Hello, my name is Neal Umphred. I am the latest addition to Sixties Music Secrets and will be writing a monthly column titled “The Avid Record Collector,” sub-titled “From the Cut-Out Bin.” The first part of this title is based on an older column that I wrote for Pulse magazine back in the ’90s. Pulse was a free publication that was distributed at Tower Records stores everywhere.
My column was titled “The Avid Collector” and I wrote about records from the perspective of one who had been a collector, a dealer, and the author of a series of price guides for record collectors! And that’s what I will be doing here at SMS. Each month, I will select an album (or two) from the ’60s and try to answer a few basic questions:
• What was it like when it was originally released?
• How was it received critically and commercially?
• What did I think of it then?
• What do I think of it now?
The second part of the title addresses the fact that I will be writing about records that were mass-produced and wound up in the cut-out bins around the country. I will rarely write about promos, limited editions, imports—which were as rare as turtles’ teeth in the ’60s!—or private pressings.
At the end of each column, I will look at the record as a collectible in today’s market and assign it a realistic current market value. I will arrive at these values by referring to sales documented on Popsike, Gripsweat, and Discogs.
The Great Deletion
Addressing cut-outs is not as limiting as it might seem: In 1968, record companies stopped offering new albums in two sound formats, simply making all new albums in stereo. Instead of phasing the mono albums out over time, they simply stopped manufacturing them!
As the companies were deleting thousands of mono records, they also deleted hundreds of stereo titles that weren’t selling. Wholesalers and retailers returned most (but apparently not all) of the mono albums on their shelves, leaving the record companies with warehouses full of records they were no longer able to sell at full price.
I refer to this event as “The Great Deletion,” which I experienced in a big way as a 17-year-old record collector in northeastern Pennsylvania. Arlan’s was a chain of department stores with more than a hundred locations and in 1968 or ’69, they opened a new store. As part of the Grand Opening Sale, the existing store in Edwardsville, Pennsylvania, offering tens of thousands of albums for 99¢ each.
Most of the albums in the sale were recently deleted titles and most of them were mono, all still factory sealed! Titles from every major record company and most of the not-so-major companies could be found. Those companies quickly found that there was a ready market available to unload their discards if priced accordingly.
It became the industry norm to delete slow-selling albums within a few years of release. Coupled with the industry trend to over-produce albums so that they could “ship gold” in the early ’70s, the cut-out bin became an almost ubiquitous presence in record shops around the country.
From The Cut-Out Bin
As so many’60s albums were deleted in 1968 in their mono format, I effectively have just about every LP from the decade to pick from for “The Avid Record Collector (From the Cut-Out Bin)” column!
The first album that I plan on reviewing will be the US pressing of a UK album. As the original 12-track album did not contain a single, the American record company replaced two of the album tracks with both sides of the artist’s latest single. (This was a relatively common occurrence at the time.) This made a “new” 12-track album with a different aesthetic and listening experience. The single itself had been worrisome to American radio stations, which responded by flipping the record over and promoting the B-side (which was also a relatively common occurrence). To make this article more interesting, the B-side was a much bigger hit in the US than the A-side was in the artist’s native UK!
The next article will address the UK pressing of a US album, one of the few imports that I stumbled over in a cut-out bin back then. The original title of the album was a slang word that referred to a type of automobile accident that had no recognizable meaning in many other countries. Except for the title, everything else about them remained the same.
A Very Brief Bio
I started buying records in 1964 when I was 12 years old. Within a few years, I was actively collecting records and by the end of the decade, I was buying cut-out albums for $1 and selling them to my classmates at college for $3.
• In 1977, I started buying albums at yard/garage sales in Pennsylvania and selling them to stores in New York.
• In 1980, I started selling vinyl through the mail, doing business as Pet Sounds Records in California and advertising mainly in Goldmine magazine.
• In 1985, I became the final author of the O’Sullivan-Woodside series of price guides for record collectors.
• In 1992, became the original author of the Goldmine series of price guides for record collectors.
I currently write two blogs for record collectors: Rather Rare Records and Elvis – A Touch of Gold. (Editor’s Note: If you click on over to read anything on either site, please leave a comment and mention that you came there from Sixties Music Secrets!)
Hi Neal. I will always take every opportunity to read your glorious ruminations! Since I ws born in’57, I can’t say I was too involved in the 1960’s, but I do remember those ads for “Freak Out” in the back of my comic books. Yes, those were the days my friend, (we thought they’d never end); leisurely browsing through the “delete bins” (when they existed) at record stores (when they existed). Many of the products of small independent labels ended up being discounted it seemed. Found some cool stuff….probably my all time favourite being an instrumental album with the wonderful tongue-in-cheek title of “Not A Word On It”.
Hi and thanks for the comment!
I was born in 1951 and my involvement with “The Sixties” was buying lots and lots of groovy records, buying CRAWDADDY and ROLLING STONE when they were still cool, wearing ghastly bellbottoms, and doing lots and lots of California dreaming.
Keep on keepin’ on!
Neal it is always interesting to see how many different aspects there are to 60’s music. You can tell me more about collecting albums than I ever knew there was to know. In my household it was my sister who bought everything music. Even with 1960s prices the most I could hope for was to purchase something maybe once or twice a month.
She had a portable stereo record player that she allowed me to borrow. And that was a good thing because I had an old 1920s era hand crank phonograph player a teacher gave me for helping him clear out his garage. It had a very crude needle, and nothing sounded quite the same afterwards. It would be years later before I bought a proper setup.
So you see, when you talk about the fine points of vinyl collecting, I’m not your guy.
Thanks for the comment!
The record player that I had in my room was mono-only, although it had a reversible cartridge with a mono needle on one side and a stereo needle on the other (so I didn’t damage the stereo grooves).
I didn’t have a decent stereo until I moved into my own apartment in 1970 and pieced a system together from used parts I bought at garage sales!
The most important part of “record collecting” is always the music. In these articles, you will get a taste of many of my faves. But my Number One Album of All Time has been the same for the past fifty-one years: PET SOUNDS.
As I never saw this as a cut-out, I may not get around to saying anything else about it here.
So, what’s your fave album?
PS: Keep on keepin’ on . . .
Oh, sorry. That was the question wasn’t it? Okay, I had a Simon and Garfunkel album that I just played the s— out of. “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme”
That’s a lovely album and a big fave of mine. It’s a toss-up between it and SOUNDS OF SILENCE as my top Simon & Garfunkel title.
We are not likely to see records like them anymore . . .
Hey Neil and Jim,
I gotta jump in here on the best Simon and Garfunkel album….Yes, it’s a bit later in their career, but for me hands down it’s……”Bookends” Talk about experimentation? Just listen to “At The Zoo” and focus on the snare drum that sounds like a canon!
Roy Haley recorded the snare at twice the normal speed, so when it was played back at the correct speed the drums sounded like explosions! There are dozens of little tricks like that all over that album! Not to mention Paul’s maturity as a song writer, resulting in “Bookends” yielding at least 3 hit singles!
No argument from me about your choice. If you had said it was BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER, I wouldn’t have argued with that, either. Four great albums and then bye-bye Paul and Artie.
PS: Recently I had call to listen to WEDNESDAY MORNING, 3 A.M. for the first time in years, and darn if it wasn’t much better than I remember!
I’ve got a quetion…You mentioned that you had a “Reversable cartridge! One side for Mono and One for Stereo.
So here’s my question, because I had one of those as well! However at the record store I frequented the manage swore there was zero difference in the Mono needle and the stero needle….He claimed it was a kind of “Placebo created for marketing purposes… Just to sell more stylis’ or Needles… What do uou think?
Rick, I had the reversible on my record player then too. Never could tell a difference either, BUT when I ruined one, I could at least use the other. Those NICKELS taped to the tone arm to play warped 45s took a toll. haha
OMG! “those Nickels taped to the Tonearm?….I didn’t realis it was such a universal practice! I honestly thought it was an idea my brother and I came up with to cure all the “Skips” in our record collection!
I inherited my first record player from my Aunt in 1963. It played at 45 rpm and only handled little records with big holes.
My aunt told me that when it started skipping regularly, I was to tape a dime to the top of the cartridge. When the skipping started up again, I was to change to a nickel.
But if I needed a quarter, I needed a new stylus.
Thanks for the comment and welcome to Sixties Music Secrets!
I am certainly not an expert in this area at all and when confronted with questions like this, I head straight to my browser! In this case, I ended up on the Steve Hoffman Music Forums site where Doug G. had this to say:
“It’s 1 mil (mono) and .7 mil (stereo) for the original conical styli. The difference was made because it was deemed that a .7 mil stylus would be a better fit in the stereo groove what with the back-and-forth, side-to-side, and movements at all angles in between.
However, it will not harm a stereo record to use a 1 mil stylus or harm a mono record to use a .7 mil stylus. The styli just ride at slightly different heights in the groove.”
Here is the link to that conversation as there are other posts about potential damage to stereo records from a mono stylus: https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/threads/old-stereo-records-claim-do-not-play-with-a-mono-cartridge.405927/
I remember that many record companies printed warnings on the back cover of LP jackets (Capitol comes to mind) warning us NOT to play stereo records on mono players. But if Doug G. is correct, then they may have been cautious in warning us.
Hope this helps.
Just an addition is how those old 45s can sound so much better now with soundforge “declicking” and center cut programs which CC actually takes a mono 45 and eliminates the sound recorded on the SIDES of the grooves (nicks and pops) and leaves the nice center part recording. How amazing these programs can make a scratched 45 sound today. Almost like new!
Re your comment on Wednesday Morning 3:00 a.m.
Yes and wasn’t that the first album to feature “Sounds of Silence” ?
Yep, S&G’s version was two voices with an acoustic guitar. The electric version was assembled by producer Tom Wilson more than a year after the original session. Wilson made this new version without Paul and Art’s awareness, let alone their participation.
And the rest is Rock & Roll History.
To read more about one of the classic folk-rock hits of the ’60s, read this: https://www.ratherrarerecords.com/sounds-of-silence/
Neal, I Look forward to you articles. It already has stimulated my feeble 60’s brain. I can remember buying a mono album for $2.10 and (once i bought a STEREO record player) the stereo one for $3.10 BTW..I own that Gene Clark album, as I was a huge Byrds fan. Welcome aboard. I’ll try to wake up early enough to catch your act before lunch.
Thanks for the comment!
I will probably get around to saying a few things about the GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS album. (Mostly good things.)
Keep on keepin’ on!
PS: If you get up early enough, my act goes good with coffee . . .
Neal, good to have you aboard here. I certainly have price guides with your name on them as well as likely buying from you in the past. Like you, I started buying in the early 60’s and listening to all the great AM stations of the 60’s. I first started seeing mono cutouts probably in early 1968 and I was blown away by the $1.87 price. “Why would they sell the mono 1.87 and still have stereo ones for the standard $3.69 price” I thought. It was an amazing time finding all the Searchers LPS sudde3nly in my hands in the 70’s at $.88 cents each and so on. Anyway, I look forward to your writings. Clark Besch
Thanks for the comment!
Yes, those of us buying records and wanting music that was always good instead of whatever was currently on the Top 40—or, by the end of the ’60s, on hip FM “underground” radio stations—The Great Deletion was a godsend, something that has never been duplicated since.
Keep on keepin’ on!
PS: Thanks for having bought my books way, way back in the pre-internet days . . .
Thanks for the comment!
I have not used the SoundForge software but you are not the only person to tell me about its effectiveness in eliminating extraneous sounds from old grooves. And it’s sooooo affordable (under $40)!