(Above: The box of records that used to belong to my parents. I’ve had it for 45 years.)
Think back to when you were a kid. What was the one gift that you received that you remember more than any of the others? The one that, though you didn’t know it at the time, changed your life?
Mine was my fourth birthday – March 18, 1973. My parents, noting my fascination with their phonograph, bought me a record player of my own. It was a Panasonic SG-336, a manual play battery-operated phonograph. It also makes up the cover image of this blog. (The original was lost some time when I was in college, handed down to younger siblings to use. I chased down another one on EBay; that site is, after all, for buying back your childhood, one bid at a time.) I originally had a few of the Sesame Street 45s, and a slew of kiddie records on the Cricket and Peter Pan labels.
One day shortly thereafter, I discovered the records in the bottom of the box. They had belonged to my parents when they were in grade school and high school. They caught – and held – my attention better than “I Love Trash” (which isn’t a horrible record). I can only imagine the confused looks on my parents’ faces when they heard Dion and Sam Cooke coming from my room.
Those records started me on the path to collecting. In the 45 years since, I’ve amassed a few thousand singles. The original songs got mixed in to the various boxes that hold them. I decided, on the 45th anniversary of getting 45s, to dig through all of the boxes and see if I couldn’t re-assemble my first collection. It actually wasn’t as hard as it would appear: the original records are in terrible shape from pre-school fingers being all over them, and most of the labels are written on. (I wrote a pretend radio station on most of them, years before knowing that I wanted to be in radio and well before knowing that radio stations labeled their copies. Yeah, it’s weird.) These were the records that I studied, learning the colors of the labels. I still see them when I hear the songs.
Among the things I notice: there are no Beatles records. My folks had the LPs, but not the singles. This tells me that I amassed a huge pile of them all by myself. That may well end up its own post for another time.
Let’s see some of what’s in the box:
The Rays, “Silhouettes“ (Cameo 117) Even as a kid, I enjoyed the story of mistaken identity, though I was more interested in the piano break in the middle. Many years later, I found a 78 RPM copy of the release as well.
Gene Vincent, “Be Bop a Lula” (Capitol F3450) This one I played over and over again, wondering why there weren’t more records by him in the collection. As I learned more about rock history, I found out why: he was never quite the same after the accident in the UK.
The Clovers, “Love Potion #9“ (United Artists UA 180) Another “original version” here that I fought to include when I programmed oldies stations. It took longer for me to be able to hit the low notes.
Jerry Keller, “Here Comes Summer“ (Kapp K-227X) One day in the fourth grade we were allowed to bring records to school. I brought this one and played it, and got booed. Failed my first focus group. It tests better in my home.
Elvis Presley, “Can’t Help Falling In Love”/”Rock-a-Hula Baby” (RCA Victor 47-7963) This is the only Elvis record in the collection. (My mom thought that Elvis was “a greaser.”) It remains a favorite song, although I think I played the B-side more as a kid as it was much less mushy.
The Beach Boys, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”/”God Only Knows“ (Capitol 5706) Similarly, this is the only Beach Boys record in the pile, and I’ve assembled a stack of those. However, if you’re going to have only one, you may as well have one of the best damned records ever made.
Ernie Maresca, “Shout! Shout! (Knock Yourself Out)“ (Seville 45-117). This one got played over and over again, even if I thought the lyric should be “loud as hell.” This one didn’t get enough play on oldies stations.
The Castells, “Sacred“ (Era 3048) Another song that I thought was a bigger hit than it was. I think it’s the violins and the claves that make it sound bigger, at least it did when I was a kid. It’s still a solid record.
Brian Hyland, “Let Me Belong To You” (ABC-Paramount 45-10236) I think I liked the label better than the song – the cool figure-8 with the sound wave looked good on the turntable. The A-side was a little sleepy for me, so I tended to play the flip side “Let It Die!” much more often.
Del Shannon, “Handy Man” (Amy, label is illegible). In fact, the label is so illegible that I didn’t know this song’s real title until I heard the James Taylor cover.
Dion, “A Teenager In Love” (Laurie 3027) and “(I Was) Born To Cry”/”Lovers Who Wander” (Laurie 3123) One of these got a lot of radio airplay in Oldies. One didn’t. Both of them got a lot of play in my house.
Billy and the Essentials, “Maybe You’ll Be There“ (Jamie 1239) I loved this record and tried to emulate the harmonies. My house may have been one of the only places that it got any play.
Dee Clark, “Raindrops” (Vee Jay 383). I covered this one here, and it’s still one of my all-time favorite records. Has been for 45 years.
That’s about half of the box. I’ll include more in the next post. I have some records to play.