Due to my own stupidity and lack of foresight, many years ago I sold a fine hi-fi system in favour of not having anything at all to play music on so convinced was I that in the brave new world of MP3 we would not require a stack of amplifiers and media playing technology we would only need a computer and maybe a small device that held your complete record collection and would slip into a shirt pocket, and in doing so I instantly made my impressive collection of LP’s completely redundant.
So they remain to this day safely packed away in plastic storage boxes and stuffed into the corner of the loft in this here house surviving three house moves at which point the wife always asks, “Do you really need those…” and I always remind her that the terms of the exclusion order specifically state that she is not to be let within ten yards of my album collection after what she did to my singles collection in 1983.
Now pay attention for this is where it will get complicated.
There are two albums named “A Salty Dog” and both of them released by the 1960s psychedelic right-on hippy style band Procol Harum and its not because they forgot that they’d already had an album called “A Salty Dog”, in fact they probably didn’t have much to do with the decision at all.
Those of you who follow these here ramblings will recall that some weeks ago I owned up to being in possession of a Joe Cocker album on the Music for Pleasure label and in doing so ruined any street cred that I had with immediate effect, well today is the day that I own up to having another LP on the MfP label, yes, what can I say in defence, well, they were cheap, and I was young, and there was a time lag between being cool in the late 1960s and buying the original and me following on in the 1970s like a gardener follows the coal wagon with a bucket and spade hoping for the horse to have a poo.
Music for Pleasure albums were the sort of thing that elderly aunts bought you for your birthday because they knew no better, there was nothing cool about owning a Music for Pleasure album, you did not take a Music for Pleasure album to school to lend to friends for you’d be a laughing stock, you did not even admit to owning one at all and if friends came around to your house you would not let them browse your LP rack until you’d removed the Music for Pleasure albums and hidden them in the section marked “My Dads Records”.
Music for Pleasure were a record publishing company that swept up the remnants after The Lord Mayors Show, they seemed to have no actual artists of their own but merely bought publishing rights to other record labels artists after those artists had peaked in popularity and were on the downward slope of coolness, thus Joe Cocker in 1971 was spending time “enjoying” the fruits of his 1968 two album success and for four years did not release any new material at all (other than one live album, which was probably his best), and his record company had no qualms at all in accepting a small stipend from MfP to combine the best tracks from his first two albums and release one of their own, “A Little Help From My Friends” is a bit like an unofficial “Best of” album, if you can release a “Best of” album after a career thats spanned one good year so far that is.
Procol Harum had been a household name in 1967 and 68, even my dad had heard of Procol Harum and on holiday in the summer of 67 he was even whistling along to “A Whiter Shade of Pale” and when your dad whistles to the tunes that you should be whistling to then you know that a band has crossed the divide that no teen popular beat combo should ever cross for The Generation Divide rulebook states quite categorically that if your dad whistles to “your” tunes then that tune should instantly be categorised as “Middle of the Road” and not listened to again by you – of course all of this sounds like nonsense these days for parents and children enjoy the same bland old chart rubbish, indeed my wife accompanied my daughters to a popular beat combo gig in town just a few weeks ago, I didn’t go of course for the old rules still stand for me but the thought of the teenage me taking my dad to a gig of my choice are just so laughable that, well, I laugh at the very idea.
But while they had been arguably the only psychedelic band of the summer of love of 1967 to cross the generation divide and in doing so sold millions of vinyl recordings, by the early 1970s their time was done and with no new recordings in stock and probably “enjoying” the fruits of their labour rather than writing new material their record company made the call to the Music for Pleasure label, “Hey you cheapskates, we’ve got another washed up clapped out band with two years still to run on their contract, how about you knock out a cheap copy of one of their albums and we’ll split the profits, no need to tell the lads, they probably don’t even know what planet they’re living on at the moment.”
One of the unique selling points of the MfP range is that they were far too embarassed to sell them in regular record shops, or possibly the regular records shops just laughed when the MfP rep turned up and tried to persuade them to stock their range, and so they turned to other outlets to flog their wares for them – and so it was that one day my best mate at school, Mick Gamble, turned up all excited to inform us that his dad was going to start selling records in their family sweet shop.
No, I can’t imagine why Mick Gamble was my best mate at school what with his dad owning a sweet shop, in fact his dad owning a sweet shop was nothing at all to do with our friendship, or the friendship of every other kid in school, having your dad own a sweet shop gets you a lot of friends at school but it was nothing like that at all, in fact four decades later he is still a good mate and his dad doesn’t even own the sweet shop anymore so it was nothing to do with that ok ?
Mick Gambles dad’s sweet shop had a basement stock room and at certain times of the year, like bonfire night or Christmas his dad would open up the basement as additional showroom space and so the story went that Mick Gambles dad was going to open up the basement on a permanent basis in order to sell records – our best mate would live above a sweet shop AND a record shop and we would have ready access to free sweets and free music, it was like winning the lottery.
A week or so later Mick turned up at school in a very deflated mood, “Bad news lads” he said, “we’re not going to have access to free music via the addition of an emporium of vinyl recording medium in our shop basement”.
The disappointment was devastating to us all, but there was worse to come.
“There’s worse to come lads” explained Mick, “My dad’s only agreed to stock the Music for Pleasure range hasn’t he.”
This was tragic, for all the talk of adding a music store to the sweet shop the actual plan all along had simply been to allow Music For Pleasure to place one rotating rack of LP’s in a corner of the sweet shop – it was their unique selling point as unable to be taken seriously by the normal record stores MfP touted the highways and byways and sourced thousands of outlets that normally would never dream of stocking music, Mick Gambles’ dad’s sweet shop being one of them, oh the shame.
But it was not all bad news for inbetween the orchestral versions of famous popular music LP’s – I have Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence” LP on the MfP label for instance and I doubt that either Simon or Garfunkel are even aware of the fact that the album exists, there may have been someone called Simon in the orchestra that murders each track and who knows, there could even have been a Garfunkel in there somewhere as well, but the original pair never even came within a sniff of the MfP version, I probably bought the only copy.
However in amongst all of the crap, and there was a huge amount of crap, you occasionally found a gem or rather Mick and his brother Steve occasionally found a gem for each night when the shop closed they would “borrow” an armful of LP’s from the rack in the shop and play them on a record player in their bedroom and just once in a while Mick would come into school with the information that they’d found one LP with at least some of the original artists on them.
So it was with “A Salty Dog” for this was indeed the original album of three or four years hence, re-released under licence to MfP, better still MfP had added two singles to the album that do not appear on the original, like Joe Cocker Procol Harum had released two albums to date and MfP morphed the two, got a really crappy artist to do a sleeve design and flogged off the resultant album very cheaply to cheapskates like me who would set aside their shame in the name of a bargain – and all you had to do was hide the MfP range from your mates whenever they called.
One last thing – there is another much more valid review of the MfP version of A Salty Dog, right here : http://turntabletales.com/2012/01/when-is-a-salty-dog-not-a-salty-dog-procol-harum-and-robin-trower/#comment-3413