10 of My Favorite Bands that Rarely Sell On (Used) Vinyl Anymore
#1 – The Isley Brothers
The Isley Brothers (1st LP in 1959) started in Cincinnati and had hits during 6 (!) decades. If lead singer Ronald Isley had been billed as a solo act, he’d be as revered as James Brown. After being ripped off by too many companies (including Motown), they were the 1st group (black or white) to form their own label (T-Neck) and outlived all other soul and funk acts. After many of their songs sold more when covered by white bands, they had hits covering Dylan, Stephen Stills, Eric Burden, and Seals and Crofts. They hired the unknown Hendrix as their lead guitarist, and younger Brother Ernie later played Jimi-inspired leads. Fight The Power.
#2 – The Ventures
The Ventures (1st LP in 1960), from Seattle, were my first favorite group (I owned Mashed Potatoes and Gravy when I was 10.) Most of their early 60s albums are easy listening boring – but when Nokie Edwards (the greatest native American lead guitarist since Link Wray) switched from bass they were usually excellent. Look for Surfing (63), In Space (64, heard every week on Cleveland’s late night Ghoulardi horror host show) and Fabulous (64), or On Stage (65). Pretty much any LPs from 1964 to 67 (when Nokie left) are good and usually go for low prices. Also try and see their Japanese movie Beloved Invaders (65). In the early 80s I saw them at The Mudd Club in NYC.
#3 – The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys (1st LP in 1962) were the biggest band in America before the Beatles came along, and made many great albums at least until 1970 (Sunflower). Everybody wants Pet Sounds (good but overrated), but I prefer any albums from 1964 or 65. I’d rather hear Concert (64) or Party! (65) than any version of Smile, and 20/20 (69) is an unheralded gem. I saw them (without Brian, but still with Carl and Dennis) in the early 80s before a Mets Game with the late Brian Hudson of the Pagans. I later published an interview with David Marks and stood in line for Brian’s autograph. The only other time I did that was for Cab Caloway.
#4 – The Dave Clark Five
The Dave Clark Five (1st LP in 1964) were briefly as popular as The Beatles. They had the same blaring sax and keyboard line-up as early Paul Revere and the Raiders, and like those underrated hitmakers, had an excellent lead singer (the late Mike Smith) and were named for their least important member- who didn’t even play on most of their hits. Glad All Over was my 1st British Invasion album and I tried to start a DC5 fan club in elementary school. Only one girl (Nancy) wore a DC5 button I made, but that was good enough. Most of their albums (all on Epic with yellow labels) sell for low prices and all are worthwhile – and short. Even the ballads are good, and despite criticism that they never changed, there were some psych LP tracks. Look for their Having a Wild Weekend movie (65) and footage of The Ramones doing Anyway You Want It as the last song of their last concert.
#5 – Paul Revere and the Raiders
Paul Revere and the Raiders (1st chart LP in 1965) are another great band from the Pacific NW- the Raiders recorded before the Beatles, had a string of hits as good as the Stones, and a few great albums (from 66-67) too. Most critics (and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) ignore them because they wore Revolutionary War outfits, acted silly, and- like the Beach Boys- often used top L.A. session players, but who cares? Like The Ventures and the Beach Boys, they did a Christmas album. For decades, Revere has kept a pretty pathetic Raiders (they make the Mike Love Beach Boys look great) on the road. When my friend Brian McMahon of The Electric Eels returned from L.A. in the late 60s, he said the high point of the trip was meeting Mark Lindsay at a burger stand.
#6 – The Byrds
The Byrds (1st LP in 1965) are the most critically acclaimed band on this list, since they had Dylan songs on the charts, more or less started folk, psych and country rock, and had harmonies as good as the Beach Boys, but except for Gram Parsons completists buying Sweetheart of the Rodeo, their LPs rarely sell anymore. The first four albums are great, but my favorite is The Notorious Byrd Brothers (the last one with David Crosby, represented by a horse on the cover.) The new line up Dr. Byrds album is underrated, but the last few are really weak. I saw the Byrds in 1969, sounding like the Untitled album (Lover of the Bayou was a highlight), and saw McGuinn in the early 70s.
#7 – The Rascals
The Rascals (1st LP in 1966), the only East Coast band on my list, were the best hit-making white soul band of the 60s. They lost most of their audience when singer Eddie Brigatti left and Felic Cavaliere turned them into a jazz fusion band. The first three (1966-67) albums are great, and See (1970) is one of their best- even though it usually sits in my dollar bin. I used to talk frequently with Eddie’s cousin Steve, so have heard how it started and all went wrong. Not as bad as the Byrds infighting or as family dysfunctional as the Beach Boys, but still sad.
#8 – The Jefferson Airplane
The Jefferson Airplane (1st LP in 1966) were the best selling San Francisco group and are remembered for the two big hits that Grace Slick brought with her from her previous band (The Great Society), but unlike the Dead, record buyers don’t seem to care any more. The first three albums are excellent and all very different from each other. The next three are really good, but after they lost the guys who went on to Hot Tuna and formed Grunt Records, they just got worse and worse. I understand why nobody wants Jefferson Starship albums or the concept solo albums, but I’d rather hear Surrealistic Pillow than the Dead any day. I saw them in 1969 and they sounded like the live Bless It’s Pointed Little Head album.
#9 – The Steve Miller Band
The Steve Miller Band (1st LP in 1968), also based in San Francisco, is the only group here still heard daily on FM radio- but you’ll never hear the early better stuff. They were great when Boz Scaggs was a member in 1968, but the next few albums are really good too. After too many personnel changes, Miller did some really weak albums, then, like Bob Seger on the same label (Capitol), finally hit on a mid 70s dumbed down hit-making formula. The Velvet Underground fanatic guys who started the Cleveland band (Mirrors) I was in saw Miller in the 60s and can testify what a great guitarist he is, and how good his band was.
#10 – Jethro Tull
Jethro Tull (1st LP in 1968) was a band I loved from the beginning, even though the leader, writer, singer, flutist (!) is an irritating looking and acting egomaniac. Their 3rd album (Benefit) was my favorite, but I tuned out after relentless radio play of their 4th album (Aqualung), the only one that I can count on to sell once in a while. They went from blues and jazz rock to decades of folky boredom. Check out the two albums by Blodwyn Pig, formed by original lead guitarist Mick Abrams instead. I managed to see Tull in 1969 for free by climbing up a fire escape with some friends and sneaking in through a men’s room window.