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People seemed to enjoy the George Harrison lyrics posted here last week (under the title "The Virtual Museum,") so I'm going to try to make this a regular feature of the blog, and post more ultra rare goodies that may be of interest to collectors and others interested in artifacts that tell the story of popular music.
Above is John Hammond's personal acetate for "Gospel Plow," from Bob Dylan's 1962 self-titled debut album. Hammond, in my opinion the greatest A&R (artist & repertoire) Man of the 20th century, discovering and/or signed Billie Holiday, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughn and of course Bob Dylan.
Hammond signed Dylan to Columbia Records in 1961, and became his first producer and chief promoter. His belief in Dylan was so complete--even in the face of a complete lack of sales--that Dylan was known around Columbia Records as "Hammond's Folly." The acetate pictured above is a historic artifact of Dylan and Hammond's earliest work together--a disc of Dylan's recording of "Gospel Plow" from the sessions for his first album (this song was recorded in one take, on November 22, 1961--the second and final day of the recording sessions for his first album.) Hammond produced these sessions, and this one-sided 10" disc has the only take recorded of this song.
Individual acetates of each song were cut for Hammond, and used by him to review the song choices and sequence the album. This acetate was given by Hammond to Missy Staunton, who worked as assistant to Billy James, Dylan's publicist at Columbia. In Staunton's letter which accompanied this disc, she explains that working with James "I first got to know John Hammond and other A&R people" and "I went to recording sessions and everyone knew I loved music, so sometimes I would be offered acetates when people were done with them." As with all Columbia Records acetates of this era, there is no label, but the master number (CO 68748,) take number (TK 1,) song title and "B.Dylan" are written in the center in grease pencil. Note that "J. Hammond" is written on the sleeve at the top left corner, indicating who this disc was to be sent to. It's a pretty extraordinary feeling to hold in your hands one of the first few discs ever to contain Bob Dylan's music--and one that John Hammond himself used to compile Dylan's first album. Available on Recordmecca. (Why sell something so historic ? I'm fortunate enough to have acquired 3 different Hammond/Dylan's acetates from the first album, so I decided to cut this one loose.)
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Sometimes, even after 36 years of buying, selling and collecting rare records and music memorabilia, I get a REALLY special package in the mail--something that just blows me away, that leaves me shaking my head, muttering "unbelievable, just unbelievable" to myself (I know--it's not a pretty picture.) And the humble, 8" folded and creased piece of paper pictured above is just that kind of thing. On it are the lyrics to two Everly Brothers songs, “So Sad” and “Like Strangers,” written out by the not yet famous George Harrison, in 1960.
The Everly Brothers were a great influence on the Beatles, and it's been written that Lennon and McCartney consciously copied the Everlys two-part harmonies on "Love Me Do" and "Please Please Me." Harrison no doubt transcribed these lyrics so he could learn these songs; both were big hits (and would have been written out by George) in the second half of 1960--a particularly important time for the Beatles. They spent August through November 1960 playing in Hamburg at the Indra Club and The Kaiserkeller--for 106 nights !-- then returning in December to the Casbah Coffee House in Liverpool (the basement club owned by Pete Best's mother, Mona.) Frank Caiazzo, the world's foremost authority on Beatle handwriting and signatures, has authenticated these, and told me "it's very likely the Beatles were considering performing these songs live at some point, although it has not been documented that they ever did...This is a very rare and historic piece of Beatles memorabilia, and one of the earliest Harrison lyrics in existence." Amazingly, George's father held onto these until the late 1970's, when he gave them to a young fan who visited him at his house in Appleton, Cheshire, England. I was fortunate to obtain these directly from that fan--these were previously unknown and have never been offered for sale before.
One of the reasons I started this blog is to share some really cool things that pass through my hands-- this is truly a piece of history, and people should be able to enjoy it and learn from it, before it disappears into a private collection. Some of the pieces I'm fortunate enough to sell are very expensive--but there's no reason they can't be available to everyone (at least virtually) on the web. So I hope you find this interesting, whoever you are, and if you have any feedback ,email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And of course, if anyone out there has a lot of money burning a hole in your pocket, this is available on my website, Recordmecca.
Note: These have just been sold, the listing is still on the Recordmecca site for those interested in taking a look.
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As Dylan fanatics know, in 1964 Columbia Records planned to release a live album titled "Bob Dylan In Concert" (see July 28 post here for more on this mythic LP.) For reasons previously unknown, the album was pulled from Columbia's schedule and remains unreleased.
Recently I've had the privilege of purchasing some of the papers of the late Ralph J. Gleason, legendary music critic and friend of Dylan (who was hired to write the liner notes to "In Concert.") While going through a box of files, I found a transcription of a 1969 interview Gleason had given to a college student who was writing a term paper on Dylan and his place in the music business. Gleason shares his insights about Dylan, tells many stories, and on page 16 sheds new light on "Bob Dylan In Concert" and why it wasn't released.
Previously it had been thought that Dylan's intense productivity during this time negated the "need" for a live album. Put quite simply, Dylan had written and recorded so many new songs that a decision was made to focus on studio recordings. But here we learn that Dylan was interested in issuing a live album, but for whatever reason, didn't think this one worked (there were two different versions compiled for the "In Concert" album, but evidently he didn't like either.)
It isn't a big surprise to learn that Dylan scuttled the release himself, but if you're like me, it's great to finally hear the bottom line from somebody involved.
In the coming months, I'll be sharing more from the Gleason collection on Dylan and other artists --and of course you can always find other interesting music collectibles on my website, Recordmecca