like I said earlier, I have two identical collections of these and they will be available to purchase on the market stall, South Molton Pannier Market this Thursday. As usual with collections, sorry I won’t split them up. If there are a couple you already have, maybe you can buy the collection and swap the duplicates with friends or give them as birthday gifts or the whole collection would make a great birthday gift.

 

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The Beatles – the first Punk Band ?

The Beatles – the first Punk Band ?

When thinking about the founders of punk, The Beatles isn’t the first name to come to mind. The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones, The Iggy Pop, The Clash, these are the names more usually associated with the Punk genre. But what about The Beatles? Let’s take a look through the “Fab Fours” early beginnings and see how evidence “undoubtedly” proves they were not only the biggest punk band in the world, but also the first.

Ground breaking and ahead of their time, the “Mop Top”, Brit pop legends took the world by storm in an instant in 1963 when their chart busting, “Please, Please Me” album and hit single, “Love Me Do” went straight to the top of the charts . John, Paul, Ringo and George enjoyed success after success with their popular tunes and the boys made £millions and $millions rocking and rolling around the world through the early sixties.

But behind the fake smiles and loads of money, rumour has it all was not well with these four ordinary lads, originally from the scruffy and dirty terraces (a common breeding ground for punk rockers) of Liverpool, England.  By 1968 they were tired of their riches, complying with all the rules, carrying a handkerchief and being nice to everyone and started work on a new album of music in a new style. This was to be their most controversial to date, an album of anarchy and an album that would stick 4 fingers to the world, the British monarchy and the authorities and inspire millions of punks around the world. It was the birth of punk rock !

The album name was originally planned as “A Dolls House” but after deciding it would sound too much like the future release by Siouxsie and the Banshees “Happy House”, they renamed it “White Album” to avoid a costly law suit, so I’ve been told. Ask almost anyone who was a teen in the 70s and they’ll tell you the White Album was a punk rock “must have” as it features many punk rock classics including this little Punk Rock gem…

Well if “Helter Skelter” doesn’t convince you The Beatles were the first ever punk band, then lets take a look at the “overwhelming”  evidence…

  1. Just like every punk rock band, The Beatles were controversial. When John Lennon said “we are greater than Jesus”, what he really meant to say was “screw the world, I’m a punk and we’re a punk band and I don’t care if you burn our records (because you’ll buy them all again anyway, either on vinyl or CD)”
  2. The Beatles, like all punk bands, start with the word “The”
  3. Many of The Beatles songs were only 2 minutes long which is the average length of a punk rock tune
  4. The Beatles were a 4 piece band (which is officially the exact number of punks needed in a band to be classed as a punk band)
  5. Lennon and Yoko admitted to being the original punks in Playboy interview
  6. Search “Punk Rock” in Wikipedia and there is no mention of The Beatles ever being a punk band. (now there’s proof if ever you needed it)
  7. The art work on their 7th album, “Pistols” was deemed too controversial for the 60s and was withdrawn and renamed “Revolver” but in 1975 it became the inspiration to a new and equally large punk band, “The Sex Pistols”

never-mind-the-Pistols-here

…of course, it’s just a theory, but there must be some truth in this right?

Camel, Mirage – Did cigarette advertising prevent the rise of this iconic album?

Camel, Mirage – Did cigarette advertising prevent the rise of this iconic album?

Talent

Have you ever seen a talent show on TV where one act is so unbelievably good and despite all the talent they not only don’t win, but they don’t even make the finals? You have? It’s annoying isn’t it? Well if there was a TV talent show for albums, then Camels 1974 album, Mirage would be one of those albums that would do just that, a clear winner that would not even make the finals.

Mirage was voted number 21 in the 50 greatest Prog rock albums of all time in Rolling Stone magazine so musically, why it would fail to sell well is a mystery. Mirage is a well rounded, jazz, folk, metal fantasy-themed progressive rock album of the highest order yet it failed to enter the UK album charts and only just crawled into the US billboard 200. Perhaps its to do with the bands endorsements of cigarettes that had something to do with its lack of publicity and therefore lack of sales?

Whatever it is, we’ll look at it later, first lets get you listening to Camel , Mirage via YouTube before you read any more so you can judge for yourself how brilliant it is or login in to Spotify

If you want more information on the group Camel then here is a full biography on Last.Fm otherwise if you’re interested in Camels second album, Mirage, the bands finest work then stick with me. I’ll take you on a Mirage journey in more detail starting with all the facts and figures of chart positions and pressings and then we’ll look at a few other oddities and concentrate of the music with a little help from Billboard 200, Paul McCartney, Londons’ Philharmonia Orchestra and some cigarettes…

Chart Position

According to RateYourMusic.com the album was first released in the UK on 1st March 1974 and was rolled out to USA, Canada, France, Germany, Japan and Greece in the same year. The Deram was the first and most valuable of the labels, although it was also pressed on Passport, Janus, London, King and North American labels . I have an original UK pressed Deram with the inner sleeve as seen below and in Rare Record Collector 2016 guide it’s valued at £50. I would add though, I wouldn’t sell it at any price, so please don’t ask!

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Finding chart positions has been difficult because Mirage didn’t set the world on fire but after some research I have found back issues of billboard magazine which has helped track down the USA positions. It’s first occurrence in the USA charts was at position 205 on 16th November 1974 where it was in the “bubbling under” section of the Billboard 200 pop charts and a week later when it had crawled to position 203 before eventually breaking into the charts at position 188 on 30th November 1974.  During the Christmas weekend it reached it’s highest position of 149 where it stayed for a fortnight before slowly slipping down the charts. On 1st March 1975 it finally left the US 200, having dropped from position 185 the previous week after 13 weeks and that’s it – that’s all I have.

Cigarettes

We’ll take a walk through the tracks in a moment but before we do lets look at why the album was problematic from the start…

camel_pack

You see the band didn’t get their name from the humped, spitting creature that roams the deserts but from the cigarettes they smoked and there lies the problem because not everyone shared their love of the cancerous weed, particularly the American music industry.  The bands website has the full details but from a marketing point of view, cigarette endorsements, even in the 70s were a disaster. What was even worse was the iconic camel cigarette logo cover on the USA version of album had to be scrapped and replaced with this…

CamelMirageusa

 

…the USA cover is not very inspiring is it?

Let’s go through the tunes…

Album Review Side 1

Side one opens with Freefall (5mins 55sec) featuring Andy Latimers stunning guitar and some super fast drumming from Andy Ward. The lyrics and the vocals are a little tame in this track but it’s all backed up with an ensemble of rock/jazz guitar and organ work creating a genuinely bright and interesting start to the album. The quality of Latimers playing is a significant strength to the album either on flute or guitar. His skills were recognised at the prog rock music awards in 2014 when he was awarded for his lifetime achievement.

Up next is one of the highlights of prog rock Supertwister (3mins 20 sec)

This kicks off with Latimer on flute and an exciting percussion back drop with ground breaking use of bottles and aerosols providing the rhythm and ends with probably the greatest ending to a record in the world (I should have used a Carlsberg for this picture but we only had Tetley)

beer

We’re now into the last track, three part 9 mins 18sec of Nimrodel, Procession and The White Rider which all combine to form one song.  A slow intro leads onto church bells ringing and crowds cheering before leading to the JR Tolkien Lord of the Rings inspired “White Rider” , featuring echoing guitar solos similar or better than Dire Straits Mark Knopfler coupled with Peter Bardens mini moog, organ, and celeste . There’s even sections where the mini moog takes centre stage very similar to Mike Oldfields Tubular Bells and also sections where the Mellotron gets an airing. Don’t know what a Mellotron is? It’s the instrument used in the introduction of Beatles Strawberry Fields for Ever, Paul McCartney explains

Album Review Side 2

OK now flip it over to side 2 (for those listening on vinyl of course)

Earthrise (6mins 50secs) starts with some howling wind sound effects to set the scene and the mini moog is providing the “vocals” for an instrumental that just doesn’t need lyrics to tell the story. A real belter of a rock song for you to let your hair down to, Doug Ferguson laying a base with his bass (what else!)

and then track two side 2 is Lady Fantasy at a very healthy 12mins and 59 seconds long – not quite 13 minutes (which would be unlucky I guess) “Listen very carefully my words are about to unfold”

This is pure prog, all over the place, up and down, varied and magical with a large helping of full heavy metal mixed with elegant guitar, organ and Celeste solos. If you don’t know what a Celeste is then Elizabeth Burley of the London Philharmonia will explain. The track builds and builds before finally heading for a mellow “Dire Straits” finale.

Mirage is pure poetry so play it again and again, you’ll never get bored of listening to this album .

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Discovering 60s Mono and Stereo Decca Releases

Discovering 60s Mono and Stereo Decca Releases

Decca

Have you ever noticed on some 1960s Decca LPs there is a hole at the back of the cover? If it looks like the example above by the Moody Blues then you have an album that has the wrong inner sleeve in it. This example has a plain white sleeve which isn’t the correct one.

As the caption next to the hole indicates, the hole allows the inner colour to show through so the sleeve should be either blue or red, depicting if the album is either Mono or Stereo, similar to this one…

decca blue

Here are a couple of Rolling Stones albums in stereo and mono , you can see the correct colour in the indicator hole…

Rolling Stones Decca Stereo

If you are a collector, you may already know that mono and stereo versions of some of these 1960s albums have different values so it’s important to check which version you have when assessing it’s value. It doesn’t always follow that mono ( which is often the earlier pressing) is worth more or that stereo is worth more.(which is likely to be the better sounding and possibly more desirable)

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Don’t forget to check the album you have in the sleeve is the correct album for the cover and the inner. The Tom Jones album above is a red mono version and the code is LK5032 rather than the stereo version which would have code number SKL5032.

Here are examples of values affected by stereo and mono versions …

Let it Bleed , Stones mono value £400 stereo £150

On the Threshold of a dream , Moody Blues mono value £30 stereo £20

Why Vinyl?

Why Vinyl?

Well many people have been asking me, why is there such resurgence in vinyl? Well I’ve a few thoughts on it so here goes…

Nostalgia

For some of us older folk, there’s something to be said for saying it’s a nostalgia trip. I also think for many of us in our forties and fifties (and older of course) there’s also the opportunity to buy albums, that when they were released, we couldn’t afford. I remember in 1973 buying my first “proper” (and not half price) LP (wings, band on the run) and it cost about £2.50. That represented five weeks pocket money! It’s no surprise that my teenage record collection was a bit sparse. Of course I could spread the cost a long way by buying “session singer albums” called top of the pops and looking through the Woolworths half price section and that’s what I did. But it did mean that my album collection represented the best of “half price” LP records from the 70s. It’ll come as no surprise that for me (and many others “my age”) albums are at last affordable and slot in very nicely with my mid life crisis.

Just out of interest I wondered if the £2.50 LP of 1973 was expensive so I checked it up on the inflation calculator – The same album today would cost around £30 now if it was linked to inflation (you can buy five copies for this price now, if I had five copies of course)  http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/bills/article-1633409/Historic-inflation-calculator-value-money-changed-1900.html

Fashion

But ¼ of my customers (and a similar percentage globally) are buying vinyl and they’re under thirty years old. That means that most of them weren’t born when WH Smiths (and other major retailers) cleared their shelves of vinyl in 1992. So they’re not buying records for nostalgia. I’m thinking the main attraction here for the younger generation is that vinyl is in fashion? Take a look through adverts on TV or in shop windows and it isn’t long before you’ll see a record player or LP show up . Sometimes they’re used in shop window displays, or as decorations in stores not even selling music and they are in TV and lots of films. They are in fashion – LPs are fashionable – vinyl is fashionable. The other good thing about them that makes them fashionable is that they’re not mainstream – they can’t be bought in Tesco, they can’t be played on the iphone. Coolness – are records cool? Why of course they are and so are record players (also known as turntables by proper record collectors and boffins who really know stuff). There’s a huge increase in the use of turntables and records in advertising on TV and in print. The new Mercedes TV advert features a record playing on a turntable before it switches to the hub of the car (they didn’t choose a cd? ) If you walk down the high street in any city you might come across a record store but even if you don’t it won’t be too long before you see records or turntables either used in the window display or inside the shop for decoration . I’ve seen them used in a few fashion shops in Exeter and even in John Lewis Exeter. So they are cool – they’re also lovely and big so they make great displays, one reason why cds are not wildly used . Come to think of it what else could be used more effectively for window dressing – you’re not likely to see a download being used are you?

Records and particularly the needle setting down into the groove are used in dozens of films, new and old. I notice them a lot, next time you watch a new film, keep your eye out for them, I’m sure you’ll spot how often they are used. Of course you just can’t beat vinyl in the classics, for me it’s The Shawshank Redemption when Marriage of Figaro is played over the wardens record player by an offender https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzuM2XTnpSA and then this one from Marilyn Monroe https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDpwBeDkrHY It’s a brilliant clip, stick with it till the end, her husband is obviously not a fan of vinyl .

Serious Music Fans

Vinyl is for people who want to listen to music. We’ll all say it has more clarity than CDs or downloads, but the truth is we’re going to notice the music more, because the act of playing a record means we’re engaged in the process of making the music ourselves. It’s such a drawn out process that we force ourselves to listen to the results, it’s bound to sound good if we take the time to listen, isn’t it? We take the record out of the cover and sleeve and carefully select a side positioning it centrally onto the turntable. Then we guide the arm across and carefully lower the needle down to connect onto the first groove. It’s then that we listen, aware we’ve a maximum of 30 minutes before the music will end and we’ll have to repeat the process if we want it to continue.

Vinyl makes us listen, it’s the key element that makes it sound so good.

Big

How about the look and feel of vinyl for a genuine reason for its popularity? You only have to compare the LP to a CD or Cassette and straight away you’ll be impressed by how big the media is. You get a full 300x300mm album cover plus similar sized inserts with (in some case) the words of the song and pictures of the artist. Sometimes there are postcards included in the album sleeve and some are double sized so they open up to a whopping 600x300mm (that’s 2ft x one foot to pre decimal people). That is a mighty fine piece of art work and a huge reason why they are so popular. Some of the new repressings also come with a free download (ironic that so far, there aren’t any downloads that come with a free album on vinyl). I won’t compare how great a vinyl LP is compared to downloads because there really is no comparison – owning is always better than renting!

It’s still Legal

Now for me there’s just one more reason why vinyl’s making a comeback – Have you ever seen Tom Cruise in the scifi film Oblivion ? If you have then you know where I’m heading, if you haven’t then here’s the story…

Tom lives a sterile life in a sterile house with a sterile wife (not sure that sounds right) , all his clothes are white, all neatly pressed (it’s the sort of life Steve Jobs would select for us all ) everything is the same, it’s all perfect, all neat, all in order – no disorder . But Tom has a secret; when he goes out on his own on his daily missions in his little spaceship he sneaks off the map and goes off grid. Boy, does he go off grid ? He has a make shift shack that he escapes to down on earth. It’s dirty and disorganised, nothings white and nothings sterile, but it’s real and guess what? He’s got a record player (powered by solar panel I suppose) with a pile of LPs. I can’t remember what’s in the collection but I’m sure there’s Led Zeppellin and some real classics. In the end he selects whiter shade of pale (which, for a comparison with the apple way of life, it’s quite ironic, don’t you think?) but it all adds up to the fact that records are a way of escaping from the world …

Humanities last refuge…

So let’s play them while we can , before they become illegal !

bb

Never mind the hype – Is there really a vinyl revival?

Never mind the hype – Is there really a vinyl revival?

Is there really a resurgence in vinyl?

Well if you ask me I’m going to say “of course there is” aren’t I? I mean, if you ask a hairdresser, do you need a haircut, then they’re bound to say yes, aren’t they?. But without any doubt, I’ve seen enthusiasm for records pick up in South Molton over the last year – by a fair degree. It’s hard to believe but it’s really my third year selling records at the pannier market ! This year I’ve even had customers arguing over who was going to buy my last turntable (on the day when I genuinely didn’t have any more “last ones” under the counter) and I’ve even topped my sales of records on several occasions in recent months.

So that’s it then, it’s in black and white , sales of vinyl are “picking up big time” in South Molton, but what about elsewhere ? Well I’ve heard that John Lewis can’t keep up with demand for turntables (which is why I always have a few on the stall) and the UKs only pressing plant is working 24 hours a day 7 days a week and the UK is buying another one! Also there’s a town in Eastern Europe (Czech republic so I’m told) that has half a dozen vinyl pressing plants and 2000 work force just to press enough vinyl for Europe– heady stuff eh? We’ve even brought in a uk vinyl album chart after there wasn’t one for 14 years and I’m delighted to say I have about half the LPs on this weeks chart available on my stall – you can check out the latest chart here http://www.officialcharts.com/charts/vinyl-albums-chart/

Still not convinced?, well how about this article from the daily mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3066744/Record-player-resurgence-follows-boom-vinyl-sales-Number-sold-2015-far-240-compared-period-2014.html

Of course the real question is, why is their a resurgence?

Mmmm let me think on that one.