Rained yesterday and this morning, so I got a break from garden duty. I spent some time going through my record collection. The whole of it. The idea was to pull out some records that I could let go (so that the remainder fit in my six crates and one cabinet). I was able to set aside 50 or so. Not sure what I will do with the culled albums. I suppose I will haul them to the used record store. I don’t have the energy to do otherwise.
One album was curious, so I brought it upstairs to play. It didn’t have a cover, but was in a plastic sleeve. I am very careful with my albums, so I would have sworn on a stack of vintage bicycle parts catalogs that I didn’t have even one missing a cover. Today I learned otherwise.
One side of the black center label had “BAND” twice written on it. Seemed to be hand written. The etching on that side was “B-1-A.” The etching on the other side was “B-1-B.” You ever notice those etchings near (or in this case in) the run out track? I used to think those etchings were made by hand on each album. That was pretty naive, but that’s what I thought. Some are pretty funny and quirky and not all albums have them. That’s why I thought they were hand etched on some records by some bored employee. I’ve since learned they are etched onto the master and then each of the albums pressed from the master have it. Makes much more sense.
Anyway, I fired up the hifi, cleaned both sides of the mystery album and lowered the needle on side one. It was a live recording. Pretty bad quality, but I recognized the tune as the theme song from Absolutely Fabulous. I didn’t otherwise know the song. I googled a line from the lyrics and found it was This Wheel’s on Fire, written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko (of The Band). I didn’t recognize the next song, but googling a line got me Don’t Do It by Marvin Gaye. Repeated this exercise with the third track–I Shall Be Released by Bob Dylan. This was pretty exciting. I finished out the side, started googling and found I was listening to a bootleg recording of a performance by The Band. Live Band #1, to be exact (an “American 1970 bootleg, probably recorded at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium in 1969“).
My best guess as to how I came to own it takes me back about 20 years to a garage sale in Omaha, where I bought a box with about 50 records in it. The seller said they were her brothers and that she was pissed at him, or some such thing. I shouldn’t have bought them under those circumstances, but I kinda felt that if I didn’t someone would, so I did. The box included roughly 10 John Cale records, three or so from Family, two from Big Star, and, oddly, a couple from the Buzzcocks. Most every 70s rock album I have came in that box. A real treasure trove (none from that box have been, nor will be, culled).
That I hadn’t noticed this coverless bootleg LP in my collection until today, let alone listen to it, is pretty strange. My albums not only all have covers (except one, I still swear), they are well organized. Almost all in crates, sorted by genre and then by band name in almost alphabetical order (A’s are together, but they are not alphabetized within each letter). A stray record would bug me, like this one did today. That I found this album today, shortly after Levon Helm’s passing, is stranger still.
I didn’t know a thing about The Band until a couple of years ago. Still don’t know much. Like I’ve said before, I saw The Band live once, loved them, and have been keeping my ears open for them since. Having listened to the bootleg, I went downstairs to see if I had any other albums from The Band.
The Last Waltz, from 1978, was there. Probably from the same garage sale score and I hadn’t listened to this one either! The Last Waltz is a live recording from November 25, 1976, recorded on three albums. Story is they served a meal to 5,000 attendees, had a dance, then performed the show (which was billed as their final show). Here’s a picture from the booklet included with the albums. Do you think the people on the sides and in the balconies got box meals?
Guest performers included Paul Butterfield, Eric Clapton, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Ronnie Hawkins, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, The Staples, Ringo Starr, Ron Wood and Neil Young. I am on side five of six as I write. A very special concert, I am hearing. You can watch the concert, too, because Martin Scorsese documented it on film. Called The Last Waltz. Its in my cue now.
Gotta go turn the album over for side six. This has been a pretty cool day so far. I hope yours is as good or, what the heck, even better.