Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Movie Soundtracks

Be sure to check out our latest Slideshow Corner presentation. The theme for this installment is Summer Movie Soundtracks. All of the included soundtracks are from movies released during the summer months (here in the northern hemisphere).

You'll find soundtrack LP cover art for famous blockbusters such as Back to the Future and Jaws, along with some cult classics and obscure titles like Sorcerer, More, Easy Rider, and The Strawberry Statement.

Find out which of the listed soundtracks feature the music of Tangerine Dream; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; The Jimi Hendrix Experience; Pink Floyd and other great artists. You'll also find facts such as release dates of the films, record label and catalog number info, plus some quick comments about the films and records.

Just click on the slideshow (located in the top-right corner of the sidebar) to access the captions and view each image separately, or click the link below for direct access to the slideshow photo album. Eventually, a new corner slideshow will be put into place, so in the future the link below will be the only way to access this movie soundtrack one.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Jethro Tull - Aqualung (Hecho En Mexico)

While Aqualung is certainly a worthy thrift store record find, it is also a very common, extremely well-known album you can easily read about at a thousand other places. To keep it interesting, we delved deep into the most remote, cobweb enshrouded passages of our cavernous archives chambers to bring you exclusive details of a rather obscure pressing of this popular record.

This particular copy is something of a curiosity owing to the fact that it's a Mexican release with the song titles printed in Spanish. What's more, the back cover layout is completely different from the US (and probably all other) versions. It lacks the usual gatefold style cover and accompanying interior artwork as well.

label from Jethro Tull - Aqualung (1971 Reprise/Gamma GX 01-459)
Jethro Tull - Aqualung (Mexican pressing)
1971 Reprise/Gamma GX 01-459
An early pressing on the Reprise label, it was manufactured and distributed in Mexico by Gamma Records. Also worth noting is that it features the old, original "tricolor steamboat" label design supposedly retired by Reprise at least two years before Aqualung's release.

Recorded with new bass player Jeffrey Hammond, and with Benefit LP session keyboardist John Evan now contributing as a full-time member, Aqualung hit the shelves in 1971 to mostly favorable reviews. It would go on to become Jethro Tull's best-selling album and is often regarded as their finest hour by critics and fans alike.

Jethro Tull - Aqualung (1971 Reprise/Gamma GX 01-459)
Back cover of Aqualung, Mexican pressing
(click to enlarge)
"Hymn 43" was the only song from Aqualung offered up as a single. But the evocative title track, with its distinctive main guitar riff and haunting acoustic interludes, along with the hard-driving "Locomotive Breath" (aka "El Aliento De La Locomotora") emerged as the most popular cuts from the album, and perhaps from the entire Jethro Tull discography — at least if how much a song has been beaten into the ground... er, I mean chosen for airplay by big "classic rock" radio stations is any way to judge its overall popularity.

Metal Confusion
More jeers than cheers, along with confusion and disbelief filled the air in 1989 when Jethro Tull shockingly eclipsed widely projected winners, and shining stars of metal, Metallica, and took home the first ever Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance with their admittedly un-metal, not-so-hard rockin' Crest of a Knave album. Well, they would have taken home the award that night had they actually been at the ceremony to accept. Figuring there was no chance they could actually win, the band's record company told them not to bother making the trip out to LA. In this recent interview, Ian Anderson reflects on those heady, tumultuous days when he and his band became the reigning kings of metal.

sticker on cover of Mexican pressing of Jethro Tull - Aqualung
Jethro Tull may not have been the best choice for that particular award, but their music has undoubtedly inspired more than a few metal musicians over the years. Iron Maiden bassist, founder, mastermind and longtime Jethro Tull fan, Steve Harris, for one, cites them as an early favorite and an important influence on his songwriting style.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tip for Restoring White Record Covers

Are some of your favorite white LP covers looking shabby and dull?

You've tried washing them. You've tried bleaching them. You've tried throwing things at them. You have even tried putting them in a hermetically sealed, gold plated energy pyramid suspended betwixt a triumvirate of old-growth sacred cedar trees on the eve of a total lunar eclipse—all to no avail!

Are you at your wits' end with nowhere to turn? Have you been told the situation is hopeless? Take heart, friends, you are not alone. Even the finest albums from the most well-kept collections can end up severely blighted in time. I am here to tell you help is just around the corner. No longer do you need to live with the frustration and woe of black ring marks, marring, and blotchy discoloration.

 Even the severest cases of ring-around-the-cover are speedily cured!
Read on and you will see that a quick, easy, and cheap solution is well within reach. Also be sure to check out the included video where you will witness two classic album covers regain the luster of yesteryear before your very eyes.

Rubbing Off and Shining On
As you've probably already gathered from the photo below, our great white record cover revitalizer is simply a common pencil or pen eraser.

Eraser used on the Wish You Were Here cover
Now, there are many types and brands of erasers to try. Some are more abrasive than others and also will be more or less effective on different surfaces. So far, I've worked with three erasers: the classic pink/red pencil eraser we are all familiar with, a Papermate brand ink/pencil combo eraser, and a "kneadable rubber eraser" made by Prang. Ideally, you would assemble an arsenal of different ones and experiment on some records borrowed from a friend before attempting to restore your own prized covers. Just kidding about that last part. The great thing about thrift store records is, they are so inexpensive, you don't have to worry so much about damaging them and you can always pick up a few you don't care about at all if you just need a guinea pig for cleaning experiments.

White, White, White is the Color of Our Cover
With very little preparation or planning, I grabbed two very popular, very common, and in this case, very shabby looking records: Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here and The Beatles' self-titled "White Album" and (rather haphazardly) went right to town on them with two of the erasers (see video).

Some observations and findings:
The Papermate eraser worked exceptionally well on the Pink Floyd cover, but had trouble gripping the surface of the Beatles jacket (which has a distinctly different sort of glossy surface). For that cover, the Prang rubber eraser did the trick.

I noticed very fine, light scuff marks were left on the Pink Floyd cover by the Papermate eraser. The scuffing is not very noticeable unless you are really looking for it and holding the cover at an angle under a light. I'd say it's not a bad tradeoff when you recall how the cover looked before the eraser was used on it. I think both the pencil and ink sides of the eraser worked fine, but I might have noticed the ink side working a little better (it may have been more abrasive too?)

Before and after shots of Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here cover

I've since tested the Prang kneadable rubber eraser on the back of the Pink Floyd cover and could not detect any scuff marks from it. I also tried it on a non-gloss white cover (Aerosmith's Draw the Line) and it proved both effective and non-damaging. I would say that the kneadable rubber eraser was maybe all-around best, as it seems to be the least abrasive/damaging while still being effective on a variety of surfaces. The worst thing about it was its tendency to crumble and shed relatively large bits of itself. The standard pink/red pencil eraser was the worst performer. It required some extra rubbing and pressure for it to work, and at the same time, I think it could wear away more of the cover's surface in an uneven, damaging manner. It was more difficult to control the action and outcome with that one.

"Kneadable rubber eraser" at top
For this demonstration, I just gathered some erasers I already had around, but if I were looking to buy another one expressly for cleaning covers, I think this Sanford Magic Rub Non-Abrasive Vinyl Eraser might be a good prospect. My Prang rubber eraser is about 20 years old, but it looks like the same kind is still available. Update: I have now also tested a Sanford Design Artgum eraser and while it was non-damaging, as described, it also did not really work so well for this purpose.

You'll generally want to stay on the white background and avoid rubbing over—and consequentially erasing—any printed areas of a cover. But with a light and careful enough touch, using the right eraser, it may be possible in some cases to also safely reduce or remove some marks without causing great harm to the underlying artwork. Just be very careful and choose your battles wisely. Once that ink is erased, it's gone forever.

For the final buff & shine, I just used a solution of white vinegar and water, wiped off with a paper towel. Some might tell you to never apply liquid directly onto a cover, and that may not be bad advice, but spraying a mild cleaning solution (typically in a fine mist) and immediately wiping dry has not caused me any trouble. Use extra caution when dealing with older non-glossy covers.

This thrift store sourced 1968 pressing of The Beatles' "White Album" will
remain in the "poor" grading category due to the torn section along the bottom,
but it now shines a whole lot brighter and whiter after getting the eraser treatment

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Red Flower of Tachai Blossoms Everywhere

China Record Company have done it again! This is the one to acquire! All the big hits on one record! From the smash single that burned up the charts and warmed our hearts: A Long, Long Life to Chairman Mao, to the song we were all humming in that magical and productive summer of '67: Delivering Public-Grain to the State. Yes, they are all here in one glorious collection! 

The inspirational Conquering the Typhoon will have your foot tapping as your spirits soar. Then, let the gentle, relaxing sounds of Spring Comes to Yiho River and The Flower of Tachai Blooms at the Foot of Kunlun wash over you and be transported to a place of majestic, ancient landscapes and time-honored traditions ... or, as the cover art depicts: a place of modern concrete dam projects, well organized farm plots, and efficient workers. Finally, you'll want to put the pedal to the metal and increase the volume level because the closing song Galloping Across the Vast Grasslands is the perfect soundtrack for cruising the open road; wind in your hair, sun at your back, and best girl by your side.

Seriously, I've long enjoyed hearing traditional Chinese music (but never owned any), and was very pleased to find this record and add it to the collection. Now, not only can I create a more enchanting atmosphere for sipping fragrant tea on those quiet evenings at home, but the next time a boisterous party guest shouts a request for "Delivering Public-Grain to the State," I'll be ready!

The Red Flower of Tachai Blossoms Everywhere
China Record Company M-1019

Released on the state-owned China Record Company label, this is a ten inch record that plays at 33⅓ rpm. Exact release date is unknown, but I think sometime between 1965 - 1975 would be a very safe guess.
Here is an interesting article about a Chinese record collector and the history of the record industry in China. I like the early name given to records there: chang pian, or "singing disc." The piece ends with a really nice quote from the collector about his love of music and records.

Former Genesis lead guitarist, Steve Hackett salutes traditional Chinese music with the song The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere. While his song's name is nearly identical to the title track of the record featured in this report, it isn't a note for note cover version. Released on his Spectral Mornings LP, as well as on the Time Lapse live album, it is a brilliantly done tribute composition that displays the guitarist's appreciation of this beautiful music.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Led Zeppelin - Live in Seattle, '73 Tour

In 1999 the Anti-Piracy Unit of the British Phonographic Industry (that's the APU of the BPI to you and me) released a list of the most bootlegged rock recording artists. Led Zeppelin landed in the number one position with 384 titles. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan trailed behind with 320, 317, and 301 titles, respectively. I was surprised to see Prince next on the chart with 270 titles to his name ... whatever that name (or symbol) might be these days. This 1999 BBC News article notes that the bootleg chart was compiled by the BPI using their own archive of approximately 10,000 illegal recordings confiscated between about 1974 - 1999. Quite a nice record collection they've put together there!

According to another source (link at bottom of page) there are over 4,000 Led Zeppelin bootleg titles out there, spread across the vinyl, CD, and DVD formats! I guess the odds would have it that the first, and one of only two bootlegs I've found at the thrift store so far would be one of theirs. The other one being the previously posted Neil Young - Young Man's Fancy.

Hammer of the Managers
Apparently, even the determined efforts of (Led Zeppelin's notoriously aggressive manager) Peter Grant to squelch the bootleggers did little to stem the tide of illegal recordings of his band that flooded the market. Known to confiscate illicit Led Zeppelin albums he'd find in the English record shops, one well-known story has Grant, and Zeppelin's equally imposing tour manager Richard Cole, paying a little visit to a man who had just been named in a Melody Maker article as the distributor of a new double live Led Zeppelin bootleg. Grant put a closed sign on the unfortunate bootlegger's shop door while Cole threatened him with his life until he handed over his stock of prohibited Zeppelin LPs.

Richard Cole mentions in his book Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin Uncensored, that while on tour, they would often "rough up bootleggers when we caught them at work." A story documented both in Cole's book as well as in Stephen Davis' Hammer of the Gods - The Led Zeppelin Saga describes an incident in Vancouver during their fifth North American tour, when Peter Grant spotted a man in the audience blatantly wielding a large shotgun microphone attached to what looked like a sophisticated tape recorder. Grant pointed "that bastard" out to Cole, who stormed over with some roadies to confront the audacious bootlegger. It wasn't until after a physical assault and the smashing of expensive equipment that it was learned from a stagehand the man was actually a government official sent by the city to measure the decibel levels during the concert! Vancouver police arrived before the show ended, but luckily for Cole and crew, after they were questioned for an hour and agreed to pay for the recorder, the matter was dropped.

Tale of Two Bootleggers
This particular album was put out by the Trade Mark of Quality label. The owners of which are said to be the biggest bootleggers in music history and have been credited with kicking off the modern American bootlegging industry. Briefly, "TMQ" was started sometime around 1968-'69 by a couple of young guys in Los Angeles named Ken and Dub. Their first release, a collection of Bob Dylan songs known as Great White Wonder, is widely noted as the first significant rock bootleg and it swiftly got the pair up and running.

Using high quality materials such as colored, virgin vinyl and printed, color covers they earned a reputation as purveyors of fine unauthorized audio artifacts. However, the partnership ended after a few short years. Allegedly, Ken was fired by Dub's father who had now joined his son's lucrative venture. Dub kept the label going, continuing to use the realistic looking "farm style" pig logo while Ken started his own rival "Trade Mark of Quality" label with the cigar smoking "Pig Daddy" logo as seen on this Led Zeppelin cover insert.

With the help of someone at the pressing plant, Ken began copying all of his former partner's releases by routinely having his own set of vinyl stamping plates made from Dub's mother plates. Whenever the original TMQ label would put out something new, Ken's TMQ would follow with a less expensive duplicate release on black vinyl and with a cheaper cover.

Led Zeppelin - Live in Seattle, '73 Tour bootleg album track list
Definitely a no-frills affair, this particular two record set came in a generic, white, single slot cardboard jacket with a one color, plain paper cover insert (which had been sloppily Scotch taped onto the jacket at some point). The record labels are blank except for a small "SIDE ONE" / "SIDE TWO" etc... printed in plain text just below the spindle hole. Record one has an off-white label. Record two's label is a yellowish color. The matrix numbers stamped in the runoff groove areas match those in the listing for this album at the Discogs site and they are: Side 1: Z820-A / Side 2: Z820-B / Side 3: Z820-C / Side 4: Z820-D.

Further Reading

For a great, detailed list of Led Zeppelin bootlegs and lots of info about the labels and bootlegs in general, visit

See the book Bootleg! The Rise & Fall of the Secret Recording Industry by Clinton Heylin for additional info about the TMQ label and much more

Sunday, January 1, 2012

1940s Voice Letter to Uncle Bob

Here is another one-of-a-kind amateur recording from the 1940s. This one was made in a recording booth at Woodside Park in Philadelphia. It was recorded on July 12 for "Uncle Bob" (and family) by a nervous, somewhat befuddled woman named Betty and her coolheaded sidekick, Dorothy (who brings to mind Aunt Bea from the Andy Griffith show every time I hear this record).

Woodside Park was open for visitors from 1897 until 1955. Here is a photo of the park's entrance, along with an autobiographical story written by a man who once performed a sideshow routine there.

Voice-O-Graph record mailing envelope
Voice-O-Graph "automatic recording studio" booths were made by International Mutoscope Corporation and as far as I can tell, were fairly common from about the early forties to the late sixties in amusement parks, arcades, and many other popular destinations such as New York's Times Square. To see some cool Voice-O-Graph advertisements and photos, visit I like the first ad, which shows a woman using the machine who doesn't look quite sure if she's anxious, astonished, or annoyed and the text reads: "Like talking on the phone ... but a thousand times more thrilling!"

1940s Voice-O-Graph record label
and text from envelope flap

A very handy "labelography" at the TenWatts blog compiles a good number of Voice-O-Graph label designs that were used over the years. With this guide, I could determine that our "Uncle Bob" record was most likely from the 1940s, but the exact period associated with this particular label variant is still in question. If you have a Voice-O-Graph record with a label that is not listed in the timeline you might want to consider contacting that blog's owner and contributing to the project.

I really like playing these little mystery time capsule records for the first time. It's fun not knowing, and anticipating, what you are going to hear. Using clues found on the packaging and in the audio itself, they can also lead you to some interesting historical details you might otherwise never have uncovered. Check out the video clip below if you would like to hear this one for yourself.