Listen: Richard Corey / Them
I religiously collected local radio station charts placed in all the record shops and record departments at the variety stores. Every town had them. They’re really fun to scour nowadays for the national non-hits as well as being a great snapshot of the music you could hear at that given moment. If you search ‘music survey’ at eBay, there are always a bunch listed for auction.
I recall WT Grants on Salina Street in Syracuse had a huge record department, and stocked everything you could want, especially as WOLF, one of the town’s two Top 40 stations was pretty adventurous, playing a lot of obscure English rock and US RnB. This was a God send for me from ’65 – ’67, until they buckled and went all Billboard on us. That said record department had a soda counter attached to it, up a few steps with typical glittery colored American Graffiti style booths looking down on the hustle/bustle of kids pawing through and buying records (today you see the same activity at an Apple store or Game Stop), and they had a great jukebox. It was jammed with all the latest up and comers. I remember investing a dime to hear ‘Bend It’, well not only hear it but watch the single spin round on the store’s lavender/purple Rock-ola, at the same time admiring a factory printed Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich jukebox tab to accompany it. I wonder where that tab ended up. Hate to think.
My only problem with WT Grants or Walt’s being there were so many choices, and not enough money to buy them all on my $1 a week allowance and some cash from mowing lawns. I still get cold sweats hearing a lawn mover. I would literally walk up and back neighbor’s yards behind their mowers deciding what record this torturous act would earn me and I distinctly remember suffering through several yards earning enough to buy The Cream FRESH CREAM. I went cheap, and sprung for the mono pressing as they were $1 less. Who knew then that monos would end up way more valuable than their stereo counterparts. Man, am I happy I bought them: The Pink Floyd PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN, The Jimi Hendrix Experience AXIS: BOLD AS LOVE and Big Brother & The Holding Company CHEAP THRILLS to mention a few that reaped incredible returns. Well if I ever decide to sell them that is. I soon figured out other ways to get all these records and more for free. That saga is covered in my Jack Dupree post for the more curious of you.
Meanwhile, the one record that got played by WOLF (and I bet only by WOLF in the whole of the US as I’ve never seen it on any other local chart, ever) but not stocked, was ‘Richard Corey’ by Them. It’s actually a Paul Simon cover and Van Morrison reportedly hated it.
If you couldn’t find something at Grant’s there was also Walt’s Records, just down a block and right next to a peanut shop, freshly roasting their wares.
Walt’s was a great shrine to obscure stuff, and very RnB heavy. The place smelled fantastic, a constant mixture of vinyl and those roasted nuts. Like Grant’s, I was told they “couldn’t get” this single by Them either. “Couldn’t get”, what the hell does that mean? Turns out the lyric “He went home last night and put a bullet through his head” was a big deal….I’m guessing neither outlet dared stock it just in case. Guns were not cool once. It’s a shame that’s changed. And it took me years to find this as I’m sure not many were pressed. How WOLF got away with playing ‘Richard Corey’ heavily for several weeks without a problem is surprising, but they did.