Friday, 2 September 2016

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART and the Safe As Milk identity parade

Safe As Milk was released in the US in the summer of 1967. Original copies came with an inner sleeve that depicted a number of the band's cronies:

Musicians aside, I can identify the following:

Label boss Bob Krasnow

Producer Richard Perry

DJ Tom Donahue

Avalon manager Chet Helms

Los Angeles DJ Bobby Dale

Engineer Hank Cicalo

Mrs. Sandy Krasnow and their children

Producer Richard Perry's younger brother, Fred

An unnamed receptionist at the Kama Sutra / Buddha office in Los Angeles

The others are a mystery. Any ideas?

CAPTAIN BEEFHEART and the release of Safe As Milk

Readers of this blog will of course need no introduction to Captain Beefheart's first album. This post concerns its release date; the one most commonly given is September 1967, but I suspect this is up to three months out. Here's some evidence.

1) this advert appeared in Billboard on June 24th

2) this double-spread appeared in World Countdown in June

3) John Lennon posed for this photo at home in Surrey on June 29th (though the stickers, one of which came with each copy of the LP, could easily have been given to him separately by his pal Derek Taylor, who was managing Beefheart's publicity at the time)

4) This collage appeared in World Countdown in July

5) This advert appeared in World Countdown in August (and makes the unlikely claim that 20,000 copies had already changed hands)

6) In Billboard of August 19th, the LP was tipped as a ‘National Breakout,’ indicating albums that 'have been reported getting strong sales action by dealers in major markets’:

For what it's worth, World Countdown ran yet another full-page ad for it the following month:

7) Finally, on January 11th 1969, the UK music weekly Record Mirror ran an intriguing letter from Michael Ashwell of One Stop Records in London:

The letter makes it clear that John Peel had received a 'review copy' in late July 1967, which - allowing for transatlantic shipping - confirms a release date of mid-July at the latest.

The earliest reviews I have seen for the album, incidentally, date from November 1967, which is puzzling.

One last thought: on the inner sleeve that came with the LP, a jolly chap in a sombrero can be seen holding a copy of Sgt. Pepper, which was released at the start of June - so if Safe As Milk did come out the same month, the artwork must have been turned around pretty fast.

Monday, 19 October 2015

THE BEATLES: an exciting new discovery!

As many of you will know, at the end of 1970 the moribund Official Beatles Fan Club sent its members an LP entitled From Then To You, compiling the light-hearted 'Christmas message' flexidiscs they'd received from the band every Christmas between 1963 and 1969. Though it was pressed by Lyntone (who'd also made the flexis) instead of EMI, it was on the Apple label. The earlier messages tend towards sub-Goons / Stanley Unwin jollity, while the later ones have tentative studio effects and musical content. All are irritating on repeated listens, but worth a spin for serious fans. The sleeve reproduces the front covers of all seven discs, but offers no background info. A pressing size isn’t known, but as it was never commercially available, it’s extremely rare by the standards of their other official releases, changing hands for up to £1000 in perfect condition.


This will of course come as a startling revelation to long-term Beatles collectors. Intrigued, I emailed him to request evidence for the claim. Clearly a busy man, he disregarded that part of my message, but did have time to tell me: 'This is not a bootleg - bootleg versions have brown/beige label - this one is white label... Please look at the popsike site. There you will find the exact same record and label at £220 or 298 EUROS - its not described as a fake. I am an honest bayer - not a dealer.'

So there we have it - a fascinating artefact for serious Beatles collectors to fight over. No wonder it has already attracted a £200 bid! (PS He has also yet to reply to my contention that the American version of this that he's selling is a blatant counterfeit.)

Friday, 3 July 2015


On April 16th of this year, an eBay seller named vinyl-network (based in Leicestershire) sold what he described as a BSR DR33M RECORD CUTTER / CUTTING LATHE & TURNTABLE DISC RECORDER, adding that it was a 'STUDIO QUALITY DISC CUTTER IN WORKING ORDER'.

Here's his description:

Being a thorough sort of chap, he assured interested bidders 'I have tested the lathe and have cut onto acetate disc to test whether it cut OK. Everything works perfectly.'

Two months later, on June 25th, he sold what he described as 'CAPTAIN MARRYAT RARE 1974 UK Original *MONO MIX* THOR ACETATE PROG PSYCH FOLK'. This listing was subtitled 'Incredibly Rare! Unreleased MONO Mix?? - Scottish Prog'. Here's a photo of that item:

His description reiterated that the acetate was 'extremely rare', and posited that 'in 1974 most mono pressings were or had been phased out by this point however this was probably mixed by request from the band'.

He could easily have had this conjecture confirmed by contacting some band members. Keyboardist Allan Bryce, who's readily available on Facebook and elsewhere, states: "As far as I know there were no originals that looked like this. It's the first time I have seen this. It's a fake." Bassist Tom Hendry, meanwhile, has this to offer: "It states in the details that the mono mix must have been requested by the band. I know that none of us did that. Definitely looks like a bootleg!"

Nonetheless, jet-propelled by his claims for its collectability and vintage status, it fetched the remarkable sum of £2249. It's little surprise to see that 'Seller does not offer returns' on this or the other acetates by super-collectible artists he has been selling recently.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Bob Djukic is one of the most experienced and successful sellers of rare vinyl on eBay, who - as he puts it - makes a 'good-faith effort to provide only genuine, authentic items'.

At the moment, however, he is stumped: he is selling what he believes to be 'THE ORIGINAL, AUTHENTIC, FIRST U.K. PRESSING' of David Bowie's Man Who Sold The World LP, and - as such - 'a legitimate, official release'. Unfortunately, as he points out, it has been counterfeited in its time. After what must have been extensive and scholarly research, drawing on his decades of experience in the rare vinyl business, he's billing his item as 'INSANELY RARE', but adding the caveat 'WE ATTEMPTED TO CONFIRM THE GENUINENESS AND AUTHENTICITY OF THIS PRESSING, BUT WE ARE NOT 100% SURE.'

Of course, were he to list it as a '1980s COUNTERFEIT' it would reach perhaps $50 - that is, if eBay even allowed the auction to proceed. But if the high bidder thinks it's original... well, that sum could easily reach $2000 - and that's not money Bob'll be returning if it does indeed turn out to be fake ('No returns, refunds or exchanges on this item').

Several people have emailed him, and - being the open, even-handed kind of dealer that he is - the correspondence can be seen at the foot of the listing. Oddly, he tells one correspondent that he has 'no point of reference' as to whether or not this copy is original, though when he sold one in 2011 (as visible on  he raised no doubts as to its being authentic, stating: 'THIS IS THE ORIGINAL, AUTHENTIC, FIRST U.K. PRESSING; THIS IS NOT A REISSUE, AN IMPORT, OR A COUNTERFEIT PRESSING'.

Posted below is the link to his current auction, and the label for the copy he's selling. Below that is the label to a copy whose authenticity is in no doubt (right down to the well-known 'Tonny Visconti' spelling error that the first batch of UK originals carried, and 'P 1971' test to the left of the label - on Bob's copy it apparently says 'R 1971', in keeping with a blunder on counterfeit copies, though a blemish seems to be making the downstroke of the R look like a P). Either way, it occurs to me that a dealer who's 'NOT 100% SURE' as to whether he's selling a counterfeit or an original of a major rarity can't be expected to know his stuff elsewhere. What do you think?

UPDATE: The auction has now ended, and Bob raked in an impressive $328.99 for his LP. Despite a blizzard of comments both via eBay and elsewhere online, he stoutly maintained until the end that 'I reserve my judgment on the authenticity of this item'. He substantiated his position by adding that 'Minor variations in color, shade, hue, texture and overall appearance of the covers are not only NOT an aberration in the record-making business, they are absolutely a NORM.' Under further questioning, he would only offer the following: 'I would prefer to neither speculate, nor comment. The item is sold as-is, no guarantees offered or implied.' Quite what evidence he was awaiting whilst he reserved his judgment is impossible to say. In any case, the inescapable conclusion is that any halfway serious dealer who can't tell a counterfeit copy of this album from an original is a joke - and, indeed, this listing has made Bob a laughing stock.

SECOND UPDATE: the Thin White Djuke has relisted the LP because - in his inimitable words - 'THE PREVIOUS WINNING BIDDER ACTED IN PATENTLY BAD FAITH AND WITH PREMEDITATED INTENTION OF SABOTAGING THE OUTCOME OF THIS SELLER'S PREVIOUS AUCTION'. Because he always acts in good faith, he adds that 'COUNTERFEIT COPIES OF THIS ALBUM ALLEGEDLY EXIST', and that 'IN A HIGHLY UNLIKELY CASE THIS ITEM IS NOT GENUINE, IT COULD STILL HOLD GREAT VALUE FOR THE BOWIE COLLECTOR AS A VERY FINE AND HIGHLY DETAILED AND ELABORATE REPLICA.' He also makes it clear that he will not stand for any further abuse of the sort he received last time around. Unlike selling potentially fake copies of his albums and calling them 'INSANELY RARE', Bob is quite clear that this sort of behaviour 'BRINGS GREAT DISCREDIT TO ANY BOWIE FAN'. Cheers!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

NICK DRAKE: 'a remarkable find'

Very little Nick Drake memorabilia has ever surfaced - no signed LPs, no promo photos, no shop posters and no acetates. However, this month an eBay seller named Phil Jones - username pctc01 - listed what he described as 'a remarkable find': the first Drake acetate ever known to exist, let alone reach the market. By way of provenance, he stated that 'the disc was purchased along with a large collection of mid 1960's to 1973 Folk , Rock , Blues LP collection [sic]'.

While the details he offered were sketchy, he did reveal that it consisted of five tracks: Way To Blue, Three Hours, two that 'I do not recognize' and a brief instrumental that he described as 'a short 3/4 time signature [sic] with the sixth string dropped to D'. He went on to suggest that 'an approximate date for this disc is around 1968 / 1969. By the sound of the disc the tracks are early, but near complete... very clear one mic recording.'

Clearly used to time-wasters, he concluded his description by stating 'I would prefer to sell to a genuine collector, so any of the usual 'have you got a buy it now' emails from 'dealers' will be ignored. But genuine collectors are very welcome to email questions.' Regarding myself as such, I promptly sent him the following message: 'Hello, what a lovely looking item! I am a serious collector and have a couple of questions:  1) is it 100% definitely a 60s artefact and not a clever fake?  2) can you give any clues as to what the two non-5LL songs might be called? Many thanks.'

Answer came there none - and no one I know received an answer to similar enquiries. I emailed Nick's delightful sister Gabrielle to see if she remembered the disc. She didn't, and added: 'I cannot quite think of the circumstance that would lead Nick to go into a local Stratford on Avon recording studio, when he was quite proficient and used to recording himself on cassette. Is there any way of finding out who FA Burchell were and when they were in business? (I can find no mention of them on the internet.)'

Unfortunately, no such info was obtainable, and in the absence of detailed information, decent-quality images or soundclips from the seller, I did not bid. It ended up fetching £3211. Perhaps the lucky high bidder will share the music on it in due course. Certainly Nick's estate are extremely interested in it, and in any similar acetates that might turn up from the same source. 

Friday, 20 December 2013


Attempting to marry the sophistication of Playboy and Esquire to the countercultural appeal of the underground press, Cheetah only managed eight issues (October 1967 to May 1968). It was mocked by the cognoscenti at the time for striving too hard to be hip (worst of all 60s crimes!), but it stands up well. This largely owes to its music articles, such as Jules Siegel’s fabled ‘Goodbye Surfing, Hello God’ interview with Brian Wilson (October 1967) and an interview with Curt Boettcher about the occult (April 1968). In addition, its record reviews by Peter Winkler (including what seems to be the only contemporary assessment of Safe As Milk, which he loved) are among the most perceptive of the period.

The January 1968 issue included a triple portrait by Tom Nolan of the so-called 'Orange County Three' - Jackson Browne, Tim Buckley and Steve Noonan - who were considered to have equal promise at the vanguard of the emerging confessional singer-songwriter movement. Today, of course, they are respectively a star, a cult hero and a footnote. The article is often referred to, but hasn't been available online before, so here goes.