Friday, 25 November 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 123 (Top Twenty): Rarest AAA Records


Got a spare Beatles acetate sitting in the loft? Or perhaps a Monkees corgi Monkeemobile is more your thing (one of the most expensive TV tie-ins they ever did!) Perhaps you have an autographed copy of the first Pink Floyd album? Or you’ve got the Spice Girls tied up in your attack. Where do you turn? Well, for all but the last one (for which you should give pest-control a call) you can turn to the Record Collector Price Guide for information, which is what we’ve done for our latest top 10 – one which we’ve had to do effectively twice because so many blooming Beatles albums seemed to creep up on it! – along with some ‘newer’ auction prices we’ve heard about! Now I can’t afford to get this mammoth 1500 page book every year (even if I myself have written around that many pages this year), so some of these listings may be out of date – please get a copy of the latest book (I think its the 2010 one, with a 2012 one due soon) if you really want to know the absolute definite price guide to the following). This listing was inspired by the recent auction of our no 1 item that had collectors salivating when they first learned of its existence about five years ago – and have been waiting to get their hands on it ever since, hence the – quite frankly – ridiculous price tag. Presumably there’s some other AAA memorabilia that’s just as rare if not rarer (like John Lennon’s cap worn in the ‘Help!’ film that went for thousands not long ago, or his white piano), but the high price tags there are because they’re unique one-offs and unless youhad a relation that worked for Abbey Road/Top Of The Pops/ went on tour with an AAA band you’re unlucky to have one of those sitting in your loft. So for this article we’re sticking just to records, in all their shapes and forms and giving prices that relate to their being in ‘mint’ (ie ‘as new’) condition. By the way, if you do find that you own one of these rare items then why not sell it via our partners Amazon? (and encourage your bidders to give us 5% of the sale price while you’re about it! Well, it was worth a try wasn’t it?!) Happy hunting!

General Top 10:

10) Pink Floyd “A Saucerful Of Secrets” (mono copy, 1968 in mint condition) worth £400

This album, the Floyd’s second (reviewed on these pages not long ago as news and views 118), was for them a comparatively slow seller. Especially in mono – stereo recorders had taken off in a big way in 1966-67 (legend has it that most fans switched so they could hear ‘Sgt Peppers’ in stereo) and by 1968 records built to sound the same in both speakers were dead in the water. So if you own a ‘perfect’ copy of this record (and yes don’t panic, the ‘coffee cup’ circles are meant to be there on the front cover!) then this record is certainly a saucerful of secrets for you!

9) The Who “Who Did It?” (Track Records Sampler, 1970) worth £400

Back in the late 60s, in the pre-Tommy years, Track Records really went to town pushing re-issues of their best-selling artists. That re-issue series includes such delights as ‘The Ox’ (a compilation of John Entwistle songs), Track Allsorts (a bit of everything!) and, most memorably, this album which features side one of the album ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’ and side one of the album ‘Who Sell Out’ (why???) However by 1970 The Who were into their rock-opera stage and needed their works to be heard complete – which might be why this sampler sold so poorly and was catually withdrawn weeks after release. There’s a snazzy cover you can’t see anywhere else too (with the band in ‘boxes’ on the cover with different coloured backgrounds)



8) The Rolling Stones “Live Stones” (unreleased compilation, 1975) worth £500

‘Rolled Gold’ is for many the definitve Stones compilation, full of classic hit singles and album tracks. ‘More Rolled Gold’ is less so, featuring a pick of all the stuff that wasn’t chosen the first time. ‘Live Stones’ is pushing the box even further – a jumble of tracks from the two live albums the Stones had cut up to that time (‘Live’ and ‘Get Yer Ya Yas Out!’), which might be why Decca pulled this album before official release (though some copies did leak out or were given to friends or disc jockeys or something). Apparently the price applies to ‘pink labels’ only by the way!

7) The Rolling Stones “Golden B-Sides” (unreleased compilation,1973) worth £600

Decca were really desperate to milk their cash-cow weren’t they?! Actually a compilation of B-sides sounds like one of their better ideas – there are certainly enough gems in the Stones catalogue, some of which (‘Dandelion’, ‘Child Of The Moon’ ‘Play With Fire’ ‘The Spider And The Fly’ etc) are the best things they ever did. So I’m sorry that this album never made it to official release either – if you do have a copy then its probably a ‘test pressing’ (ie one made in the factory to see how they would sound rather than issued to the public).

6) The Kinks “Are The Village Green Preservation Society” (unreleased 12 track version, 1968) worth £600

If you own an original mint-edition copy of this album, The Kinks’ worst seller at the time but now largely regarded as their masterpiece, then congratulations: your copy is now worth either £125 (in mono) or £80 (stereo). If you own the original shorter version of this album though (given to sample disc-jockeys and the band themselves) then you’re in for a treat (£600 to be honest). Ray Davies was unhappy with it and asked record label Pye for more time to record five new songs – leaving two songs that didn’t appear on the final LP. ‘Days’ came out as a single and fits the nostalgia vibe of the record well, though its ‘Mr Songbird’ that’s unique to this record (till the 1990s CD re-issue anyway), a chirpy, retro pop song about taking all your troubles away that fans used to have to pay a fortune to hear.

5) The Rolling Stones “History Of The Stones” (unreleased 3 album box set, 1975) worth £800

This release is another Decca compilation that was abandoned in favour of ‘Rolled Gold’. The track listing would have been similar, but longer, with yet more A sides, B sides and album tracks added to the mix. Interestingly no sleeves were ever produced for this compilation and it’s yet another test pressing, with ‘pink’ labels, unavailable to the public at large.

4) The Rolling Stones “Their Satanic Majesties Request” (promotional copy, 1967) worth £1000

‘Promo’ albums are copies that were sent to record company executives, DJs, in fact anyone who would help get a record on the air and were designed to be ‘desirable’ and largely unique so they’d be more likely to be played and the receiver would forever be in the band’s debt (or at least less grumpy about getting whacked with food during the cake fight the Stones had to promote ‘Beggar’s Banquet’ the following year!) The ‘Satanic Majesties’ promo is particularly desirable because it features the album’s 3D cover imprinted not on a cardboard sleeve but on silk! Can I request one of those please, your satanic majesties?...

3) The Rolling Stones “Fortune Teller” (withdrawn single, 1963) worth £1000

Before the Stones bumped into Lennon and McCartney and were given ‘I Wannna Be Your Man’ as their second single, The Stones wanted this well-loved song to be their second single. The song itself later turned up on the Stones’ ‘Got Live If You Want It’ EP smothered in fake screams (!) and actually sounds like one of their better early recordings. After all, it’s hard to go wrong with a song as funky and rhythmic and yet as silly and genuinely laugh out loud funny as ‘Fortune Teller’ – a song The Hollies and The Who also did, among many non-AAA bands. ‘Poison Ivy’, another gem relegated to that live EP, would have been the flip and, again, in my opinion would have made for an improvement on both debut single ‘C’mon’ and ‘I Wanna Be Your Man’.

2) The Rolling Stones “The Rolling Stones” (LP first pressing, 1964) worth £1200

So how do you know if you have a first pressing of this album? (originally only produced in limited numbers because Decca never expected it to sell that well!) It has the matrix number XARL 6272-1A scratched into the album’s second side and a much shorter edit of the early Jagger/Richards song ‘Tell Me’ that only runs 2:52, not 4:06. So there.

1)    Pink Floyd (promotional copies of first four singles, 1967-68) worth £2000 each

For those who don’t know, that means promotional copies of the four singles with Syd Barrett in the band: ‘Arnold Layne’ ‘See Emily Play’ ‘Apples and Oranges’ and ‘It Would Be So Nice’ (although even promo copies of later single ‘Point Me At The Sky’ is worth £1000). The reason these promos in particular are so collectible are that, yet again, the Floyd were giving DJs and record executives something unique in return for plugging their single. Each of these five promotional singles come in their own unique picture sleeve which never appeared on any other Floyd release. Hence the rather extreme price tag!

Beatles Top 10

10) ‘Our First Four’ (promotional pack featuring The Beatles, Mary Hopkin, The Black Mills Dyke Band and Jackie Lomax, 1968) worth £1000

The first releases of The Beatles’ new label Apple Records were a big event and everybody wanted a copy of the first batch of releases – including The Queen, whos asked for ‘Hey Jude’ (hmm, I wonder if she ever listened to B-side ‘Revolution’?!) The Beatles were never one not to make a big event if the public wanted it and so copies of ‘Hey Jude’ ‘Those Were The Days’ ‘Thuingumybob’ and ‘Sour Milk Sea’ respectively were given the works: ‘mounted on a PVC pocketon a printed dayglo card insert in a 10”x 12” card or scarcer plastic box’ according to the Record Collector Price Guide! The ones without the box are worth £750 by the way, still more than enough money to give the whole of the Sgt Peppers audience a slap-up meal. 

9) Please Please Me (demo of single, 1963) worth £1500

The first of two demos on this list, this is for The Beatles second (and probably second-rarest) 45rpm single.Like most EMI ‘demo’ singles pre-1967 this one is printed on a white label with a big red ‘A’ stamped across the label of the main side. So now you know.

8) Yesterday and Today (American LP with original ‘butcher’ sleeve, 1966) worth £2000

Possibly the most famous item on this list, this is the price for a mint edition of the ‘original’ version of this American album, back in the days when America released albums in a different order to their British cousins and so squeezed an extra three albums of materiasl out of the band in the early 60s. This particular one mixes seven tracks from ‘Rubber Soul’ and three songs from ‘Revolver’ plus ‘Yesterday’ (which had just become a US #1). The reason its famous, though, is because of that infamous cover by Robert Freeman picturing The Beatles surrounded by baby dolls with torn off heads and slabs of meat (this was originally meant to be the ‘back’ cover and released without the photogrpaher’s permission – the original ideas was for the four Beatles to be ‘born’ between the legs of a writhing female fan!) Understandably EMI-Capitol weren’t best pleased with the cover and withdraw the album after a public outcry.They then hastily ordered a much more innocent shot of the fab four fooling around with a packing case (on which all but Paul look so bored and annoyed they look ready to kill the cmereman for the inane stunt) which they promptly pasted in over the top of the top of the old one. When fans and collectors realised how rare the original sleeves were they started ‘peeling’ the new covers off with steam from a kettle, even though what generally happened was that they ended up with a nasty mix of the two covers. That’s why mint condition copies of this record are so few and far between – although there are a handful of a few hundred albums with the origibnal cover that were sold before they were re-called.

7) John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band “You Know My Name” (withdrawn single 1969) worth £2000

Most Beatles fans know ‘You Know My Name’ because its the last officially released Beatles product till 1994 (as the B-side of last Beatles single ‘Let It Be’), although its goonish humour actually dates from late 1967 in a break in the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ sessions (and features Stone Brian Jones on saxophone, with the single finally released some six months after his death). Not as many fans know that Lennon, who loved the recording, wanted to get it out the vaults and release it under his own name (even though McCartney wrote as much of the song as Lennon, if not more). The B-side would have been ‘What’s The New Mary Jane?’, an even stranger collage of screams, sound effects, handbells and one of the most irritating choruses in rock. The ‘song’ didn’t end up being released until Anthology 3 in 1997 and most fans regard it as a bad move, although there is some sort of a hypnotic trance about the whole thing if you hear it long enough (plus Lennon made about half a dozen very different mixes of it, of which to date we’ve officially only heard one – and not the best one either). As the follow up to the poor-selling ‘Cold Turkey’ no doubt this single would have died an even bigger death, but it was long a source of pride amongst Beatles collectors. As the single was never officially released, only acetates of it exist, with a label stating ‘Apple Custom Made’ and handwritten catalogue numbers physically written onto the disc.

6) John Lennon/Yoko Ono “Two Virgins” (first pressing 1969) worth £3000

To think they actually made more than one pressing of this audio verite album! Actually, this is the ‘mono’ version of the record, which again sold less copies than the stero mix which had all but taken over by 1969. As well as the sound, there’s a difference to the sleeve that lists the name of the artists and the fact they are ‘merrie and olde in England’ on the front of the sleeve, not the back (like the stereo copy). Despite having an ‘Apple’ catalogue number, the few fans in the world to own a vinvyl copy may note that the label itself is of ‘Track Records’ (the home of The Who in the 60s). Apple, still owned by EMI, were furious that Lennon wanted to release an album with that cover (him and Yoko naked) and refused to release it. Even a rare personal plea from Lennon to Sir Joseph Lockwood (the head of EMI) reminding him about all The Beatles had done for the label only solved half the matter – that they would issue the album if another distributor got involved (good for Track, we say, who actually lost money on the record). The record originally came wrapped in a brown paper bag – the way they used to sell top-shelf magazines in those days – but few if any of the bags still exist today!

5) Love Me Do (demo of single, 1962) worth £3000

The second of our two Beatle ‘demo’ discs, this one is notable for two reasons. One is that nobody at EMI has a clue who this group are and figure they don’t even need to check up on details – which is why both A and B side are credited to ‘Lennon/McArtney’(!) Secondly, as a new unknown group very few of these ‘test’ discs were ever pressed – the experts reckon only about 250 of them. As the first bit of Beatles magic ever manufactured on the EMI label (surprisngly original copies of ‘My Bonnie’ with The Beatles backing Tony Sheridan actually aren’t rare enough to make this list but would have made the bottom end of the top 20), these few copies are sought by many a collector.

4) The Beatles With Frank Ifield Live On Stage (American compilation, 1964) worth £3000

I always felt really sorry for US record label Vee-Jay. When the American branch of EMI (Capitol) passed on the Beatles’ first three singles, someone somewhere was sharp enough to hear something in ‘Love Me Do’ ‘Please Please Me’ and ‘She Loves You’ – before Capitol finally got their act together and heavily promoted fourth single ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ (an almost permanent #1 in Summer 1964). Vee-Jay never got the rights to another Beatles record, but luckily they still held the rights to three A sides and three B sides, which they released endlessly on all sorts of singles, EPs and LPs. This one is one of the weirder concoctiosn they came up with: figuring that Frank Ifield was British and therefore appealed to the same people, they stuck their same old six tracks on one side of the record and Ifield’s yodelling crooning on the other. The other infamous Vee-Jay fab four comp was ‘The Beatles vs The Four Seasons’, but at least they had some musical similarities (though not many – a Four Seasons vs The Beach Boys record, on the otherhand, made a lot of sense). As for that patronising sleeve of an English caricature (this record’s full name is ‘Tally Ho, what! The Beatles and Frank Ifield On Stage’, though thankfully most people don’t call it that anymore) the least said the better – and just why is this record ‘on stage’ when it was all made in the studio?!

3) Please Please Me (1st and 2nd pressings of album in stereo,1963) worth £3000

Want to know which pressing you’ve got? Well, have a gander at the music publishing. The first pressings came with a ‘Dick James and Co’ credit for ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ ‘Please Please Me’ ‘Misery’ ‘Do You Want To Know A Secret?’ and ‘There’s A Place’. However by the time of second pressings the Lennon/McCartney publishing group ‘Northern Songs’ has bought up the rights to all these songs (albeit they never did get to own ‘Love Me Do’ or ‘PS I Love You’, which are the only two songs that one of the Beatles (Paul) actually owns. The reasons these albums are so rare is that they were so limited – EMI gave The Beatles the go-ahead on the back of one top 20 hit and one top five hit and never in their lives expected this cash-in album to dominate the charts the way it did. The reason the stereo copy is so much rarer than the mono is because so few people had the technology back in 1963, when stereo was still very much the lesser cousin to mono.

2)    ‘The Beatles’ (AKA ‘The White Album’) copies 1-10 (1968) worth £10,000

The idea behind ‘The White Album’ was to make it seem like a ‘limited edition’ that only ever actually sold as many copies as the public bought. The ‘number’ was printed on the bottom right hand corner and, for the record, my vinyl copy is number 9782 so, alas, I’m not as rich as I’d hoped. Generally speaking you need a copy numbered in the first thousand for it to be worth anything special, with albums numbered between 11 and 100 worth around £7000 in mint condition. The reason the first 10 fetch so much more is because they were ‘bagged’ by The Beatles themselves to give away to friends or family – Ringo actually got copy #1, much to Lennon’s annoyance because he thought he’d ‘bagged’ it first!

1)    “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (special mock-up featuring Capitol music executives, 1967) worth £70,000

I still remember the fuss in Record Collector when this album was finally confirmed to be true and not just a mad fan rumour. Back in 1967, with ‘Sgt Peppers’ breaking all records, the record guys at Capitol (the American branch of EMI) wanted to celebrate and so commisioned a mock-up of the famous cover, but with the pictures of themselves and their mates appearing instead of John, Paul, George, Ringo and assorted film stars, sports stars, politicians, friends and gurus. Only 100 copies of this record were ever made (given to heads of department and some employees as Christmas present) and to date only three are confirmed to have survived- the most recent of which sold for this record price last month.If you happen to have one in your attic then start getting the champagne in now!

And that ends yet another newsletter. Join us next week – if you aren’t too busy counting the money you’ve just made at a record auction...

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