Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Beauty of Original Pressings.

Right after John Lennon was shot in December 1980, I decided I needed to get a copy of his Walls and Bridges album. A neighbor had played it for me a few years earlier and I liked it (of course, at that pre-teen/teen-age, how could I not?). Plus it had a great cover: the front looked like a three-panel gatefold picture of a Lennon painting with the top missing. (I thought the top panel had been ripped off of my neighbor's copy, but it was made that way.)

Open it up, and there was a glasses-less John giving the raspberries to the camera. The back showed him with several pairs of specs on his face, presumably to make up for the lack of them inside.

If that care-free design wasn't enough, it came with a booklet that had lyrics to each song, with more drawings from John's youth, and instrumental credits for each song, on which the ever-cheeky songwriter employed pseudonyms like Rev. Thumbs Gherkin.

It was hard to find any Lennon albums except for maybe Double Fantasy (recently released) that month. But over Christmas break, my friends Dave and Mike took me with them to a record and comic book store I had never heard of called Eide's. It was on the North Side just over the bridge in a row of stores. Today there's a Roberto Clemente statue right around where the entrance once was. (Eide's moved downtown more than 20 years ago, has become something of an institution, and those buildings were leveled long before PNC Park came along.)

Eide's seemed to have everything an eighth-grade burgeoning record fanatic could want. Over the next few months I'd purchase Japanese reissues of George Harrison's mediocre solo albums Wonderwall Music and Electronic Sound, thinking that I was actually purchasing the original copies. But on that December day, I found the object of my search - Walls and Bridges. Ha cha, I thought.

Only something was different. I figured it wasn't going to be on Apple Records, but I didn't mind the Capitol label. But not only did it lack the original gatefold sleeve, it didn't have any lyric book in it! The front was a non-opening reproduction of the original. The back included all the studio technical credits, but no mentions of who played what, no Rev. Thumbs, no mention of Julian Lennon's ragged but right drums on "Ya Ya."

I can't say for sure, but it might have been at that point when I started turning my nose up at reissued albums, preferring to search for the real thing, or at least getting more excited about an early pressing of an album I wouldn't otherwise care about. ("Wow - The Lonely Bull! Is it one of the early copies with a different A&M logo on it? ....Oh. Never mind.")

All of this occurred to me a couple weeks ago when I decided I needed to have an original copy of Thelonious Monk's Monk's Music on Riverside. Now, I do have a later pressing of the album already, I confess. But it doesn't have the original cover - of Monk sitting in a kid's wagon with a briefcase and sheet music, decked out in his cool shades. Plus the later copy is one of those "electronically rechanneled for stereo" abominations. So an original was in order.

A few years later, I traded in Walls and Bridges when I needed money. Then I picked up a copy at a yard sale - an original with all the trimmings. In retrospect, it's not a great album, aside from a few songs. I might've played it three times since it got it. I've thought about unloading it, but even if I don't, it's still fun to look at.

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