As the year comes to an end, I thought I'd write about a couple of my favorite musical moments from the past 12 months. First, "Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon," the new album from Devendra Banhart. For my money, Devendra is quite simply the most interesting young artist making music today. His previous album, "Cripple Crow" is a psychedelic/folk/rock/Tropicalismo masterpiece. "Smokey" continues in the same vein, but is even more eclectic (if that's possible.) "Seahorse," my all-time favorite Devendra song, is an 8 minute, 3 movement nearly impossible to describe melange of folk, jazz, psychedelia and freak out rock reminiscent of both Dave Brubeck's "Blue Rondo" and Quicksilver Messenger Service at their John Cippolina "Happy Trails" best. This is eclectic stuff, and not for everyone--but if you have adventurous taste and this sounds interesting, RUN, DON'T WALK to get this album and "Cripple Crow." If you're not sure, go to iTunes and check out the snippets from these albums. Great great stuff. And if you are a fan of live music, definitely catch Devendra and his wonderful band at one of their shows. They are absolutely fantastic (check Youtube for the proof !)
On another front, I just finished watching the DVD "Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who" and loved it. This documentary was co-directed by Murray Lerner, the celebrated documentarian who's films of Bob Dylan at the Newport Folk Festivals were just released. One of the producers, Nigel Sinclair, produced "No Direction Home," the Bob Dylan documentary directed by Martin Scorsese (if you haven't seen this, stop reading here, go to Amazon, and buy it immediately.) "Amazing Journey" is beautifully researched, shot and edited, and has loads of never before seen footage including the High Numbers live (!) at the Railway Hotel, London in 1965. I've seen a lot of Who footage and know a great deal about their history, but learned quite a bit from this exceptionally well done doc. Needless to say, if you're into the Who, you need this. It comes packaged as a 3 CD box set with a live Who concert from Chicago 1979 and a second film titled "Amazing Journey: Six Quick Ones" (made up of 6 short films.) I haven't watched these yet, but I would absolutely buy the three just on the strength of the main film.
That's it for now. I hope everyone out there has a great holiday, thanks for reading the blog, and all my best for the new year and beyond ! Jeff.
Sorry I haven't posted anything in some time--it's been crazy around here--so to make up for it, I tried to pick something really interesting for this installment of the virtual museum. These are Johnny Rotten's (John Lydon) original handwritten lyrics for the Sex Pistols classic "God Save The Queen." These had been on exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a display commemorating the band's (unwanted) induction, and have finally made their way back to Recordmecca headquarters.
As you can see, these have the song's original title "No Future" at the top, and a reference to "window leen" in the first verse that didn't make it to the final song (window leen is the UK equivalent of Windex.) These lyrics are reproduced in Jon Savage's comprehensive history of UK punk "England's Dreaming: Anarchy, Sex Pistols, Punk Rock and Beyond." If you don't know this song, or the story of the Pistols, stop reading this and immediately buy their album "Never Mind The Bollocks: Here's The Sex Pistols" and this book. I can't recommend these strongly enough.
Here's a short history of this fantastic song, and the chaos surrounding it's release, courtesy Wikipedia:
The single was released on 27 May 1977, and was regarded by much of the general public to be an assault on Queen Elizabeth II and the monarchy. The title is taken directly from "God Save the Queen", the British national anthem. At the time it was highly controversial, firstly for its equation of the Queen with a "fascist regime", and secondly for the apparent claim that England had "no future".
Although many believe it was created because of the Jubilee, the band denies it, Paul Cook saying that, "It wasn't written specifically for the Queen's Jubilee. We weren't aware of it at the time. It wasn't a contrived effort to go out and shock everyone." Johnny Rotten has explained the lyrics as follows: "You don't write a song like 'God Save The Queen' because you hate the English race. You write a song like that because you love them, and you're sick of seeing them mistreated." His intentions were apparently to evoke sympathy for the British working class, and a general resentment for the monarchy.
On June 7, 1977 - the Jubilee holiday itself - the band attempted to play the song from a boat on the river Thames, outside The Palace of Westminster. After a scuffle involving attendee Jah Wobble and a cameraman, the band and some of its entourage were arrested.
The song peaked at number 2 on the official UK Singles Chart used by the BBC, though there have been persistent rumours - never confirmed or denied - that it was actually the biggest-selling single in the UK at the time, and was kept off number 1 (by Rod Stewart's I Don't Want To Talk About It) because it was felt that it might cause offence. It did hit number 1 on the unofficial NME singles chart. It was banned by the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority which regulated Independent Local Radio, effectively denying it any media exposure. It was also not stocked by some shops. Since the official singles chart at the time was compiled using sales returns from a number of outlets amongst a wider participating roster, it is in theory possible that the single's number 2 position was not the result of disregarding sales figures as such, but of the knowing selection for that week's chart source data of a number of stores which were not selling the record.
The phrase "no future", the song's closing refrain, became emblematic of the punk rock movement, although its use in the song was ambiguous, the lyrics claiming that "there is no future in England's dreaming".
Before the group signed to Virgin, a small number of copies of "God Save the Queen" had been pressed on the A&M label. These are now among the most valuable records ever pressed in the UK, with a resale rate as of 2006 of between £500 to £13,000 a copy, depending on condition of the disc and how much a collector is willing to pay.
The song also features on the album Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, and several compilation albums.
Rolling Stone ranked "God Save the Queen" number 173 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, one of the group's two songs on the list along with "Anarchy in the U.K.". Sounds magazine made it their Single of the Year in 1977. In 1989 it was 18th in the list of NME writers all time top 150 singles. Q Magazine in 2002 ranked it first on their list as "The 50 Most Exciting Tunes Ever..." and 3rd in their list of "100 Songs That Changed The World" in 2003.In 2007 NME launched a campaign to get the song to number 1 in the British charts and encouraged readers to purchase or download the single on October 8th. However it only made #42."
Here's a fascinating touchstone in the Bob Dylan story--Bonnie Beecher's personal copy of the 10" Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee album "Get On Board" on Folkways. This was one of the records Beecher played for her paramour, Bob Zimmerman in 1960. As documented in Clinton Heylin's book "Behind The Shades Revisited," Beecher was "Dylan's original 'Girl From The North Country' and first muse." She met the future Dylan in Minneapolis, at the 5 O'clock Scholar folk club, where he was discussing obscure folk records with local Harvey Abrams. Heylin reports, "like Dylan, Bonnie was ostensibly attending (the) university (of Minnesota.) Such was the mothering instinct that she, and many others had for the young tyke that she ended up being kicked out of her sorority house for associating with such dissolute company. Yet she continued to take him under her wing." Beecher is quoted "no one would let him even play for dinner. I ended up shoplifting for him, stealing food from my sorority house."
One of the many reasons Dylan was initially so drawn to Beecher was that she had a collection of obscure folk and blues records, unavailable in Minnesota, bought on her yearly school trips to New York to see Broadway shows. She would regularly sneak off from her school group to search for the Folkways albums so difficult to find outside of New York. She and Bob spent many hours together listening to her records, which influenced Dylan greatly. When I was lucky enough to meet her, she still had this album and a Leadbelly one that she specifically remembers listing to with Dylan. I was fortunate to obtain both of these from her.
This album has Beecher's original home-made cover (perhaps as the record is a cut out, with a hole punched through the label, it didn't come with a cover.) As you can see, Beecher wrote the artists names (on both sides) as well as her own name. The disc is very well played, and in G condition. Accompanying it is a handwritten letter of authenticity from Beecher, now known as Jahanara Romney, that states "This Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee album, "Get On Board" was owned by me while I was at the University of Minnesota and was one of the albums Bob Dylan and I listened to. Jahanara Romney, formerly Bonnie Beecher."
A great Dylan historical artifact, offered for the first time anywhere, this week on Ebay (click here for a link to the auction.)
I've always loved set lists--those ephemeral pieces of paper with a list of the songs to be played at a particular concert, usually written out by an artist or band member before the show. These days, they're often typed out on a computer, printed out, and taped on the ground in front of each band member's monitor by a roadie. But back in the day, they were usually scribbled out quickly by a band member on whatever scrap of paper was handy, and set down somewhere close to whoever was going to call out the songs.
Often left on the stage after the show, these were sometimes snatched up by wise fans--and just as often thrown in the trash by someone with no sense of history. Thank god, then, that the late Velvet Underground guitarist Sterling Morrison had a real sense of history. Sterling was one of those artists who seemingly saved everything--he had a great collection of Velvets records, acetates, posters, handbills--and he even saved the setlists.
Above is a Velvet Underground set list (handwritten by Sterling) for their January 15, 1970 date at The Quiet Night in Chicago. The band played a week's worth of gigs at this club, and as we can see from this, played multiple sets each night. The songs date from the first 3 Velvets albums (their most recent was the self titled "The Velvet Underground", released in March, 1969) as well as some songs that remained unreleased until much later. Their final album (OK, the final one with Lou Reed,) "Loaded" wouldn't be released until September of 1970. I'd love to hear from anyone out there who might have other set lists they want to share--or perhaps sell. I'm always on the lookout for this type of unique item.
Here's something that truly qualifies as American history--a letter from Sis Cunningham, founder of folk song magazine BROADSIDE, to Ralph J. Gleason, legendary music critic, dated November 5, 1964. In it, Cunningham responds to questions Gleason has asked about the origins of the topical song movement.
Cunningham also relates the most recent Dylan news, and gives her read on his songwriting--remember, she was the first to publish Dylan's songs (in Broadside) and was among the earliest of his enthusiastic supporters. In this letter, written a mere 5 days after Dylan's historic "Halloween Concert" at Philharmonic Hall in New York, Cunningham tells Gleason about a Dylan backlash brought on by his abandonment of the topical song, relating that some of Dylan's followers consider his career at an end, consoling themselves that "he wrote five or six great songs while he lasted."
Cunningham tells Gleason how ridiculous she thinks this is, shares her opinion of Dylan as an important poet, and relates how Johnny Cash wrote a letter supporting Dylan to BROADSIDE that said "SHUT UP, and let him sing !" This is the most articulate and right-on defense of Dylan I've ever read. She truly "got" Dylan, and it's fascinating to read such a prescient appraisal of his talent, so early on. Note also her brief defense of the Beatles at the end of the letter.
42 years later, it's an amazing thing to read--and I think we would all agree that he managed a few more than 5 or 6 great songs.
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People seemed to enjoy the George Harrison lyrics posted here last week (under the title "The Virtual Museum,") so I'm going to try to make this a regular feature of the blog, and post more ultra rare goodies that may be of interest to collectors and others interested in artifacts that tell the story of popular music.
Above is John Hammond's personal acetate for "Gospel Plow," from Bob Dylan's 1962 self-titled debut album. Hammond, in my opinion the greatest A&R (artist & repertoire) Man of the 20th century, discovering and/or signed Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughn and of course Bob Dylan.
Hammond signed Dylan to Columbia Records in 1961, and became his first producer and chief promoter. His belief in Dylan was so complete--even in the face of a complete lack of sales--that Dylan was known around Columbia Records as "Hammond's Folly." The acetate pictured above is a historic artifact of Dylan and Hammond's earliest work together--a disc of Dylan's recording of "Gospel Plow" from the sessions for his first album (this song was recorded in one take, on November 22, 1961--the second and final day of the recording sessions for his first album.) Hammond produced these sessions, and this one-sided 10" disc has the only take recorded of this song.
Individual acetates of each song were cut for Hammond, and used by him to review the song choices and sequence the album. This acetate was given by Hammond to Missy Staunton, who worked as assistant to Billy James, Dylan's publicist at Columbia. In Staunton's letter which accompanied this disc, she explains that working with James "I first got to know John Hammond and other A&R people" and "I went to recording sessions and everyone knew I loved music, so sometimes I would be offered acetates when people were done with them." As with all Columbia Records acetates of this era, there is no label, but the master number (CO 68748,) take number (TK 1,) song title and "B.Dylan" are written in the center in grease pencil. Note that "J. Hammond" is written on the sleeve at the top left corner, indicating who this disc was to be sent to. It's a pretty extraordinary feeling to hold in your hands one of the first few discs ever to contain Bob Dylan's music--and one that John Hammond himself used to compile Dylan's first album. Available on Recordmecca. (Why sell something so historic ? I'm fortunate enough to have acquired 3 different Hammond/Dylan's acetates from the first album, so I decided to cut this one loose.)
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Sometimes, even after 36 years of buying, selling and collecting rare records and music memorabilia, I get a REALLY special package in the mail--something that just blows me away, that leaves me shaking my head, muttering "unbelievable, just unbelievable" to myself (I know--it's not a pretty picture.) And the humble, 8" folded and creased piece of paper pictured above is just that kind of thing. On it are the lyrics to two Everly Brothers songs, “So Sad” and “Like Strangers,” written out by the not yet famous George Harrison, in 1960.
The Everly Brothers were a great influence on the Beatles, and it's been written that Lennon and McCartney consciously copied the Everlys two-part harmonies on "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me." Harrison no doubt transcribed these lyrics so he could learn these songs; both were big hits (and would have been written out by George) in the second half of 1960--a particularly important time for the Beatles. They spent August through November 1960 playing in Hamburg at the Indra Club and The Kaiserkeller--for 106 nights !-- then returning in December to the Casbah Coffee House in Liverpool (the basement club owned by Pete Best's mother, Mona.) Frank Caiazzo, the world's foremost authority on Beatle handwriting and signatures, has authenticated these, and told me "it's very likely the Beatles were considering performing these songs live at some point, although it has not been documented that they ever did...This is a very rare and historic piece of Beatles memorabilia, and one of the earliest Harrison lyrics in existence." Amazingly, George's father held onto these until the late 1970's, when he gave them to a young fan who visited him at his house in Appleton, Cheshire, England. I was fortunate to obtain these directly from that fan--these were previously unknown and have never been offered for sale before.
One of the reasons I started this blog is to share some really cool things that pass through my hands-- this is truly a piece of history, and people should be able to enjoy it and learn from it, before it disappears into a private collection. Some of the pieces I'm fortunate enough to sell are very expensive--but there's no reason they can't be available to everyone (at least virtually) on the web. So I hope you find this interesting, whoever you are, and if you have any feedback ,email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course, if anyone out there has a lot of money burning a hole in your pocket, this is available on my website, Recordmecca.
Note: These have just been sold, the listing is still on the Recordmecca site for those interested in taking a look.
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As Dylan fanatics know, in 1964 Columbia Records planned to release a live album titled "Bob Dylan In Concert" (see July 28 post here for more on this mythic LP.) For reasons previously unknown, the album was pulled from Columbia's schedule and remains unreleased.
Recently I've had the privilege of purchasing some of the papers of the late Ralph J. Gleason, legendary music critic and friend of Dylan (who was hired to write the liner notes to "In Concert.") While going through a box of files, I found a transcription of a 1969 interview Gleason had given to a college student who was writing a term paper on Dylan and his place in the music business. Gleason shares his insights about Dylan, tells many stories, and on page 16 sheds new light on "Bob Dylan In Concert" and why it wasn't released.
Previously it had been thought that Dylan's intense productivity during this time negated the "need" for a live album. Put quite simply, Dylan had written and recorded so many new songs that a decision was made to focus on studio recordings. But here we learn that Dylan was interested in issuing a live album, but for whatever reason, didn't think this one worked (there were two different versions compiled for the "In Concert" album, but evidently he didn't like either.)
It isn't a big surprise to learn that Dylan scuttled the release himself, but if you're like me, it's great to finally hear the bottom line from somebody involved.
In the coming months, I'll be sharing more from the Gleason collection on Dylan and other artists --and of course you can always find other interesting music collectibles on my website, Recordmecca
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One area I’ve been researching extensively is the UK concert posters made in the 1960’s by Osiris, especially those designed by Hapshash & The Coloured Coat (Michael English and Nigel Weymouth.) A few years back “newly discovered” copies of some of these came to the market in significant numbers—one story was that these were found by a former driver for The Beatles, another was the classic “the family of the original printer found them in the attic.”
Brad Rogers of whocollection.com has done pioneering research into this topic, and has shown convincingly that these “newly discovered” posters are nothing more than recent (and very high quality) counterfeits, being sold as genuine. I’ve spent a good deal of time speaking with Brad and comparing his examples to a small collection I bought (which had been in storage for 20+ years and were thus beyond the shadow of a doubt genuine.)
The counterfeits include:
Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore (the most common bootleg)
Pink Floyd CIA-UFO
The Who “I Can See For Miles”
The Who at the Saville Theater
Fifth Dimension Club Leicester
Tomorrow My White Bicycle
Arthur Brown OA 501
Julie Felix at the Royal Albert Hall
The Move at The Marquee
Pink Floyd at the UFO double size by Michael English.
The best way to know if a poster is genuine is to compare it to a known original—but if that isn’t possible, here’s the short version:
The originals are silkscreens, while the bootlegs are instead printed.
On the originals you can easily see areas where the screens (and thus layers of ink) didn't exactly line up, and there is a bit of one
color bleeding out from underneath another color. There are also areas where a lot of one color of ink is built up over
lot of another color ink, and there is a three dimensional aspect to the color. On the bootlegs, the ink flat as can be--clearly not ink on top of ink. On some of the original posters, you can see tiny silver flecks of ink over the solid color fields.
There is a lack of detail in the reproductions as well. And the paper used for the bootlegs just isn't the same—as Brad says, “it looks brand new, because it is brand new.” I agree—my “like new” originals, carefully stored for more than 20 years, have aged—the paper has mellowed over 40 years. The bootlegs are bright white on the reverse.
For a really detailed explanation of how to tell the difference, I highly recommend Brad’s site—his research is without equal on this obscure but important subject:
The scan at the top is an original Who at the Saville Osiris/Hapshash poster available at Recordmecca—where we also have never bootlegged Jimi Hendrix at the Saville and Soft Machine/Arthur Brown at the UFO posters as well.
(and thanks Brad, for much info I've included here.)
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If you know me, you may know of my passion for collecting Bob Dylan stuff. I'll be featuring many interesting Dylan collectibles in this space in the coming months-- so I thought it only fitting to start off with something truly rare from Dylan --two original acetates of the unreleased 1964 album "Bob Dylan In Concert."
This album was originally supposed to be released by Columbia Records between Dylan's albums "Another Side of Bob Dylan" and "Bringing It All Back Home," but was never issued, probably because Dylan was coming up with so much new studio material. Two different track listings were contemplated--version one with songs from Town Hall and Carnegie Hall, NYC, 1963; and version two with some substitutions thought to be from Royal Festival Hall, London, 1964. The legendary San Francisco music critic (and Dylan friend) Ralph J. Gleason was hired to write liner notes, but the album was never issued.
Over the years a few cover slicks for the album have surfaced--but to my knowledge, no vintage acetates have ever been found--until now. I was fortunate enough to obtain these from Gleason's family--evidently once in a great while miracles do occur. (Gleason, while working at Fantasy Records in the 70's, cut at least one duplicate of the second acetate--you can see it on the Searching For A Gem website--undoubtedly using the 1964 original above as a source.)
For those of us who love the details, here goes (notations transcribed exactly as they appear on the label stickers for the 1st acetate, and the sleeve for the 2nd disc):
Job No. 77110-Ref Mono l Bob Dylan Att: T.Wilson
1) Ship Comes In 2) Davy Moore 3) Percy's Song 4) NO Rag 5) Old Riley
Job No. 77110- Ref Mono ll Att: T.Wilson
1) Woody Poem 2) Lay Down Your Weary Tune 3) Dusty Old Fairgrounds 4) John Brown
Job 77182 Bob Dylan Side #l Tom Wilson
1. Davey Moore 2. The Gates of Eden 3. New Orleans Rag 4. Old Riley (Seven Curses) 5. The Walls of Redwing
Job 77182 Bob Dylan Side #ll Tom Wilson
1.If You Gotta Go 2. Mr. Tambourine Man 3. Hero Blues 4. Turn, Turn To the rain & The Wind 5. Eternal Circle
If you want to read more about the "Bob Dylan In Concert" LP, I highly recommend the wonderful SEARCHING FOR A GEM Dylan site (particularly these pages): http://www.searchingforagem.com/1960s/1964.htm
Sorry, but these aren't for sale--but check out the Recordmecca site for some other very cool Dylan rarities.
I'm regularly traveling the world looking for records, concert posters, documents, ephemera or other music related stuff--or spending endless hours researching my finds online, in books, etc.--or talking to other like-minded individuals about the subject at hand.
So I figured a blog would be just the way to use up whatever minimal "non-record" time I have, and maybe share some of the more interesting stuff I've found for collection or my website, ask questions of the collector community, and talk about some of my research. So that's my rationale. And here goes...