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Many know some of the grand stories of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, but the history and perspective of “the quiet Beatle” has often remained, well, quiet. No longer. Martin Scorsese has put together a documentary film called George Harrison: Living In The Material World, and will be released in the UK and US and different ways. In the UK, it will be released on the 10th of October as a DVD, Blu-Ray, and a cool looking DVD/Blu-Ray deluxe edition that will include an exclusive CD of previously unheard music from Harrison, AND a book of photography to accompany the film. In the US, the documentary will be split in two and be shown on HBO on October 5th and 6th. No word yet on when it will be released as hard copy here in the States.
The film will include interviews with Eric Clapton, Terry Gilliam, Sir George Martin, Tom Petty, Eric Idle, Jackie Stewart, Phil Spector, Yoko Ono, and of course Paul and Ringo, each one talking about Harrison and the impact he made on their lives and of course the interaction they had with him as not “Beatle George”, but as friend.
A month before the movie makes its public premiere, Olivia Harrison will release a book that shares its name with the documentary, and it will feature photos, letters, diaries, and memorabilia taken from all aspects of George’s public and private life.
As he did with The Beatles and his solo work, it seems the documentary and book is merely a continuation of the journey of and in life that he wanted himself to explore, and others who appreciated his words and music.
If you think the cover of this book is eye-candy, I’m sure you’ll find more delights in this book.
Beatlegmania is a series of books put together by Beatles collector John C. Winn, and he’s about to release the 4th installment. It’s being described as being “packed with full-color illustrations, facts and stories behind dozens of vinyl bootlegs, including the Deccagone singles, Get Back Journals box, Lost Lennon Tapes series, and much more.”
Winn has done a number of books on The Beatles, many of which have received positive reviews from critics and fans alike. You can pre-order Beatlegmania Vol. 4 and other books he has done by heading to his homepage at MultiPlusBooks.com.
Let’s get the latter part of that question out of the way so you’ll know the focus of this article. In a time of social media, where musicians, producers, rappers, singers, and entertainers are able to interact for the first time via Twitter and Facebook, fans are able to be “in touch” with the people they may idolize. On one hand it might be dangerous, as it can lead to idolatry or worse. On the good side, artists are able to find out what fans really want while fans can pop the bubble and realize that for the most part, artists and entertainers are as real as they make themselves out to be. Away from the facades, most humans are indeed human. But this is not about the people behind the names and personas, but rather their output.
As I was growing up and getting into music as much more than just something cool to listen to, I made lists of projects I wanted released. I have a book somewhere where I actually came up with the “cassingle” concept, where one would be able to have the same two songs on a 7″ 45rpm record on a cassette. This was before they were placed on the market, and had I knew about trademarks, I could have cashed in big time. At a young age, I was already an armchair record company CEO, wanting labels to release this or that, and I was never afraid to find out who controlled certain departments at a label, so that my mail would go directly to them. In time I became a writer, and I would continue writing to publicists and music supervisors not only for free music (back when “free music” was reserved for a select few) but in the hopes one of my ideas would be used. I wanted to be in the recording industry, I wanted to not only work in the mailroom, but become a publicist, reissue supervisor, I wanted to run a label. I wanted to be bigger than Capitol, Atlantic, Warner Bros., and Columbia combined. Wishful thinking, I know, but it would not stop me from wanting to make an impact, however small.
If I’ve made an impact, I’d like to think it was with my reviews and articles. If I’m able to find a way for fans to at least be motivated to listen to something I recommend, I’m happy. I’ll rarely hear about it, but I’m hopeful people will take that chance.
One thing I’ve always wanted to do was reissues, to be with a record label, go through the tape library and archives, and find what is rare and/or unknown. I wanted to raid old recording studios and warehouses because during elementary school, I’d regularly go to the Hawai’i State Library and go through old books, microfiche, and file cabinets looking for anything on topics that moved me. I wanted to know what existed before me, especially when they were hidden from general view. I wanted to adapt that craving for knowledge and apply it to a record label. I look forward to becoming a music supervisor for a project so I can also do the liner notes, and be able to fulfill my dream of winning Best Album Liner Notes.
There have been many times when I’ve written to labels and asked them “why haven’t you reissued this?” A publicist for an audiophile reissue label told me this when I gave them a list of albums I’d like to see them handle: “we don’t do outside A&R”. In other words, my suggestions were not welcome and at that point it rubbed me the wrong way. I wasn’t trying to take the guy’s position, I simply wanted to suggest, and even an idea was not something they cared to even read. I had sent another reissue label an idea for a box set, and they told me point blank that that artist is not someone of value. The artist, Eddie Bo, was someone whose music was and still is heavily sampled in hip-hop, soul/R&B, and dance music, and I felt the label, who released a lot of disco, soul, R&B, and blues compilations, would do Bo’s music justice. They felt he wouldn’t sell because Bo was so obscure. A decade later, said label released a box set with heavy duty funk and soul obscurities, with a booklet featuring liner notes from a journalist friend. The label’s British reissue division released these exact obscurities in a series of compilations, and yet due to “no sales potential” here in the U.S., my suggestion was ignored. All of a sudden, this box set is released and it receives a good amount of position reviews. Granted, I’m not in Los Angeles or New York so I can’t make the same impact a music supervisor could do there, but I had an idea and it was ignored, only for someone else to take credit for a similar idea. I also had another idea for a reissue project, sent it in to the head of the label and was told “this will absolutely not sell.” Less than a year, that label released a compilation CD featuring my suggestions. Keep in mind that “a suggestion is a suggestion”, and any group of people can have the same idea, but c’mon. Chances of any other label having the same idea was slim, and again, it irked me. It’s not just the face that my suggestions and ideas were turned into something fruitful, it’s just that it would be nice to work on those projects for the labels.
The small but tight bootlegging industry of the late 1960′s and 1970′s gave power to the fan who wanted to release more music by artists than a label cared to do. All you had to have was a few hundred dollars, a pressing plant to make your records, and a few connections on how to obtain live recordings or studio outtakes. In time, these bootleggers would gain local, regional, national, and in time world attention. The legitimate record industry were pissed, because they felt bootleggers were taking away millions from labels and artists. Little did these labels know that some artists were in favor of these boots, as it often gave them a bit of street credibility when fans were able to hear an artist sound “in the raw” without the polish of a professional recording. Did bootleggers actually steal millions of dollars, no. Did bootleggers earn thousands of dollars, yes, and according to some books and articles about bootlegging, some were able to pay their way through college through the sales of “illegal records”. As compact discs became more popular, bootlegs would eventually find its way in the digital realm and the audio quality would highly improve, changing the definition of what had been known as “bootleg quality recordings”. The introduction of the MP3 digital file in the mid-1990′s meant that any and all audio files could be transferred on the internet, via e-mail and Usenet. Initially it was okay to low-quality files, generally single songs mailed out. As modem speeds increased, so did the amount of digital transmissions (upload and download). Audio quality also improved, to the point where an MP3 was considered “as good as a high quality cassette”, which meant “not CD quality, but good enough for general use.” That was all that fans needed to know in order to abandon hard copy completely. While the MP3 made it possible to download almost anything ever recorded, what some fans wanted was the obscure stuff. Yes, even in the digital world where obscurity means nothing when any audio file can be infinitely cloned, fans still wanted more.
Look at any music community and you’ll find thousands of people wanting to hear more music. We are in a period in time when we are able to consume as much music as possible, or at least download as much music as possible and never having the time to hear it all. It’s megabyte and gigabyte gluttony, and people want to hear not only what’s new, but anything and everything that came out in the last 120 years. Fans are making an impact by creating their own compilations and digital “box sets”, coming up with concepts and ideas that at one time was plentiful in the legitimate music industry. As the industry moved from “music projects” to “mandatory quarterly sales of units”, it seems quality control and creativity… maybe not disappeared 100 percent, but moved to people at independent labels who still care for the music. Those who are not a part of that inner circle are taking their wares online and giving the fans what they want or should have.
There’s a lot of stuff online that I’m not interested in, but people are making custom compilations on everything from 80′s classics, deep disco, Germany military funk, hip-hop instrumentals, country ballads: name a genre, there’s probably a custom compilation out there. If you love avant-garde and experimental music, you’ll find a community catering to that. I’m sure there are fanatical classical fans who must have performances of pieces that may be in the wrong key, I don’t know. Of course, if you want to find music by the top selling artists, you’ll find them in abundance.
Yet with all of these homemade and custom projects available online, it doesn’t take away the fact that fans want to hear them, and many are still willing to buy them, whether it’s in digital form or hard copy. Nas fans support their favorite MC and yet his current label, Def Jam, is holding back. Is it a sales opportunity missed, a label unable to release it because of uncleared samples, or just not caring for the demands of fans?
As anyone in any business will tell you, if you want something done, you have to do it yourself. If you’re complaining about why artists aren’t playing in your city, find a way to bring them there yourself, find people who could do it, make the connections and make it happen. I do not have the money it takes to go to any artist, label, or recording studio to say “I want to reissue this, how much would it cost for me to license these recordings?”, but I would like to be involved with people who do. Yet if I did have the funds to work with, trust me, I would do everything in my power to do the kind of work I want to, to hear the music I want to hear and to satisfy the fans who have been waiting for it too. The reason why box sets were hugely popular in the 80′s and 90′s is because fans wanted more, and labels did not think those old and rejected recordings were of value. All of a sudden, Bob Dylan‘s Biograph and Eric Clapton‘s Crossroads box sets sold immensely, and almost every other artist had a box set in their name. If they didn’t, the bootleggers would come in to save the day. Major labels would often say “we have exhausted the vaults, there’s no more”, and somehow bootlegger Ignacio from the Philippine mountains would be sitting in a warehouse full of unheard of soundboard concert recordings by everyone who toured in that part of the world. At that time, the recording industry did give fans what they wanted, and everyone was rewarded.
Is it a Nas issue? A Def Jam issue? Or has the industry not placed value on hip-hop reissues because the market has been widely neglected? Is hip-hop not “rock” enough, and why does the music have to live up to rock’n’roll when the music was, as Chuck D. had said many times before, a generation’s rock’n’roll? Perhaps when the industry twisted the rock’n’roll power of hip-hop, and had to find its Elvis Presley, its Beatles, its Rolling Stones, that’s when things shifted for the worse. Perhaps a part of rock’n’roll’s power is that idolatry, the idea that there are mere musical Gods walking on this Earth, artists play it up all the time in a live setting, but that power has to do with what they’re creating. The majesty of rock’n’roll, hard rock, and heavy metal can be heard in blues, in jazz, in soul, in funk, and very much in hip-hop. Yet what the opportunists have done is milk the hip-hop lucrative teet for everything but the music. The music is secondary, and it’s as if the industry wants to cater to those who want to buy in the lifestyle and not the music. It’s not a music industry, it’s a lifestyle industry, or as a music executive told me, “it’s less of a music industry these days and more of a T-shirt industry”. In other words, everyone is selling shirts and shoes because it makes more money than the music itself, while music itself is now a tool to sell toothpaste and Armor-All.
Less music, more lifestyle: Does that perception make fans feel that if they “buy” into a lifestyle, they’ll become what they’re not? Maybe that’s another topic, another time, but if there’s any truth to this, then music fans are truly missing some incredible music. It’s not just what remains unreleased, but the millions of artists who are struggling to be heard but are shut out by an industry that continues to close down creativity for the sake of finding a better recipe to make money. How can you blame an industry for struggling to find a way to make the public buy things they haven’t had faith in for a decade? Then again, how can one blame fans for knowing, wanting, and demanding better?
Evidence is keeping busy and will continue this throughout 2011. In the meantime, he has just released I Don’t Lead Love, where he drops rhymes over manipulated Beatles tracks. If you like Evidence, and/or have a love for hearing what people are doing with the Beatles tracks available, listen to this.
Unlike the previous edition of Covered where I found a new album cover that had similar features to an older album, this one is actual homage/parody. We all know The Beatles right, four guys from Liverpool, one guy was named after his love of jewelry, went to West Germany, played a lot, did uppers which was a gateway to LSD, blah blah? Anyway, in 1967, following the death of their manager Brian Epstein, Paul McCartney felt it might be a cool idea to hire a bus, take a ride out in the country and film whatever happened. As some critics stated, “nothing happened”. Magical Mystery Tour was released in late 1967 and shown on British TV in black & white, even though the film was shot in colour. Everyone hated it, and there were no plans to release the film in the U.S. However, Capitol Records felt a need to cash in as they always did on having product for the holidays. In the UK, Magical Mystery Tourwas released as a double 7″ EP. The EP format was dead in the U.S., so all of the songs on the EP were placed on Side 1 of the album. Side 2 consisted of the singles that the band released in 1967. Even though not an album approved by The Beatles, it became a hit to the point where pressings were imported into other countries. The West German pressing, when released in the early 1970′s, became prized as it was the only place for years to find “true stereo” mixes of “Baby You’re A Rich Man” and “All You Need Is Love”. As for the film, it would become a cult favorite in the U.S. when it was featured as a “midnight movie”.
Stoner metal, stoner rock, call that sludgy hard rock what you want, but that sound made famous by Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer has a name, and like most things metal, it has traveled to Russia. Lowriderz are a Russian stoner metal band from St. Petersburg, and for their latest release they show album cover love for MMT. Goo goo g’joob indeed.
Ravi Shankar connection with The Beatles, especially with George Harrison, allowed him not only to expand his audience but to bring Indian classical music to the rest of the world. Harrison released a few Shankar albums and singles on Apple Records, and he also went out of his way to produce a great documentary film on his music and life up to 1972 called Raga. The film was released on VHS but has not been widely seen for years, but now the film has been restored and remastered for DVD, which was released on October 12th.
The DVD Raga also comes with a CD of the soundtrack album, highly sought after by Shankar and Apple Records completists.
Record collecting has many multiples. You can choose to collect anything and everything from a particular artist, a record label, producer, musician, city, state, region, country, era, mono-only, genre, whatever. I was going to say “it’s endless” but there are thousands of ways to collect what you want, and never enough time or money (unless you have a lot of it, and if you do, please send some to my PayPal account, thank you) to get what you want.
Collectors tend to have their own level of expertise, things they specifically want or at least are knowledgeable about. I tend to dabble in a little bit of everything, I know a good amount about The Beatles (as discussed here) but always willing to know more. If people want a superrare funk or soul 45, there are a number of collectors, dealers, and well known hip-hop DJ’s people can track down to find the right pressing.
Another thing that collectors like to do is to find different pressings of the same album, and there are variables of what constitutes “multiple pressings”. I’ll read articles and blogs about people who will go through thrift stores, yard and garage sales and they’ll end up buying a Helen Reddy album even if they’re not a true fan of hers or her music. Somehow, they’ll post a note saying “I have 20 copies of Love Song for Jeffrey, including the quad 8-track, and I don’t know why”. Generally, what you’ll often hear about are people buying the same album multiple times from the same country. I know I have multiple copies of Cecilio & Kapono‘s first album, Loggins & Messina‘s Sittin’ In, but other than being able to buy and organize a few copies of the same album, there’s no really good reason other than to be a collector and play a game that no one really participates in, let’s be honest about this. UNLESS you are amongst a community of collectors who do the same, then it’s appreciated, or at least you can all murk in your disgust of the foolish game.
If you’re a hip-hop DJ that still uses vinyl, then you may want multiple copies of the same record for that reason alone. You place one record on one turntable, then a different copy on the other, and you can “juggle” beats, do a routine, or create a live mix on the spot. That has always been the case for hip-hop DJ’s, but the advances in CD and MP3 technology has made it possible to manipulate songs without having to have the physical record there. DJ’s no longer have to lug boxes and crates of records from gig to gig, hell they don’t have to carry it to a recording session, nor do you have to go to anyone else’s recording studio. Everything can be done digitally, you can have a rapper send you their vocals with a click track, and you can assemble it an ocean away.
Of course, records aren’t solely the tools of the trade for fans of hip-hop music. Having multiple copies of the same record is a different level of madness in record collecting, and it’s a madness that has been going on for decades. As an example again, let’s touch on The Beatles. If you are an American who loves the Revolver album, you have a lot of options to choose from. Let’s say you discovered their music in 1981 and went to the store to pick up a copy of Revolver. If you bought the album brand new/still sealed, you would have the album on Capitol Records in the purple label variation. You then discover that Capitol Records pressed up the album with different labels, as they would rotate the look of their labels every few years. In time, you find yourself with the original Capitol rainbow swirl, both stereo and mono. Then you buy the lime green label, the one on Apple, and the orange one that followed. Same album, same songs, not much difference in any of them. You also have an album that had only 11 songs, which you discovered was shorter than the proper UK version that contained 14. The UK version was not available, but you went to a record store and saw a Japanese pressing or a French pressing, both equal to the 14-track UK album. You buy the French one because it’s cheaper, but hope to buy the Japanese one someday because you had read the sound quality is incredible. You bring home the French pressing and say “wow, this sounds as if if was mastered different.” Or maybe you don’t care, you just want to have your favorite album from as many countries as possible. You know that The Beatles phenomenon was worldwide, so you’re going to go out of your way, within your budget, to get as many world pressings as possible. You are able to do that.
There are reasons as to why one would do it. Some enjoy doing this to be able to hear how an album was heard in the country it was pressed in. In the digital era, the idea of hearing a different mastering in each country is almost a non-existent concept since everything comes from the same digital rip. The songs/files are cloned, so with the exception of the quality of the bit-rate in each file (i.e. an MP3 ripped at 128kbps) will not sound as good as one ripped at 320kbps), what you hear in Atlanta will be the same digital file you’ll download in Paris. In the analog era, a master tape was sent to each world division of a record label. While that master tape may be the approved mix of an album, a mastering engineer in one country may not have the same equipment as the engineer in another country, or an engineer might feel the need to tweak the audio a bit without permission. A pressing in Japan will sound great while the one in Germany might be better. Collectors will often have a select list of preferred countries to buy record pressings from due to their reputation from other collectors, such as U.S., UK, (West) Germany, and Japan. That’s not to ignore a pressing of an album from Australia, in fact some collectors will tell you that a pressing done in the country of the artist’s origin are often preferred because the level of quality control is higher. In other words, wanting multiple copies of albums is very much an audio issue.
One of my favorite albums was one that was a favorite of my dad’s and one I would grow into, Ramsey Lewis‘ Sun Goddess. I have two copies of the album, but also have the 1990 CD and a Japanese pressing from the late 1990′s that sounds incredible. However, there are two other pressings that I would like to have: the Japanese pressing:
and the U.S. Columbia Half-Speed Mastered pressing:
It’s the same album as the one I already have four copies of, so why would I want two more? It’s a chance to hear the same seven songs mastered slightly different than what I’m used to. I love the sound of Columbia albums in the 1970′s, but I’m curious to know if it was mastered differently for Japanese audiences, and if that master is different from the Japanese CD (most likely it is). Even if I obtained the Japanaese LP, why would I now want the album yet again, in Half-Speed Mastered form? Because it was mastered differently, and this matters to me because I want to know, hear, and experience the differences, however small. Half-Speed Mastering was done at a time when perhaps record labels stopped caring for quality control so much, so having to create something with a specific slogan was their way of not only making more money, but letting the public know “we have created a better pressing which we think you will prefer.” Arguably it was the Deluxe Edition of the late 1970′s/early 1980′s, where the public had the option to buy the same set of songs again, but perhaps with slightly different graphics on the cover. To the casual music fan, this means nothing to them. To the serious music listener and audiophile, it’s all about variations, and I wnat to hear them. I also know of a British pressing of Sun Goddess on CBS with an orange label, and just to be a completist, maybe I’d buy that too but right now my goal is to get the Japan pressing and the Half-Speed. Are there Australian, French, and German pressings? Was there an inferior Taiwan pressing? There might be, but I don’t have too much interest in them.
There are two albums in my collection that I am a bit fanatical about, and while it’s not an urgent collecting game, it’s one that I play. I am looking for different world pressings of Frankie Goes To Hollywood‘s Welcome To The PleasureDome and the 1970 Woodstock 3LP soundtrack album.
Frankie Goes To Hollywood might not be on the list of mandatory artists to collect, definitely not up there with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or Elvis Presley, but I got into them primarily because of the sound and production, done primarily by Trevor Horn. I also loved what Paul Morley did with his level of superhype, created with incredible liner notes and myth creation. It was never “oh, Frankie Goes To Hollywood are from Liverpool, maybe they’ll be as big as The Beatles” or “they’re kinda new wave”, it was always about the music. I love Welcome To The PleasureDome, and it’s an album that I think saved me from complete mental hell when I had moved from Honolulu to the Pacific Northwest. I also liked how their record label, Zang Tuum Tumb, would release a single but not just the standard 7″ 45 or the 12″. There would be an alternate 12″, maybe a 7″ and 12″ picture disc, the cassingle, the shaped picture disc, or maybe two promotional mixes made exclusively for radio. I loved the ideas of multiples (which sounds like something you’d hear in a porn video but that’s another topic, perhaps another time), so I would find myself getting records from different countries. I wanted to explore that with Welcome To The PleasureDome and I have to a small degree. I have the US, UK, UK picture disc, Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and Yugoslavian pressings. In the US it was released via Island Records, which at the time was a WEA-affiliated label. In Japan it was released through Island/Polystar, and in New Zealand through Festival, and it’s cool to see the variations, however minor. Since FGTH were not as big as The Beatles, being able to find other world pressings should not be difficult. As I look at the page for the album at Discogs.com, I see that there are pressings in Greece, Israel, Portugal, Scandinavia, France, Italy, and Spain. I want them all. Were there pressings in Hong Kong? South Korea? I want to know. But as you can see, the list of countries isn’t big. Compare that with a Beatles album that was released around the world. I could easily complete my collection by the end of the week.
Then there’s the Woodstock soundtrack. I fell in love with the movie in 1979 or 1980 when it was shown on HBO. I clearly remember the promo on HBO with Casey Kasem, and as they showed that shot after Jimi Hendrix‘s section, Kasem did a voice-over which said “Woodstock: where it all began.” I grew up with a good amount of rock’n’roll and heavy music that came from what my dad and uncles listened to, it wasn’t “classic rock” just yet, just “the good shit”. I was born a year after the festival, and the idea of going to a concert in some large, random farm in upstate New York, surrounded by over 500,000 people as people passed around wine, weed, and granola was something that moved me. C’mon, a 3-day festival with all of this great music, funky ass smelly people, and a trippy mud slide? I would’ve been happy with the granola, but if I was alive when the festival happened, you know I would’ve not only had smoked weed, but I would’ve been in the forest trying to survive the brown acid that Chip Monck told me was not specifically too good.
One day my parents and I went to the Kamehameha Super Swap Meet one weekend, something we always did, and after falling in love with what was the longest movie I had ever seen up until that point, I saw the soundtrack album. Three records, and the cost? A massive three dollars. I begged and pleaded, and told them “get me this, and you will not have to get me anything for Christmas” or some stupid shit just so I could get the record, take it home, and listen. They gave me the pitiful look, but once I saw the hand reaching into the purse, I smiled and ran to the man who had the album. Gave him the three dollars, wanting to go home right now. I either played Santana‘s “Soul Sacrifice” or Ten Years After‘s “I’m Going Home” first, and I just put myself into the music and got lost. 1979 was the year I discovered The Beatles and hip-hop, and I believe was the year I found Woodstock. I was set for life. Well, I wasn’t prepared for losing a parent, good friends, and bills, but still.
Woodstock became a worldwide phenomenon, now every country wanted to have their own gigantic festival and a lot of them failed. But the myth created behind the movie and soundtrack was what I lived for, for the simply fact that it looked and sounded good. As a kid I would say “if I had a time machine, I’d want to go to 1950 so I could experience The Beatles and Woodstock in real time”. As I got older, I still think it would have been an incredible thing to be a part of, but that’s a very naive me speaking as a pre-teen. Someone like me with my ethnic mix might not have been able to live outside of Hawai’i or California, either I would be a statistic or fighting for the civil rights of all but… it would have been interesting.
Nonetheless, the soundtrack album moved me and I was always curious as to how the soundtrack was perceived. I don’t have as many pressings of Woodstock as I do of Welcome To The PleasureDome but I do have them for the U.S., Germany, Taiwan, and Israel. The album, a 3LP set, was originally released in 1970 on Cotillion Records, a subsidiary of Atlantic. Back then, the double album was considered “the event” but a 3LP set? Even The Beatles didn’t have a 3-record set, and now there’s one for a damn music and art fair? Anyway, as is the case with Atlantic-related albums in other countries, sometimes Woodstock would be released not with the Cotillion label, but with the Atlantic label, such as this pressing from Venezuela:
Or labels that have absolutely nothing to do with Cotillion or Atlantic, such as these pressings from South Korea and China respectively:
The album was also released with different covers. Uruguay pressing? Sure:
In India, the album was not released as a 3LP set but as three individual records with a different color scheme for each one:
In South Korea, there seems to be a few counterfeit pressings, which seems to have been customary in Asian countries that didn’t have proper record label affiliates. Somewhere down the line, there was an official pressing, and that had a completely different album cover as well. I can use eBay and other sites to find out which pressings are out there, it’s much cheaper to do that than it is to fly there and look for any stores or collectors, but that’s all a part of the fun of being a collector. There’s no really good reason to do it, other than to do it, and it’s not mandatory or life threatening. It’s merely a hobby, and I try to make it fun. It may be as corny to the outsider as it is for someone who attends Happy Meal toy conventions, but perhaps it’s a way to spice up a hobby that at times can be boring. It’s nothing but dust collecting on an archive I can’t really do anything with unless I’m interactive with it, which means taking the record out of the sleeve, placing it on the turntable, and lowering the stylus onto it.
As record companies started steering away from actual records and into cassettes and CD’s, many countries didn’t bother pressing up vinyl for a lot of titles. Or in the U.S., where vinyl was king, you would only be able to find cassette and CD, and had to hunt down an imported pressing, sometimes 50 to 100 percent more in cost. If you were lucky, maybe the labels pressed up promotional copies for radio and DJ’s, but as the compact disc became the king in the 1990′s, records were pushed to the side. In 2010, it’s rare to find any new album pressed in more than one country unless it’s someone very popular. To make things worse, new record prices in 2010 are often tagged with “import prices”, and add to that that labels will also press them up at 180g or 200g, making them “of audiophile quality”. Sound may not crystal clear, but the record is thick and heavy enough to give them a chance to add an extra ten dollars to any new release. Unfair, sure, but they’re also taking advantage of the vinyl revival/renaissance of the early 21st century. For the 40 dollars you might spend on the new Neil Young, you can buy 40 records from the dollar bin, which is why record collecting is still fun for me, the exploration aspect of it. If I want to get different label, cover, and pressing variations, I can choose to go that route.
Now for my question. How many of you do the same thing, and for what albums? Post your replies.
The release of Soulive‘s new album, Rubber Soulive, has lead them to the top of the iTunes jazz charts. People who have never heard of Soulive may be doing so because the album is a tribute to The Beatles, or Soulive has been able to take their brand of jazz, funk, and soul and move it to the Beatles world. Now you’ll be able to see them do some of these songs live when they start their tour beginning tomorrow (October 1st), so go get a ticket: October 1 | Maritime Magic | Baltimore, MD
October 2 | Terminal 5 | New York, NY
October 7 | Northern Lights | Albany, NY
October 8 | Port City Music Hall | Portland, ME
October 9 | Port City Music Hall | Portland, ME
October 16 | Clearwater Jazz Festival | Clearwater, FL
October 29 | Higher Ground | Burlington, VT
October 30 | Higher Ground | Burlington, VT
November 4 | The Rex | Pittsburgh, PA
November 5 | The State Theater | Falls Church, VA
November 6 | World Cafe Live | Philadelphia, PA
November 7 | Capital Ale House | Richmond, VA
November 8 | Pisgah | Asheville, NC
November 9 | The Poor House | Charleston, SC
November 10 | Neighborhood Theater | Charlotte, NC
November 11 | Masquerade | Atlanta, GA
November 13 | Bear Creek Music & Art Festival | Live Oak, FL
November 19 | Double Door | Chicago, IL
November 20 | Orpheum Theater | Madison, WI
December 10 | The Independent | San Francisco, CA *w/ special guest Karl Denson
December 11 | The Independent | San Francisco, CA *w/ special guest Karl Denson
December 12 | Humbolt Brews | Arcata, CA *w/ special guest Karl Denson
December 14 | Harlow’s | Sacramento, CA
December 15 | Moe’s Alley | Santa Cruz, CA
December 16 | The Roxy | Los Angeles, CA
December 17 | Cervante’s Masterpiece Ballroom | Denver, CO
December 18 | Cervante’s Masterpiece Ballroom | Denver, CO
December 30 | Paradise | Boston, MA
December 31 | Paradise | Boston, MA
All of us record collectors have a point of origin, and this was mine. The primary means of listening to music as a kid was records, along with 8-track tapes, a few cassettes, and of course the radio. When the 80′s came, cassettes became a primary means of listening with the introduction of the Sony Walkman. But as far as the group that made me move from being a casual fan of records to someone obsessed buying them as possible investments, it was The Beatles and it was due to this newspaper article by Wayne Harada of the Honolulu Advertiser:
Up until that point, records were merely vehicles to find music. Now I discovered a book that talked about record collecting, priced them, and placed them in an order that I appreciated. I was a young fan of the discography listing, and this would turn my curiosity into a lifelong obsession. I was a young Beatles fan who wanted all of the records and wanted to know anything and everything that had to do with their music, and I was fascinated with the variations, and also knowing there was someone who was fascinated with listing the variations. Just like the music and artists I would discover, it was about origins and roots, to find an answer to something I didn’t know about, and keep digging until there was nothing more to dig. One record can and will lead to another, and that moved me. I had seen issues of Goldmine magazine, which was very different from my reading habits at the time (Rolling Stone, Hit Parader, and Goldmine), but when I picked up, bought, and read my first issue at home, it felt like I entered a room full of secrets, the hidden info that I was now allowed to know.
The Beatles were the first group I actively collected, not only U.S. pressings, but whatever import pressings I could find at Tower Records. It was easy to find and buy British and European pressings, but I wanted the Japanese pressings. This was the early 80′s, and Odeon Records in Japan had reissued the entire Beatles catalog. I had learned from reading that these were the pressings to have because Japan had a standard in pressing that made them of audiophile quality. But at double or sometimes triple the domestic price, I could not afford that and forget about asking my mom about buying it. I remember one day walking into a record store called Froggie’s and seeing a counterfeit pressing of The Beatles’ Christmas Album I didn’t realize it was a fake pressing, but at $12, I had to have it. I told my parents “please, get me this record, it is rare, I will never ask for another record for the rest of the year.” $12 for a single record was quite high during a time when $8.99 seemed like an obscene price, but they buckled and got my album. I would get more and more, having my own allowance that I would later spend on records. I spent foolishly, sure, but in the process I began finding out what made their records worth so much and why, and also what to look out for. This article is not meant to be for the Beatles experts, but rather for the newbies who may be getting into record collecting for the first time, and what better way to do it than with one of the more collectible groups in the world?
When the mainstream media does a story on record collecting, it will usually lead to the discussion of Elvis Presley or The Beatles, because they are two of the most influential artists in rock’n’roll. They each have a level of popularity that continues years after they made their initial impact, and that has yet to stop. Naturally, the hobby of record collecting is discussed when Presley and The Beatles are discussed, and for good reason. Some of their records are very valuable, but that leads to the perception that any and every record they’ve ever made is worth hundreds, if not thousands. People feel that because they are Beatles fans, they are Beatles record experts, but with the internet in front of us, there’s no reason to not know about the record or its true value. Unfortunately, the internet makes it possible for dealers to sell records at obnoxious prices in order to jack up a price on a particular item.
There was a time when the value of a record was determined by supply and demand, so if you lived in Philadelphia and found a Buck Owens record for $25, you could find it in a smaller town in Virginia for $2. Record collector guides, like the one spotlighted in the scanned newspaper article above, was basically a rough-but-educated way on how to value records, and that was the unspoken law. With eBay, it’s not territorial anymore, which is good, any and all records can be found with patience. Unfortunately, the record you had seen in a store for $2 a few years ago is now up there for $259.99. Is it worth that much? Most likely, no, but that dealer is thinking of one thing: “all I need is one sucker to buy it for that price, and I’m $259.99 richer.” Now, if you are the seller and someone buys it for that price, you wouldn’t complain? Unfortunately, high minimum bids artificially raise the value of a record and suddenly it becomes unethical. only because we get to see the transaction in real time. Yet is it unethical to find a record for a dome and sell it on eBay for $499? It’s ruthless but that is a part of this fun hobby called record collecting, so you understand the extremes and deal with it.
For now, let’s get to basics with The Beatles and record collecting. Since I live in the U.S., I speak from a U.S. perspective. This will be important for Americans who choose to collect American pressings, but also those outside of the U.S. who want the American pressings, as they are of value. In record collecting, you can have any specialty that you want, there isn’t a law which says you can collect this and that, but not that over there. There are dealers who buy and sell Disney records, some who love Broadway and musicals, a few who love old Bozo The Clown story records, or people who enjoy picking up every record you could find on the back of a cereal box. If you have an interest in records from Canada, Hong Kong, India, or wherever, information is out there to guide you and if not, keep looking. Someone will share your passion.
In the United States, Beatles records were released by a number of record companies, with the primary label being Capitol. Initially the label rejected them, but in time would find a home with a Chicago record company known for soul, blues, and gospel called Vee Jay. As The Beatles promotional team were trying to find a way to bank on success in America, they found a way to have a record released on a small Philadelphia label called Swan. It was with this record, “She Loves You”/”I’ll Get You”, that became a pop hit, and would make Capitol Records reconsider their original position. They were signed to Capitol in late 1963, and the label were prepared to make an impact with their British find in January of 1964.
The buzz would start, and American record labels were not sure what was going on. Only skiffle groups were known to come from England, and yet kids were enjoying the long-haired antics of a group from Liverpool? A few labels discovered that there were songs recorded in the group’s early days, and they obtained the rights to release them. They include MGM and Atco. For a brief moment, Capitol in the U.S. could not keep up with the demand, even though they had their own record pressing plants. In some markets, Beatles records unique to Canada (i.e. they were only released in Canada and did not have a U.S. counterpart) were imported into the U.S., and enough copies were sold to make a dent on the charts. These few records were on Capitol of Canada.
While The Beatles were not signed by Vee Jay, it didn’t stop them from cashing in on Beatlemania that was attacking. The 14 songs they had acquired the rights to was released as the group’s first American album, the 12-track Introducing The Beatles (the American norm for pop was a 12-track album, while the UK standard was 14, so while there are different variations of Introducing The Beatles, one pressing features “Please Please Me” and “Ask Me Why” while another substitutes them for “Love Me Do” and “P.S. I Love You”.) Trying to find a way to sell the same set of songs to the public, those songs were released as singles and 4-song 7″ EP’s. They also released “Twist & Shout” on a subsidiary label, Tollie, which would become the most successful Vee Jay-related record, going as high as #2 on the Billboard singles chart during the week of April 4, 1964 when The Beatles dominated the 1-5 positions, which no one has ever done since (not even Justin Bieber. It did make it to #1 on the Cash Box chart.
Not wanting to stop, Vee Jay would spread the songs apart and release them a number of ways:
* a split album with Frank Ifield and releasing it with two different covers
* a double album “battle” called The Beatles vs. The Four Seasons (later mocked by bootleggers in a number of ways, including the infamous Beatles vs. Don Ho)
* a single album called Songs, Pictures And Stories Of The Fabulous Beatles
* a series of “oldies but goodies” 45′s on the Oldies 45 label
The only record Vee Jay could properly sell without protest was an interview album called Hear The Beatles Tell All. At the time, interview albums were considered almost disposable, so the idea of a record company owning interview recordings was not as big as the music. Speaking of which, Hear The Beatles Tell All did not feature any actual Beatles music, so the record sounds like a long-lost radio talk show but features some nice moments.
To make it even more interesting, almost every record on Vee Jay was counterfeited. This is a term to describe records that look official but were not actually ordered by the record company, and are often detected by blurry or off-center printing, different handwriting in the matrix number of the record, or using materials that are different from official pressings. With that said, it may be possible that the counterfeit pressings were printed “under the table”/”after hours” by Vee Jay, so that even as they had no rights to the recordings, they could still place records in stores so they could gain profits from sales. Even long after Vee Jay shut its doors, counterfeit pressings were popping up in the 1980′s, in fact I obtained Hear The Beatles Tell All and Introducing The Beatles from finding the counterfeits. Are these counterfeits of value? To the completist they might be, but since they were plentiful, they’re not often seen as high priced items. They look official, and sometimes the quality of the music sounds decent, but some collectors often desire specific pressings of a record for optimum quality, especially audiophiles. Counterfeits are often compared to old cassette tape dubs: it’s nice but it’s not the real thing.
As The Beatles grew in popularity, the band wanted to find a way to start their own company. By 1967, ideas were being thrown about and in 1968, Apple Records was born. “Hey Jude”/”Revolution” was the first record by The Beatles to be released on Apple, and it would be their sole outlet of their music until they split in 1970. Apple was distributed by Capitol Records, and in 1971, every Beatles record released on Capitol would be released with the Apple label, using the same catalog numbers as the originals. When Apple folded in early 1976, Capitol proper would reissue all of them again, a process that would continue with different label variations throughout the rest of the 70′s, 80′s, and early 90′s.
In between, you might find a Beatles song or two on a one-off compilation, or the discovery of old nightclub recordings would circulate and be released by countless smaller companies, but for all intents and purposes, these are the primary labels: Capitol and Vee-Jay (including Tollie and Oldies 45.)
If this hasn’t overwhelmed you yet, I’ll try to simplify things a bit, beginning with their first Capitol album, Meet The Beatles. It was customary at the time to release albums in both mono and stereo. Mono, or monaural, were meant to be played on record players/phonographs with one speaker. It was the ordinary, everyday record for everyone. Stereophonic (2-channel) records was promoted as being sophisticated, grown-up, and something to be played on more expensive equipment. Since more people had mono record players, most record labels pressed up mono and Capitol were no exception. The catalog # for the mono pressing is Capitol T-2047, while the stereo pressing is ST-2047, note the addition of the S, which signified “stereo”. You can find the catalog numbers generally on the top right hand side of the cover, the spine, or on the label. Also, stereo pressings of Meet The Beatles would clearly state “Full Dimensional Stereo” on the top:
When an album went Gold by selling 500,000 copies, the labels would often print up new covers which stated that title won a “Gold Record Award”, with the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) logo. You can find it by looking below the Capitol Records logo on the right hand side:
This distinguishes it from early pressings, and is also a factor in pricing. Now, if you see this RIAA “Gold Record” logo, it means again that it sold 500,000 copies. This means technically that at least 300,000 coopies are still roaming the Earth, and that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a one-of-a-kind “rare” piece. If someone charges $500 for it and it looks like an old photo album found in the back of a pick-up truck, put it down and look elsewhere.
Having the RIAA thing doesn’t mean it’s not rare or that you can’t sell it. Keep in mind though that most pop and rock’n’roll records were played by kids and teens who could care less about record care. Records were often left out of covers, so if someone stepped on it, it would scrape with the carpet. Not exactly great condition. Handwriting on the cover? Put it down. But if you manage to find a copy that looks like the cellophone plastic was just ripped from it, you *might* have something.
But then you have the issue of record labels. It was also common for companies to change the design of the label every few years. The most popular titles would get the new labels, and that would be part of the practice until Capitol stopped pressing records on a regular basis. Since Meet The Beatles was released in 1964, Capitol’s labels looked like this:
What you see here is the first variation of the mono label, and there would be three others with different things on the label (primarily publishing information) distinguishing them from one another.
Trust me, it goes on and on but I find knowing the variations to be fun, and collectors do too. If you want to find out more about these variations and what to look out for, check out Fab 4 Collectibles, Rare Beatles, or some of the great books writing by Bruce Spizer. Even if you know their music inside and out, you might not know what record you have until you do the proper research. You no longer have to leave home to find the right collector’s guides, these three websites are the perfect way to start you on your research.
This type of research can and does apply to any other artist, any genre, any label, any decade. If you’re a Led Zeppelin fan, you can find out which pressing you have and why yours is the preferred one. Or if you’re selling your copy and a potential buyer wants to know if the lettering is yellow or orange, you’ll know how to find out or know where to look. With The Beatles, it may feel like an endless journey and I think that’s why some collect it, because unless you’re wealthy, you’ll never be able to get every single variation. Part of the fun of record collection is establishing your own rules and boundaries, so have fun.
Even with the release of Eric Krasno‘s solo album (as reviewed here), Soulive are still active and are about to be introduced to Beatles fans who are unfamiliar with them with the release of Rubber Soulive.
The album is an all-instrumental Beatles tribute albun, featuring new versions of “Revolution”, “Come Together”, and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”. It will be released on September 14 not only on vinyl, but on the trendy CD and MP3 formats.
Where bloggers from around the world can network
Discovered this book review blog when someone had posted a review of a music book. Went through it and saw a number of books I immediately put on my want list. Created by Maria Popova and features a number of contributors.
Cool slew of goodies from books and diaries to T-shirts, bags and soaps. Now based in Portland.
The show is no more, but you may explore the archives of this great Portland-based podcast while you can. You may now listen to Cort & Bobby in Welcome To That Whole Thing, listed below.