45’s Shaken not Stirred but Very Dry or Sleeves R Us Please Love Me Do

Okay, there’s no better way to start a Sunday morning than to make a record martini.

First you start with two British 45’s. You want to make sure you have vintage stock from 1962/63 as the mixes must be very dry.

You’ll need the following:

“Love Me Do/P.S. I  Love You” – the 1962 red label first pressing British Parlophone 45

“Please Please Me/Ask Me Why” – British 45 on either the first pressing red label (which I’ve yet to find at a decent price) or as a substitute a later 1963 pressing on the regular black Parlophone label.

Of course any UK 45 pressing of this single will do as until the 1980s all pressings used the dry mixes of the songs but let’s stick to 1963 pressings for today to keep your martini vintage.

You then take these two 45’s and give them several spins on the turntable of your choice. Make sure to spin them quite liberally so they’re shaken just right and play quite loud as to make sure your breakfast record martini comes out perfectly!

Okay, what I’m talking about – in my usual obtuse (not a word you hear much these days lol) way – are the original UK pressings of The Beatles first two singles.

These singles have less echo than their album counterparts thus they are called the dry versions of these songs. Of course these singles are only available in mono as all British Beatles singles were released in mono only until 1969.

Plus, the “Love Me Do” single is only available in mono ANYWHERE as it was never mixed into stereo as the multi-track tapes were destroyed shortly after the single was released.

Any “Love Me Do” or “P.S. I Love You” on stereo pressings are in fake stereo (bleak) anywhere in the world. More on fake stereo down the road.

I must say those new to vinyl or those oldies out there who don’t have many 45’s should really investigate the original 45 pressings if you can find them in decent shape and for a decent price.

Yes they can be a pain to play and clean them and you have to get up several times to flip records etc., but they really are the best way to hear the biggest hits of 1960s artists, The Beatles included.

You can always make digital transfers of your 45’s , or needledrops as they’re called, as they really sound terrific even on a CD (or any digital transfer) and then you have the best of both worlds.

As for these two Beatles 45’s the songs just sound so damn good – the best way you’ll ever hear these songs. You can see why The Beatles really caught on as even over fifty years later these songs just burst out of the speakers and sound so  punchy, clear and dynamic.

I’m not sure if it’s the compression that was added to the 45 mixes when they were transferred to vinyl or if the Brits just knew how to make 45 records but these songs just have more life and pleasure on these than any other format including cassettes, 8-tracks, CDs or future chip implant lol.

So, feast your eyes on these two original pressings that I own below. Oh and also dig the groovy company sleeves that these come in. Like the hype stickers, I love to collect singles with their original company sleeves like the ones on these Parlophone 45’s.

I also threw in a photo of an original UK “I Feel Fine” 45 to show you what that company sleeve looks like as well and also  a newer 45 pressing of “Love Me Do” that was released a couple of years ago with a replica Parlophone sleeve.

Enjoy! But don’t drink too much, it’s only Sunday morning. Cheers!:

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Freebie me away or how Best Buy once flew At the Speed of Sound

Welcome once again to the blog that never ends!

Today I take a look at freebies (well, not really free but advertised that way) from Best Buy that have crept into my collection.

You see, once upon a time Best Buy stores actually carried CDs, lots of them. They used to have rows and rows of them and believe it or not they used to be THE place to buy them. These days if you can even find one row of CDs you’d be lucky as CDs are now as cold as yesterdays leftovers.

BUT Best Buy at one time was a great place for Beatles fans. I think it first started with the release of The Beatles Anthology CDs in 1995.

Let me take you back if you will. My oldest brother, nine years my senior but his wife’s family STILL think we’re twins! – was home for Thanksgiving break and after having watched the first installment of The Beatles Anthology TV special on ABeatleC we went to our local Best Buy at midnight to wait in line to buy the first CD set associated with the show called The Beatles Anthology 1.

Best Buy had a free 4 CD set as a giveaway with the new Beatles set and of course I was going to be there come hell or high water, despite my sister-in-law thinking I had lost what little mind I had lol.

Anyway, over the years Best Buy gave away several freebies associated with The Beatles or the solo Beatles especially Paul McCartney.

Some of my favorite freebies have come about in the past few years actually – a trend that is sadly ending as the store no longer really supports CD sales that much.

Below are a few of may favorites – free singles with Best Buy’s exclusive release of the Paul McCartney Archive reissues of “Venus and Mars” and “Wings at the Speed of Sound”.

You filled out an online form and they sent the 45’s to you for free. Well, not really as the CDs cost more but they are pretty cool looking 45’s!

Btw, I’ll do several more posts about 45’s in the future so set your Blog Bat Channel appropriately.

The other really fun things Best Buy have given away with their McCartney Archive releases were the tote bags they packaged with their exclusive releases of the “Tug of War” and “Pipes of Peace” CDs. Of course these magnificent tote bags sit unused in their respective boxes but they sure do look purdy!

I’m sure I’ll do more posts about freebies as I’m positive I forgot some but these will do for now.

In the meantime, take a gander at some of my favorite Best  Buy goodies below:

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Surfin’ on the British Isles on such a winter’s day …

“Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda …”

During the past year, I’ve happened to stumble across UK pressings from two quintessential California pop groups of the 1960s – The Beach Boys -“Summer Days (And Summer Nights)!” and The Mamas and the Papas – “Hits of Gold.”

Now, normally you want to collect pressings of albums from the country where the groups originated because back in the 60s especially dubs of the master tapes would be sent over to other countries making them a generation or two removed from the master tape which tended to make them sound flatter with less bass, etc.

BUT seeing as how I’ve said before on this blog that I suffer from Collectoritis (my own loving term) I just couldn’t resist picking these two albums up because I LOVE British pressings from the 1960s.

I have a friend named Pauline who grew up in the UK (Hi Pauliney!) and I’ve told her many times that the Brits knew how to make records and these two pressings are no exception!

First off British albums from the 1960s just look better! They are covered with clarifoil lamination on the front covers making them very shiny and pretty much resistant to finger prints.

Also, British covers have a flipback style back sleeve which, unlike US covers at the time, made for a bit sturdier cover.

US records were made with back cover artwork folded over cardboard and then the front art was pasted over that leaving the folds covered up on the front.

UK covers were folded over to the back leaving three parts of the cover flipped over the cardboard and since they are covered in clarifoil lamination they leave these three big folds over the back – thus flipback sleeves.

Just a novelty here in the States but pretty damn sturdy and just plan fun – to collectors like me anyway.

The Beach Boys pressing, despite looking  like it was used in a football match (UK meaning which is soccer in the States) and covered in dirt sounded excellent!!!

Once cleaned up, it was surprisingly very quiet and retained all the fidelity of a US pressing. Probably better as UK pressings were made a bit better than the US counterparts and tend to survive abuse better.

Two of my favorites songs from the album, “Let Him Run Wild” and “Girl Don’t Tell Me”, really did sound terrific. Mmm, I might have to track down an original US pressing as well to compare.

The Mamas and Papas sounded good too but because it crammed 16 songs (8 to a side) it sounded a bit more muffled than US copies of the songs I’ve heard but really not too bad. It has a nice track selection which at the time it was released was a good deal.

Well, there you have a mini sermon on UK records from the 60s and if you’re still with me take a glance below to see what I’m talking about.

Until the next blog wave rides up, catch some rays and hang ten. (Yikes, I couldn’t resist!)

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A little hype can be effective – or sticker, sticker everywhere …

Okay, take a deep breath.

This may seem like the height of being anal retentive or horderism (is that a word?) but to some record collectors like me this is actually fun.

You see, there is some hidden disease, known only to a select group of psychologists in outer reaches of Sweden, that propels collectors to save everything that comes with a first issue album or CD.

Why you may ask? I honestly don’t know but some people, including me, do it. Probably the same thing for stamp collectors or book collectors – same disease, different material!

This post I am going to talk about what is called the “hype sticker”!

The hype sticker sometimes comes plastered on the outside shrink wrap of a new vinyl Lp, or even CD for that matter, and usually promotes the latest single release from the album or highlights songs on the album that aren’t listed on the cover.

Sometimes collectors will just slit the side of an album open and keep the shrink wrap on the Lp thus keeping everything including the hype sticker pristine but most of the time people rip off the shrink wrap and the obsessives gently cut the sticker off and save it for posterity.

And believe it or not some of these stickers are more valuable than the Lps they came on! Yes, you see since most sane people throw these things away they become very rare. Albums with a rare hype sticker can sell for much more than an issue without it.

Two really rare hype stickers from The Beatles “White Album” are listed in value in a current price guide as being worth $900 each and that’s just for the sticker!

Okay, not that value is why I saved them. The collector’s disease came upon me young and I was just compelled to save them.

So, below are some examples of a few of the hype stickers I own. The first photo is just stickers alone and the other photos contain albums still in the shrink wrap with their stickers on them.

I make it a point to look for albums still in their shrink wrap with hype stickers even if they’re not particularly valuable as to me it’s a great artifact of the times. I really love it when (as in the photo of “Wings Wild Life” below) an old store sticker from say Ayr-Way or Kmart is on the shrink wrap as well.

Enjoy! Or, at least take a look without running away from your computer screen.

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Picture disc, picture disc on the wall …

Here’s another side item that seems to crop up from time to time in my record collection – picture discs.

Picture discs have been around since the 1930s or maybe even earlier I believe. Most picture discs that were first popular were releases of children’s records but in the 1970s and 80s picture discs made a big comeback with record companies releasing some of the most popular rock and pop albums of the rock era in the picture disc format.

Though I was never a huge fan of picture discs I did enjoy some of the more popular ones that came out in the seventies like The Beatles “Abbey Road” and “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band” discs but I was never one of those avid collectors of the admittedly cool looking discs.

For one thing most picture discs don’t sound as good as regular vinyl issues and another they are usually much more expensive so I tend to only buy the odd shaped and interesting ones or ones that have unique song mixes or stray songs that aren’t available anywhere else.

With the advent of Record Store Day in the last ten years record companies are aiming their greedy little sights on weak aging collectors like me so every now and again I do get suckered, or shall I say tempted, into buying a new one.

Here’s a few I really like. See that Monkees disc from 2016, isn’t it purdy lol:

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OmiGod, Gag Me with a Cassette …

Today my friends let me take you back to a time when the mullet ran free, sweaters were king, hair was big; to the decade where I learned to drive and attended high school – the nineteen eighties!

Seems like the eighties went through a bit of a revival in the last decade or so, and just by listening to oldies radio it still seems to have a gripe. So, I thought this might be a fun post to look into some of my eighties cassettes.

Just as an aside I’ve read recently that cassettes and the Sony Walkman (a popular cassette player for those on the go) are making a slight comeback. Jeesh, I guess everything comes around again!

I went to high school from 1980 to 1984 and if you’ve ever seen the film “The Breakfast Club” that wasn’t far off from what I experienced. The film was set in the Midwest and filmed in 1985 so it’s pretty darn close for me having an acid reflux flashback if you know what I mean.

Anyway, when I was learning to drive my parents car did have a cassette player in it so that’s when I really began a short love affair with cassettes.

It was the age of the mixtape and for teens like me it was a great way to hear what you wanted to hear in the car before the time of portable CD players and Ipods.

I created a ton of mixtapes featuring either full albums I wanted to hear or a selection of great tracks side by side so I could really program my own radio station. Radio wasn’t quite as bad then as far as hearing the same 10 songs over and over but it was the beginning of that automated, DJ-less format that we have now (on free radio anyway).

I did manage to purchase a few store bought cassettes too (naturally lol!). I even have a few cassingles which were a fad in the mid-80s which was basically two songs on a cassette with a cardboard sleeve. These really didn’t last too long which shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.

I have mostly Beatles and solo Beatles cassettes remaining and a slew of my mixtapes (see  below). Though looking through my cassettes I do see a couple of Beatles cassingles from 1995-96 so they must have been a thing longer than I remember.

Again, here’s another peek at – well I won’t say typical because I really wasn’t the norm lol – a 1980s teen/young adult cassette collection.

OmiGod, like enjoy!

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Have a nice day? Or Chevy vans and that’s alright with me …

Hands up, who out there owned an 8-Track player? Anyone? Bueller, Bueller?

For those young ones who may be reading, 8-Tracks were small cartridges that allowed you to play music in your car (where I’m sure the majority of 8-Track players were used.)

It was the first time many teenagers and young adults could make their music portable besides radio. Think of it as an early Ipod, sort of, but less expensive and with no software updates and breaks in the middle of songs – no, seriously!

Well, funny enough, my family had two Magnavox stereo sets (my dad was an electrical engineer for Magnavox) and I got the bug for 8-Tracks in the mid to late 1970s when I saw tons of them on sale in large bins marked down to $.99 or $1.50 at the local Musicland in the mall. Remember Musicland? Remember malls for that matter?

I knew we had the player and my older brothers played them (I have three older brothers and one sister, yes raised Catholic lol) and I loved the ability to take them in the car as well as the groovy shells. ( I am such a music geek!).

I remember the small yellow, yes yellow, Magnavox console player with the 8-Track player near the top by the turntable. I was introduced to quite a few of the solo Beatles albums through 8-Tracks – Wings “Venus and Mars”, John Lennon’s “Walls and Bridges”, Ringo Starr’s “Ringo” album – because they were inexpensive and readily available.

What’s even more strange is that Musicland stocked several imported 8-Tracks from the UK, several of which I still own (see photo below).

I believe I even got a few 8-Tracks from a Stuckey’s on I-69 along with a Partridge Family “Crossword Puzzle” album but that’s story for a different day.

I had quite a few 8-Tracks at one time and not surprisingly I still have a few – shocker (fellow hoarders take a bow!).

One of the most distinct memories I have was playing several of those 8-Tracks in my garage in 1979 while putting together a leaf collection for school. No wonder I always get the urge for wax paper, iron and glue every time I see a photo of an 8-Track!

Someday I’d love to get a small player and see if these babies would still work. The old Magnavox consoles went to the electronic graveyard several years ago.

Anyway, feast your eyes on some of the ones I have left.

Behold, the 1970s:

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Ahhh, Sugar, Sugar …

Let me take you back, those old enough to be back that is, to a time of Saturday morning cartoons, three TV channels, no TV remotes, shag carpet, riding in large hunks of metal that looked like station wagons where hardly anyone wore seat belts and those sugary cereals that inundated Saturday morning television with commercials featuring all sorts of cool surprises buried inside and outside of various cereal boxes.

I was only 3 or 4 at the time, and yes I do remember those commercials (barely), but I most certainly remember that in 1969/1970 cardboard records were made available on the back of certain cereals featuring my faves The Monkees as well as Bobby Sherman, The Archies, The Jackson Five and maybe others. Okay, okay, I still have regular vinyl issues of all of the above but I digress …

Now I know that I may be featured on some future episode of one of those hoarders shows but I still own several of these cardboard delights that I, or my mom or brothers or sister, cut off the back of these cereal boxes and played on my portable record player (usually with a coin taped on) for fun.

I vaguely remember badgering my poor mother to buy these. Can you imagine a 3 year old obsessed with music and getting records for birthdays at that age – err, gulp sure do.

I do remember loving seeing these on the back of cereal boxes and even going to a friends house and trying to trade some of these records and play them so certainly others out there over the age of 45 remember these records and had some themselves.

There was even a regular 33 vinyl Monkees album released featuring all the songs on the cardboard records called “The Monkees Golden Hits” that could be mail ordered from the back of the cereal boxes as well. Of course I have that too and will feature it on a later post! (Sigh, really folks I have some semblance of a life, not much, but I do).

Not much to add about these but they’re a great time machine and certainly one of my favorite music memories and physical music collectibles! Try and find some of these nowadays is certainly a challenge.

Though kids, don’t try playing these at home!

Check them out (Monkees are bigger photo of course, lol. Note the groovy bedspread in the photos, Brady Bunch eat your hearts out!):

 

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Simon and Garfunkel “Bookends” mono pressing

“And here’s to you Mrs. Robinson …”

Good things come to those who wait – or so they say.

Last week, I was on vacation and in my usual round of record store hunting (sorry Doug! lol) I found a vinyl album that I have been searching for for over twenty – yes twenty – years. Okay, you have to be a record fan or you might have a bit of a queasy stomach about now.

BUT, I happened upon a mono pressing of Simon and Garfunkel’s best (in my opinion) album called “Bookends”. To say this album in mono is rare is a major understatement. It was released in April 1968 at a time when mono records were being phased out. Thank goodness this copy was under $40 as it tends to go for well over $150 to upwards of $300 if you can even locate a copy. This is the first copy I’ve found out in the wild as they say and not on ebay.

Okay, lesson time: In the 1960’s, pop music was available in either mono or stereo versions or mixes. Mono (one channel) had the sound dead center (all instruments and vocals coming out of the center if you listen on a two speaker stereo system) and stereo had two channels with the instruments and vocals spread out across the two speakers.

Modern stereo includes surround sound with sound coming out of your ears, under your seat and every direction known to man but in the 60’s it was either one or two channels.

Now, readers who aren’t music geeks – gee I’m wondering if you’re still even reading lol – need to know that most pop/rock music before 1968 was produced to be heard on tiny AM radios or small record players with tiny speakers and was predominately mixed in mono.

Mono generally is more in your face, louder and more shall I say it ballsy then stereo especially pre-1965 as stereo was a newer format and producers weren’t used to mixing in stereo. The mono mixes tended to sound more alive and cleaner and were meant to cut over the din of the tiny speakers people were using.

Anyway, back to “Bookends”, the mono mix of this landmark Simon and Garfunkel album is really quite lovely sounding. In fact any young readers out there (or anyone interested in vinyl frankly) should check out the first five Simon and Garfunkel albums which are available in mono (“Wednesday Morning 3 a.m.”, “Sounds of Silence”, “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”, “The Graduate” (another really rare mono Lp) and “Bookends”.

The only way to get these albums in mono is to track down the original 60’s vinyl pressings and it’s well worth it. For some reason it’s rumored that Paul Simon won’t allow the Simon and Garfunkel mono versions to be reissued which is a shame if true.

Simon and Garfunkel in mono sound superb. They are punchier, the instruments – especially Paul Simon’s guitar work –  really pop out at you as if you are in the recording studio with them. The stereo vinyl isn’t bad at all mind you. In fact the stereo mixes are great too it’s just that I have a preference for the mono mixes of these albums.

Another note, Columbia Records who own and release Simon and Garfunkel recordings had a practice in the 60’s and 70’s I’ve read in which they used the original master tapes (used to make the vinyl pressings) over and over again instead of making a dub thus wearing out the original tapes.

So if you want to hear Simon and Garfunkel closest to how the masters sounded when they were released, track down original stereo or mono pressings if you can find them in decent shape.

As for this pressing  I just found last week, the cover is kind of worn but the vinyl is in nice shape thank goodness. The album is here in all it’s analog glory.

For those downloaders or streamers out there, you hear in analog and I think the reason some people are attracted to vinyl again is that the analog mixes are much easier on the ears and nervous system.

Instead of the one version available to download, each pressing of an album is unique and can sound different depending on the part of the country it was pressed in, the plant, the engineer, etc. It’s like a treasure hunt finding the best sounding version (okay, okay a tad obsessive I know but that’s what makes collecting fun!).

The mono mix, which I first heard on a bootleg CD and which can probably be tracked down on YouTube, is really the way to hear this album. The opening song “Save the Life of My Child” sounds much more urgent and exciting and the female voices cry out as if from some pit of agony.

“A Hazy Shade of Winter” has much more bite and “Fakin’ It” has a more three dimensional sound if you can believe it and the English interlude has a much different feel than the stereo version. Every song has noticeable differences to their stereo counterparts with vocals and instruments popping up in different levels and places throughout the songs.

If you’re lucky enough to come across a mono copy of this album grab it! I’ve read the promo copy of this album in mono may be a tad more common than the stock mono copy which I bought. Though either would be a treasure in any record collection.

Well, that’s it for now kids. If you’ve made it this far, tune in next time (same Bat Channel, same Bat Blog) for some Rice Crispy records? No really, pass the milk …

Until then, check out some photos of this copy of “Bookends” below:

 

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Welcome! Living in the Physical World

Do you stream music on your phone? Are you one of those people who download songs to your Ipod and have never stepped foot inside a record store? What’s a record store you say? Yikes! Well, this blog may give you a headache or hives but I will try to show you some of my collection of old fart physical media (CDs, vinyl, 8-Tracks) featuring some of my favorite artists.

Seriously, any music fan is welcome but this blog will celebrate music in it’s physical form be it vinyl, CD, cassette, 8-Track or even those long forgotten Playtapes from the late 1960s’ (more about those in a future post!).

I may from time to time also talk about something current in the music scene or share some of my interviews with musicians.

I’m a freelance writer part-time and have interviewed people such as Gene Simmons of Kiss, Rick Springfield, Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz of The Monkees, Steely Dan and the group America among many, many others for newspaper articles.

I may also highlight stereo equipment, yes there are other ways of playing music besides the phone or computer!

So sit back, slap on a set of headphones (not my personal choice as I hate headphones) or lean against those aging but still oh so nice pair of Pioneer speakers and as someone whose music I admire greatly said – Roll up for the mystery tour, step right this way …