Saturday, March 16, 2019

Abbey Road before the Beatles

As I may have mentioned, I have an Etsy shop called The Old House Downtown that features vinyl records that catch my eye in one way or another.

It is highly subjective! I get a kick out stocking it. And I have learned a lot from working on it over the last several years. The history of records is the history of music. It has helped me in my research of Leonard Pennario, the great pianist I am writing my book about. I know all the years that Pennario's records came out, first on Capitol, then on Capitol / EMI, then on RCA Victor, and then back at EMI, on Angel Records. I love seeing what was going on at the same time his records emerged. I am fascinated by the record business and I love seeing the big picture.

And every once in a while you run across something really cool.

For instance today I listed this beautiful record of the Rossini-Respighi ballet "La Boutique Fantasque." I love the music of Respighi. As I wrote in the description of the record, he has the most beautiful way of re-imagining the melodies of an earlier era. That is only one of his skills but it is something I have always enjoyed. Another skill is, his orchestration is so colorful. He really knew how to use all the different instruments. A master orchestrator.

This album offers something extra special -- that great mid-century cover.

That yellow cover! That gentleman in the top hat bowing! The ballerina with the pigtails!

Can you beat it?

Now I am going to really nerd out. There is the matter of the dust sleeve. 

Even as a Capitol Records enthusiast, I had never seen this particular dust sleeve before. The dust sleeve clearly dates to not long after EMI acquired Capitol Records, which it did in 1955, because the notes spotlight the acquisition. The very British performance from 1957 features the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Sir Eugene Goossens and the notes on the dust sleeve make a big deal about the Abbey Road studios, explaining that Abbey Road is a nondescript street in the London neighborhood of King's Cross. It would still be a few years before the Beatles made the name famous. 

EMI was obviously very proud of the Abbey Road studios.

The label too was something I had never seen before. It was Capitol's famous rainbow design but also snazzy lettering reading "Capitol EMI." The "EMI" looks like a lightning bolt. Clever! Maybe this design was used a lot but all I am saying is, I had never run across it.

This record captures a particular moment in time. That is what I love about vinyl. That and, it is such a delight to behold -- the cover art, the record itself, the packaging, everything.

I could tell that Howard was tuning me out as I trailed after him from room to room this morning trying to call his attention to the greatness of these matters. Howard, look at this dust sleeve!

Now the damage is done. I do not want to part with it.

I might have to go and buy it myself!

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