Staff Picks: That One Special Record

Whether it’s a rare pressing, a signed copy, or it simply holds personal significance, we all have that one special record in our collection that we couldn’t bear to part with, no matter what. Here are eight of our prized records and the stories behind them, just in time for Record Store Day 2015.

1) Killer in St. Louis, Alice Cooper

335604_2055293553194_1816809114_oPicked by: Sarah

I had to go with this one for two reasons: it’s pretty hard to find, and it’s also signed by Alice Cooper himself. The record was released in 2011 as part of the Old School collector’s box set and is a live recording of the band performing their Killer album in St. Louis in 1971 (with a couple of tracks from previous album Love It to Death thrown in for good measure). I saw Alice live at Colston Hall, Bristol, on his UK tour in October 2011 and did a post-show meet and greet — my second time meeting him. I thought this would be a good item in my collection to have signed, and Alice seemed genuinely interested in it. It will always be one of my most treasured possessions and a reminder of one of the most exciting days of my life.

2) Headquarters, The Monkees

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Picked by: Emma

This is just a simple edition of The Monkees’ Headquarters from the ’60s; they can be found for a quarter a dozen (not a dime a dozen, it’s not quite as commonplace as their first and second albums). But this particular copy is special to me. It was owned by my Monkees-fan aunt when it first came out. She had all the albums through The Birds, The Bees, and the Monkees and notated each one. She noted when she got and listened to the album (this was evidently her soundtrack during the summer of love), where each album was located in The Monkees discography, added up the duration of each side and the total album, and starred the tracks she liked the most. Outside of that, the album would move on to be owned by her younger sister, my mom, and then played to death by me as a kid because it was my absolute favorite album (Sound of Music soundtrack being a close second). The spine is essentially gone, but the record still plays pretty well considering the long life of love it’s endured. I could have chosen to get this record signed when I started going to shows, but I decided I wanted it to stay just as it was, a cool little heirloom with much more emotional value than monetary.

3) The Wall, Pink Floyd

Picked by: Jim

It was the time, really; I picked up my copy on December 31, 1979, the last recognized day of the decade.  I had actually saved/earned enough money to go make a few purchases on my own, going to the stores myself and able to buy whatever I wanted without critique or censure. I got this along with the original box set of Traveller  and was able to invite a few friends over to listen to the album and roll characters that night. (Yes, characters, not the other stuff you roll while listening to Pink Floyd; considering how Side Four unfolds, it was better our young minds were not on that when “In The Flesh” came on…) It was a calendar milestone, both in general and personal, with the new decade holding such promise; by the time The Final Cut came out, though, that was pretty well shot to hell by then.

4) E Pluribus Funk, Grand Funk Railroad

Picked by: Rick

Like most of the other REBEAT staff members, my love affair with music started at a very young age. I remember my mother playing Diana Ross and the Supremes and Four Tops albums when I was a kid, and since my father’s tastes tended to lean towards people like Roger Miller, a diverse array of music was always a part of life in the Simmons household. I remember the first 45 I ever owned was the O’Kaysions “Girl Watcher,” a record given to me by a neighbor whose brother was a DJ, and he used to bring home promo records and give her the ones he didn’t want to keep. The first 45 I actually bought was Jackie DeShannon’s “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” but it wasn’t until the early 1970s that I made my first multi-dollar musical commitment: Grand Funk Railroad’s album E Pluribus Funk. I bought it on the strength of the single “Footstompin’ Music,” which, as it turns out, was supposed to be on their previous album, Survival, and was recorded during those sessions but was held back. (Survival is my favorite Grand Funk album, and I’ll be doing a retro review of it in June.) Maybe I was attracted by E Pluribus Funk‘s coin-like cover, which was round and silver and pretty unique for the time — even though you can see my nearly 45 year old copy doesn’t look so bright and shiny today. In any event, the album you see in the picture holds a special place as the first major music purchase I ever made, and nudged me further along the road to an obsession with music that has lasted a lifetime.

5) Rarities, The Beatles

Rarities

Picked by: Erika

Long ago and far away — in the late-’80s — bootlegs were pretty hard to find, especially if you were a kid like I was. For some reason, my parents didn’t love the idea of me buying and selling stuff on the black market. Go figure. But years before the Anthology, we had Rarities, the first official release beyond the standard Beatles albums. The differences weren’t exactly groundbreaking — mostly alternate mixes and/or singles never before released in the US — but having “new” versions of even a few songs to examine was like finding gold. Even better, the beautiful silver album cover folded out to reveal lots of new (to me) photos, including the infamous “Butcher Cover,” which may be my favorite Beatles picture of all time. Rarities will always be special to me because it was my first look into the world of alternate takes and bootlegs, which is one of my favorite parts of any artist’s catalog.

6) If You Can Believe Your Eyes & Ears, The Mamas & The Papas

Picked By: Gretchen

Since my interest in music began when I was a pre-teen in the early 200os, many of my first “records” were actually CDs. But I did have a growing vinyl collection, which was kick-started when my aunt gave me most of her old LPs that she’d had since she was my age. Apparently, she was a big fan of vocal pop groups, like the Association, the Lettermen, and the Mamas & the Papas, as I received several different records by each of these artists. Although I already loved the Mamas & Papas, I think it was my sister who first took a particular liking to If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, and as a result, this record was constantly on the turntable in our room throughout my high school years. Because of this, I have a lot of fond memories associated with the album, and I distinctly remember doing homework while John, Michelle, Denny, and Cass serenaded me with “Straight Shooter.” Since my copy was one of old pressings from back in the day, the infamous toilet on the cover was obscured by that little text box, and for years, I didn’t even suspect there was anything behind it! But I did know this was a special record, and hearing it still takes me back to that days when I would do nothing but sit in my room and listen to music for hours on end.

7) The Who Sell Out, The Who

Picked by: Sara

During my teenage years when I didn’t exactly have the means to buy music and, more often than not, resorted to pirating instead, I was able to accumulate most of the Who’s discography — with the exception of The Who Sell Out. Perhaps it was because it was harder to acquire via Napster or Kazaa in the early 2000s, or because the record’s concept went over my ignorant, 14- or 15-year-old head. Either way, I regrettably admit to only hearing it in its entirety a few years ago. After just a few listens, however, it almost instantly became a favorite of mine, as someone who has a soft spot for conventionally-structured pop songs (like “Mary Anne with the Shaky Hand” and “I Can’t Reach You”) and catchy radio jingles. Despite purchasing a deluxe set of A Quick One/Sell Out on vinyl at a flea market, it didn’t quite suffice for me. After months of quietly whimpering to myself over how much it cost on eBay and in record shops, I finally laid eyes on an original pressing at the now-closed Rockit Scientist Records on St. Marks in NYC at an unusually affordable price. While the sleeve is bound by tape and adorned with its share of scuffs and smudges, the record itself has nary a scratch or ding, and plays beautifully. My face here pretty much says it all.

8) The Monkees, The Monkees

Picked by: Allison

What began as me just grabbing a random Monkees record on the way to a Peter Tork concert in 2009 serendipitously turned into my most cherished possession, vinyl or otherwise. When I was 11, the Monkees became my first favorite band. Like most kids, I wrote them incredibly nonfactual fan letters, drew pictures of them on lined notebook paper, and sat in my backyard in Ohio only dreaming about one day seeing them in concert — meeting them never even entered my mind because it seemed too impossible. And yet, here I am today with what’s known as a “grand slam,” a term bandied about by Michael Nesmith as he finally provided the elusive and coveted signature that completed so many fans’ sets of Monkees signatures on record covers in 2013. Looking back, I probably would have grabbed another album had I known it would wind up signed by all four guys, but it really doesn’t matter. I feel really fortunate to not only have this incredible piece of memorabilia, but also the stories that came with getting all four signatures in person myself. I consider it a present to that 11-year-old girl who had no idea that her dreams weren’t as fantastical as she thought.

What records in your collection hold special meaning for you? Tell us their stories in the comments!

  • Yvonne Graf

    Being both a Monkees fan and Grand Funk, I loved this list! My first album was the first Monkees album. I did get them all and was much like the girl who had her aunt’s Headquarters album, only I’d be the Aunt!! I still have them and most are in good condition. I also have all of Grand Funk’s albums, all in pretty good condition. Love EPF, but Survival is my favorite. It’s has such dreamy quality to it, along with some good rock. Grand Funk were more of a bluesy rock band in the day, and EPF was their first really rocking album, and the last produced by Terry Knight. Even though I do like the albums after TK left the group (for very good reasons!!) They kind of sucked too. Never was a fan of the ‘hits’ and don’t listen to them, but there was some good music on some of them, especially the Frank Zappa produced “Good Singin’ Good Playin'” It was just too late. Mark Farner still puts out good original music and his live concerts are wonderful. The Don Brewer lead GFR is a sham and should be disbanded, but just my opinion.