Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Take Aim – here come 100 number 1s of the 60s!

The Aim label isn’t exactly a household name, but it appears on our cover version radar as an imprint of the Artistry stable, who issued their monthly “Smash Tracks” series on cassette, from 1978 onwards (see here). Aim appears to have been introduced around 1980 and helped re-launch Artistry’s regular series under the tweaked name, “Today’s Smash Hits”.

Besides these regular tape-only albums, there were a number of related off-shoot cassettes. A full discography seems never to have been published, but on my travels I had previously discovered a cassette called “20 Fantastic Number 1 Hits from the 60s” – volume 5, no less – so there must have been others. Not a regular series of course, but of much interest anyway.

And then these appeared on Ebay:

 Wow – all five of the set in one go. Of course I had to have it. They were issued in a printed slip-case – fantastically presented, it has to be said. Here is the whole set together:

The final image above is of the bottom of the box, and you can see Artistry’s brand label still there, as originally sold.

The track listing is fascinating. I won’t type out all 100 tracks here, but you can see what’s included from the back of the box:

We know that the standard UK cover versions started in the early 1960s. However the tapes, “1960-1961” and “1962-1963” are early even for the first EPs, and we struggle to identify the origins of these recordings.

It gets easier for “1964-1965” as practically all were on the old “Top Six” EPs. For example, here’s where “A Hard Days Night” first surfaced:

“1966-1967" seems split between “Top Six” and the first Avenue EPs, which started up in 1967, so we can see where these come from too. Here’s where you first heard “Silence Is Golden”:

The final cassette in the box, “1968-1969” contains tracks almost entirely from the Avenue LPs, as well as the Marble Arch “Chart Buster” albums which often shared the same material. Check out the old Avenue albums for these tracks, for example, “Sugar Sugar”, "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" and "Love At First Sight", on the LP below:

Here are some images of that fifth cassette, which links in directly to the covers LPs we know and love:

This box set collection was the handiwork of Colin Richardson, and was sold by mail order. (It was also promoted on British radio.) We think it’s a fantastic item, and one which we are proud to have in our collection.

And just for the record, here are a few more of the Aim cassettes – please let us know if you have any others we can add to our database...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Unusual Poppers compilation from Brazil

Known Top of the Pops releases from Brazil are quite diverse, ranging from odd EPs to self-styled compilations and, in a few cases, completely new cover designs for otherwise familiar LPs.

Our newest find is as close as we've come to locating a standard Brazilian issue from the main series, but it's not quite what it appears to be...

Of course it looks to be a pressing of volume 36. What's immediately striking though is the typing used for the song titles - front and back, it's in a range of colours, quite unlike anything we've seen before.

The new print was forced by the alternative track listing - for this isn't a plain and simple volume 36 - it's a compilation from vol 36 and the earlier vol 33:
  • Rock On -- from vol. 33
  • Ooh Baby -- from vol. 33
  • Love Me Tender -- from vol. 36
  • Rockin' Roll Baby -- from vol. 36
  • Teenage Dream -- from vol. 36
  • All Of My Life -- from vol. 36
  • Angie -- from vol. 33
  • Skywriter -- from vol. 33
  • The Man Who Sold The World -- from vol. 36
  • Teenage Lament '74 -- from vol. 36
  • Tiger Feet -- from vol. 36
  • Teenage Rampage -- from vol. 36
The two LPs it samples are about half a year apart - so why the gap? Our guess is that this Brazilian "volume 2" was preceded by a "volume 1" compilation from the UK volumes 34 and 35.

The label too is immediately noticeable - RCA-Camden, who had nothing to do with the UK releases! Here's the UK cover for volume 36 by the way, which itself re-uses the sleeve design from the Europe Edition of 1971:

Neat collection. Here's hoping the predecessor, "volume 1" will surface at some point.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Top of the Spots

More television cameos for those Top of the Pops LPs...

This time, it's the short comedy series, The Rebel, starring Simon Callow.

Callow plays an anti-establishment, ex-mod who refuses to grow old and likes nothing more than sticking two fingers to the law. Filmed in Brighton, scene of the most famous mod-rocker showdown in the '60s, episode 2 has him leading a group of pensioners in a riot over improper use of charity shop donations.

Down on Brighton beach, one of his army - an elderly lady in a Zimmer frame - proceeds to produce some Top of the Pops LPs, and, launching one as a frisbee, leads a charge against the enemy, LPs held aloft...

Here are some stills of her in action:

We can spot very clearly, volume 15 (the frisbee) and volume 35.

There's a third LP we don't get to see, the very edge of which is just poking out from behind volume 15. Given the red frame just visible, this must be an upside down sleeve, and the sharp square corner of said frame leads me to think it's volume 21:

If you see any surprise appearances like this, on TV, film, magazine, etc - send them in, and we'll feature them here.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Top of the Pops ... in Uruguay!

It's incredible, really. Top of the Pops reached many unexpected corners of the world - from Lebanon to Kenya to Uzbekistan - in fact we have identified more than two dozen different overseas territories in which this relatively modest budget series appeared, stretching from Australasia to North America, Africa and Europe.

And so to our latest pin in the Top of the Pops world map: Uruguay. A comparatively small state sandwiched between known Top of the Pops issuers, Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay becomes the third South American nation on our radar. (And that's not counting Mexico, which is geographically in North America.)

Here's our one and (so far) only Uruguayan release:

The record in question is a spin-off from the UK album, volume 32. The two tracks in question are "Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose" and "Alright, Alright, Alright".

The label is Odeon, an EMI imprint in use in South America. Which leads us neatly to a linked release - in all probability, the 'parent' release of this Uruguayan 45 - a single issued on EMI-Parlophone in Argentina:

It's basically the same coupling. Argentina was known to issue a good number of Top of the Pops records in the 70s, and this lone Uruguay single would appear to be a matching release - indeed, the Argentinian catalogue number (S 1856) is printed on the Uruguay single too.

In any case, finding yet another new country with a Top of the Pops release to its name is always a buzz. Here's hoping more will come along soon! (Peru, anyone?)

Saturday, February 4, 2017

New CD issues from Artistry

Exciting news has come through once again from the guys at Artistry, with the release of more CDs compiling from the old cover version albums - "International Edition Tops In Pops"; "Tops In Pops of the 60s Vol 3" and a collection of "Instrumental Chartbusters".

There are some fantastic track selections on these latest discs, one in particular catching my eye, as we did a post on it recently - "Tops in Pops of the 60s Vol 3" contains the coveted version of "Love Me Do" by the Sparrows, which was the first cover version of a Lennon-McCartney song anywhere in the world! This, I believe if the first and only time it has been released on CD - so a little bit of music history there.

The rest of the tracks raid the Avenue vaults for vocals by Martin Jay, Danny Street, Peter Lee Stirling, David Byron and others - many of them familiar from the LPs released back in the day. Some are much older and a tad rarer - "Two Silhouettes" for example, was an Embassy label B-side for Paul Rich back in 1963.

Fans of Elvis Costello will also note the presence of Ross McManus on one of these albums - he's Elvis's dad of course! (And need we mention a certain Elton John?)

Below are some track details from the CD inserts. These should be available any time now, on EBay - head over and track them down. As ever, full credit to Colin Richardson and the Artistry team for preserving these fab recordings.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

12 Tops volume 2 - coloured vinyl

A new addition has been found for our list of "12 Tops" pressed on coloured vinyl. A reader of this blog has contacted us with news that volume 2 was also pressed on what he described as "cherry red" vinyl, which like the others, appears to be normal black until held up to the light.

Here's a photo:

This copy is currently for sale on ebay - check HERE

As a result, we can update out list of confirmed coloured editions from this series, which now encompasses all of the first seven LPs:

  • Volume 1 
  • Volume 2
  • Volume 3
  • Volume 4
  • Volume 5
  • Volume 6
  • Volume 7
  • Volume 10
  • Volume 15
  • Volume 17
  • Volume 19
  • Volume 21
  • Volume 22
  • Volume 25
  • Volume 27

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Top of the Spots

Those old Top of the Pops LPs are turning up all over the place! We've recently featured a couple which made unexpected appearances on UK TV, and now we have another case of Top of the Pops pinching a bit of attention in the most unlikely of places.

So, I've decided to start a series of blog posts on this subject and invite readers to send in examples where Top of the Pops (or similar) have been spotted - "Top of the Spots" we'll call it.

And so to this post - music buff Rebecca Garnham has kindly sent us a copy of the front cover of Prog magazine (issue 51, Dec 2014). As the name suggests, this publication deals with prog rock, and ran a special feature on the music of 1974. Check out the LPs pictured:

All prog rock fans will recognise Genesis' The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Queen's Queen II. And all prog fans will also recognise the red LP sleeve elbowing its way into shot, with cover versions of prog classics like, er, "Sugar Baby Love" and "Seasons in the Sun".

It is, of course, our very own Best of Top of the Pops 1974:

What's it doing on the front of the mag? We've no idea - unless of course the photographer and editors were closet TOTP fans, which seems overwhelmingly likely. Come to that, as Rebecca pointed out, taking your LPs out for a pint was never really a craze anyway!

Still, once again we have the era depicted with a Top of the Pops LP used to good effect. Top spot from Rebecca - more to follow soon (well, at least one, which I have up my sleeve...).

Send us your examples and we'll feature them.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Top of the Pops - more TV exposure!

A few weeks ago I mentioned the guest appearance of a Top of the Pops LP on UK national TV here. Well it seems the LPs are getting a taste for the limelight ... fellow collector Colin Cannon pointed out to us another small-screen cameo, aired on New Years Eve just gone.

The show is the Scottish comedy, Still Game, which included a flashback scene to a 1970s party, chucking in everything the decade had to offer from ghastly wallpapers to fibre-optic table lamps. And spinning on the "music centre" was none other than "Top of the Pops" volume 25:

Alas, viewers didn't get to hear the LP, for dubbed over the top was "That's The Way (I Like It)" by KC and the Sunshine Band.

Still, great to see one of the old TOTP LPs being used, obviously for its status as a 1970s icon.