This year was feast or famine as far as tracking down vinyl. I seemed to either come home with a giant pile of random records to sift through, or not much of anything. Probably the biggest addition in 2008 to the monolith that is my record collection was a piece of equipment -- a mono cartridge/stylus. I'm not exactly an audiophile, but that really does make a difference in the way a lot of records sound.
Since I write in this space most weeks about LPs, here's a double album's worth of singles that stuck out!
Erma Franklin -- "Piece of My Heart"/"Baby What You Want Me to Do"
Aretha's older sister cut the original soul version of the song later made famous to rock audiences by Big Brother & the Holding Company. Hearing this version gave me a better appreciation for the Big Brother version, which is definitely not a straight copy. (Shout 221, 1967)
The Hombres -- "If This Ain't Lovin' You Baby"/"You Made Me What I Am" This Memphis group, mostly former members of Ronny & the Daytonas, had one big hit in 1967 with "Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)." They returned to the same sort of talking blues-y well for this one on the re-activated Sun label. It sounds sort of like if their hit was covered by some strange hybrid of the Mothers of Invention and Blood, Sweat and Tears. (Sun 1104, 1969)
Clear Light -- "Black Roses"/"She's Ready to be Free"
"Black Roses" turns up on the band's lone album, but the B-side, captured on film with Barry McGuire and James Coburn in The President's Analyst, isn't available elsewhere. (Elektra 45622, 1967)
Willie Nelson Willie's RCA recordings usually get short shrift in the historical record, but there's some really great stuff hiding among all those semi-hits and flops -- including "I Just Can't Let You Say Goodbye." It sounds like a typical mannered countrypolitan production, until you pay attention to the lyrics. Nelson later re-cut the song for "Teatro." (RCA Victor 8682, 1965)
Rare Breed -- "Come and Take a Ride in My Boat"/"Take Me to This World of Yours"
The Rare Breed had a national hit with "Beg, Borrow and Steal," but only after the record was re-released under the Ohio Express name. "Come and Take a Ride in My Boat" also became a national hit, but only when covered by Every Mother's Son (as "Come on Down to My Boat"). Both versions are good, but the Rare Breed's fuzz-filled take is much tougher. (Attack 1403, 1966)
Dion & the Wanderers -- "Tomorrow Won't Bring the Rain"/"You Move Me Babe"
Another great mid-'60s folk rock effort by Dion DiMucci. After abandoning the vocal group sound, he kept plugging away in a rootsier style with little commercial success until striking gold with "Abraham, Martin and John." (Columbia 43423, 1966)
Freddy Cannon -- "20th Century Fox"/"Cincinnati Woman"
This is another one that took years to track down. While the concept of Freddy Cannon covering the Doors seems (to me, anyway) like it would have to be awesome, this record turned out a to be a bit more straightforward than I was hoping for. (Warner Bros. 7075, 1967)
Ike & Tina Turner -- "You Can't Miss Nothing That You Never Had"/"God Gave Me You"
The original version of a song recently revived by the Detroit Cobras; Ike & Tina would pretty much melt their version from 100 yards away. (Sonja 2005, 1963)
Mary Wells -- "Bye Bye Baby"/"Please Forgive Me"
One of the first records released by Motown, and one of the grittiest. Coincidentally, also covered by the Detroit Cobras to great effect a few years back. (Motown 1003, 1960)
Randolph Walker -- "Shindy Butterfly"/"Pride and Soul"
A deep soul two-sider from this relatively obscure Georgia singer, with a dance number topside and some testifying on the flip. (Black Prince 316)
The Hangmen -- "What a Girl Can't Do"/"The Girl Who Faded Away"
A '60s garage pop classic, but definitely in more of a Beatles mode than most of that genre. (Monument 910, 1965)
The Knack -- "Time Waits For No One"/"I'm Aware"
I actually had a copy of this single previously, but this year tracked down the rare picture sleeve that came with some copies. This isn't the "My Sharona" group, but a great forgotten '60s group. (Capitol 5774, 1966)
Joe Tex -- "You Little Baby Faced Thing"/"Mother's Advice"
I went on a Joe Tex blitz this year, tracking down a good chunk of his 45s from before he started having hit records. Many of his earliest records feature him sounding like other contemporary artists; this one is his crack at Little Richard. (Ace 550, 1958)
Lemon Drops -- "I Live in the Springtime"/"Listen Girl"
A classic slice of Chicago garage, this 45 apparently came out both with and without drums, leading to some confusion among collectors when the drum-less mix was reissued on the "Nuggets" box set. This copy's trashed, but is pressed so loud it doesn't make much difference -- and it has drums. (Rembrandt 5009, 1967)
Kippington Lodge -- "Rumours"/"And She Cried"
This band, which included a young Nick Lowe, would later become Brinsley Schwarz. As far as I know, this single was their only US release. (Capitol 2236, 1968)