Archive for the ‘Discount Records’ Category

Big Maybelle

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Listen: I’m Getting ‘long Alright / Big Maybelle

I can not lie. I get weak around any Okeh single, particularly in it’s matching stock sleeve. This certainly must have something to do with purple foil and paper wrapped chocolate bars from that first trip to Ireland when only in my single digits. We spent the summer with my aunt and grandmother in the house where my Mom grew up. Ballymoney, County Antrim. I don’t recall much, except for getting caught dipping my hand into a neighbor’s purse. The result was most unpleasant, but I needed a Cadbury marzipan bar, a flavor long since discontinued. The experience dented my brain permanently.

This Big Maybelle single from 1954 still glistens as a true visual artifact of color and design, and it’s a frequent choice when flipping through the wall shelves looking for something to play.

As with Bessie Smith, I became smitten by Big Maybelle soon after discovering both Janis Joplin and Tracy Nelson. Big Brother & The Holding Company were just releasing their first singles on Mainstream Records then, with Mother Earth, Tracy Nelson’s band also based out of San Fransisco, doing the same on Mercury shortly thereafter. Given they repeatedly name checked Bessie Smith and Big Maybelle as inspirational influences, my curiosity ran high.

Big Maybelle singles were easy and inexpensive finds for years. Album culture was fully prevalent during the late 60′s so singles simply became passé to most music aficionados of the day. This presented me with great joy as the pickings were euphoric. Marked down 7″ records being commonplace meant you could acquire the most amazing titles for a nickel or a dime. This single was one such find.

Her voice, great. The sound quality of these recordings, great. The subject matter, wow. So many Big Maybelle singles just reeked of sex. And comically presented. Surprisingly, Janis Joplin never nicked the idea, or more likely, conservative Columbia Records wouldn’t allow it.

I have to believe a sausage lyric version exists somewhere, with this cleaned up chicken take recorded specifically for the single, given ‘I’m Getting ‘long Alright’ was it’s A side.

Listen: My Big Mistake / Big Maybelle

‘My Big Mistake’, being formula bar room blues, allowed her to stomp and bully through the song in presumably very few takes. I recall hearing Fred Perry and Harry Fagenbaum play this straight into Mother Earth’s ‘Down So Low’ on their overnight college radio show, when underground album rock began overtaking the FM dial. WAER, Syracuse University’s student station gave all night shifts to nocturnal speed freak students who thankfully proceeded to pollute our ears with the wildest and most eclectic records around.

I bought Mother Earth’s LIVING WITH THE ANIMALS album the very next afternoon, a Sunday. We made our weekly trip to the SU campus, hanging around Discount Records or Record Runner on Marshall Street for hours, juggling what to buy. It became my purchase choice that weekend. Once home I discovered Mother Earth had modeled the majority of the album after Big Maybelle’s delivery style on records like ‘My Big Mistake’. maybe even that very song.

The Scaffold

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Listen: Liverpool Lou / The Scaffold

Never modeling themselves as a band, but instead three guys basically doing comedy and poetry routines set to music, gave The Scaffold an out of jail free card in the image department. The fairly logical result of Liverpool and British themed material afforded The Scaffold a very local sound, and became pretty appealing to the Anglophile trait some of us had.

It was with great surprise to suddenly be hearing their first big UK hit, ‘Thank U Very Much’ on American Top 40 stations in the spring of ’68, and somehow it did okay. Probably the last very British sounding record, bar possibly The Kinks ‘Come Dancing’, that performed as such.

Fast forward to ’74, Warner Brothers US issues ‘Liverpool Lou’ that summer. Having lost no part of the pub/soccer singalong characteristics common to most Scaffold singles, it was most likely Paul McCartney’s production that promoted such decision, and the fact that Wings were the backup band.

It has often been said, you never win or lose the race until you enter, so why not give a current UK Top 10 single with Wings in the wings a shot here.

I heard it a lot in Discount Records that summer, where I worked, and at home. Beyond that, not an airing in sight.

Eddie Harris

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Listen: Is It In (Mono) / Eddie Harris

In the early 70′s, a lot of these credible jazz players leaned disco or dance-y, I assume looking for more mainstream exposure. After all, Deodato had hit big on Top 40 with ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ while with CTI, actually getting to #2 on BILLBOARD. It was an audio oasis on the AM dial at the time.

So guys like Wes Montgomery, Grover Washington, Jr. and Eddie Harris either made attempts at singles, or their respective labels would edit down longer album tracks in hopes of some pop airplay.

I was working for DISCOUNT RECORDS in Syracuse at the time. All the label’s sales guys would donate their boxes of promo 7″ allocations my way, given that no one else at any of their accounts wanted them. The store managers and clerks were generally album whores. It was a God-send for me.

‘Is It In’ became a big hit, well in our store that is. We had a sturdy Garrard stacking turntable behind the counter, and I played it ad nauseam, resulting in some LP sales. At home, even Corinne found the lyrics amusing in a sort of risque way and ended up tolerating it, an anomaly for her when it came to anything jazz.

King Crimson

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Listen: Cat Food / King Crimson
Cat Food / King Crimson

They’d probably cringe, but even the most hardened album acts like King Crimson made a decent single from time to time. Or the labels, back before creative control was bestowed on the artist, may have heard a hook in the thick of an opus, thereby being able to edit/rearrange a twelve minute album piece into three and change for a 7″ single.

Not sure if that’s the case with ‘Cat Food’. King Crimson’s albums never did hold my attention through a whole side, so I’m not positive if this is the full version. But I sure did love this song when it got some concentrated play from the local college station, WAER. What a surprise to walk into Discount Records, on the Syracuse University campus, and find a few copies of the single in their racks.

That store was a shrine in the late 60′s, when record buying was in full, and I do mean full swing. A beehive of white drugged up students with money to spend on white drugged up rock music made for the ultimate market. Box lots of all the latest releases by Ten Years After, The Nice, Spirit, Pink Floyd and whatnot seemingly evaporated into thin air.

I’d bet the stunning cover art on those King Crimson albums drew in more than one spontaneous purchase. So too did this 7″ picture sleeve, in those days unheard of, particularly from the UK. Between both it’s mini album construction, and the pink inner sleeve housing a matching pink labelled pressing, I found myself committing an exorbitant $1.98 to the cause. Excellent investment, as it turned out.


Thursday, December 23rd, 2010

Listen: Seven Deadly Finns / Eno Eno7.mp3

Eno seemed to release ‘Seven Deadly Finns’ minutes after leaving Roxy Music, or maybe being a kid meant my time perspective was messy. Dissonance, already his calling card, many times verged on suffocating song endings, like here. In a few short years, it would be married to oscillation and the resultant metal clanging made a perfect fit for David Bowie’s Berlin period recordings. In ’74 though, this Eno single was about the hippest form of chaos you could hope to have on a 7″. We stocked and sold many at Discount Records that summer.

Listen: King’s Lead Hat / Brian Eno EnoKings.mp3

I could swear, since ’77, the ‘King’s Lead Hat’ that closed side one of BEFORE AND AFTER SCIENCE was a very different, and superior, version to it’s 7″ counterpart. Mentioning this to Duane a weekend or two back, the comment was met with a slightly confused but assured disagreement. Wrong, they’re the same.

A few hours later, prior to checking, his email arrived with the affirmation. The two versions are the same. It was just enough reason to pull the 7″ and give it a play. He was right.

Probably my favorite Eno track ever, discovering 33 years later this preferred version existed as a single, one which I’ve owned the whole time, was a most pleasing and scary senior moment.

Frampton’s Camel

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

All Night Long / Frampton’s Camel

Above / Below: UK Promo Only sleeve (front/back)

All Night Long / Frampton’s Camel

Listen: All Night Long / Frampton’s Camel 01 All Night Long.mp3

Peter Frampton was, unfairly, a guilty pleasure to loads of folks for years. Once he hit the big time it was uncool to like him. Not me. I loved The Herd, and was loyally into Humble Pie. That was a funny one actually. Here you had a signature member of The Herd and Steve Marriott in the same band. If you’re an Anglofile, you give them rope. Their early stuff I liked even though it leaned toward the extended blues rock sludge setting in at the time. Live, they were on fire. Luckily, I saw them open for Ten Years After on that first US tour, not yet Americanized in any way, still kitted out in lime or purple velvet and silk trousers etc. Glued to the edge of the stage in the Livestock Pavilion on the Syracuse State Fair grounds, overjoyed by the fact that we were seeing members of The Small Faces and The Herd, was half the thrill.

Then Peter Frampton went solo. His second, post Humble Pie release was issued as Frampton’s Camel. He’d shed that Humble Pie heaviness. The album didn’t sell. I never heard it anywhere at the time, although the single ‘All Night Long’ got a lot of daytime BBC Radio 1 play that summer ’73 I’d spent in London. It was a perfect seasonal single and has sentimental value.

Listen: (Baby) Somethin’s Happening / Peter Frampton PeterFramptonSmethin.mp3

For the record, the follow-up album, SOMETHIN’S HAPPENING, went fairly undiscovered too. He toured that record with former band mate Andy Bown, from The Herd, on keyboards. Rich Packter, the A&M promotion guy during summer ’74 had set Corinne and I up with Peter and Andy for lunch at the then turquoise and pink circular Holiday Inn restaurant in Downtown Syracuse. Frampton’s Camel were opening for Uriah Heep that night. We both worked at Discount Records, so I’m guessing Rich could justify the meal.

As far as we were concerned, this was lunch with The Herd. It was great fun picking their brains about the past. They both laughed non stop at all my questions, in a most flattering way. And I’m sure Andy Bown was genuinely surprised at the attention. Peter didn’t seem to mind one bit that when push came to shove, these two crazies were there to meet Andy Bown.

So yeah, SOMETHIN’S HAPPENING is a gem too. Soon after, Peter Frampton’s deserved home runs began. The industry calls this process artist development. I call it finally getting a fair shot at radio.


Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

TomitaUSA, Tomita, RCA, Snowflakes Are Dancing

Tomita, Tomita, RCA, Snowflakes Are Dancing

Listen: Arabesque No. 1 / Tomita TomitaArabesque.mp3

Born in 1932 and still active today, Isao Tomita began composing for film and television as early as ’55. By the late 60′s, he turned his attention to electronic pieces after hearing Walter Carlos, whereby he performed classical music on the Moog synthesizer. Isao acquired a Moog III and began building a home studio. He started arranging Claude Debussy’s pieces for synthesizer and, in ’74, transformed those works into SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING. When the album was released; it became a worldwide success, even in the US.

Corinne and I worked at Discount Records on the Syracuse University campus then. She ended up overseeing the classical department. This was in the day when record stores, particularly Discount, stocked very deep catalog titles. Classical music collectors are as eccentric as we pop hoarders. They would come in daily, she had a real following, almost groupie-like. I was never intimidated though. Talk about nut jobs – one guy was even a priest and super hysterical. With a sense of humor like no other, he made constant fun of the nuns, and had us round the parish a few times for some home cooked dinners. We scraped by in those days, preferring to spend cash on drinks and of course records. Those invites were God-sends, so to speak. It was a real blast of a summer though.

During that period, Tomita’s album started to gain traction. There was always a diverse in-store playlist variety going on. Everyone employed was a record crazy of some sort – all with extreme and bizarre musical tastes, yours truly included.

I couldn’t believe my eyes when the RCA salesman came in and handed me a bunch of Tomita 7′s, on red vinyl, a real anomaly in those days. All those sales guys gave me their promo singles, NO ONE else wanted singles. It was heaven.

TomitaSnowflakes, Tomita, RCA, Snowflakes Are Dancing

Listen: Snowflakes Are Dancing / Tomita TomitaSnowflakesAreDancing.mp3

She started spinning SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING, and that baby would fly out of the shop as a result. A bunch of us were into Tangerine Dream and Faust, Amon Duul II, Can and of course Kraftwerk.

Think about it, ‘Autobahn’ was a hit single then. Would that happen on crap US radio now? And we thought it was bad then…anyways, Tomita fit right in. Everyone was content, which many times wasn’t the case, particularly as the night hours wore on and we all started getting buzzed.

This guy was, well still is, amazing. In 1984, he released CANON OF THE THREE STARS, featuring classical pieces renamed for astronomical objects. Rightly so, he credits himself with inventing The Plasma Symphony Orchestra, a computer synthesizer process using the wave forms of electromagnetic emanations from various stars and constellations for the sonics of that album.

Tomita has performed a number of outdoor Sound Cloud concerts, with speakers surrounding the audience in what else, a ‘cloud of sound’. He did a serious ass concert in ’84 at the annual Ars Electronica Festival in Linz, Austria called Mind Of The Universe, get this: mixing tracks live in a glass pyramid suspended over an audience of 80,000 people.

He performed another concert in New York two years later to celebrate the Statue Of Liberty centennial (Back To The Earth) as well as one in Sydney for the ’88 Australian Bicentennial. That performance was part of a $7 million gift from Japan to New South Wales, which included the largest ever fireworks display at that time, six fixed sound and lighting systems — one of those on a moored barge in the centre of a bay, the other flown in by Chinook helicopter — for the relevant parts of the show. A fleet of barges with Japanese cultural performances, including kabuki fire drumming, passed by at various times.

His most recent Sound Cloud event was in Nagoya, Japan in ’97 featuring guest performances by Ray Charles, Dionne Warwick, and Rick Wakeman.

Of course we knew nothing of any Tomita history back in ’74. We just loved SNOWFLAKES ARE DANCING. Hopefully he’ll come back to New York one more time. We will not miss it.

The Hollies

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

HolliesLetGoUSA, The Hollies, Imperial, Parlophone

Listen: I Can’t Let Go / The Hollies [audio:]

Discount Records, in the mid 60′s through to the early 70′s, was what you’d call a full catalog store. Owned by CBS, the classical and non-classical titles ran very deep. It wasn’t just the bins that’d be full, so too were the ‘understock’ shelves below. These were arranged by label, then numerical within each. Almost daily, stock would need checking, business was so brisk. Not only did you have to count quantities of big sellers, but also determine missing titles by number, checking them against the respective label’s current catalog, all the while entering the quantities onto inventory sheets. The designated store buyer would eventually decide how many of each to order.

Everyone hated taking inventory, but not me. I couldn’t wait to get started on my first day in mid ’74. Within a week or so, I was on fire. I didn’t even need the catalogs. I’d been studying labels for years at that point. Basically when it came to records, I could remember every detail, still can. Bob at the second location in Syracuse was the same. To us, the catalog numbers were fun. They basically made up our entire conversations. When it came to doing anything else – I was useless. If I had to hang a picture, I’d bend the nail. But this stuff was easy.

Like anywhere, there were store regulars, all with their specific and peculiar tastes. One guy would visit almost daily, trolling the $1.99 bins for country titles. His name was Dave Disinger. We had these large, fluorescent red markdown stickers, and once something sat long enough, you’d eventually price it cheap to make it move. Plus, overstock from other locations would be shipped in for just these bins. Occasionally, some location in Michigan or somewhere would close, and we’d get boxes of their stuff – always really good finds in those. I vividly remember getting several copies of THEM AGAIN this way. It was like Christmas morning when those boxes would arrive.

Well Dave was addicted to country markdowns. I made amusement for myself by intentionally pulling full price, more obscure titles and throwing on the sticker, then wait and watch. Sure enough, he’d be joyous at these finds. One day we get to talking – I was sorting a bunch of newly arrived 45′s at the front counter. He mentions he used to be a singles guy, rock and soul, but moved on to country LP’s. He didn’t even play his singles anymore. Clearly, I was his direct opposite. Somehow or another, he mentions as a kid, he worked at WNDR, the tighter Top 40 in the market but very popular in the 60′s.

So wait Dave, do you have a lot of old stuff? Now I’m getting interested – and pretty quickly I’m offering a lot of on the spot country markdowns in exchange for some of those radio station copies from the day. He heads home then and there, returning with a box, probably 200-ish.

Fantastic! Fuck me – this was a goldmine. He brought them till his supply was dry. Only drawback was he’s written his name on every last one. Still, the stuff was crazy. That first box included The Riot Squad ‘How Is It Down’ and The Kinks ‘Waterloo Sunset’, plus, as you can see, ‘I Can’t Let Go’. It was the very copy that WNDR never did play.

Betty Wright

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Listen: Shoorah Shoorah / Betty Wright 11 Shoorah_ Shoorah_.mp3

I was working at Discount Records in the early 70′s when this came in. Discount was a deep catalog chain between ’65 – ’75 or so. Their stores were concentrated in the northeast, and their home office was in Scarsdale. The location on the Syracuse University campus was always a haven for the most obscure albums, all the British and west coast names you’d heard of. When I finally got a job there in ’74, it was a real win. You see, each store could buy direct from the labels. So although it was a chain, you weren’t just allocated the hits. There was serious inventory maintenance and responsibility required. This was of course huge fun.

One weekend, I really got into the old BILLBOARD magazine collection and with intense detail, compiled a many-paged list of singles to order from each of the labels. The one that really came through was London Records. Unlike pretty much all the others, somewhere deep in their fulfillment warehouse were tucked sole copies of countless singles. I opened that big shipment box about a week after placing the order resulting from said weekend, to find crazy London, Parrot and Deram singles from years prior (Them, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Honeybus, The Attack, Hedgehoppers Anonymous, The Cryin’ Shames, Pinkerton’s Assorted Colours, Savoy Brown). Ah, the good old days.

But back to Betty Wright’s version of ‘Shoorah Shoorah’. I was very into The Meters around this time and hence insatiable for all things Allen Toussaint. Reading that he had written this one in the BILLBOARD singles review section that particular week, I ordered myself a copy. Smart move. It was a classic. I proceeded to get in a box, and with in store play sold them through nicely. Wish I had kept a few more.

Klaus Doldinger’s Passport

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

Jadoo / Passport

Listen: Jadoo / Passport PassportJadoo.mp3

Back in ’74/’75 when I worked at Discount Records’ Syracuse University location, a bunch of my co-worker pals were really into all the jazzy prog coming out of the UK and Europe. Bands like PFM, Hatfield & The North, Faust, that kind of stuff. Probably it’s how I got turned on to Passport. I didn’t follow that sound down the Herbie Hancock or Mahavishnu Orchestra path though and drifted back to more familiar terrain quickly. Some of the sonic elements that, say, Manfred Mann’s Earthband would incorporate, were enough for me.

I always liked ‘Jadoo’ from the CROSS COLLATERAL album and was so excited when the WEA salesman, Jack Riehle gave me a sampler 7″. I hadn’t listened to this in a good ten years. Having pulled it out recently, I was actually shocked to discover it a precursor to techno. Who knew?

The Fortunes

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Here It Comes Again / The Fortunes

Here It Comes Again / The Fortunes

Listen: Here It Comes Again / The Fortunes FortunesComes.mp3

Back in the 70′s, many record stores bought direct from each label. Only the really small shops were forced to buy via a one stop, which were distributors that represented all the labels, a kind of middle man. I worked for Discount Records in ’74-75. Although a chain owned by CBS, they were deep catalog stores and centered around college towns and campuses, hence their two Syracuse locations. And each of these shops would buy direct from the various labels. Every Tuesday all the reps would stop by, bring the staff hot drinks and donuts, plus stacks of promos, T shirts and posters. It was heaven. One summer day, I went to the Syracuse University library, having been alerted to their complete bound collection of BILLBOARD magazines from the 60′s, to sit for hours and pour through them. I took a new marble notebook and dated each page to the corresponding issue then listed any facts of interest. Chart entries, new releases with catalog numbers, etc. Years later, I managed to find a magazine dealer selling a complete run of issues from ’64 – ’68. Perfect, I bought them all.

A few days later, I got this ‘why not’ idea. I ordered about one hundred long out of print 7″ titles on the London family labels from our rep, one copy each, using the newly acquired catalog numbers from my day of research.

I’d actually blanked and didn’t even think more about the order, being sure they’d never turn up. I mean how could they? This was ’75 and some of them had come and gone, most were flops, some ten years prior. But lo and behold, about a week later, the London order arrived, and one of the boxes was chock full of many, many of those very titles. Oh man, I was flying. Amongst them were all the Press singles from The Fortunes, not to mention The Small Faces, Los Bravos, The Pudding, The Gibsons and loads more. And those was just the ones on Press. I won’t even get into the Deram, London, Tribe, Hi and Parrot selections on this post. My immediate reaction was to order five copies of many that had turned up, which I did, but no more ever came. Obviously, these had been sitting on the shelves for literally a decade.

I think most kids considered The Fortunes sound to be manufactured, over orchestrated, adult leaning, the music your parents would like too. All true I guess, but I did love those big, ballad-y Greenaway/Cook and/or Les Reed boomers. ‘Here It Comes Again’ was a decent hit here, #27 in Nov ’65.

This Golden Ring / The Fortunes

This Golden Ring / The Fortunes

Listen: This Golden Ring / The Fortunes FortunesGolden.mp3

But the followup, ‘This Golden Ring’ struggled slowly, and perfectly, to a problem #82 in February ’66. The Fortunes were burned into my psyche as a wintertime sound. Most of their records remind me of the freezing cold walks to and from school with my little red transistor radio clamped to my ear, pre ear buds by decades.

Gone From My Mind / The Fortunes

Gone From My Mind / The Fortunes

Listen: Gone From My Mind / The Fortunes FortunesGone.mp3

‘Gone From My Mind’, despite it’s confident delivery, didn’t make a ripple. Never heard it on the radio in my life, and therefore really excited to find it amongst the others in that London shipment. No surprise, it’s ended up as my favorite.