Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Ask Mr. Music by Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: As a fan of the 1960s British music, I often buy entire collections of those type records on a pot luck basis. In those lots I have come up with some very interesting items about which I knew nothing and wouldn't have bought individually. One such record is “Zoot Suit” backed with “I'm the Face” (Back Door 4) by a rock band called the High Numbers.

About all I know about them is they never had a hit record in the U.S.

What can you tell me about the High Numbers? Who were they?
—Ken Madigan, Madison, Wisc.

DEAR KEN: The short answer requires only a simple transposition within your question: They were Who.

However, I suspect you seek a slightly more illuminating reply.

Formed in the spring of 1964, the High Numbers were the same foursome who one year later became world famous as the Who, and eventually one of rock's greatest bands: Roger Daltrey, John Entwisle, Pete Townshend, and Keith Moon.

Their first record deal came with Fontana, and resulted in a single coupling “Zoot Suit” and “I'm the Face” (Fontana TF-480).

As one would expect, the first record by the Who would be quite collectible, especially a non-hit that didn't sell very well. This coveted single, not issued in America despite so much British music coming our way in 1964, now sells in the $1,000 to $1,500 range.

The Back Door “Zoot Suit” is a $4.00 to $8.00 reissue, made in the 1980s specifically for Who fans whose music budgets didn't allow for $1,000 records.

The High Numbers signed with Decca in 1965, then came their first hit, “I Can't Explain.” By mid-April this tune ranked in the New Musical Express Top 10.

DEAR JERRY: I am a newcomer to vinyl collecting, and I am having a lot of fun with this new hobby.

When it comes to describing condition, I notice most of the dealers use one- or two-letter abbreviations.

Since this is so common, can you put together a list that will help me to break the code?
—Angie Beachwood, York, Pa.

DEAR ANGIE: Gladly. Here is the standard system of record grading used by buyers and sellers worldwide:

M (mint): A mint item must be absolutely perfect. Nothing less can be honestly described as mint. Even brand new purchases can easily be flawed in some manner and not qualify as mint. To allow for tiny blemishes, the highest grade used by most dealers is NM (near-mint).

VG (very good): Records in very good condition should have a minimum of visual or audible imperfections, and they should not detract much from your enjoyment of owning it. This grade is halfway between good and near-mint.

G (good): Good enough to fill a gap until a better copy becomes available. Good condition merchandise will show definite signs of wear and tear, probably because no protective care was given the item. Records in good condition should at least play all the way through without skipping. You will often see a plus (”) or minus (-) sign to indicate the item is slightly better or worse than the primary grade, such as VG” (very good plus) and

VG- (very good minus). M- is synonymous with NM (near-mint).

The condition of most older records is probably something less than near-mint condition, so it is very important to use the near-mint price range only as a starting point in record appraising.

IZ ZAT SO? For the first 30 years of the Rock Era in England, only 14 singles made their debut at No. 1 on the New Musical Express chart: (1958) “Jailhouse Rock” (Elvis Presley); (1960) “My Old Man's a Dustman” (Lonnie Donnegan); (1960) “It's Now Or Never” (Elvis Presley); (1961) “Surrender” (Elvis Presley); (1962) “The Young Ones” (Cliff Richard); (1963) “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (Beatles); (1964) “Can't Buy Me Love” (Beatles); (1964) “A Hard Day's Night” (Beatles); (1964) “Little Red Rooster” (Rolling Stones); (1964) “I Feel Fine” (Beatles); (1965) “Ticket to Ride” (Beatles); (1965) “Help!” (Beatles); (1965) “Day Tripper” (Beatles); and (1967) “All You Need Is Love” (Beatles).

All became huge hits in England, but only the 11 by Elvis and the Beatles were also U.S. hits. The tunes by Lonnie Donnegan, Cliff Richard, and Rolling Stones never charted in the States.

Jerry Osborne answers as many questions as possible through this column.  Write Jerry at: Box 255, Port Townsend, WA 98368  E-mail:  Visit his Web site: All values quoted in this column are for near-mint condition.

Copyright 2010 Osborne Enterprises- Reprinted By Permission

Musical nook where records rule

Here's a neat article from India, and yes, they enjoy vinyl there as well!



The Free School Street neighbourhood is a nostalgic nook of the city where firaangs still touch down to get a feel of what was once a bustling hub of hippie culture.

Just before the corner where the road takes a turn into the upmarket bustle of Lindsay Street, a series of quaint gramophone record-players lure passers-by.

Often, when the MTV-friendly trash on the CD systems run their daily course, the 76s circle out interesting tunes: jazz and blues standards, screechy Motown, the odd Elvis, sometimes Marley, Dylan or The Meters. Anyone who has ever had a record player knows the sound of a well-oiled one, and these shops maintained theirs well enough.

A stone’s throw from the intersection of Sudder Street and Free School Street, rechristened Mirza Ghalib Street, stands Record Prince, better known as Chacha’s shop.

Chacha —Anis Ashraf, 65 – hardly visits the store these days; it is manned by his two sons, Danish and Abid. This is the Mecca of vinyl records in town, not to mention a few well-maintained gramophone players, some of which are even up for sale.

The racks on display on the pavement with cassette tapes — yes, some of these still exist — and CDs of the latest Bollywood remixes are a facade that throws off all but the genuine vinyl aficionado.

The real gems are kept in a room, rather a musty hole in the wall, behind the shop. Stacked up in racks, the records are alphabetically arranged according to the artistes’ names. Each one goes right back to its place after a record-to-tape, or now record-to-CD, capture.

While he had sold off a large part of his collection a decade back, there are still over 5,000 records at Ashraf’s store. His collection is a Flower-Power music lover’s haven, a jazz aficionado’s well-kept secret and a roomful of rarities for the classical music devotee.

In the tiny backroom, Santana’s eponymous debut album from 1969, a bunch of albums by the Southern Rock legends Allman Brothers Band and Charlie Daniels Band, records from the Seventies by British progressive rock pioneers King Crimson and jam band pioneers like the Grateful Dead share shelves with jazz must-haves like Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, live albums by the Bill Evans Trio and Weather Report classics.

Then there are records of everyone from Pandit Ravi Shankar to Debussy, Rabindrasangeet renditions by Hemanta Mukhopadhyay, not to mention a nostalgic 80s throwback with everyone from Jackson to Kraftwerk on offer.

Ashraf “inherited” the gems from their previous owner, Bakhtiar Jaan. As an employee of the nameless record store that Bakhtiar ran, Ashraf came to learn not just the technical details of how a 78rpm is supposed to run smooth but also about genres and artistes that were worlds apart from his upbringing.

Setting up Record Prince in 1965, he still keeps up with practices that he learned on the job. To this day, he maintains worn-out diaries that detail track names and artistes on a particular LP, year of publication and total length of the recording. Details like these were prized titbits that customers would lap up while getting “transfers” done, mostly to cassette tapes.

The music is one thing. Then there’s the artwork on these vinyls: imagine the excitement of laying your hands on original LPs from The Beatles’s Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, with its sleeve after sleeve of sheer psychedelia, the paranoid face that reflects King Crimson’s alien soundscapes on In The Court Of The Crimson King or Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, designed by British graphic designer/photographer Storm Thorgerson.

“While a number of vinyl records from my collection are broken, there are a few that are over five or six decades old. The charm of the vinyl is that even with years of repeated playing, these do not lose their warm, rich sound. The same cannot be said about cassettes or even CDs,” Ashraf smiles.

And while he’s officially “retired” from the business, the magic of the vinyl hasn’t quite left him.

“I’ve handed over most of the duties to my sons now, but I still keep track of a rare LP being sold from Record Prince’s collection,” says Ashraf.