It was 50 years ago today—well, tomorrow–that Bob Dylan played his first concert, on November 4, 1961. Billed as Dylan’s “First New York Concert” it was, more accurately, Dylan’s first anywhere concert. Prior to this show, at Carnegie Chapter Hall, he had only played club dates and a few guest spots on multi-artist bills. Dylan arrived in New York on January, 21, 1961 and began playing hoots at clubs like Gerdes Folk City almost immediately.
His first “break” was a two weeks stint opening for blues giant John Lee Hooker at Gerdes in April of that year. On September 26, Dylan began another two week engagement at the club, opening for the much better known Greenbriar Boys. Though Dylan was the opening act, New York Times music critic Robert Shelton focused entirely on Dylan in his review of the opening night. The impact was immediate, and a few days later Dylan was signed to Columbia Records by legendary A&R man John Hammond (who had discovered/signed Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Count Basie, and later Bruce Springsteen and Stevie Ray Vaughan.)
Five weeks later, Izzy Young, owner of Greenwich Village’s Folklore Center (and an early Dylan supporter) presented Dylan “In His First New York Concert” at Carnegie Chapter Hall, a 200 seat room that was part of the Carnegie Hall complex. Reportedly only 53 people attended, but it was the start of a touring career that continues today. Dylan expert Clinton Heylin notes in “Bob Dylan: A Life In Stolen Moments” that he sounded “extremely nervous and uncertain of himself,” and performed “Pretty Peggy-O,” “Black Girl (In The Pines),”Gospel Plow,” “1913 Massacre,” “Backwater Blues,” Young But Daily Growin’,” “Fixin’ To Die,” and “This Land is Your Land.”
We have reproduced here the program for the concert, with it’s ridiculous biographical sketch, drawn from an interview Dylan gave Izzy Young. He exaggerates for effect, claiming he got his start playing in carnivals, was raised in Gallup, New Mexico, and was given a scholarship to the University of Minnesota. Classic stuff.
Sterling actively collected memorabilia from throughout his band’s career, and we feel fortunate to have obtained many one-of-a-kind items from his widow, Martha Morrison. We’ve created a new Velvet Underground Memorabilia Blog to showcase some of these extraordinary items that we have for sale.
Here we are showcasing some great period Velvets ads from Sterling’s archive, and a few previously unknown and undocumented Velvet Underground posters and handbills from Sterling’s collection (available for purchase via the Velvets Blog and Recordmecca.) So without further ado, the stuff !
Here’s a great and very unusual ad promoting Nico “singing to the sounds of The Velvet Underground” at the New Mod-Dom. The Velvets and Andy Warhol’s multi-media spectacle, the Exploding Plastic Inevitable first played the Dom, a Polish hall in New York during April of 1966. The EPI included the Velvets, Warhol films, a light show, dancers (including Gerard Malanga with his “whip-dance”) and more. While it’s been disputed that the hall the Velvets played in was called “The Dom,” this ad from a February, 1967 issue of the Village Voice, makes it clear that was the case. We’ve never seen anything before that highlighted Nico in this way.
The Velvets and Warhol’s multi media spectacle the Exploding Plastic Inevitable returned to the Dom, now renamed The Balloon Farm, in September and October 1966.
During March and April, 1967 the Velvets played New York’s “new happening discotheque” The Gymnasium. Some of these shows were billed as “Andy Warhol presents The Complete Spectrum of Sounds with the Velvet Underground, the Dick Hyman Trio & Tony Scott, “one of the world’s greatest Clarinetists.’” !!!
An ad for a series of shows at Hollywood’s Whiskey A-Go-Go where the Velvets shared the bill with Chicago Transit Authority, aka Chicago. A very strange double bill, indeed.
This is a previously unknown and undocumented 1969 poster for a series of shows by the Velvets at the Unicorn, in Boston. Few Velvets posters featured their photograph, and this one is a beauty. We were thrilled to find this in the Morrison attic.
This is a previously unknown and undocumented handbill for the Velvets shows at The A-Go-Go in West Yarmouth, Mass (on Cape Cod.) This one is particularly interesting as the artwork is a direct rip-off of Wes Wilson’s famous 1966 poster for the Velvets and the Mothers of Invention at the Fillmore in San Francisco.
Yes, yet another unknown handbill–this one from the Whiskey-A-Go-Go in Hollywood, California. This lists shows in November/December 1968, including The Velvets with Bay Area band Cold Blood. Of note, soon after the Velvets shows were shows by the great Moby Grape. And as the copy notes, “playing with Moby Grape for the first time anywhere will be the Flying Burrito Brothers–a new band formerd by two former Byrds, Chris Hillman and Graham (actually Gram) Parsons. Truly historic.
And last but certainly not least, here is an extremely rare Velvet Underground set-list, handwritten by Sterling Morrison. This was likely for a Chicago show, as it’s written on the back of a form from a long defunct Chicago accounting firm. Only a handful of Velvets setlists survive, all from Morrison’s collection.
If you’d like to see more of this kind of thing, or are interested in purchasing items from Sterling Morrison’s archive, visit our Velvet Underground memorabilia blog. Thanks for looking.
My friend Zach just sent me a link to an incredible website where you can listen to any or all of 9 individual basic tracks to the Rolling Stones classic “Gimmie Shelter” and mute parts selectively to hear individual tracks in any combination. Multiple guitar, drum, vocal parts and one for Bill Wyman’s bass–amazing to hear how it all fits together so beautifully. A wonderfully intuitive interface too–just click the circles to turn off that track. Check it out here : GIMMIE SHELTER
We don’t know what happened, but the logical guess would be that Dylan objected to the sale of these important manuscripts. The catalog noted that these were originally from the collection of Dylan’s late manager, Albert Grossman. Dylan and Grossman ended their relationship with a long and highly contentious court battle, and Christie’s note that there was a “title issue” suggests that there might be an issue with the provenance of the manuscripts. More as things develop…
The manuscripts offered are typed, handwritten, or more commonly a combination of both; and illustrate Dylan’s writing process in a way words can never convey. As Clinton Heylin has written about how Dylan is “an exemplar editor of his own work. Rarely will he substitute an image or a phrase with an inferior one.”
If you’ve read this blog before, you know I’ve written extensively about issues of authenticity and provenance. I’ve been fortunate enough to examine many indisputably authentic Dylan manuscripts and these rank with the very best. I encourage anyone interested in Dylan’s work to spend some time looking closely at these (links below.) They are truly special.
Love Minus Zero / No Limit/You Don’t Have To Do That
Queen Jane Approximately
Subterranean Homesick Blues
Maggie’s Farm/Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream/I’ll Keep It With Mine
Visions of Johanna
And if you’re a collector of rare records or music memorabilia, or have rare vinyl or music collectibles to sell, please check out the Recordmecca website.
Never mind the Blu-Tack: the rock poster goldrush
Would you pay six figures for a vintage rock poster? Dave Simpson on a booming market
Highly sought after . . . a detail from Emek’s 2006 Nick Cave poster, which took three months to complete.
“If you buy a £10,000 watch, the day you walk out of the shop, it’s worth £6,000,” says Jeff Gold. “If you buy a £10,000 poster, it’s a £10,000 poster. And, if you have good taste and choose wisely, it will gain in value.” A former Warner Bros record executive, California-based Gold runs memorabilia website Recordmecca, world leaders in a booming market in rock concert posters.
Uncertain economic times have led increasing numbers of people to turn to rock memorabilia, and to rare posters in particular, as an alternative form of investment. Some of the figures involved are eye-watering, with the biggest prices fetched by vintage artwork, what Gold calls “snapshots of an era”. For years Elvis posters were the most highly sought after (particularly the year 1956), selling for up to $30,000. Then, in 2004, a poster for the Beatles 1965 Shea Stadium concert sold for $69,000 at auction; a poster for their 1966 gig at the same venue fetched $132,000 later that year.
Now contemporary posters are fetching silly sums, too. A Citizen Kane-style poster for a White Stripes’ 2003 gig by Chicago artist Rob Jones sold on the night for £15, but fetched £1,600 on eBay in 2008. “Each [poster] was done in a limited edition of 333, for every concert, and there won’t be any more,” explains Jody Goodall, director of Manchester’s Richard Goodall gallery.
Goodall recently sold a poster for Nick Cave’s 2006 gig at the city’s Bridgewater Hall for £500, 10 times the original price. Naturally, it’s no ordinary poster. “It’s hand-drawn by Portland-based artist Emek and took him three months to complete,” Goodall says. “Every detail relates to a Cave song [roses for Where the Wild Roses Grow, and so on]. It’s one of a limited run of just over 300, of which only a handful are in circulation.”
The market in poster art is nothing new, but the web has turned a trend into a boom. As Gold explains: “You can find immediately something you’d previously see once in a lifetime.” A poster’s collectibility lies in a combination of band, artist, venue, the condition and the scarcity of the work. Sixties artist Rick Griffin’s posters for the Grateful Dead fetch huge sums, as long as they are from the initial print run. Identifying such rare posters can mean determining the exact shade of colour, or using a micrometer to measure the thickness of the paper. “The difference can be thousands of dollars.”
Poster art went into decline in the 1980s, but there was something of a renaissance towards the end of that decade, when Texas artist Frank Kozik started producing posters for underground bands: the Backyard Babies, early Nirvana. As quickly as these posters went up, kids tore them down. Some American artists – Emek, Rob Jones, Chicago’s Jay Ryan – are as collectible in their own right as the featured bands.Many contemporary designs are undeniably beautiful. Gina Kelly, who has designed posters for Stornoway and Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, says: “I focus on qualities like innocence, joy, psychedelia to make an image that I feel speaks to the band’s audience.” One of Jody Goodall’s favourite designs is Jay Ryan’s Kings of Convenience poster, featuring bears drinking tea in a tree. “Nothing to do with the band, it’s just a quintessential, eccentric image.” (He’s offering it for £200.)
In the end, of course, a poster is only worth what someone will pay for it. Gold suggests that the closest thing to a surefire investment today would be a poster for Nirvana, “the 90s generation’s Jimi Hendrix”. Goodall argues that in 30 or 40 years’ time, punk-era posters or those for Manchester’s Hacienda will be the most highly sought after. Not every one of them, of course. “We always tell people, ‘If you’re going to buy one, love the poster,’” he says. “That way, if it doesn’t appreciate in value, you’re still happy.”
With the Recordmecca website freshly updated, the time seemed right to share some of my new discoveries in another installment of “The Virtual Museum.”
We purchased this directly from Grace Slick and her daughter, China Kantner (who’s father is the Airplane/Starship’s Paul Kantner.) Historic items such as this rarely surface; and when they do, it’s unusual for them to be so well documented. Not to mention the unimpeachable provenance of having come from Grace Slick, herself.
Here’s a rare album cover slick for Buffalo Springfield’s unreleased “Stampede” album. “Stampede” was to be the Springfield’s second album, and Atco Records went as far as shooting an album cover and printing a limited number of cover slicks–but management and personnel issues cropped up, and the album was never finished. Bass player Bruce Palmer was stuck in Canada when the cover was shot, so a stand-in (with a hat obscuring his face) appears in the photo. The band eventually did regroup and complete a second album, the superb “Buffalo Springfield Again.” I’m very excited about the Buffalo Springfield reunion, and the opportunity to see Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay together on stage next month.
Finally, here’s a beautiful photograph of Jimi Hendrix “in the mylar chamber” by the late artist/photographer/publisher/poet and filmmaker Ira Cohen. During the late sixties, Cohen photographed a number of musicians, poets and artists in a mylar room he built in his New York City loft. He shot Hendrix in 1969, and the guitarist was quoted as telling Cohen “looking at your pictures is like looking through butterfly wings.” Cohen’s mylar photographs appear on a number of album covers, including John McLaughlin’s “Devotion” and Spirit’s “Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus.” This photograph was included in the traveling show “The Jimi Hendrix Exhibit,” and was used in the artwork for the CD “The Ultimate Experience.” This print, silkscreened on mylar, is part of an unfinished edition of 100.
If you’re interested in more of this type of thing, check out the Recordmecca website. And let us know if you have any rare records or music memorabilia you might be interested in selling. We’re always looking for collectibles and can pay high prices for the right material.
Rotolo, of course was much more than Dylan’s ex-girlfriend; she was an activist, an artist, a wife and mother, and later in life revealed herself to be a talented writer, with her wonderful book “A Freewheelin’ Time: A Memoir of Greenwich Village in the Sixties” (in which she referred to Dylan as “the elephant in the room of my life.”) Every Dylan fan should get this book, which is filled with Rotolo’s evocative memories and insightful perspective on an extraordinary period in music and in American history.
Rotolo had long avoided the public eye, and only hesitantly emerged into the “Dylan world” with the opening of the museum exhibition “Bob Dylan’s American Journey, 1956-1966,” organized by the Experience Music Project in Seattle. Rotolo loaned the exhibition some of her Dylan memorabilia, including books Dylan had inscribed to her, and at the invitation of curator Jasen Emmons, attended the opening in November 2004 (unfortunately I was out of the country for the opening and never got to meet her, but as a consultant to the exhibit, we corresponded by email a bit.)
In 2006, perhaps as a result of seeing how much interest there was in Dylan memorabilia, Rotolo consigned some of her extraordinary items to Christies, which auctioned them that December. Her collection included rare photographs, cards and books Dylan inscribed to her, as well as some extremely rare records. For hardcore collectors like myself, this was an amazing opportunity to bid on truly unique and meaningful items. And of course, in a world filled with Dylan forgeries, these were things with rock solid provenance, directly from the source.
The pieces I wanted most were two early blues and jazz compilation albums, purchased by Dylan on his first trip to England in November, 1962. On the back of these, Dylan made notations such as “Made for and about Bob Dylan,” “Drinked up and let out by Bob Dylan” and “Read Thoroughly and with full throttle by Bob Dylan” (after the liner notes.)
To me, these were talismanic objects, filled with the music we now know inspired Dylan so much. When I asked Rotolo by email why Dylan had written on his albums, she told me that it was similar to making notes in the margins of books for him. Later I realized at the point he annotated these, he had only been going by the name Bob Dylan for perhaps a year and a half–in fact, he had only legally changed his name in August, 1962–three months before buying these. It’s almost as if he was seeing how his new name fit alongside those of these legendary artists.
Happily, I was the high bidder for both of these, and they now reside in a place of honor in my collection. So for those who want to see what the real thing looks like–genuine, beyond the shadow of a doubt Dylan handwriting and signatures from the early 60′s–here are scans of both albums, from Bob Dylan’s record collection, circa 1962 One of the more unusual areas of my record and memorabilia collecting is hunting down records owned by artists that inspire me (there’s more about this in my earlier posts on Jimi Hendrix’s record collection.) Both of these albums, and the Hendrix albums I own are what collectors call “well played”–far from mint condition; obviously frequently played by their original owners.
These were records they listened to, loved, and in many cases were inspired by; some of the building blocks of their artistry. Part of their musical mojo. So thanks to Suze Rotolo, we have a bit more insight into what Bob was listening to at a most formative time.
Below is one more great item Rotolo auctioned–a postcard Dylan wrote to her from Rome, where he was vacationing in 1963. As you can see, it’s addressed to the apartment they shared on (positively) 4th Street. He mentions that bella regatza (actually bella regazza, or beautiful girls) are everywhere, then invokes Rotolo’s Italian heritage, ending with “Gotta go, gotta meeting with the Pope about all the colored people coming over here–Amore, Bob.”
Here’s a first for the Recordmecca Blog–a guest columnist. Our friend Gene Sculatti, well known music writer & historian, former record and television exec, and all-around great guy shares my love of Captain Beefheart. On hearing of Beefheart’s passing this week, I asked Gene if he’d be willing to write a remembrance of the Captain. Happily, he agreed.
The Dust Blows Forward, ‘N The Dust Blows Back
by Gene Sculatti
It’s impossible for me to think what the world would be without Captain Beefheart’s music in it. Amidst the bad news, the good is that his music is, and hopefully forever shall be, in the world.
This reminiscence is strictly personal. I had a little one-on-one interaction with Beefheart; mostly the relationship was between me and his powerful, funny, touching recordings and performances. I first encountered him in the spring of ’66 at Frisco’s Avalon Ballroom, when he and the Magic Band were the latest in a line of surprise visitors on the underground railway that weekly shuttled north L.A. bands like Love, the Rising Sons, Sons of Adam, etc. My late cousin and I, teenaged blues-heads (whose knowledge store then extended to the first Butterfield LP, Muddy Waters at Newport and Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘rocking-chair’ album), were floored by Don’s act, which then consisted of spot-on versions of “Evil” and other catalog items, and his scary-good harp playing. We made it a point to catch him whenever his name appeared on a bill, and I bought the “Diddy Wah Diddy” single.
Some months later I hit the Avalon, and Beefheart and the Magic Band, like almost everything in those change-is-now days, had gotten magic-er and weirder and I-don’t-know-what. But it was great: same bottom-heavy voice and slammin’ band, but Beefheart was wearing Sun Ra-type shades and some kind of embroidered Music Man bandleader coat, knotting and retying the old blues chords into bizarre odes to confections like Abba Zabba and Kandy Korn (with the MB roaring behind him, he stalked the stage tossing the yellow and orange Halloween treats to the crowd). My God!
Then, sometime in ’67 in a Berkeley record shop, I stumbled across the previously unannounced Safe as Milk. I’d never—no, I have never seen a cooler LP cover. Here, in the year of that famous summer and long, long, longer hair and suspect platitudes, as unpretentious dress slid into medieval costumery and cultivated slovenliness, CB & TMB were dressed in ties and tailored suits, casual but formidable, staring out from those redwood slats in Guy Webster’s fish-eye photo as if to say, “What’re you lookin’ at?” The question would soon become “What’re you listening to?” as friends, just as immersed as I was in the orthodoxies of the wild new world of Dead/Airplane/Dylan/Doors, wondered what were these bizarre howls and growls spinning on the Sears stereo about “Autumn’s Child” and “Electricity”? Hey, what can I tell you? I was in love. With his voice, his inspired entanglements of verse and melody, the look, the aura of strangeness permeating the whole act, right down to the grinning-baby Safe As Milk bumper strip that fell out of that issue of Rolling Stone.
Like Jeff Gold, I count Safe as Milk as my favorite Beefheart set. But there is more. Strictly Personal upped the oddness ante but it also cooked (“Gimme Dat Harp Boy”). And Trout Mask!! This guy was giving notice: He was in the business of busting, following his muse to left turns no one else would even consider taking. So dazzled by Trout Mask was a roommate of mine that he kept a copy in his car—often instructing passengers to hold it up to the window as he gunned past slow-pokes, I guess to ‘blow their minds’ or something. Clear Spot: best meditation ever on female power (“Lo Yo Yo Stuff”)…Decals and that whole hair-stacked look of Spotlight Kid… the fleeting pleasures of those Mercury LPs (“Sugar Bowl,” “Upon the My-O-My”), and later Doc at the Radar Station and Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller).
I was working at Warners by then, and my boss, Pete Johnson, took on the job of producing Beast. His reports from the studio suggested Don was now Pete’s boss, and everybody’s, but rough times yielded an underrated classic, where the Captain cuts a mean “Candle Mambo” outside the lesbian-run canteen of “Harry Irene” and leaves the world one of his funkiest gifts in “Tropical Hot Dog Night.” Jesus!
It was around this time that I spent a bit of time with Beefheart. Frustrated that Warners wasn’t pro-actively marketing some acts, co-editor Joe Robinson and I decided to use the label’s house organ, Waxpaper, as a bully print-pulpit to pump up the volume on them: We’d utilize the publication’s back cover to do our own ads. Which led to us taking our art director and a photographer up to Antelope Valley, meeting Don at a Denny’s (he was already in a booth, sketching on a pad), then heading for cactus country, where we spent the day shooting away, enraptured by his rap and big heart. The ad ran in our Feb. 12, 1979 issue. “There’s a Voice in the Wilderness. Captain Beefheart’s,” read the head, over a shot of Don standing in the fading desert light.
May that voice go on forever.
My wife Jody calls it “shopping in your closet”–looking through stuff you already own, but haven’t paid any attention to in a long time–if ever. Just today she pulled out a sweater that she hadn’t worn in probably 20 years, but looks great today. And I had my own similar experience a few days ago, while going through the still large pile of stuff I bought from the family of Ralph J. Gleason, the late, lamented music critic. While going through his “Jefferson Airplane” file, I found the article below, from the August 29, 1965 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. I’d never noticed it before, but this may very well be the first article ever written about the Jefferson Airplane !
The Airplane is one of my favorite bands, and their history is well documented; folk singer Marty Balin put the Airplane together to headline the Matrix, the San Francisco club he co-founded in 1965. This article is the only one I’ve ever seen that reviews the band’s earliest lineup–Balin, guitarist Paul Kantner, guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, singer Signe Toly (pre-marrage, as her last name is Anderson on the first Airplane album) along with soon to be replaced members Jerry Pelequin (drums), Bob Harvey (bass), and occasional conga drummer Larry Davis.
Balin, described in this article as bringing to mind “an undernourished Beatle,” famously spotted future Moby Grape legend Skip Spence at the Matrix, saying to him “Hey man, you’re my drummer.” Spence replied “No, I’m a guitar player.” Balin said “No, no, no, you’re my drummer.” Balin “gave him some sticks and said “Go home and practice and I’ll call you in a week.” I called him in a week and asked him if he could do it because I’d fired this other guy and I had no drummer. And he said, “Well, I’ll give it a try.” And he was great.”
Soon Bob Harvey was replaced by Kaukohen’s friend from Washington DC, Jack Cassady, and the lineup heard on the Airplane’s superb first album “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off” crystalized. If you don’t know the Airplane, you should. The classic Grace Slick lineup began with their second album, “Surrealistic Pillow“–but “Takes Off” is a folk rock masterpiece and to me an essential 60′s album. And how about that Beatles ad, too. Happy holidays everybody.
Here are two completely unrelated reunions that might be of interest to readers of this blog. First, this weekend’s Buffalo Springfield reunion at the annual Bridge School Benefit in Mountain View, CA, hosted by Neil Young. This was a big deal for Neil fans and those of the great Springfield–the first time surviving Buffalo Springfield members Neil Young, Stephen Stills and Richie Furay have performed together since 1968. I thought about going, I really did, but I’ve been on so many planes this year–with a few trips coming up in the next month–that I skipped it. When I saw the clips today on Youtube, I really regretted it. I should have known–my favorite show of the last 10 years or so was last year’s Eric Clapton/Steve Winwood de-facto Blind Faith reunion at the Hollywood Bowl.
Fortunately we can all enjoy the clips though, so I’m posting a few of the better ones here:
Reunion #2 will be of interest to far fewer, but was no less special to me–the reunion earlier this year of former employees and customers of Los Angeles’ legendary Rhino Records. From its birth in 1973, the Rhino store played a critical part in the L.A. music scene. The Rhino store gave birth to the Rhino label, which almost single-handedly begat the record re-issue craze, which continues unabated to this day. The store, which began in a tiny space shared with a Zenith Stereo repair shop, was founded by music fanatic and industry innovator Richard Foos (I was the first Rhino employee.) Many longtime Rhino staffers went on to greater fame, including Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, Dream Syndicate founder Steve Wynn, and Long Ryder/Coal Porter Sid Griffin. Should you be interested in knowing more, here’s a link to a photographic history of Rhino. Some great memories, and vintage Rhino visitations from the Ramones, Wild Man Fischer, the Pretty Things, Troggs, and others. Enjoy.
Record Collecting Adventures/Discovering a Previously Unknown Led Zeppelin Album
Every once in a while a previously unknown record surfaces; something longtime collectors have neither seen nor heard of. In the internet era this happens far less frequently. It’s easier than ever to research obscure titles, and usually if I haven’t seen something, somebody else has. These days one can usually find information about almost anything with a few clicks of the mouse–so it’s pretty rare to find something completely undocumented by a highly collectible band, especially if it’s a major label release. And so it was pretty mind-blowing to come across a previously undocumented Led Zeppelin album last month.
Led Zeppelin are among the most heavily collected rock bands, and their discography is extremely well known and documented. There are hundreds of websites devoted to them, their discography, and concert history. Their authorized website, LedZeppelin.com is quite good, reproducing many rare records, posters, concert reviews and other memorabilia. So this discovery was a pretty significant find.
In early August, my friend Gary Johnson of Rockaway Records and I travelled to Seattle to buy records from legendary collector Ken Barnes. Ken was thinning out his album collection, and we were lucky enough to be the first to peruse his 30,000 LP’s. I’ve known Ken since the mid-70′s, and his knowledge of records is truly unsurpassed (I don’t know anyone who knows half of what Ken knows about records, and I’ve met a lot of collectors in the 39 years I’ve been in the game.)
I spent 3 days combing through Ken’s collection. At the end of the first day, while looking through his Led Zeppelin LP’s, I pulled out a sealed copy of Physical Graffiti, which looked different from any I’d ever seen. It had unusual images in the die-cut windows, but after 8 hours of looking at records nonstop, I was a bit punch drunk, and not sure what I was looking at.
I showed the album to Gary and Ken, asking if they had ever seen a copy like this one before. Gary, a world class rare record expert who has seen pretty much everything at least once, was taken aback–he’d never seen anything like this before. Ken, a music writer for many years and former editor of music industry trade publication Radio & Records immediately picked up on the fact that the four letters in the top windows were the “call letters” of WMET, a long defunct Chicago rock radio station. While all of the images in the front windows on this copy are different to the released version, in every other aspect it is identical to an original first pressing of Physical Graffiti.
The previously unknown “Physical Graffiti”
Front cover close up.
A large percentage of Ken’s albums were promotional copies, acquired while writing for Bomp, Radio & Records, Phonograph Record Magazine and many other publications, most recently as music editor of USA Today. Nearly all Ken’s Zeppelin albums were promos, and while he didn’t remember who gave him this specific copy, he felt it very likely came to him while working at Radio & Records (he was there in 1975, when the album was released.) He was sure he’d had it since the 70′s, and wasn’t something he’d bought. Ken had another open copy of Physical Graffiti, so when he got this one, he’d just filed it with the rest of his Zeppelin lp’s. This copy must have been part of a special run that Atlantic/Swan Song made for WMET; it’s rather extraordinary that in the 35 years since the album’s release, no other copy has surfaced.
Ken Barnes with his rare album, just after its discovery.
The album on site.
Because the three of us had never seen anything like this, Gary contacted a few Zeppelin experts, none of whom knew anything about this album. I photographed Ken holding the album, and had him write a letter of authenticity to document the find, which reads:
To Whom it may concern:
This letter is to authenticate an original sealed copy of Led Zeppelin’s album Physical Graffiti, with the call letters of Chicago radio station WMET and alternate artwork visible in the windows of the album cover.
I have had this album in my collection for decades, and in fact until Jeff Gold found it among my other Zeppelin albums (mostly promo copies) in my 30,000 LP collection, I never noticed this was in any way different from the regular issue of the album. I very likely obtained this album while working at the radio industry trade publication Radio & Records around the time the album was released. I was an editor at Radio & Records and received thousands of promotional albums from record companies while working at R&R and writing about music for various publications over the years, most recently as music editor for USA Today.
Ken fortunately sold the album to us, and we’re proud to offer this unique Led Zeppelin album on the Recordmecca site; click here for more information: WMET Led Zeppelin LP.
There’s a lot of buzz in the Dylan community over the impending release of a previously unknown 1963 recording of Bob Dylan at the Brandeis University folk festival. Today’s headline at contactmusic.com proclaims “Lost Bob Dylan Audio Found at Late Rolling Stone Co-Founder’s Home;” with the story reporting “Crisp audio from a lost 1963 BOB DYLAN concert has been unearthed in an attic and will be released as a bonus to fans who snap up the folk rock icon’s new BOOTLEG SERIES VOL. 9 online.”
Well, that’s only partially true. It wasn’t found in an attic, but instead a basement. How do I know ? Simple; I was the one who found it. Here’s the whole (long) story.
|Ralph Gleason with the Beatles, backstage at Candlestick Park|
A number of years ago, I was introduced to Toby Gleason, son of the legendary Ralph J. Gleason. The late Ralph Gleason was the longtime music critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, and arguably the most important critic ever. Gleason joined the Chronicle in 1950, as the first full-time jazz and pop critic at an American newspaper. He interviewed Hank Williams and Elvis Presley, was one of the first critics to perceive the importance of Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce and Miles Davis, and was a key player in the San Francisco rock scene in the ’60′s. Gleason was the only reporter to interview the Beatles at their final concert at Candlestick Park in 1966, and his liner notes to Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew” won a Grammy Award. Perhaps his most lasting legacy is co-founding Rolling Stone Magazine with his protegee, Jann Wenner.
Gleason kept a vast archive of records, magazines, newspapers, posters, press materials and all kinds of ephemera. When he died in 1975, his family preserved his materials in their Berkeley home, occasionally making it available to writers and scholars. Toby Gleason has supervised the release of a number of the superb television programs his father made during his lifetime, including the highly lauded Jazz Casual programs (featuring John Coltrane and Duke Ellington) and Bob Dylan’s historic 1965 San Francisco press conference.
The Gleason family decided a few years back they wanted to selectively sell some items from Ralph’s vast archive, and I was very fortunate to be invited by them to discuss a possible purchase. They wanted to take it slowly, but we had good chemistry, and so I made an initial purchase, with the understanding that more would be made available as time passed. Every year or so, I’d visit them and make another purchase. Gleason’s collection was among the best I’d ever seen, and it was a real exercise in forbearance to be patient and respect their wishes to take it slowly–but I did. Toby Gleason is extremely knowledgeable and it was a pleasure to spend time with him, talking music and seeing the incredible history his father had collected, and his family had the good sense to preserve. Many of the magazines, newspapers, and papers they had saved had little commercial value, but a great deal of historical significance, and so I purchased them to donate to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Archive and Library (opening later this year.)
Unfortunately Jean Gleason, Ralph’s widow, became ill last year and passed away at the age of 90. After her death, a decision was made to sell the family home, and I was invited up to buy anything that I wanted. For two or three days, Toby and I explored the deep recesses of the home’s multi-room basement, which was filled with magazines, records, newspapers and reel to reel tapes. When we came to the wall of tapes, we discovered many labeled “Bob Dylan.” Gleason had been one of Dylan’s early and most vocal supporters, and became close to him. He also had a number of friends at Dylan’s label, Columbia Records (I found letters to Gleason from Dylan’s discoverer, John Hammond, among his papers.) Looking at the 40 or so Dylan tapes in the Gleason collection, it was clear some were sent to him by Columbia, some by Dylan’s management, and some from fans and readers of Gleason. Many were explicitly labeled, some only said “Dylan.” Toby and I agreed that since we didn’t know what was on them, I’d take them back to Los Angeles and listen, to see out what was on each one (I also bought 30 or so non-Dylan tapes from the family.)
|In this house’s basement, the tape was found !|
If you’ve read this far, you probably are a Dylan fan and know of the enormity of that task. So many things have been bootlegged, in so many unending variations, that it was hard work figuring out what was what. I had to locate a reel-to-reel machine and an engineer to transfer everything to digital files, which I could then compare to various bootlegs. Some of the tapes were 7″ reels, some smaller; some 2 track, some 4 track; recorded at speeds from 3 3/4 ips to 15 ips. The first time I went to the studio, I brought a few of the tapes I thought most promising. One was labeled only “Dylan Brandeis” in light pencil on the edge of the box. We “put it up” on the machine, the playback started, and I was blown away. Superb quality–obviously professionally recorded–early Dylan, singing and playing wonderfully. And a recording I’d never heard of–and was pretty sure was unknown (which it was.) Over the next few weeks, I listened to many many hours of Dylan tapes, and of course, everything else had been released or bootlegged, save for a tape of a press conference from Austin, Tx. in 1965. Still, after all these years, to find an unknown Dylan tape, and one this good–I was astounded.
I called Jeff Rosen in Dylan’s office, to see if he knew of the tape–he didn’t, but was interested in hearing it. Jeff is someone all Dylan fans owe a big debt of gratitude to–among many other things, he’s responsible for the superb Bootleg Series, which in my opinion are the best compiled, annotated and illustrated albums a fan could hope for. Very quickly, I spoke to Toby Gleason, sent Jeff a CDR of the show, and he responded that he was interested in buying it for a possible future release. I worked out a deal with Jeff–very easy–and voila, about a year later, it’s coming out.
I’m very excited about the upcoming Witmark Demos/Bootleg Series album and the Mono Box Set, to be sure. But I’m absolutely thrilled that this great Dylan show–which I’m listening to right now–is finally seeing the light of day, thanks to Ralph J. Gleason, and his family.
Other items from the Ralph J. Gleason collection are available for sale on the Recordmecca website. And we’re always looking to purchase rare records and high-end music collectibles.
I’ve had a lot of enthusiastic response to my last post, about Jimi Hendrix’s record collection. As I mentioned in that post, the Experience Music Project in Seattle has the only other known group of records from Jimi’s collection. As people seemed truly interested in what Jimi was listening to, I reached out to the great Jasen Emmons, director of curatorial affairs at EMP, who graciously provided me with a list of their Jimi LP holdings (and some photos too.)
So courtesy of Jasen, here’s a list of the rest of Jimi’s records:
Jimi Hendrix Experience “Are You Experienced”; Muddy Waters “Down On Stovall’s Plantation”; Elmore James “The Best Of”; Various Artists “Chicago The Blues Today !, Vol. 1″; John Mayall with Eric Clapton “Blues Breakers”; Cream “Fresh Cream”; The Spencer Davis Group “Autumn ’66″; Little Richard “Vol. 2″; Bob Dylan “Blonde on Blonde”; Jimmy Reed “The New Jimmy Reed Album”; Lightnin’ Hopkins “Soul Blues”; John Lee Hooker “Live at Cafe Au-Go-Go”; Howlin’ Wolf “More Real Folk Blues”; Various Artists “Heavy Heads”; Muddy Waters “Electric Mud”; Junior Wells “It’s My Life Baby”; Various Artists “We Sing The Blues !”; Various Artists “Original Hits of the Great Blues Singers, Vol II”; Various Artists “The Original American Folk Blues Festival”; Various Artists “Blues Classics”; Sonny Boy Williamson “Down and Out Blues”; Lowell Fulson “Lowell Fulson”; The Free Spirits “Out of Sight and Sound”; Canned Heat “Canned Heat”; Lightnin’ Hopkins “Earth Blues”; Charlie Musslewhite’s Southside Band “Stand Back !”; Lightnin’ Hopkins “Something Blue”; Lightnin’ Hopkins “The Roots Of”; Lightnin’ Hopkins “Lightnin’ Strikes”; Albert King “Live Wire-Blues Power”; Leadbelly “Take This Hammer”; John Mayall “Crusade”; Jimi Hendrix Experience “Smash Hits”; Bill Cosby “I Started Out as a Child”; Bob Dylan “John Wesley Harding”; The Band “Music From Big Pink”; Pierre Henry “Le Voyage: D’apres le Livre des Morts Tibetian”; Johnny Cash “At Folsom Prison”; Friar Tuck “And His Psychedelic Guitar”; Original Soundtrack “The Trip” (featuring the Electric Flag); Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery “The Dynamic Duo”; Ravi Shankar “Sound of the Sitar”; Red Krayola “The Parable of Arable Land”; The Zodiac “Cosmic Sounds” and last but certainly far from least The Mothers of Invention “Freak Out !”
Once again, few surprises here–a lot of blues, some boundary challenging rock. Of course Dylan’s “John Wesley Harding” LP features his original version of “All Along The Watchtower,” which Jimi virtually made his own. And notice the collection contains a Lightnin’ Hopkins album titled “Earth Blues”–a title Hendrix used for a song of his own, which first appeared on the soundtrack to the film “Rainbow Bridge.”
I was happy to see many albums I own myself. And virtually all of Jimi’s picks have stood the test of time (ok, probably not “Friar Tuck and his Psychedelic Guitar” or The Zodiac’s “Cosmic Sounds.” But almost every other album here is a classic .) If you don’t know these records and you’re a Hendrix fan (and I trust you are if you’ve read this far) you’d be well served by Jimi’s choices. Many of these albums are still in print–some even on vinyl–and all of the music he owned is probably available on Amazon or through iTunes, if not your local record store.
And once again, if you have any rare records or music collectibles you’re interested in selling, let us know. We are always buying, and can pay very high prices for the right material. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us through the Recordmecca website.