DickCampbell header copy 2

dick campbell sings where it’s at for complete unknowns

IT WAS TWENTY YEARS AGO TODAY—give or take a few hun­dred days one way or the other—that I fi­nally found a stereo copy of DICK CAMPBELL SINGS WHERE IT’S AT (Mer­cury SR-61060). I was at a record show in New York, and hap­pily paid $100 for it! I had been looking for a copy for years and may have been the only person there that day willing to pay the sell­er’s asking price.

In fact, I bragged to other col­lec­tors and dealers that I had found it—even though they all thought me nuts for paying that much for the record. “Who the hell is Dick Camp­bell?” is the ques­tion I was asked when showing off my find.

I ex­plained that the album was ar­guably the most amazing ‘elec­tric Dylan’ sounda­like ever, while also being ar­guably the most egre­gious (look it up!) ‘elec­tric Dylan’ rip-off ever!

When I also ex­plained that I had spent years looking for a stereo copy of the record, a few of the un­con­verted began to pay at­ten­tion to the record.

 

When you have been looking for a col­lec­table for a long time and you fi­nally find one, just buy the darn thing.

 

And as I ad­vised col­lec­tors in my books, when you have been looking for a record for a long time, and you fi­nally find one in ac­cept­able condition—you buy the fur­sh­lug­giner record!

You don’t argue with the seller and piss him off.

You buy it and go home a happy camper.

So who the hell was Dick Camp­bell and why did I pay a hun­dred bucks for his album? For the an­swer, I need to borrow Mr. Peabody’s Way­back Ma­chine and re­turn to the hal­lowed year 1965, in which singer-songwriter Bob Dylan ex­ploded on the in­ter­na­tional rock & roll scene …

 

Dylan_Sub_EP_France

This at­trac­tive sleeve was used for a French EP ti­tled after the hit single. Amer­ican record buyers were not graced with a pic­ture sleeve with the single by Co­lumbia.

I’m on the pavement thinkin’

On March 8, 1965, Co­lumbia is­sued Bob Dy­lan’s ex­tra­or­di­nary wordy single Sub­ter­ranean Home­sick Blues. This straight-ahead rock record owed a debt to Chuck Berry and was un­like any­thing as­so­ci­ated with Dylan, the reigning Prince of Folk. It was backed with the lovely if inconsequential-for-this-conversation She Be­longs To Me.

Sub­ter­ranean Home­sick Blues was Dy­lan’s first do­mestic single in al­most two years! It was also his first recording to reach the na­tional sur­veys: it peaked at #39 on Bill­board’s Hot 100, but only reached #52 on the Cash Box Top 100.

It was fi­nally is­sued in May in the UK, where a very dif­ferent story un­folded: Sub­ter­ranean Home­sick Blues reached the Top 10 on sev­eral week­lies.

Ear­lier in the year, CBS had is­sued The Time They Are A-Changin’ as a single and it had reached the top 10, so with a pair of hits Dylan was a bigger pop artist there than at home.

Briefly.

 

Byrds_MTM_EP_France2

An­other lovely EP from France, this one in­cluding both sides of Les Byrds’ first two hit sin­gles, Mr. Tam­bourine Man and All I Re­ally Want To Do.

Cast your dancing spell my way

On April 12, 1965, Co­lumbia re­leased the first single by their new group the Byrds. The A-side was Mr. Tam­bourine Man, an un­re­leased Dylan com­po­si­tion, while the flip-side was the group’s own I Knew I’d Want You. The group’s arrange­ment and per­for­mance of the folkie tune and Terry Melcher’s crisp, spare pro­duc­tion made the record an in­stant mas­ter­piece!

And an in­stant hit: it reached #1 on both Bill­board and Cash Box, spending one week at the top of each chart. It also topped the UK charts and was a world­wide smash, in­tro­ducing Dylan to people around the world.

 

Dylan_Stone_EP_???

Again France is­sued a lovely jacket for this 1966 EP. De­spite having only one track per side the A- and B-sides of the single), it was is­sued as an EP be­cause both tracks are the full LP ver­sions of each recording, run­ning 6:00 and 5:48 min­utes re­spec­tively. The single had edited ver­sions of each track.

Beware you’re bound to fall

On July 20, 1965, Dylan re­leased Like A Rolling Stone and every­thing changed. The A-side topped the Cash Box Top 100, making it Dy­lan’s only do­mestic #1 record! Al­though you would never know that be­cause lazy writers only quote the Bill­board chart po­si­tions these days and Like A Rolling Stone stalled at #2 on that sur­vey’s Hot 100.

Like A Rolling Stone was re­leased in the UK in Au­gust and Dy­lan’s third Top 10 hit there.

The flip-side was the equally daring if less com­mer­cial Gates Of Eden, which would be­come fa­mous a few years later when Roger McGuinn recorded it for the sound­track to the movie Easy Rider.

 

Cher_All_EP_France

I might as well com­plete this se­ries of im­ages with yet an­other French EP, this time a rather stark ren­dering of Cher’s face—or half of it.

Someone to open each and every door

By the end of ’65, recording Dylan was al­most a right of pas­sage for many young groups. Sonny & Cher and the Byrds duked it out for air­play and chart space with All I Re­ally Want To Do. The former—Sonny’s copy of the Byrds’ live arrange­ment of the song—nonetheless beat out the latter and was the big hit in the States. Former surfers the Cross­fires changed their name to the Tur­tles and rocked up the idio­syn­cratic It Ain’t Me Babe and took it into the Top 10.

More fun if not al­ways more artistic were the artists and groups who did not record a Dylan song, but in­stead at­tempted to write their own Dylan song and sing in their own Dylan voice. One group even man­aged a major hit out of pre­tending to be Bob—the Hom­bres with Let It All Hang Out.

 

Campbell Album Stereo

The stereo copy of this album eluded me for years. Today, few people (in­cluding most Dylan afi­cionados) give a damn about it, mono or stereo.

Back to the spirit of ’65

By the time of Dy­lan’s erup­tion on the scene as a pop and rock singer and song­writer, Richard ‘Dick’ Camp­bell had is­sued a couple of sin­gles and was get­ting known in some small cir­cles as a song­writer. Aside from his solo work dis­cussed below, he would be known in equally small cir­cles as the com­poser and mu­sical di­rector of Ken Nordine’s album COLORS, sub­ti­tled “A Sen­suous Lis­tening Ex­pe­ri­ence.”

In 1965, Camp­bell sent a couple of Dylan-like songs to Mer­cury Records, who were looking for an artist to com­pete with Dylan. (In 1965, who wasn’t?) Ac­cording to Camp­bell, Mer­cury told him to write more and “Come back in two weeks and make an album.”

Mer­cury teamed Camp­bell up with pro­ducer Lou Reizner, who rounded up mem­bers of the Paul But­ter­field Blues Band. Sev­eral of these guys had played live or recorded with Dylan. Other mu­si­cians on the album were young local guys, many who had been with groups as­so­ci­ated with Pete Cetera (later lead singer for Chicago). Here is a list of all the mu­si­cians who sup­pos­edly con­tributed to the Dylan-esue sound:

Lead guitar:Mike Bloom­field, Jimmy Vin­cent
Rhythm guitar: Dick Camp­bell
Bass: Pete Cetera
Drums: Sam Lay, Billy Herman, Larry Wrice
Organ: Mark Naf­talin
Har­monica: Paul But­ter­field
Tam­bourine: Artie Sul­livan, Marty Grebb

A single was re­leased in late ’65 cou­pling The Blues Ped­dlers with The People Plan­ners to al­most no at­ten­tion from anyone.

 

Campbell_BluesPeddlers_PS_DJ

Campbell_BluesPeddlers_PS

The pic­ture sleeve at the top was shipped to radio sta­tions with pro­mo­tional copies of the single. Oddly, al­though The Blues Ped­dlers is the fea­tured side of the record, the back of this sleeve fea­tures the lyrics to The People Plan­ners, which is the flip-side of the record. (Note: I had a dif­fi­cult time finding an image of this item on the In­ternet, and this one had to be heavily cropped for use here.) The sleeve on the bottom ac­com­pa­nied com­mer­cial copies of the record and, like the promo sleeve, is rather rare.

Dick Campbell sings where it’s at

The album DICK CAMPBELL SINGS WHERE IT’S AT (Mer­cury MG-21060/SR-61060) with ten more such record­ings fol­lowed in early ’66 to the very same re­cep­tion. Camp­bell’s con­vo­luted, Dy­lanesque lyrics are self-absorbed, many touching on his less than per­fect re­la­tion­ship with his girl­friend. The band is in­ter­esting and com­pe­tent throughout but they never reach the in­spired heights that they had with Dylan.

Each of the twelve tracks on the album are gen­er­ally avail­able for lis­tening in their en­tirety on YouTube. For this ar­ticle, I am in­cluding the three that I find mots Dy­lanish in sound, feel, and lyrical ap­proach.

Here are the twelve tracks on DICK CAMPBELL SINGS WHERE IT’S AT, each linked to a YouTube video so that you can listen to the album in its en­tirety in the order in which the tracks were se­quenced on the record:

 
Side 1
Side 2
 
 

Campbell_photo2

This is a pub­licity photo from Mer­cury Records of their new artist. The image pre­sented here would lead anyone to be­lieve that the music that Camp­bell made was more in line with the acoustic folk music of Dy­lan’s early albums—not the thin mer­cury sound of Dy­lan’s elec­tric al­bums.

Audacious and incessant ersatz Dylanisms

I have en­joyed this album for decades and have very pos­i­tive feel­ings to­wards it—feelings that others may think too gen­erous. My fa­vorite de­scrip­tion of the album comes from other sources. (Please note that I have edited these for brevity and read­ability; please click on the links to read the com­plete state­ments.)

“It’s like HIGHWAY 61 REVISITED for the im­pa­tient and easily dis­tracted. Which is not to say it’s bad. I don’t know what I’d call it, but Campbell’s gaiety with ac­tu­ally being given a studio budget—and, from the sounds of it, the best the­saurus money could buy—rubs off in a way that cu­rates a sort of per­verse fas­ci­na­tion. There’s that level of self-defined de­fi­ance, a stance that I’m sure a lot of folk-rockers gently mis­ap­pro­pri­ated from Dylan’s lyrics, Like a Rolling Stone in par­tic­ular.” (Paul Pearson)

“Though much of [the charm of DICK CAMPBELL SINGS WHERE IT’S AT] de­rives from its au­da­cious and in­ces­sant er­satz Dy­lanisms, fur­ther re­deeming qual­i­ties seep through in due course … Nonethe­less, I’m still un­sure as to whether I should listen to it at face value or not; was it simply a better-than-average cash-in, or is there an el­e­ment of deadpan parody at play.… The en­tire album is such an en­ter­taining listen that I don’t think it re­ally mat­ters as, at half a cen­tury old, it’s ob­vi­ously some­thing more sub­stan­tial than mere kitsch ap­peal that keeps me tuning in.” (Rooksby)

“In 1965, I played in a band in Mass­a­chu­setts, Dick Camp­bell & The Scar­lets. We cut a demo album. I sent a copy of the demo tape to Gary [Usher] and he liked it. He called me to say he thought he could use some of the songs I’d written with other artists and that I should come to LA to write and work with him. That summer, I started out by car for Cal­i­fornia but stopped in Chicago to see what re­ac­tion I might get to the album from the la­bels there. Mer­cury liked some of the tunes and wanted to pub­lish them.

To make a long story short, Mer­cury par­tic­u­larly liked a couple of my folk-rock type tunes, and more­over, since Co­lumbia had Dylan and they didn’t, couldn’t I write ten more and they’d cut an album of me singing them? I signed a deal with Mer­cury Records and recorded DICK CAMPBELL SINGS WHERE IT’S AT, which was pretty much a bla­tant rip-off of Bob Dylan. To be sure, I was backed up by some very good mu­si­cians …” (Dick Camp­bell)

 

DickCampbell SingsWhereItsAt 4 track tape 600

Mer­cury leased the Camp­bell album to Earl “Madman” Muntz, who re­leased it as a 4-track cas­sette tape. These pre­ceded the 8-track and were su­pe­rior to them (es­pe­cially in sound quality) but the format never caught on. These are rather rare but have few col­lec­tors hunting them down.

Price guide

In­for­ma­tion about this record has al­ways been sketchy and gen­er­ally un­avail­able to most fans and even col­lec­tors. Thus its rel­a­tive im­por­tance as a pe­riph­eral Dylan collectable—especially to the elec­tric Dylan—has never been well es­tab­lished, de­spite boasting the But­ter­field Blues Band con­nec­tion. Based on sales data, my price guide for this album reads like this:

Sin­gles

The Blues Ped­dlers / The People Plan­ners
72511   White label promo                                                                    $ 10-20

72511   Promo pic­ture sleeve                                                               $ 10-20
72511   Com­mer­cial copy. Red la­bels                                                $ 10-20
72511   Com­mer­cial pic­ture sleeve                                                     $ 20-30

Al­bums

Dick Camp­bell Sings Where It’s At
MG-21060   Mono promo. Gold la­bels                                             $ 40-50

MG-21060   Mono. Red la­bels                                                            $ 30-40
SR-61060    Stereo. Red la­bels                                                            $ 40-60

So the Camp­bell records have never grown in col­lec­tability at the rate that they prob­ably de­serve. In fact, as my re­search for this ar­ticle seems to in­di­cate, they hold less in­terest and have less value now than in the past.

But that’s life and here’s what we know: mono copies (MG-21060) are far far far more common than stereo copies (SR-61060). 

 

 

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Hey Neal.

Just curious.…I’ve picked up a couple of Smash lps from the mid 60s that have a mono and stereo re­lease, but in those cases the “mono” re­lease is ac­tu­ally the stereo re­lease with a mono number. Did that happen with any of the Mer­cury re­leases as well?

Also, un­less it is rechan­neled stereo, I can’t un­der­stand why the mono ver­sion of this Dick Camp­bell album goes for so much more. If it were a 1969 re­lease or some­thing, then maybe.

Thoughts?