Authors Barry Wickham and Geoffrey Richman certainly know the audience for their new guide to U.S. and Canadian garage records. This is the kind of book that will have fans furiously ripping through the pages to see what can be found. Or not.
“My Jefferson Airplane radio spot is only worth how much???”
“Oh hell. I didn’t know the Velveteens had TWO different picture sleeves for the same single!”
“So many Paul Revere & The Raiders records, but only three Turtles?”
“What’s Del Shannon doing in here?”
“Ha! I only paid two bucks for The Shags on Taurus!”
“I bet that Vito & The Hands single would be priced differently if people knew the backing band was the Mothers of Invention.”
Wickham and Richman should be commended for tackling a previously neglected specialty of record collecting. Other than a few mainstream surfacings such as the Nuggets anthologies and the stray Rhino comp, the dirty, sweaty, wild music of grassroots teen pop and rock from the 1960s has remained a cultist’s game. They’ve approached the subject with diligence, knowing that they face the full glare of fanatical scrutiny.
All 10,000-plus records listed were personally inspected by the authors, or at least by their qualified deputies. The amount of detail is impressive: Matrix numbers, label variations, dead wax numbers, notable colored vinyl, promos, pressing plants (!) and picture sleeves. It’s the picture sleeves that will be the most revelatory to even the most casual browsers — so many great (dirty, sweaty, wild) images that capture the era in ways that no mere photograph can. A generous 49-page appendix shows almost 300 labels and picture sleeves in full color, itself an invaluable reference. They even list the hometowns of most of the bands.
While there are plenty of records here priced in the $5 to $20 range, it’s those in the hundreds that often provide the most passionate responses among fans. There are astronomical prices, however, that a small group of collectors are willing to pay for the rarest, most desirable records that will make your ears burn. The authors have wisely decided to use a value placeholder of “Neg” (Negotiable) for those records that would certainly result in a feverish bidding war if they were ever to come onto the market. That means starting at $1,000 and up, way up.
Of course, the most contentious issue of any price guide is, well, price. Wickham and Richman have charted a middle course between the higher (“insane”) prices paid for those collectors who engage in bidding wars and “must have” at any cost, and those from genuine bargains because of retailer neglect or ignorance. Their philosophy is to present an estimate of the average price a record would be expected to bring if offered for sale. That may infuriate some who want a particular record to be “worth” more, and delight others who think they got a real deal for their thrift store find. As a moving target, prices need to be seen as the fuzz they are, and the authors actively encourage comments and revisions for future updates.
The design and production of the guide is clear and functional, though the binding glue appears a bit weak. Record label names are alphabetized under each band’s listing. There are columns for year of release, when known, pressing notes, and whether its image appears in the appendix. Relevant comments are made underneath each listing. Ease of use is exemplified by the fact that “number” bands (13th Power, The 4 Of Us, etc.) are listed separately at the beginning of the guide. How thoughtful.
It's always easy to criticize a new price guide for any number of reasons. This one isn't perfect, as the authors would be the first to acknowledge. But "Garage Records Price and Reference Guide" is an impressive debut, and any improvements will only be incremental.
(Self-published, 482 pages, $59. www.garage45priceguide.com)
- Stephen M.H. Braitman