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 …
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
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).