Saturday, November 24, 2012

12 Tops - the strange case of volume 7

As record collectors, most of us start out with a simple goal in mind - to get hold of one copy of each release, relevant to our area of interest. Sounds easy, but things soon start getting tricky when you realise that some albums exist in different editions, posing the question of where you want to draw your line in the sand. The 12 Tops series offers a wealth of alternative editions for the collector to consider - from cassettes to special American editions and even 8-track cartridges, some of the latter appearing in different coloured casings. Whether all these varieties float your boat is up to you, but there's one alternative edition which, I would think, almost all collectors will have on their wants list, which brings me to the subject of this post...

I was recently given a copy of the comparatively rare 12 Tops volume 7, catalogue number MER 103. If you are not familiar with the story behind this LP, and have just one copy in your collection, check out the catalogue number; chances are, it is MER 103X - which is more common, but significantly different from MER 103. So what's happening here?

Of course, MER 103 is the standard catalogue number for the series, and so this must have been the first edition. For reasons unclear it was withdrawn soon after it went out, and replaced with the amended MER 103X. This second edition has a different track listing - the song "Everybody Plays The Fool" - a non-hit for an act called Main Ingredient - is gone, replaced by "Crazy Horses" - a sure-fire winner from The Osmonds.

This change is obvious on the front cover, where "Crazy Horses" was inserted at the top of the song list, but really affected side 2 of the LP where some of the other songs were moved about, presumably so the playing sequence was more acceptable.

If you're a long-time collector, this probably isn't news to you at all - so here's some more, which probably is. There is, in fact, a third pressing of the LP out there. It is an edition of the re-issue, 103X, and is revealed by the different label used on the LP. Pictured below are the two varieties. Note, for example the large lettering saying "Side 2" to the left of the play hold on one edition, but not the other.

And volume 7 wasn't unique in this respect; volume 10 was similarly issued with two label varieties:

Normally label varieties like this are the result of two different companies manufacturing the records at different times, but why two firms might have been involved here is not obvious; after all, these albums were probably of a fixed print run, and one might have expected them all to be pressed and distributed as a single batch. And who were the firms involved? We can see from the small print that one version of 103X was pressed by Pye - but the others are at present unknown. Mystery upon mystery!

Of course it is up to the collector how deeply they want to go into all this, and whether they think it is worth tracking down all the subtle varieties for their collections. For my part, I enjoy it - so let me know if you've discovered any more oddities from the 12 Tops series, or indeed other covers albums, and perhaps we can feature them on the blog.


  1. Luckily I have copies of both. And just to confuse things, my copy of MER103X has odd labels on each side. Side 1 has the version on the top right of the pictures above with Side 1 in large lettering on the labels left, side 2 has the Pye Records manufactured label as on the top left hand picture. And even with both editions they failed to correct the volume number which states volume 6 on both pressings. :-)

    1. That's fascinating that your copy should have different labels on either side. Because of the way records are made, the two different labels must have been attached at the same time, at the same pressing plant. That means the different labels don't necessarily mean that different firms were pressing them. Very strange. I wonder what the story is there.

      And of course they ALL say volume 6! How careless of them.