From Around & Around: All About Vinyl, by Peter Viney, due 2017 as an iBook
Names, Scribble & Numbers
Louie Louie …
Louie Louie: The Kingsmen, Pye International, UK #26, in 1964
What a near mint copy looks like
A mint copy of Louie Louie by The Kingsmen is rated at £30 in Rare Record Guide 2016. I’ve seen lots of decent copies at £20 plus. It holds a price consistently. This copy plays very well, certainly well enough for Louie Louie where the odd bit of hiss, crackle and pop is easily absorbed.
The problem with this copy is not the sleeve, with the name and address and title, and perhaps the addition of ‘pills’, ‘mod’ and ‘modernist’ even adds a bit of ambience. The sleeve can be switched with a clean one from a less collectable Pye International record, perhaps by The Waikikis. Our previous owner ‘Kevin’ added stuff to the centre label, his name, and ‘mod’ and thought it amusing to write B&B series (Bed & Breakfast?) where other Pye International records of this vintage have R&B series. This copy was just one pound, and that’s from a record store, not a charity shop. The same store had an unadorned one on the wall in a plastic sleeve at £15.
You Don’t Have To Say You love Me: Dusty Springfield, Philips, 1966. UK #1. Josephine had neat writing, and we at least know the record has always lived in this sleeve.
Many old 45s have the owners’ names written on them. Many have the titles, or just the artist’s name (Cliff, Elvis, Buddy, Benny, Bobby, Billy, Willy, Marty, Micky, Ricky, Nicky, Dicky, Danny, Donny, Lonnie, Larry, Eddie, Freddie, Frankie, Harry, Gary, Jerry, Jackie, Johnny, Ronnie, Jimmy).
Numbers are common … either the chronological sequence of someone’s collection, or the record catalogue number.
(Love Is Like A) Heat Wave, Pacific Gas & Electric, CBS, 1972 “danceable but frantic”
Club DJ’s liked to write notes like “Twist,” “Smooch” or “Hully Gully” on centre labels, or in the case of 1972’s version of Heat Wave by Pacific, Gas & Electric, “danceable but frantic.”
The other DJ sin was the DJ blob, a circle of irremovable paint on the centre, hampering pilfering, and usually colour-coded for record type. It got worse in Northern Soul days when DJs became obsessed with obtaining rare singles which they wanted to keep to themselves. Labels were scratched off or completely obscured by paint. Ironically, the records that were so defaced are the really rare and collectible soul.
I’m So Confused: Mick Softley, Immediate 1965 with yellow “DJ blob” marker
Do scribbles detract from the value? Scribble means original scribble, not a price written on by a secondhand dealer. One current soul dealer defaces his forty-year old US single sleeves with huge marker pen prices. Others do it with pencil. Most use tiny stickers that inevitably lift the paper below. Some place it on the centre label. I’ve seen discs with sticky labels on the centre and going into the vinyl itself. The best way of doing it is placing the price sticker on a protective plastic sleeve, with the catalogue number too, to prevent dishonest buyers (there are some thieving buggers about) switching sleeves. The next best way is pencil on the inside of the sleeve.
Do I Love You (Indeed I Do): Frank Wilson. Soul (USA)
The most valuable soul single, Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You (Indeed I Do) was sold for £25,000 in 2009 on Motown’s Soul label. That copy has a rubber stamp and handwriting on it. The only other known copy (illustrated) has an autographed greeting from Frank Wilson, which is probably a plus. This is an exception.Of course you can buy an exact facsimile of this disc for £7.99… it was issued for Record Store Day in 2015.
If You Were The Only Girl In The World: Acker Bilk, Columbia Lansdowne Jazz, 1962
Autographs should add value, but with records they don’t have the premium attached to signed first edition books, unless the signature is The Beatles or Elvis. Acker Bilk apparently carried round stickers, possibly pre-signed, though upside-down. Much as I enjoy Stranger On The Shore if it appears on the radio, I don’t think there is a market out there for Acker Bilk’s signed discs.
With books, value of autographs is enhanced if dated in the year of publication, and without a dedication to some unknown person. At literary festivals, you can see the dealers lining up to get multiple copies signed, and they invariably decline a dedication from the author. Signed records had greater rarity in the past. Once you get to the level of … how can I say this politely? Heritage artists at smaller venues? Then it has become standard for new CDs and vinyl to be on the concession stand and for them to be signed. Nowadays artists like P.P. Arnold and Maddy Prior do the signing themselves and chat. I have seen The Manfreds most years, and they used to have someone selling the CDs in the interval for them. This year it was Paul Jones and Tom McGuinness in person. and while I was delighted to say hello, and buy a signed CD, I doubt that the autograph enhances value at all.
But remember the old story about the guy who found an old bible in his attic. He told his pal about it, and said he’d slung it on the fire. After all it was old and musty and in German. By Guten-someone or other. ‘What?’ exclaims his pal, ‘Gutenberg? You’ve thrown away a Gutenberg bible? It’s worth millions!’ ‘Nah,’ says the first guy, ‘Some bastard called Martin Luther had scribbled stuff all over it.’
Poison Ivy: The Paramounts, Parlophone, autographed by Gary Brooker & B.J. Wilson, UK #35, 1964
The Paramounts Poison Ivy is rated at £12 mint. I imagine that’s because they evolved into Procul Harum, rather than because this was a cover of The Rolling Stones who were covering The Coasters. This copy was between excellent and very good vinyl, in a card sleeve at a record fair. I paid £1 for it. The vendor apologized for the scribble, pointing out that Some fucker’s scribbled all over it. Only when I got it home did I see the scribblers were Gary Brooker and B.J. Wilson. Incidentally, that brings up a point about record fairs. No one knows everything. The vendor in this case had boxes of expensive punk, and no interest in early 60s beat groups.
The Studio Six single Times Were When has autographs from the whole band. Great, but this is STUDIO SIX … have you heard of any of them? They were one of Glasgow’s top bands in the late 60s, so possibly of regional interest.
Times Were When: Studio Six, Polydor 1967
Ownership is a different matter. I’ve found singles with BYGRAVES on them in Westbourne, Bournemouth where SingalongaMax lived, and a Duane Eddy LP with Bernie Winters name on the back. I’d say zero uplift. Mind you, a copy of He’s So Fine with George Harrison’s name would be fun (he inadvertently lifted it for My Sweet Lord), and a Spirit LP containing the song Taurus, with Robert Plant or Jimmy Page’s name on the back would be interesting. That was the song they were alleged to have lifted for Stairway to Heaven. They won the case, obviously rightly in my opinion.
Names detract. Numbers and titles are a good sign. They indicate a past owner who tried to match singles to sleeves and who kept them in some kind of order … they indicate pride in a collection and greater care.
Retailer numbered sleeves
If you look at the top corner, most company sleeve designs had a white rectangular box. Usually the retailer wrote the record catalogue number on it for filing. This shows that the sleeve was sold with that number disc.
Wake Up Little Susie: The Everly Brothers, London, UK #2, 1957
Very few went as far as E.H. Maxwell of Woking in putting a reference sticker irrevocably on the sleeve, obscuring the company logo. Note the 45-HL 8493. They would have filed records by label, and in numerical sequence within each label. In those days, there were only a dozen or so significant labels, then a section for “other”.
Record shops kept their stock numerically and therefore chronologically rather than alphabetically. I knew a girl whose dad owned a tiny record shop.
‘What are you listening to, sonny?’ he’d ask with forced politeness, possibly hoping to research the next teen trend.
‘I quite like Rag Doll by The Four Seasons.’
‘Oh, yes,’ he’d reply, ‘BF1347. Very nice.’
‘Nearly as good as BF1317.’
‘What was that?’
‘Don’t you know? BF1317. Dawn (Go Away.)’
There were boxes printed on each side in many sleeve designs. Mostly people used the other box to number their records in order of purchase. Those with neat writing got the title in the white rectangular space. I once picked up a Parlophone sleeve (which had been switched onto a Beatles single) with Jennifer Eccles neatly written in the box. ‘Sorry, it’s got someone’s name on it’, said the shop owner, who can’t have been a Hollies fan.
Judging by secondhand sleeves, far more girls than boys realized the box was the place for this, and bothered to write their names on. A pile of sixties records in a shop has the names of a sixties girls’ school: Cheryl, Sue, Elaine, Jenny, Sandra and Hazel; then as you leaf through glam rock the names shift to Claire, Debbie, Mandy, Tracy and Sharon. Another way of looking at it is that the boys still have all their 60s records safely in a box next to one full of Dinky toys in the attic, or their 70s and 80s singles next to a box full of Star Wars figurines.
A retailer number in the box, matching the record inside the sleeve, enhances value. It indicates that record and sleeve have always lived together. It doesn’t prove it, because astute collectors will note the number written on good quality “wrong sleeves” they acquire and see if they already have that record. All the numbered examples above came in the same record storage box, and every record was correctly matched to its sleeve. Each had the name Rita on it, and the writing gets neater as the collection moves from 1959 to the mid-sixties. She lost her affection for green Bic biro around 1963, or maybe it just ran out. Lovely Rita went from a dozen singles a year to one or two by the late sixties, and they’re all as near mint as you’ll find. Rita liked The Crystals and her copies of He’s A Rebel and Then He Kissed Me are the only copies of these common singles I’ve ever seen in virtually mint condition including original sleeves. Rita didn’t really go for sixties beat groups (one Searchers single, and one Herman’s Hermits); nor did she buy soul or psychedelia, and the last record in the box was Bridge Over Troubled Water.
The Bird’s The Word: The Rivingtons, Liberty 1963
The copy of The Rivington’s The Bird’s The Word has no scribble, just the correct catalogue number, 55553, neatly in the correct place. According to the guide books, “mint” means “as new” so even if this record were otherwise mint (I’d rate it as “excellent”, one grade down) they would say the sleeve is not “as new.” I disagree. In practical terms, this is how the record would have come out of any 60s record shop, unplayed with a neat dealer number. Even new, you might get a faint indentation of the shape of the record, though this has light brown ageing marks on white areas and spotting. So, no it’s not “mint” but that is not because of the number.
Your Tender Look: Joe Brown 1962, Piccadilly. “Ann” did this neat cut-out in 1962, UK #31
The Ballad of Bonnie & Clyde: Georgie Fame 1967. Numbered sleeve. Typed title, plus neat cut outs
Another mainly girls’ habit was cutting out pictures of the stars from NME or Disc and sticking them on sleeves, desperate to create picture sleeves. They turn up frequently. They always have girls’ names written in the centre. Britain didn’t go for picture sleeves, which were common in Europe.
The gender differentiation might explain why most old guitar instrumental group records are in rough condition, while teen idols (Bobby Vee etc) are usually in better condition.
Sympathy: Rare Bird, Charisma 1970, UK #27
Many kids whiled away their time decorating sleeves. As several desirable record labels used plain white sleeves (e.g. Atlantic, Stax, Track, Charisma) at one time or another, kids took this as a challenge to their artistic abilities. There are copies around with elaborate doodling. This one is by “R.Smart” and something tells me that this was illustrated during a dull lesson by an inattentive teacher. They’re quite fun to see, but the value will be zero.
Rockin’ Red Wing: Sammy Masters, Warner Bros 1960
The Rockabilly classic, Rockin’ Red Wing by Sammy Masters was originally bought via the Carl Perkins International Club. This is an early UK Warner Bros release, and probably not a first pressing which for WB10 would have been in a buff/brown version of the sleeve, like WB1 below. Shame about the writing in the middle, but I’d leave it in this rubber-stamped sleeve. It adds interest.
Time After Time, Cyndi Lauper, 1984, UK #3
Dedications where selections from the lyric are written on the sleeve ( See Time After Time, xxx Julie) are common with both male and female names. They detract from value, probably reducing it to 50p, but what’s wrong with a little romance?
Autochanger with stack of 45s (The Island single on top is circa 1969)
Go back to how these records were used.
Cathy’s Clown: The Everly Brothers, Warner Bros first UK single release, WB-1, UK #1
Imagine the scene. It’s a youth club in a church hall in the summer of 1962. It’s seven o’clock, and the youth club leader, a hearty Christian called Howard, has plugged in the Bush record player and placed the youth club’s only single, a two-year old copy of Cathy’s Clown by The Everly Brothers, next to it. The record player is on the edge of a splintery wooden stage. The first arrivals straggle in. Cathy’s Clown goes on the turntable, and the autochanger arm is lifted and moved to the side until it clicks … this means the record will replay automatically.
Buddy Holly EP: Coral, FEP 2032
C’mon Everybody EP: Eddie Cochran, London
By half-past seven, and the tenth rendition of Cathy’s Clown, a few more teenagers have drifted in. Keith has a collection of Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran EPs (Extended players) in a neat carrying case, a collection which will be worth a small fortune in forty or fifty years. Let’s hope Keith gets rid of them by then, because by 2016 the value will be dropping quite sharply. As more original owners die or downsize, they’ll become less rare, and less collectible. Four-track EPs were of major importance in Britain, where LPs were too expensive for most teenagers. In France, EPs outsold singles.
The Young Ones: Cliff Richard, Columbia 1962, UK #1, black mark is where a Selecta number sticker was removed
Ivan races to the stage, dropping fag ash over the record player. Ivan is sixteen so allowed to smoke on the premises. He rips off Cathy’s Clown, slings it onto the stage, and puts on The Young Ones. Ivan always carries The Young Ones single with him. He’s already seen the film nineteen times, and will eventually see it sixty-two times. Ivan has stitched up the pockets on his trousers because that’s what Cliff does to maintain a neat shape round his hips. Sadly, Ivan is missing out on Cliff’s exhortation to live, love while the flame is young. He won’t realize he’s gay for another five years. Ivan has not printed his name on the single, as everyone knows it could only be his.
Rock-A-Hula Baby (“Twist Special”): Elvis Presley 1961, UK #1 1962
Andy, pustulating with spectacular acne arrives and adds his Elvis singles to the growing pile next to the record player. He’s even brought two LPs, GI Blues and Pot Luck, the sleeves spoiled slightly by greasy marks from his Valderma spot food. Andy makes a coarse and derisory remark about Cliff Richard. That’s what Elvis fans do. He’s itching to get Rock-A-Hula Baby on the record player. Its subtitle is “Twist Special” and Andy’s ready to dance.
Please Don’t Ask About Barbara: Bobby Vee, Liberty 1962, UK #29
Barbara adds her singles, with Bobby Vee’s Please Don’t Ask About Barbara … she finds it hilarious every time … on top. Bobby Vee is so clean and neat with such a sweet smile and a nice pullover. Barbara’s sure that he wouldn’t try to take advantage.
The Boys: The Shadows, soundtrack EP, Columbia, 1962
Ken adds his Shadows singles and EPs. Cliff Richard and The Shadows were the EP kings, with four or five EP releases a year each in the early 60s. Ken knows the catalogue number of each of them by heart. Forty years on, he will have every Shadows record ever released, including foreign copies from Khazakstan and Bolivia (with picture sleeves).
Jackie proudly adds three of the current Top Ten … she’s only fifteen in spite of her huge billowing breasts, and is already working at a motor wholesalers for £2. 15s a week (her mum takes 10 shillings) so she can keep right up to date by buying one record a week. Each 6s 8d single has a gleaming embossed exuberant pink J in nail varnish in the centre.
Woolworths “Selecta” wire rack
Sealed With A Kiss: Brian Hyland, HMV, 1962 with Selecta Rack sticker, #3 (which happens to be the same as its chart position)
Judith quietly puts her Helen Shapiro records, marked with a much neater, smaller J and a number sticker, next to Jackie’s pile. Walking Back to Happiness is number seven. She’s hoping for at least two more singles for Christmas. She keeps them in a gold wire Selecta rack from Woolworths. The thirty spaces are numbered, and you get a sheet of numbers to lick and stick on the records. You have to write the corresponding number on the sleeve, which Judith does neatly in the white box already there.
Come Outside: Mike Sarne, Parlophone 1962, UK #1
The copy of Mike Sarne’s Come Outside was brought by Graham (Number 122; Graham’s older sister has a lot of records). Graham brings it along every week, and when he puts it on, gazes longingly at Jackie’s luscious appendages, hoping that she’ll get the hint from the lyrics (Come outside, there’s a lovely moon out there …) and follow him into the dusk by the bike shed. To no avail. Graham is fourteen and too young for her. Or as Wendy Richard sang on the single, Go and ask Lil. You can go off people. Belt up!
Over the next two and a half hours, records will be shuffled (on the splintery wooden stage), assembled into piles of six or eight and placed on the autochanger. This shuffling into piles causes the light scuffing marks on the vinyl. The ring of serrated plastic around the label on early 60s records is there to help the records grip those above and below. You have to rotate them against each other to line up the holes to get them on the spindle … this causes the small abrasions around the holes that most old singles (and old couples) have.
Once or twice a record will drop prematurely from the autochanger onto the tone arm, driving it deep into the record below and marking it forever. All the records sound scratchy, unsurprisingly, but that’s what everyone’s used to. There’s no budget for replacing the sapphire stylus. Peter slinks at the side … he decides not to commit his Joey Dee singles to this communal pile.
So that’s why old singles are usually named. As eight records are assembled on the autochanger, eight (at least) are out of their sleeves simultaneously. At youth clubs and parties people mix their records promiscuously. Numbers on record and sleeve help marry them up. Autochangers are generally used at home too, and many people just can’t be bothered to match the records back to sleeves afterwards. Those who do will number the record and the sleeve.
This, for the archaeologists of the 45 single, is the best way of knowing which company sleeves were actually used on each single when it was new. Some people put the single back in any sleeve that was to hand. Others put any Columbia record back in any Columbia sleeve. Others match blue-ish sort of centres to blue-ish sort of sleeves. Secondhand shops and charity shops mix sleeves at random. One shop owner told me ‘I always match the sleeves if they’re worth over a fiver.’ And proudly showed me a black centre copy of All You Need Is Love in a 1958 Parlophone sleeve, which was four sleeves out in time. Well, it’s all old, I guess.