Continuous Hit Music: The Monkees – Monkeemania

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ‘em all here

Artist: The Monkees
Title: Monkeemania
Original Release: 1979
Label: Arista
Store: Arkaba Hotel, Glen Osmond St, Adelaide
Price: $3.33
(Original AU pressing)

Adelaide Record Fair is a new event on the calendar. It falls on the same weekend as the Adelaide Fringe festival, a wonderful time to be in Adelaide where the entire city is out, and many tourists are in town. There are plenty of other things going on, taking advantage of all the extra people. This record fair is one.

The mix of fringe, record fair and good friends was all the excuse I needed for a weekend away.

It’s new, so it’s small. It has two main stalls – Revolve Records from Erskineville (who is just down the road from me) and OzVinylJunkie, a stalwart of the record fair scene. It’s held in a mega pub, the Arkaba, just slightly out of the city main.

It’s not a huge selection, but hopefully it’s the start of something good. There was plenty to go through, and opposed to Parramatta, a friendly vibe and no one really trying to rip you off. I walked away with dozens of albums, many from the 3 for $10 boxes. This record is one.

Davy Jones passed away a few days before this record fair. I am a huge fan, and wrote a piece about Davy for EMI Australia’s blog. I adore my deluxe Rhino CDs, box sets and Monkees collections through the years. But the vinyl I’ve seen around have been mostly poor condition.

So it was nice to find this mammoth Monkees anthology. The name Monkeemania was recently reused by Rhino for a new collection, but this one is pretty definitive. No matter where you stand on how great this band is, you have to own at least 20 of the songs here. Over the 40, it hits all the big songs and the best album tracks. However, it does fall into the later years in the end – I’m not sure how often I will play side 4.

One of the best things about vinyl is that double albums make sense. These double best of collections are just a treat. If you’re a fan, you can really sit with them in an afternoon, pour over the artwork and really immerse yourself.

The music. So Clarksville, Pleasant Valley Sunday, both the Believer songs…they’re all here. Then there’s the lesser known track. Take A Giant Step, Randy Scouse Git, For Pete’s Sake, Cuddly Toy and so much more. It doesn’t capture everything, but no 40 tracks can (try the Music Box boxed set for that).

This probably sorts out my Monkees on vinyl for a bit, until I track down some high quality versions of the first four albums. The artwork is fun, and reflects their innocent pop image. There’s a full sleeve sized Monkees comic, and collage of magazine cut outs, photos and track notes.

There are times when I want to listen to the Monkees, and it’s tough to choose between those first few albums – they are all so good. But this will do for now.

Continuous Hit Music: Sunnyboys – Sunnyboys

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ‘em all here

Artist: Sunnyboys
Title: Sunnyboys
Original Release: 1981
Label: Mushroom
Store: Parramatta Town Hall, Church St, Parramatta
Price: $50
(Original AU pressing – limited edition)

Continuing the adventure of Parramatta record fair (I bought so many records, I figure I can squeeze this out over a couple of weeks). Now, record fairs are great because of the range (hundreds of thousands of records in one roof) and the price (people know what things are worth, but still pretty competitive). But above all that, it’s the few times in life you actually get to see some real rarities.

If there is one rarity of Australian vinyl it’s the Sunnyboys‘ first album of yellow vinyl. I heard about the existence of this album for over a decade. A yellow version of the iconic blue cover. A limited, 2000 copy first run. I’ve been looking for this album ever since, and finally found it. At $50, it’s probably right on in terms of value. That’s what it goes for on eBay.

In Australia, there actually aren’t that many reknowned rarities. A handful of singles will go for a few hundred dollars. But that whole business of mono vs stereo versions and printing errors had gone out of style by the time Australian music got really good. Most of the really respected bands of the 80s that were Australian were usually signed to labels overseas. So in Australian record collecting terms, this is gold.

But I really don’t know the story of this limited edition. Anyone out there care to enlighten me? First – 2000 copies? That means I’ve probably met half the people who claim to own this on yellow vinyl. Was there a second printing? And why yellow vinyl? I know yellow was used on some of the early artwork of the band. Was it that simple?

Most importantly – the tracklisting differs. Not only is ‘Happy Man’, the album’s first single, not included, but there is a large sticker on the front telling us ‘Happy Man’ is not included. As if it was selling point. What is going on? I don’t know.

This album would be worth nothing if it wasn’t brilliant. It made number 37 in the book ‘100 Best Australian Albums’. For me it’s much higher than that, sitting around number 10. It’s a brilliant slice of edgy, jangly pop guitars bashing against the sombre, dark words of Jeremy Oxley. So many bands sound like this today – and I hope they know the Sunnyboys got there first.

The big hit from the album is ‘Alone With You‘. It’s one of the greatest songs to come out of Australia and is worth the price of admission alone. Even without ‘Happy Man‘ you have ‘I Can’t Talk To You‘, the frantic ‘It’s Not Me‘ and the brilliant closer ‘I’m Shakin’, and most bands would kill to make an album this good. Hell, most bands would kill to make an album COVER this good. Surely one of the most iconic images in all Australian music.

Sadly, the current CD version is awful, and no effort has been made to reissue this album, and it’s fallen away, almost forgotten. Unbelievable, but it’s happening to so many great Australian albums. No one is taking care of them.

Continuous Hit Music: Crowded House – Temple Of Low Men

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ‘em all here.

Artist: Crowded House
Title: Temple Of Low Men
Original Release: 1988
Label: Capitol
Store: Parramatta Town Hall, Church St, Parramatta
Price: $3.33
(Original AU pressing)

Parramatta Record Fair is one of the staples of the Sydney record collecting scene. It has been going for many years. I went to my first one around ’98. You would see flyers for it in every record store. Twice a year, you’d make your way out to Parramatta, and fight it out with the various anoraks and weirdos that make up the record collecting set.

I’ve been away for years, and it’s like going back to your old family home. Has it shrunk? Or have I grown? There didn’t seem to be as many stalls as previous years. The variety was missing too. Secondhand CDs are worth almost nothing these days. And lots and lots of old records – and not selling for that much either.

It was a delight in the late 90s and early 00s. For all of the music industry’s excess, it was high time for quality CD box sets, and fancy promo items. Now you’re just fighting over a $5 Randy Newman album.

There is so much to say about this world. Like the way people treat eachother. Or the pair of charming older ladies talking to stall owners about gigs they once saw. Or the pair of young girls, who were impressively out of place. But that will be a story for another day.

$5 each or $10 for 3. You’d see that in a lot of boxes. For years I’ve avoided them, looking for more precious jewels. But this little blog project has set me back going through them. In one of these boxes I found this album – Temple of Low Men by Crowded House. Amongst 20 or 30 purchases that day.

I could have written about quite a few albums but this one is interesting. First of all, it’s not that easy to find. You see the first album around a lot, but this one is a bit rarer. And not because it’s more hunted… probably because it is less loved.

Common concensus is that this is the least of those early Crowded House albums. The debut, self titled Crowded House is an established classic (and Triple J listener’s favourite), and Woodface was the hit record with the best story. Together Alone has been reassesed in recent years, and has been declared an underrated classic. Which leaves us with Temple Of Low Men.

And yes, I would also say this is the 4th best album by early Crowded House. But it is a fantastic album. It just had two things set against it. It was a bit all over the shop stylistically. And it is hopelessly sad compared to their hopeful debut.

As the years go by, we see more and more that Neil Finn is powered by his melancholy. He can write a snappy tune with the best of them, but his body of work is tied to sadness. It’s just his radio hits that are bright. And it is this side of Neil Finn that blooms more than ever on this album.

Let’s not forget all the great songs on here. ‘Into Temptation‘ is the best ‘sad’ song Finn has ever written. ‘I Feel Possessed‘ is spooky and mysterious, and gifted with a chorus that most songwriters would kill for. And there’s ‘Better Be Home Soon‘. A song that everyone in Australia knows, and should have been a smash.

In a way, this album was the end of Crowded House. The bright, sunny joker-y of the first album could not be sustained. Tim Finn gave it a shot in the arm, but one more failure and it was all over.

Continuous Hit Music: Raspberries – Raspberries’ Best Featuring Eric Carmen

Continuous Hit Music – a weekly exploration of vinyl finds in 2012. Read ‘em all here.

Artist: Raspeberries
Title: Raspberries’ Best Featuring Eric Carmen
Original Release: 1976
Label: Capitol
Store: Addison Rd Markets, Marrickville, Sydney
Price: $10
(Original US pressing)

Markets continue to be a great source for vinyl records. There’s always a couple of stands at Marrickville’s Addison Road Markets. The market itself is something out of Portlandia. People selling Dim Sum over twice how much they cost in a proper Chinese place. There’s also homemade shampoo and and guy who I think puts his leftovers into an ice cream maker and sells the results at a premium.

I also wonder who is buying some of these records. Take this $10 purchase. Raspberries’ Best – featuring Eric Carmen. Did the guy who sold me this think, “Ah, Marrickville. They love that overly dramatic power pop stuff there. It’s bound to go today.” I hope he did.

I did get it, of course. I figured it’s a good way to knock over this band’s discography on the head.

For those who don’t know – well, you mostly don’t need to. The Raspberries were a second rate power-pop/glam rock band. They had a talent in frontman Eric Carmen, who wrote and sang their music. Carmen went on to sing and write the hit ‘Hungry Eyes‘ from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. He also penned ‘All By Myself‘, which ended up being a hit for Celine Dion. His best song however is ‘Make Me Lose Control‘, a slice of Beach Boys meet Bryan Adams bit of radio rock that still sounds great.

But this compilation was before all that. Raspberries themselves never made it to the big time. They do have a devoted following in that power pop scene, so much they they actually reunited a few years back. I bought all 4 of their albums on CD, and it’s pretty same-y stuff. And even some samey stuff seems a bit lacking.

There are a handful of pretty good songs. ‘Go All the Way’ opens every Raspberries compilation, as it’s a pretty fun, Free-like rocker. Then the schmaltzy verses kick in, and then the highly disturbing lyrics. ‘Tonight‘ and ‘I Wanna Be With You‘ are fun, servicable rockers. ‘Ecstasy‘, with a riff very close to a You Am I song, is probably the best thing on here.

Then there’s ‘Overnight Sensation‘. A widescreen, overblown bit of insanity about wanting a hit record. It starts small then goes big, very big. Then it stops, and hey, it comes back again, with a huge choir singing the chorus, brass squeeling away, and the drums bouncing all across the mix. I think they probably thought it was a clever, but this is exactly the kind of stuff that the Clash came and pissed all over a few years after.

Yeah, it hasn’t dated well, but it’s still pretty fun. Terrible lyrics and dodgy production aside, it’s definitely worth $10. And it’s quite nice to listen to just 40 minutes of this stuff in one hit, as opposed to a long drawn out CD length greatest hits.

The sleeve is also quite fun, with two essays running along the edges, then continued on the back, then continued on the inner sleeve. I know it’s supposed to look like a newspaper, but why? We’ll probably never know. For the strange design alone, it’s worth having. It certainly makes it the best Raspberries collection out there.