Aug 052020

Was the German true stereo pressing of Magical Mystery Tour.

No, I’m just kidding.

The most expensive record I ever bought was a live album called June 1, 1974, by Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Eno & Nico.

I bought it in 1974 or early 1975 at E.J. Korvette’s in Springfield. I didn’t understand why an album with that title was available at that point in the discounted rack. I was totally unfamiliar with Kevin Ayers. I knew Cale from the Velvet Underground and the same with Nico, but knew nothing of their solo work. I knew Eno was a member of Roxy Music; I knew a bit about them but, again, nothing of his solo career (which at that point had only just started).

I take flyers on albums all the time now, but it was unusual then; there wasn’t a lot of disposable income and each purchase had to count. But the price tag on this album was $1.99 and so was a small risk to learn about Cale, Eno, & Nico. And Kevin Ayers, whoever he was.

But wait a minute…$1.99…most expensive?!?!

Here’s how that makes sense; here’s the sense in which I mean it.

I don’t think there is any other album in my collection which has so directly led to so many other purchases.

It started off with two Eno songs, “Driving Me Backwards” and “Baby’s On Fire.” I loved them. Then Cale’s version of “Heartbreak Hotel.” Wow, great! And then Nico’s cover of “The End.” The remaining five songs were Kevin Ayers.’

This is my favorite track from the album and my favorite ever Kevin Ayers song.

This show was an Ayers gig at the Rainbow Theatre in London, to which he invited Cale and Nico. Cale brought along Eno. Robert Wyatt and Mike Oldfield were also guests, sitting in with the band.

Ayers was the real revelation of this album for me. I immediately loved him. I’ve since bought all his solo albums as well as the first Soft Machine album; he was a founding member of that band but only stayed for the first album. I still love John Cale and have bought everything he has put out. And I was definitely in for Eno’s pop albums and do have a few of the early ambient ones including the collaborations with Robert Fripp. Add in a couple of Nico albums.

Those Ayers albums and the Eno ones were all imports, pricey at the time.

So, this $1.99 album led directly to about 80 albums being purchased. Yes, it was a mighty expensive album. But it was a lot of great music.

What’s the most expensive album – in this way – in your collection?


  17 Responses to “The Most Expensive Record I Ever Bought”

  1. I like your math, Al! I’m reminded of the Eno (?) quote about the Velvet Underground, how all 2000 people who bought their first album would go onto form a band. Something similar probably applies to collectors who start at any point involving the VU/Lou Reed, Eno, and other artists this thread is likely to uncover.

    By your terms, I suspect whatever Eno record I bought first might qualify, either Here Comes the Warm Jets or Taking Tiger Mountain (by Strategy). Or did I steal my first Eno record, as part of the Great Record Store Haul? I can’t recall. Either way, once I suspected there was a sort of Eno stamp of approval to be had, I bought just about everything he led or collaborated on (eg, the Fripp-Eno stuff); records by the artists he brought to the underground public, as it were, like Jon Hassell and Penguin Cafe Orchestra; then veered off into buying my share of the Kevin Ayers of the world. At some point, however, the credit needs to be shared with artists I’d already started collecting, like Talking Heads and the Reed/Cale/VU stuff. Because so little is ever shared about how Eno actually made those four “pop” albums, other than all his self-aggrandizing humble-bragging about “not really being a musician,” I do keep my eyes open for albums involving sidemen from those albums who rarely get discussed. Chris Spedding, for instance, is a sideman’s sideman who we know something of (hell, he even consented to an RTH interview!), but names from those first two albums, like Bill MacCormick (bass), Busta Jones (bass), Paul Rudolph (guitar and bass), and Brian Turrington (bass) stuck in my brain and kept me on the lookout for more information. Busta Jones, of course, was an “a-ha!” moment, as I’d already known his name as a contributor to Talking Heads’ Remain in Light.

    If Eno’s influence on my spending is muddied by the influence of the VU and Talking Heads, the influence of Ornette Coleman is more pure. I think I started with Dancing in Your Head, then started buying his earlier albums and the albums by James Blood Ulmer and Ronald Shannon Jackson. Then I’d pick up albums by earlier Coleman band members, like Charlie Haden, Don Cherry, and Dewey Redman. I suspect that half of my little jazz collection is the result of having bought Dancing in Your Head.

  2. mockcarr

    I suspect jazz threads like your Ornette Coleman are more likely. I started with a 5.99 album by clarinetist Pee Wee Russell from the late 50s/early 60s on vinyl, and then a few years later, with more cd compilations available, started buying some of his sideman work with Paul Whiteman, Red Nichols, Frank Trumbauer, Bix Beiderbecke, Bobby Hackett, Eddie Condon, and various “Ramblers” outfits, which led to a minor Adrian Rollini fixation. It’s not a Beatle sized obsession, but it’s probably 25 albums.

  3. 2000 Man

    That’s easy. I think the first Stones album I bought was Sticky Fingers, but it might have been Some Girls. Just with Stones purchases after that, it’s easily in the gazillions, or at least a googob. If I include things that sound like they were influenced by The Stones, then by this point, it’s most of the money I spend on myself.

  4. BigSteve

    Paul Simon’s Graceland led to a period of buying every township jive compilation I could find, and then ultimately to my infatuation with all of the other regional styles in Africa. And those ‘Brazil Classics’ compilations on Luaka Bop (Beleza Tropical, O Samba, and Forro’ Etc.) opened up the wide variety of styles in Brazilian music for me.

  5. Happiness Stan

    Back off Boogaloo by Ringo Starr, the first record I bought, which opened my eyes to the possibility of having a music collection and spending every penny of my pocket money, paper round money and everything that didn’t go on rent and bills on owning more and more, until CDs broke the spell.

    More narrowly, Totale’s Turns was the first record I bought by the Fall. They made a lot of records, between about 1990 and 1996 I owned their entire recorded output, often in more than one format.

  6. diskojoe

    My most expensive record would be the $1.99 I spent on a cut out copy of the Kinks’ Soap Opera @ my local Ann & Hope in Danvers, MA, the first of many purchases of Kinks albums on vinyl, cassette & CD over the next 40 odd years & more.

    I would also nominate a book that I found back in 1998 called Unsung Heroes of Rock & Roll, by Ritchie Unterberger, who’s a Philly guy. It was through this book that I discovered Martin Newell, Francoise Hardy, & 60s European garage rock & led to many more purchases in those areas.

  7. Diskojoe references a book, which makes me realize I should give credit/blame to the Trouser Press end of the ’70s/beginning of the ’80s issue, which I wrote about here years ago, as the most expensive magazine I ever bought! I tracked down so many records from that issue, and from those records, I got turned onto even more records.

    And speaking of Ritchie Unterberger’s Philly roots, does among our Philly contingent actually know him or even know anything about his origin story? I don’t recall him being part of any scene. I’ve never heard any of my local music scene friends reference him directly. I didn’t even know he was from the area until maybe 10 years ago.

  8. Despite years of reading Ritchie Unterberger this is the first I am learning that he is from Philly

  9. I’m doing a few minutes of investigation. He’s about my age, and it seems he left Philly right after graduating University of Pennsylvania to move to San Francisco. I found this sweet remembrance of his oldest brother, who died in 2018:

  10. diskojoe

    I think that what happened, Mr. Mod, he went to Frisco after college. He’s my age & his late brother was the same age as mine, which is freaky. I did assist him a few years ago on one of his books, the one about the VU. I sent him stories about them that appeared in the Boston Globe, as well as a review of the first album that actually appeared in my hometown paper in 1967.
    Finally, in one of his books, he talks about getting Love’s Forever Changes in high school & he got crap from his friends for it, one of them telling him that it sounded like the Moody Blues. I thought that it was Mr. Mod 😀

  11. Very cool, diskojoe, and also very funny! In that piece on his brother, I loved how he called out Philly’s poor history for turning out white rock music.

  12. Man, if I could only go back in time and hit those 1.99 /2 for 5.00 cut out budget bins at Woolco. I’m willing to bet that’s where all of us got our copies of Introducing the Beatles and the Marble Arch Kinks’ Greatest Hits. Just curious, what was your best find from those treasure troves? Al and Geo, I bet you got a LOAD of great stuff!

  13. BigSteve

    After rediscovering the Kinks with Arthur I found a cutout of Face To Face at my local Woolco. This was probably around the time of Lola, and the pre-Arthur Kinks albums were totally unavailable. The record had weird surface noise on one side, but I was very happy to have it, and it was much prized in my circle of music nerds. It was years before I got a new copy of Face to Face. I also remember Woolco having very cheap cassettes of Reprise-era Kinks with Spanish text on the cards, presumably intended for the Latin American market.

  14. EPG, nothing I remember from Woolco but I think my greatest hauls were from Plastic Fantastic. I got lucky several times, getting there when someone had sold a lot of great stuff. I got the first of several various copies of Trout Mask Replica, several early Cale solo albums, Wild Man Fisher, and a bunch of others for $2.32 (or whatever that weird price point they used was) all in two visits.

  15. ladymisskirroyale

    I’ve been out of play for a while, and what a pleasure to pull up the site and read what you all have been considering. It does a gal good. I’m a School Psychologist and we’re prepping for one hell of a year; I’m already brain dead. I’m so impressed with your responses, and laughed my ass off everyone’s comments to EPG’s Supertramp Syndrome.

    So my answer is more from the gut and probably not as well thought out as some of yours. My most expensive record was actually a gift: a 45 of Looking Glass’s “Brandy.” A friend gave it to me because she knew I liked the song, and more likely because it was cracked and she didn’t think it was playable. But I managed to wiggle it just so and was able to get it to consistently play on my portable record player. One day I went to play the record and couldn’t find it. I’d probably left it out and my mom had noticed it, seen the crack in it and threw it out. I cried and cried. That shitty little cracked single made me realize how much I loved records and albums. I started choosing them myself. I went beyond the not-chosen but tolerated gifts of the Osmonds Live (double album!) and The Rolling Stones “Brown Sugar,” to the 45s and LPs I wanted for myself. “The Hustle.” “A Night At the Opera.” “Abba’s Greatest Hits.” From Queen into prog rock. From Arizona am radio to Aerosmith. From Abba to British Pop. When tapes appeared, I switched to them and lugged my collection from the West Coast to the East Coast. Now I’m back in California and have been rediscovering my old vinyl that’s still sitting at my parents’ house. For my birthday last week, Mr. Royale bought some old vinyl off of the World Wide Web: Abba, Fleetwood Mac, Aztec Camera and Camper Van Beethoven. It’s all come around again.

  16. Plastic Fantastic was THEE record store during my college days. After waking up late on Saturday, usually with a massive hangover, me and a bunch of my artsy fartsy friends would head over there in my friend Rob’s Dodge Dart and always walk out with nice pile of you name it. They seemed to have everything, and not only did they have everything, it was all cheap. The most expensive record I recall in the store, during those years, was a super clean original copy of Jerry Lee Lewis’ Sun album. The price tag was $35.00. Peanuts. Back then, I was broke 24/7. That purchase just wasn’t going to happen. I was more than happy to spend what little I had on most of the other LPs which were, as you recalled, priced somewhat oddly. Most of the records I bought were $2.97.

    And everybody has a story about the owner. He was beyond weird, but he provided a very thorough education for very little.

    On a Saturday afternoon, it had a very High Fidelity-like atmosphere, with lots of interesting looking opinionated people more than willing to put their two cents in about whatever. Thinking about all that, especially these days, is kind of hard on the heart and soul.

  17. And back then, I did not give a fuck about the condition of my records. They were forever begging for a beating. They were tinkered with relentlessly: played at parties, lent out to friends, used by whoever (if they were gatefolds) for cleaning dope., etc. A thorough cleaning consisted of taking the record out of the sleeve and wiping it across my one of Levis’ covered legs.

    Somehow or another I went from that to turning into one of those clear plastic protective sleeve record dicks. I think all that began when some record dealer found out through the grapevine that I had a copy of “You Better Run” by LIsten, Robert Plant’s band before Zeppelin. When he offered me a hundred bucks for it, I almost fainted. That’s a lot of money when you’re in college, and you’re sitting on a couch happy to find half an old cigarette on a window sill that looks like it’s good enough for a couple of drags.

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