Why do we collect records? They’re heavy, cumbersome, and take up massive amounts of space. The very act of listening to them is a process. First, we must decide what we would like to hear. Then, we have to physically get up and search for the record amongst the many other records we have. After that, we need to remove the record from its sleeve, set it up on the turntable, clean it, and only then may we listen. The question still remains – why do we do this? The truth is there may be no final answer to this question. No, each of us collects records for different reasons. Furthermore, each of us collects different genres, albums, and artists for a myriad of different reasons.
Are you into science? Do you also love records? Have you ever wondered what it might be like to have your very own copy of the 1969 NASA moon landing on vinyl? If so, then you’re probably into novelty or non-music vinyl. Aside from music, there are hundreds of different types of records you could collect. Think of it this way, each of us is a diverse person. We aren’t two-dimensional. A single person can host dozens of different interests. Vinyl isn’t your only hobby, is it? Maybe you’re also in the poetry of Sylvia Plath, or the lowlife laureate appeal of Charles Bukowski. Maybe you love old-school cartoons. If so, there are dozens of spoken-word and novelty-oriented records out there. So, with this week’s entry, I want to spotlight some of the most interesting and diverse records ever pressed to vinyl. These are the kind of records that may often go overlooked, but given the chance are every bit as essential as any of your favorite Rock, Jazz, or Hip-Hop records. Also, since this is an article featuring novelty records, I’ve decided to load the article with Easter eggs. Let’s see if you can find them. So, without further adieu let’s take a journey into the deep and dark caverns of novelty records!
5) Shel Silverstein – Where The Sidewalk Ends
I am more than certain that a great many of you grew up reading this book either at home, or in elementary school, and perhaps even into middle school. Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends is a wonderful collection of children’s poetry released in 1974. The book’s content addresses many common childhood follies, and also presents absurdist stories and illustrations to go along with them. The poems and stories were extremely controversial at the time of their release, because of profanity and subject matter, and were even banned in several libraries and schools. Over time, however, the book has gained a cult following. So much so, that in 1984, it was officially pressed to vinyl by Columbia Records. If you’re looking to relive some of your childhood, then you should find yourself a copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends, sit back, and steep yourself in the nostalgia of a simpler time.
4) The Golding Institute – Sounds of the American Fast Food Restaurants
So, I’m not wasting any time. Here is where it gets weird. Do you like ambient sounds? Do you love Big Mac’s? If so, then this record was made for you! The recordings themselves were compiled and edited for release by The Golding Institute. If you aren’t familiar with The Golding Institute, then you’re really missing out. These guys have been around for nearly 30 years, and their main gig is releasing parodies of the Alan Lomax “Field Recordings” albums that were very popular in the 1960s and 1970s. Sounds of the American Fat Food Restaurants very well be their crowning achievement. Each track is a real, live snippet of ambient room noise taken at McDonald’s, Burger King, KFC, and more. Making this release even cooler, and more collectible is the fact that Planet Pimp Records put out this slab of wax on dirty deep fryer oil-colored vinyl. If you’re a vinyl and fast-food junkie alike, this record is surely for you. I would be remiss if I didn’t also recommend two other hilariously campy releases by The Golding Institute, Sounds of the San Francisco Adult Bookstores, and Sounds of the International Airport Restrooms. These records are a slam dunk! You can’t go wrong.
3) Alfred Hitchcock – Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories For Young People
Are you into horror and psychological thriller films? Well then, close the doors. Shut the blinds. Turn out the lights, and get ready for Alfred Hitchcock Presents Ghost Stories for Young People. Originally recorded and released on Golden Records in 1962, this album features eleven classic Hitchcock ghost stories. The stories are all introduced by Hitchcock himself and are then narrated by actor John Allen. If you were a kid in the 1960s or early 1970’s you may very well remember your parents or older siblings spinning this one around Halloween. Even if you’re younger, or are just a fan of the horror and psych-thriller genres in general, this is definitely a fun album to tickle your fancy and add to your collection. It’s also a fun album for you to play while decorating for Halloween! So, break out the fake plastic skeletons, candy corn, and get spinning!
2) Dr. Murray Banks – What You Can Learn From the Kinsey Report
Those of you familiar with The Kinsey Report probably did not see this coming. Some of you however maybe are in the dark, and are wondering, what is The Kinsey Report? In short, The Kinsey Report is “two scholarly books on human sexual behavior.” The first report being written in 1948, and the second in 1953. The reports were immediately controversial, both within the scientific community and the general public. Why? Simply because they challenged conventional beliefs about sexuality and discussed subjects that had been previously taboo. Furthermore, the validity of Kinsey’s finding where challenged being that before this research he had been a zoologist at Indiana University, and many questioned his ability to properly research sex, gender, and reproduction, let alone reinvent the proverbial wheel. All that aside, Kinsey’s findings have proved to be invaluable, if not flawed, with his work considered pioneering in this field and are some of the most well-known sex research of all time. So, if I’ve piqued your interest, or if you already harbored an interest in this sort of thing, to begin with, then you definitely should go out and find yourself a copy of What You Can Learn From The Kinsey Report. Released in 1956, on the Audio Masterworks label. While it’s not for everyone, it’s definitely supremely interesting, and nothing less than a wonderful conversation piece.
1) Sesame Street – Born To Add
This one is fun, and it’s also my favorite. Topping out my list is Born To Add by the gang over on Sesame Street. Full disclosure, my wife and I collect Sesame Street records. They’re fun, nostalgic, and cool conversation starters. This particular record was actually the genesis for this entire article, as I had been searching for it for some time and finally scored it at my local record shop. I love the record for a few simple reasons—first, the cover. The cover art is a parody of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, with a leather-clad Bert portraying Bruce Springsteen and a sax-slinging Cookie Monster standing in for legendary E-Street Band saxophonist Clarence Carter. Secondly, it’s just a feel-good album, which really counts for something. Sometimes, you’ve had a stressful day, and you just need something light, airy, and fun to make everything a little sunnier. Well, what better to brighten your day than a collection of rock and roll songs sung by puppets? Thirdly, in addition to the usual Sesame Street gang, the album is unique as it features obscure or one-off characters created specifically to parody popular Classic Rock bands. My personal love for the album aside, the album, released in 1983 on Sesame Street Records, actually was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Recording for Children but lost to the Michael Jackson narrated read-along album from E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. I still say they got it wrong.
So, that wraps up my Top-List 5 list of Novelty records that I feel every record collector should own. Whether you’re cross-pollinating your interests, looking for conversion starters, or just searching for some interesting wall art, these releases will definitely whet your appetite for this weird and extensive genre. If you like this article – don’t stop here! Keep expanding your horizons. Record collecting doesn’t always have to be about what’s on your radio. Record collecting is about creating memories through tangible experiences. Perhaps when you get right down to it, maybe that is why we collect. So, take the road less traveled. Zig when they say zag. Embrace the eclectic and the weird. Your local record shops and online sellers are jam-packed with these types of records, and they’re usually cheap to boot! My personal general rule of thumb is if the cover looks cool, or it overlaps with one of my other interests or hobbies – I give it a shot. I implore you to do the same. Happy listening!
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