Instead of buying the Oasis (What’s The Story) Morning Glory box set, I have decided to spend the same amount of money building as good a record collection as is humanly possible.
It isn’t clear quite why I am doing this. Probably some strange affectation, mid-life crisis or possible undiagnosed mental health issue. Best not to probe too deeply. Nevertheless, I am. So there. It’s going well.
With some decent records under my arm, I continued crate-digging around the Spitalfields record fair. Although the likes of Tapestry, Born To Run etc were literally in the bag, the collection felt a little lightweight. It was to time to bring in the big guns, and see which of the top ten albums in Rolling Stones’ 500 Greatest Albums I could snaffle within budget.
I started with the number one album,
The Beatles: Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
- It’s the greatest.
- Lovely gatefold sleeve, with lyrics printed on it, laminated, with insert (below) of Sergent Pepper’s moustache.
- Could it have been an even better album? George Martin has said he regrets leaving out Penny Lane and Strawberry Fields Forever. The reason they were left off was because back then, the attitude was that singles and albums were kept separate…
I found a copy for £10 in decent condition. You can buy Sgt Pepper new for <£20 nowadays with the recent reissues, so there’s really no need to buy an original copy in poor condition.
Although my copy didn’t have the original inner sleeve, I had that covered. You may recall I found an old Chuck Berry album with an odd coloured sleeve way back in part 4?
Well, that was a distinctive and psychedelic sleeve designed by The Fool – a design collective from Holland – that was designed specifically for Sgt Pepper – and is only ever usually found in the earliest Sgt Pepper albums. A Chuck Berry album was an odd place to find it (it must have been swapped around at one point over the years), but a copy of Sgt Pepper with the original sleeve is more valuable than one without! I swapped the sleeves around and I now had a complete Sgt Pepper!
The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds.
Again, I found a decent copy for £10.
- It’s #2 in Rolling Stones 500 Greatest Albums
- It cost $70,000 to make (albeit that was nothing compared to the $50,000 it cost to make the “Good Vibrations” single).
- Rolling Stone may rate it at number two now, but in November 1967 Jann Wenner criticised the Beach Boys after their non-appearance at Monterey (during which Jimi Hendrix stated “You heard the last of surfing music”) saying the “genius” label ascribed to Brian Wilson was a “promotional shuck” and that “The Beach Boys are just one prominent example of a group that has gotten hung up in trying to catch the Beatles”.
- It’s another tenner out of the budget.
- This was the first Beach Boys album on which none of the Beach Boys played instruments, and although it was a hit in the UK, it wasn’t promoted by Capitol in the USA, which focused instead on a Beach Boys best-of. Although it reached number 11 and sold half a million copies, this was fewer than the “Best of The Beach Boys” released eight weeks later and which reached number eight.
- The main downside to this album was the effect that it had on the band (Mike Love hated Brian Wilson’s role as taskmaster “Who’s gonna hear this?” he asked. “The ears of a dog?”) and Brian Wilson’s health. The excellent “Heroes and Villains” book by Steven Gaines describes various examples of Wilson’s decline, including filling his den (where his piano sat) with sand and a tree house, and then moving on from extravagant home decoration to hashish, amphetamines and psychedelic drugs of various descriptions as he agonised over Pet Sounds’ successor, “Smile”..
Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited
- #4 in the Top 500 albums.
- Mine for a bargain £5.
- Alongside the three “B” albums: “Bringing it all Back Home”, “Blonde on Blonde” and “Blood on the Tracks”, this is one of the core four “must have” Dylan albums.
- The packaging is hardly lavish. But you don’t buy Dylan albums for the sleeve do you?
- It was a later pressing, rather than a sixties original. That would have cost another £10…
The best bargain of the day however was this:
Johnny Cash: Live at Folsom Prison.
This classic live album was lurking in a half price bin for just £2.50.
- It was a beauty, in laminated sleeve and an original UK CBS label copy.
- The blood curdling cheers from the prison inmates at the line “I shot a man in Reno / just to watch him die”
- On the reverse of the record cover is a thoughtful hand-written essay by Johnny Cash. Until I bought this album I was unaware of its existence (it wasn’t reprinted in my CD copy bought ten years ago). Cash writes “The culture of a thousand years is shattered with the clanging of the cell door behind you….I speak partly from experience – I have been behind bars a few times….Each time I felt the same feeling of kinship with my fellow-prisoners”. He speaks of envying a cockroach, as it can crawl out of the cell door…. It’s an extraordinary essay.
- Yup, plenty of them. In the audience…
Next time I’ll wrap things up with what The Ultimate Record Collection ended up looking like. And then we’ll hopefully take a look at what happened when more bloggers had a go at deciding how to spend their money….the final part can be found via this link….
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