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!)