dbl header FO2 1500

what was the first “rock” double-album of the ’60s?

 IT IS ACCEPTED “FACT” that two sem­inal works of pop­ular music—the Beach Boys’ PET SOUNDS and Bob Dy­lan’s BLONDE ON BLONDE—were re­leased on the same day, May 16, 1966. And there was a second reason to cel­e­brate that date: BLONDE ON BLONDE was also the first rock double-album of all-new studio record­ings, beating the Mothers of In­ven­tion’s FREAK OUT! for that honor by one month. 1

This is ac­cepted canon—the gospel ac­cording to mil­lions of well-intentioned but mis­in­formed and under-researched web­sites.

The para­graph above was the first thing that I wrote for this ar­ticle a month ago, an ar­ticle about two ground­breaking al­bums that have very little to do with each other ex­cept for their re­lease date. I gave the ar­ticle a con­vo­luted working title of “I Know There’s An An­swer Even If It’s Tem­po­rary Like Achilles.” I in­tended to use those words to open this piece be­cause they are ac­cepted canon—the gospel ac­cording to mil­lions of well-intentioned but mis­in­formed and under-researched web­sites.

This in­cludes gen­eral in­for­ma­tion sources like gen­eral in­for­ma­tion sites Wikipedia and Yahoo, along with sites by fans and collectors—who should know better than to trust gen­er­alist sites like Wiki when com­piling data for their spe­cialist sites.

 

MGM had spent too much money on FREAK OUT! and were about to let it die, but it started selling all over the place!

 

My orig­inal ar­ticle was to be about the Beach Boys and Dylan al­bums, fo­cusing on their com­mer­cial and crit­ical re­sponse (both sold about the same number of units in 1966, al­though you’d never know that by reading those mil­lions of web­sites) and col­lec­tors info re­garding orig­inal press­ings and im­por­tant reis­sues.

And it was sup­posed to be a fairly brief ar­ticle.

Now let’s go back read that first para­graph again. It con­sists of three state­ments about dates:

PET SOUNDS was re­leased on May 16, 1966.
BLONDE ON BLONDE was re­leased on May 16, 1966.
BLONDE ON BLONDE was re­leased be­fore FREAK OUT!

When I sent a rough draft of the orig­inal ver­sion of this ar­ticle to Frank Daniels, he re­sponded with this: “When people started posting about how PET SOUNDS and BLONDE ON BLONDE came out at the same time, I as­sumed my usual role of In­ternet Quote Cop and ex­am­ined the ev­i­dence.”

And what did his ex­am­i­na­tion un­cover?

Frank ques­tioned the date of the Dylan album and sug­gested I con­duct more re­search.

And so I did.

And so I soon found that I was no longer working on an ar­ticle called “I Know There’s An An­swer Even If It’s Tem­po­rary Like Achilles” but on an ar­ticle ti­tled “What Was The First Rock & Roll Double-Album Of All-New Record­ings?”

But that didn’t last when Jerry Richards pointed out that an­other double-album that qual­i­fied for that title. So I  made a few changes and now you are reading an ar­ticle ti­tled “What Was The First Rock Double-Album Of The ’60s?”

(And while the ex­cla­ma­tion mark is tra­di­tion­ally part of the title FREAK OUT!, from this point on I will dis­pense with its use.)

 

BeachBoys PetSounds DT 1966 600

Due to Brian Wilson’s hearing problem, he worked ex­clu­sively in mono His engineer—usually Chuck Britz—mixed the multi-track tapes into stereo. Un­for­tu­nately, that didn’t happen with PET SOUNDS: for some reason, Capitol was forced to take the mono mas­ters and, using their patented Duo­phonic Stereo system, create a fake stereo album which was re­leased as DT-2458. It turned one of the most beau­ti­fully recorded al­bums into a ca­cophony of dis­torted sig­nals.

Rock & roll versus rock

I started sep­a­rating the con­cept of rock & roll music from rock music back in the ’60s. I grew up with rock & roll music: Elvis and Fats and Little Richard and Buddy and the Everlys and “Just let me hear some of that rock & roll music, any old way you choose it.”

Rock & roll also means Pat Boone and Neil Sedaka and Connie Francis and the Brill Building and the Bobbys and the Tommys. It means such silli­ness as Little Darlin’ and “Who put the bomp in the bomp-bah-bomp-bah-bomp? Who put the ram in the rama-lama-ding-dong?”

 

Dylan fans were rabid; if a new album was re­leased on Monday, every fan had to have it on his or her turntable by Tuesday.

 

But a lot of things hap­pened in 1965, no­tably Dylan and the Byrds ush­ering in a new way of making “rock & roll” music that ac­tu­ally con­sid­ered the in­tel­lec­tual needs of an au­di­ence be­yond high school. This topic should be an­other ar­ticle, but here are three points:

1.  I’m not saying that pre-’65 rock & roll was dumb but usu­ally the lyrics were aimed at the only au­di­ence and market that was be­lieved to exist for the music: teens. This was true until Sub­ter­ranean Home­sick Blues and Mr. Tam­bourine Man and Like A Rolling Stone.

2.  Paul Williams cre­ated Craw­daddy as a fanzine in 1966 to ad­dress the “new music” that was never ad­dressed in­tel­lec­tu­ally in the teeny­bopper ‘zines like 16 and Tiger Beat. With this mag­a­zine, Paul ce­mented the shorter term rock—which is too short for me; I usu­ally refer to it as rock music—and ef­fec­tively in­vented modern rock jour­nalism. All he did was write in­tel­li­gent ar­ti­cles for in­tel­li­gent readers:

“Most people see rock as a phe­nom­enon. But rock to me is not a phe­nom­enon at all—rather I see rock as a means of ex­pres­sion, an op­por­tu­nity for beauty, an art.” (Outlaw Blues, 1969)

3.  From this point on in this ar­ticle, BLONDE ON BLONDE and FREAK OUT will be re­ferred to as rock al­bums, not as rock & roll al­bums.

 

Dylan IWantYou ad 600

This is a double-page ad­ver­tise­ment that ap­peared in Bill­board and Cash Box heralding the new single I Want You from the new album BLONDE ON BLONDE.

When was Blonde On Blonde released?

I knew that I would be looking through old is­sues of Bill­board and Cash Box for ad­ver­tise­ments and re­views to nail down some re­al­istic dates, but I began my re­search where so much in­ternet re­search begins—with Wikipedia. It gave the fol­lowing dates:

PET SOUNDS was re­leased on May 16, 1966.
BLONDE ON BLONDE was re­leased on May 16, 1966.
FREAK OUT was re­leased on June 27, 1966.

Most data does sup­port the May 16 date for the Beach Boys album, in­cluding Keith Bad­man’s au­thoritative The Beach Boys – The De­fin­i­tive Diary Of Amer­i­ca’s Greatest Band.

For the Dylan album, Wikipedia cau­tiously noted that the date could be “as late as July 1966” but they seemed con­fi­dent with that date for the Mothers’ title. My re­search would show that to be in­cor­rect. 2

In one of those mo­ments we call serendipity, the Glo­rious Noise web­site posted “When was BLONDE ON BLONDE Re­leased? No­body Knows” a few min­utes be­fore I found it! In the ar­ticle, Jake Brown ad­dressed one of my is­sues and saved me a con­sid­er­able amount of on­line site-hopping and re­search. 3

 

dbl FreakOut newspaper

Gen­er­a­tions ahead of his peers, Frank Zappa used irony and sub­terfuge in ad­ver­tising his record. He cre­ated Freak Out! The Of­fi­cial News of The Mothers of In­ven­tion, a fake newsletter that was dis­trib­uted as an in­sert in the Los An­geles Free Press (Sep­tember 9, 1966). So FREAK OUT re­ceived free ad­ver­tising in the most widely read un­der­ground news­paper in the world!

Strong sales action in major markets

I fol­lowed Jake’s links and checked his facts, so some of the in­for­ma­tion that fol­lows orig­i­nated with the Glo­rious Noise piece. I rec­om­mend that you click on over to that site and read the piece in its en­tirety, as his con­clu­sions are not ex­actly the same as mine.

Here are a few salient facts about Bill­board and BLONDE ON BLONDE:

•  Bill­board men­tioned it for the first time in its New Ac­tion Al­bums on July 9, 1966. That sec­tion of the mag­a­zine listed al­bums that re­ported “strong sales ac­tion by dealers in major mar­kets.” This could mean re­ports on pre-release or­ders from whole­salers and re­tailers, not ac­tual records bought by in­di­vidual cus­tomers. 4

•  Bill­board re­viewed it on July 16, 1966, in its New Album Re­leases.

•  Bill­board added it to its Top LPs chart on July 23, 1966.

As Jake ob­served, “Clearly, BLONDE ON BLONDE was not re­leased on May 16, 1966.” In fact, these facts in­di­cate an early July re­lease.

Once I re­al­ized that was the case, then the focus of this ar­ticle shifted the Beach Boys and Dylan to being about Dylan and the Mothers of In­ven­tion! I wanted a de­fin­i­tive an­swer to a ques­tion: What was the first double-album of all-new rock-music of the ’60s?

 

dbl Dylan IWantYou2

For the third single from the album, Co­lumbia cou­pled the ef­fer­ves­cent I Want You with a blis­tering live ver­sion of Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues. It’s a de­lightful sleeve with Dylan caught in a ges­ture that could be in­ter­preted as him ex­plaining the size of “the one that got away” to him in the midst of dancing in the street.

Mondays and Saturdays

In the ’60s, record com­pa­nies gen­er­ally re­leased new product on a Monday. May 16, 1966, was a Monday. As it took time for the records to be shipped, re­viewed by re­viewers, and mag­a­zines to be printed and pub­lished, Bill­board and Cash Box nor­mally re­viewed new records on the second Sat­urday after the album was is­sued.

That is, an album was usu­ally re­viewed twelve days after its re­lease. Re­garding this, Jake Brown ob­served:

Going by the ap­pear­ance in Billboard’s new album list­ings and re­views, we can con­clude that the ac­tual re­lease date of BLONDE ON BLONDE was July 4, 1966. Or can we? The Fourth of July is a hol­iday. Would an album be re­leased on a hol­iday? So until some­body comes up with de­fin­i­tive proof oth­er­wise, I’m going to be­lieve that BLONDE ON BLONDE was re­leased on Friday, July 1, 1966.”

Brown’s de­ci­sion to go with July 1 is rea­son­able if you ac­cept that the record com­pa­nies would not be re­leasing new product on the Fourth of July. I’m not aware of any ev­i­dence for this, so the July 4 date is just as rea­son­able

On his Bob Dylan Press­ings site, Frank Daniels leans to­ward an even later date:

“The first pressing of the album was re­leased on or about July 10, 1966. The record had not been re­leased by June 25th, when Co­lumbia en­tered an ad for the single, I Want You, that also pro­moted the up­coming album. By the end of the first week in July, pro­mo­tional copies were get­ting air­play. The album was re­viewed in the issue of Bill­board dated July 16th, in which it was listed as being new that week.”

 

Dylan BlondeOnBlonde GoMagazine 6 24 1966 500

Go mag­a­zine was a free weekly pub­li­ca­tion as­so­ci­ated with WMCA 570-AM radio (you know, the one with “the Good Guys”) avail­able in the New York area.

The sound of Bob Dylan in selected markets

There is also ev­i­dence for an ear­lier date, even if some of it is anec­dotal. The Glo­rious Noise web­site re­ceived an in­for­ma­tive com­ment from Stephan Pick­ering, a very knowl­edge­able fan. He re­called buying BLONDE ON BLONDE on June 28 in Hol­ly­wood, and stated that the album was re­leased at this early date “in se­lected mar­kets.”

Pick­ering also noted two other pub­li­ca­tions: the June 24, 1966, issue of Go mag­a­zine fea­tured a Dylan cover with a large ad for BLONDE ON BLONDE claiming, “Now Avail­able! The Sound of Bob Dylan on Co­lumbia Records.”

He also men­tioned the June 29, 1966, issue of Va­riety men­tioned BLONDE ON BLONDE in its Long­play Shorts sec­tion. I could not find any more info on this sec­tion but with that title, I infer a line or two with basic in­for­ma­tion (artist, title, label, cat­alog number, etc.) but no ac­tual re­view.

Meaning it could merely be an­nouncing the im­mi­nent re­lease of a title based on in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the record com­pany. This would not be proof of an ac­tual re­lease.

Con­fused?

 

Bill­board’s Four-Star Al­bums were new al­bums with suf­fi­cient com­mer­cial po­ten­tial in their re­spec­tive cat­e­gories to merit being stocked by most dealers.

 

Let’s look at our dates as a list/timeline:

June 24
Go ad­ver­tised BLONDE ON BLONDE as “Now avail­able!”

June 29
Va­riety listed BLONDE ON BLONDE in its Long­play Shorts.

July 9
Bill­board listed BLONDE ON BLONDE in its New Ac­tion Al­bums.

July 16
Bill­board re­viewed BLONDE ON BLONDE in its New Album Re­leases.

July 23
Bill­board en­tered BLONDE ON BLONDE on its Top LPs survey.

The first two items seem to con­firm Pick­er­ing’s as­ser­tion that BLONDE ON BLONDE was re­leased in a few major mar­kets such as Los An­geles and New York in the last week of June. The last three items seem to con­firm a gen­eral re­lease for the album in the first week of July.

 

dbl FreakOut ad

In this full-page ad­ver­tise­ment, Verve of­fered FREAK OUT as “two records for one freaky price”: Did they mean two-records-for-one-low-price, or two-records-for-the-price-of-one-record?

Those fabulous furry freak Mothers

Many fans have long ques­tioned BLONDE ON BLONDE as the first ever rock double-album, be­lieving that it was the Mothers of In­ven­tion that owned that title. So I looked into that and the ear­liest listing in Bill­board that I could find for FREAK OUT was June 25 in a small piece ti­tled “Puz­zler Put Out by MGM-Verve.”

It re­lates how Verve had sent an 8-piece puzzle of the cover to FREAK OUT to 1,000 radio sta­tions one day at a time for eight days. Dis­plays fea­turing the front cover with red and black flashing eyes were to be sent to dealers. But the text does not say whether the album had ac­tu­ally been re­leased yet.

In the July 2 issue, FREAK OUT  was listed in Bill­board’s Four-Star Al­bums. This sec­tion was re­served for “new al­bums with suf­fi­cient com­mer­cial po­ten­tial in their re­spec­tive cat­e­gories to merit being stocked by most dealers.”

If we use Brown’s twelve-days-later rule, then the Mothers album was re­leased on June 20. I read the “suf­fi­cient com­mer­cial po­ten­tial” com­ment to mean new al­bums by un­proven artists. This could mean that the album was re­leased even ear­lier and Bill­board was just noticing it.

The July 9 Bill­board car­ried an ar­ticle about the selling of FREAK OUT ti­tled “MGM/Verve Fa­thers Radio Pitch on Mothers’ Album.” This in­di­cates that the album may have been in stores for weeks and was just get­ting cor­po­rate sup­port.

 

If an album by a major artist was re­leased on a Monday, it was usu­ally re­viewed in Bill­board twelve days later on Sat­urday.

 

Still con­fused?

Let’s look at our list/timeline again with the FREAK OUT added:

Time­line

June 24
Go ad­ver­tised BLONDE ON BLONDE as “Now avail­able!”

June 29
Va­riety listed BLONDE ON BLONDE in its Long­play Shorts.

July 2
Bill­board listed FREAK OUT in its Four-Star Al­bums.

July 9
Bill­board listed BLONDE ON BLONDE in its New Ac­tion Al­bums.

July 9
Bill­board men­tioned FREAK OUT in its main news sec­tion. 5

July 16
Bill­board re­viewed BLONDE ON BLONDE in New Album Re­leases.

July 23
Bill­board en­tered BLONDE ON BLONDE on its Top LPs survey

Using the July 2 and 9 list­ings, then we can infer that the Mothers album was re­leased at least one week be­fore the Dylan set. And that’s if Bill­board gave the same at­ten­tion to a new album by an un­known artist as it did to an artist of Dy­lan’s cal­iber. If not, then FREAK OUT could have been re­leased even ear­lier.

Ei­ther way, all the ev­i­dence that Jake Brown, Stephen Pick­ering, Frank Daniels, and I could find points in one di­rec­tion con­cerning the an­swer to my burning ques­tion: What was the first rock double-album of the ’60s?

 

Mothers Freak

The first rock double-album

For my way of ra­ti­o­ci­nating, the de­bate over the re­lease dates of these two al­bums is so much nit­picking. So, nit­picking aside, es­sen­tially and ef­fec­tively Bob Dylan and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of In­ven­tion con­ceived, recorded, and re­leased The First Rock Double-Album at the same time! But, for we nit­pickers, Frank beat Bob by at least a week!

The Mothers Of In­ven­tion: Freak Out!
Verve V-5005-2 (mono) and V6-5005-2 (stereo)
Genre: Rock
Recording: Studio
Re­leased: June 20, 1966

The June 20 date for FREAK OUT is the latest probable—and the most likely—date for its re­lease, al­though June 13 or even June 7 is pos­sible.

MGM staff pro­ducer Tom Wilson signed the Mothers of In­ven­tion to Verve Records on March 1, 1966. The group en­tered the studio with Wilson and began recording their first album on March 9, and com­pleted their ses­sions on March 12.

So FREAK OUT was recorded in four days! Here’s an­other way of looking at this mo­ment in Rock Music His­tory:

1.  In less than two weeks, Zappa con­ceived and wrote the bulk of two records worth of ma­te­rial.

2.  In less than two weeks, Zappa con­vinced Verve to pay a small for­tune in pro­duc­tion costs and allow the Mothers to record two records of the per­haps ugliest (get used to that word) rock music ever put on tape.

3.  In less than two weeks, Zappa then con­vinced Verve to re­lease a double-album for the price of one album to en­tice the kids into buying that ugly music.

 

dbl FreakOutUSA

By the summer of 1967, the Mothers had in­spired a new mag­a­zine, Freak Out, U.S.A. It looked like other teeny­bopper pub­li­ca­tions of the time. But check out the cover: it was run­ning ar­ti­cles about the Mon­kees and LSD, calling the Mothers “greasy,” and making sexual in­nu­endo about what love is like with The Mamas & The Papas (two guys and two gals) and how one girl makes it “work” with five boys in Jef­ferson Air­plane!

An unlimited budget to do this monstrosity

In an in­ter­view with Zappa that ap­peared in the June 1968 issue of Hit Pa­rader mag­a­zine, he re­called the album:

“Tom Wilson came to the Whiskey A-Go-Go and heard us. He stayed for five min­utes and said, ‘Won­derful. We’re gonna make a record of you. Goodbye.’ He thought we were a rhythm & blues band. We de­cided not to make a single; we’d make an album in­stead. He wouldn’t give me an idea of what the budget would be for the album, but the av­erage rock & roll album costs about $5,000.

When Wilson heard Any Way The Wind Blows and Who Are The Brain Po­lice, he was so im­pressed he called New York, and as a re­sult, I got a more or less un­lim­ited budget to do this mon­strosity. The next day I had whipped up the arrange­ments for a 22-piece or­chestra. The editing took a long time, which ran the cost up. The start-to-finish cost of FREAK OUT was some­where around $21,000.

MGM felt that they had spent too much money on the album and they were about to let it die, but it started selling all over the place. We sold 5,000 al­bums all over the country with no extra-hype or any­thing. Fi­nally, the com­pany started pushing the album and sales went even higher!” 6

In 1966, FREAK OUT was un­like any­thing anyone had ever heard: the music was an egal­i­tarian mix of the avant-garde (in­cluding as­pects of Musique Con­crète) with the sen­ti­mental (such as ’50s doo-wop) de­liv­ered in a rea­son­ably con­tem­po­rary rock style. Lyri­cally, the songs took pokes at main­stream Amer­ican cul­ture, pol­i­tics, and the emerging rock and drug-based coun­ter­cul­ture.

While en­gaging to young lis­teners today, it was un­lis­ten­able garbage to many people then, in­cluding fans of rock. Even the al­bum’s cover art was chal­lenging! It’s as if the Mothers had tired of hearing old people com­plain about the Rolling Stones being un­kempt and boorish and de­cided, “You want ugly? We’ll give you ugly!”

And so they did.

For a de­tailed look at the orig­inal press­ings of FREAK OUT from 1966 through 1969 and what they are cur­rently worth on the col­lec­tors market, refer to “Freak Out! La­be­l­o­grapy (and Price Guide).”

 

dbl FreakOut HotSpots ad innercover 600

Orig­inal 1966 jackets have an offer for a Freak-Out Hot-Spots in a box above the triangle-shaped photo in the lower right corner of the right panel of the in­side of the gate­fold jacket.

Original jackets

Orig­inal print­ings of the jacket for pro­mo­tional and stock al­bums have a blurb printed in the lower right corner on the in­side cover that reads, “Plan­ning on vis­iting L.A. this Summer?” It’s an offer for a Freak-Out Hot-Spots map avail­able via mail-order from MGM Records.

Note that some orig­inal jackets er­ro­neously list the cat­alog number as V-500502 and V6-500502 on the inner cover slicks. These may be the first print­ings, as all other jackets have the cor­rect num­bers.

•  Coun­ter­feits copies of the stereo album exist.
•  Copies with black and white covers are bootlegs.
•  Copies on col­ored vinyl are bootlegs.
•  Copies with pro­mo­tional stickers on the cover are bootlegs.

Re­garding the pro­mo­tional press­ings of FREAK OUT above: I would be truly amazed if there was a radio sta­tion in this country that played a se­lec­tion from FREAK OUT more than once prior to the “un­der­ground radio” phe­nom­enon on FM radio in 1967!

FREAK OUT has not been cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award. In fact, not a single Mothers of In­ven­tion album of the ’60s has sold the req­ui­site amount to qualify for an RIAA Gold Record.

 

Dylan Blonde mono

Almost the first rock double-album

Re­peating my­self, the de­bate over the re­lease dates of these two al­bums is so much nit­picking. Es­sen­tially and ef­fec­tively Bob Dylan and Frank Zappa and the Mothers of In­ven­tion con­ceived, recorded, and re­leased The First Rock Double-Album at the same time!

But Frank beat Bob by at least a week and that’s counting the pre-official re­lease of BLONDE ON BLONDE to se­lect market, not its re­lease date to the gen­eral public (meaning you and me).

Bob Dylan: Blonde On Blonde
Co­lumbia C2L-41 (mono) and C2S-841 (stereo)
Genre: Rock
Recording: Studio
Re­leased: July 4, 1966

The July 4 date for BLONDE ON BLONDE is the middle ground be­tween a pos­sible un­of­fi­cial re­lease to se­lect mar­kets of June 27 and latest pos­sible gen­eral re­lease of July 10.

The Mothers’ com­pe­ti­tion for the title of First Rock Double Album was a tame af­fair in com­par­ison, both vi­su­ally and au­rally. In fact, BLONDE ON BLONDE was down­right lovely to look at and love­lier to hear!

Dy­lan’s first round of recording ses­sions for his sev­enth album began on Oc­tober 5, 1965, at Columbia’s Studio A in New York City. They were com­pleted at Columbia’s Studio B in Nashville, Ten­nessee, on March 10, 1966. The last overdub ses­sion was on June 16.

That is, Bob began work on his project five months be­fore the Mothers’ first of­fi­cial ses­sion for Verve, yet fin­ished two days after they had wrapped up their ses­sions. Of course, it was well worth the ef­fort and the wait!

 

Dylan Blonde sticker

The art for BLONDE ON BLONDE was an out-of-focus photo that cov­ered the front and back covers, folding open into an im­posing image of the artist at the height of his folk-rock fame and glory. Pic­tured here is a factory-sealed copy with a sticker calling at­ten­tion to the al­bum’s two sin­gles.

That thin wild mercury sound

Those of us who came of age in the ’60s grew up with the legend that Dylan wasn’t cer­tain that he had a two-record set until the last ses­sion. At that point, he and Bob Johnson re­al­ized they had too much ma­te­rial for a single record but not enough for two.

Then Dylan stepped up to the plate and hit a grand-slam, writing all eleven min­utes of Sad-Eyed Lady Of The Low­lands in one sit­ting just to fill up the fourth side!

Hah!

With the in­for­ma­tion that has come forth in books and on the World­wide Web, we old-time Dylan fans now know two facts that ruin our legend:

1.  There was plenty of ma­te­rial for two LPs be­fore Sad-Eyed Lady.

2.  Sad-Eyed Lady wasn’t even the last track recorded!

The de­ci­sion to place it as the sole track on the fourth side was ex­actly that: a de­ci­sion, an aes­thetic de­ci­sion. The re­leased album could have held more music, but Dylan didn’t want any more on the records than what he se­lected.

BLONDE ON BLONDE was cer­ti­fied by the RIAA for a Gold Record Award on Au­gust 25, 1967. This award rep­re­sented $1,000,000 in sales at the whole­sale level for ap­prox­i­mately 300,000-400,000 copies sold. It was fi­nally cer­ti­fied as Plat­inum for 1,000,000 copies sold on May 5, 1999. 7

For a de­tailed look at the orig­inal press­ings of BLONDE ON BLONDE from 1966 through 1969 and what they are cur­rently worth on the col­lec­tors market, refer to “Blonde on Blonde La­be­l­o­grapy (and Price Guide).”

 

dbl FreakOut sticker

Some orig­inal 1966 jackets have a sticker on the front cover that reads “Lim­ited Edi­tion – 2 L.P.‘s for the price of one.”

Rock double-albums of 1966

There were only two rock double-albums of all-new ma­te­rial re­leased in 1966, but what a pair! One con­sis­tently ranks among the greatest rock al­bums ever, while the other has seen its star rising among fans and critics for the past few years. But how did they af­fect the in­dustry? How did they af­fect other rock mu­si­cians?

Dylan was an es­tab­lished seller and BLONDE ON BLONDE was riding on the back of a Top 10 single, Rainy Day Women #12 & 35. So good sales of the album must have been ex­pected.

Record com­pany execs prob­ably took some no­tice of the extra money made from the al­bum’s higher price, but the suc­cess of this two-record set wasn’t an earth-shaking event.

 

There wouldn’t be an­other such double-album until Dono­van’s super-deluxe boxed gar­dening set in the final weeks of 1967.

 

On the other hand, FREAK OUT was a début album by an un­known group with no sales his­tory. Verve didn’t even know how to pro­mote them: “They look bad and smell even worse” was ac­tu­ally used in at least one Eu­ro­pean country!

The in­dustry must have paid some at­ten­tion to the sales of this un­sellable record—even if Verve did ini­tially sell the two records for the price of one. Sales in­creased ex­po­nen­tially to the point where the album found its way onto the Bill­board’s LP chart in Feb­ruary 1967. It spent a good por­tion of the year in the lower realms of that survey. 8

De­spite the suc­cess of these two al­bums, there would not be an­other double-album of new studio ma­te­rial until Dono­van’s A GIFT FROM A FLOWER TO A GARDEN in the final weeks of 1967.

 

Cream WheelsOfFire RIAAsticker 600

In the summer of 1968, Cream’s WHEELS OF FIRE was the hottest album in the US and may have been the biggest-selling double-album in recording his­tory up to that point. As im­pres­sive as its sales were, they were to­tally for­gotten when the Bea­tles re­leased THE WHITE ALBUM later in the year!

Wheels of fire and white albums

So FREAK OUT may have is­sued as late as June 20, and early copies of BLONDE ON BLONDE might have shown up in Los An­geles and New York on June 27. For my way of ra­ti­o­ci­nating, the de­bate over the re­lease dates of these two al­bums is so much nit­picking. But then I can pick nits when moved by the right topic and, like it or not, the Mothers were first.

But in terms of ef­fect, Dylan and Zappa con­ceived, recorded, and re­leased The First Rock Double-Album at the same time!

And as im­por­tant as that may seem to rock afi­cionados, nei­ther album had a frac­tion of the im­pact on the pop world or the recording in­dustry ar­tis­ti­cally or com­mer­cially that WHEELS OF FIRE and THE BEATLES would have two years later!

And for those readers with a long memory, re­call that Jerry Richards men­tioned a title that could an­swer the ques­tion, “What was the first rock & roll double-album of all-new ma­te­rial? Of course, I’m not going to tell you here—I’m saving it for an­other ar­ticle.

And the an­swer is so sur­prising that I will offer an amaz­ingly ac­cu­rate re­pro­duc­tion of a 1966 Marvel No-Prize to anyone who gets it right in the com­ments sec­tion below …

What was the first double-album of the ‘Rock Era’—Bob Dy­lan’s BLONDE ON BLONDE or the Mothers of In­ven­tion’s FREAK OUT? Click To Tweet

dbl header FO2 1200

FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page was cropped from the front cover of FREAK OUT. I played with the color bal­ance to get some­thing a little dif­ferent and more eye-catching (bottom image). The long, stupid title for this ar­ticle came nat­u­rally. Fi­nally, an­other round of ap­plause for Frank Daniels and his sug­ges­tions and con­tri­bu­tions to this ar­ticle, which in­cluded being a re­searcher and a proof­reader!!!

 


FOOTNOTES:

1  De­pending on how you de­fine rock & roll music, by 1966 it was at least twelve years old! And it’s ridicu­lous that sixty years after Bill Haley rocked around the clock and Elvis checked into Heart­break Hotel we still can’t agree on a uni­versal de­f­i­n­i­tion.

2  For many re­searchers, the first place they begin is with Wikipedia. Un­for­tu­nately, there the blind are all too often led by the blind: as long as con­trib­u­tors supply linked sources for their en­tries, those en­tries are accepted—even if the sources are in­cor­rect. And the Wiki con­trib­u­tors and ed­i­tors make con­stant and egre­gious er­rors where pop­ular music is con­cerned.

3  Finding the Glo­rious Noise ar­ticle within min­utes of its being posted was rap­turous, like The Void de­signed things in­tel­li­gently and there are no co­in­ci­dences but this isn’t the place to talk about Free Will and Fate and Karma and Dharma and Greg and freeing Willy and all that woo-woo kinda stuff.

4  Other al­bums noted as new re­leases on the same page in­cluded the Bea­tles’ YESTERDAY & TODAY and the Rolling Stones’ AFTERMATH. Imagine being 16-years-old and walking into a record store that Monday in 1966 and handing the cashier a ten-dollar bill and walking out with the new Bea­tles, Dylan, and Stones LPs with change from the ten-spot in your pocket?)

5  FREAK OUT didn’t sell enough copies to make the LP charts until early 1967.

6  The para­graphs here were lib­er­ally adapted from the para­graphs printed in Hit Pa­rader. I made changes for styl­istic con­sis­tency and gen­eral read­ability.

7  From 1958 through 1975, the RIAA Gold Record Award for LPs was based solely on dollar amounts: an album had to sell $1,000,000 at the whole­sale level to qualify for an RIAA Gold Record Award. Pe­riod. Unit sales were not con­sid­ered at all. And Plat­inum Record Awards didn’t exist until 1976. For more in­for­ma­tion, refer to “Un­der­standing RIAA Gold And Plat­inum Record Awards Of The Six­ties.”

8  Re­garding the use of “un­sellable”: To ex­plain to a modern reader how re­pul­sive the Mothers were to white-bread America fifty years ago is be­yond the scope of this ar­ticle. Per­haps a modern rap group con­sisting of mem­bers of NAMBLA (look it up) might be anal­o­gous.

 

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If Zappa counts as “al­ter­na­tive” music and Bob counts as “folk,” then Cream’s “Wheels of Fire” is the first rock and roll album. Clapton rules!

Blonde on Blonde was def­i­nitely not folk.

Without thinking deeply on the sub­ject (just woke up and no coffee yet), “al­ter­na­tive music” in the ’60s would have been the Big 3: Fugs (1965), Mothers (1966), and Velvet Un­der­ground (1967). Pearls Be­fore Swine, too?

I love the music we call folk-rock, but think it’s a sorta silly term. Folk-rock to me is the Byrds’ “Bells Of Rhymney” and “Wild Moun­tain Thyme.”

Or maybe the real folk-rock was Elvis at Sun 1954-55 …

Neal Umphred I think we just called it “un­der­ground” at the time.

Bob Dylan said the Bea­tles played Folk.

By the way…I like how I tried to stir the dis­cus­sion pot, and I got Tamarkin!

Keep stir­ring and after the tamarkin set­tles, add equal parts of turmeric and a dash of ginger.

I have Baker brand ginger.

Baker brand ginger can be heavy. If you want some­thing with more pizazz, some­thing sexier, try Grant brand ginger. It’s grown on some se­cret trop­ical is­land.

There are some in­ter­esting books on the “un­der­ground press” of the 60s. Wonder if COINTELPRO ever in­fected them? Must have, nyet?

a) The most vi­o­lent OU anti-war type in the late 60s turned out to be a COINTELPRO agent. b) So how do we count Bea­tles vs. The Four Sea­sons?

Steve: a) The only book I have read on the sub­ject was Abe Peck’s “Un­cov­ering the Six­ties: The Life and Times of the Un­der­ground Press” and that was thirty years ago. I as­sumed COINTELPRO was there. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s theme song was “Here, There And Every­where.”

Are you sug­gesting that Bruce John­ston and Kim Fowley leaked Pet Sounds to J Edgar, which he lis­tened to while playing cards and then sum­mated in a memo to all his SACs?

Steve: a2) I was briefly part of the un­der­ground, il­lus­trating the only issue of “The Wyoming Valley Free Press” is­sued in time for the first Earth Day in May 1970. I haven’t seen a copy since.

Steve: b) BEATLES VS. FOUR SEASONS will be in a sep­a­rate ar­ticle on ’60s dou­bles. Coming to a screen near you soon!

The Bea­tles vs. 4 Sea­sons is a com­pi­la­tion con­sisting of previously-released ma­te­rial.

i’m not much help with this one neal, i don’t know the dif­fer­ence be­tween bob dylan and zappa, that is if there is a dif­fer­ence.

One’s Jewish and one’s italian. That’s it.

Jeff, I was gonna write, “One’s Jewish. One’s dead.”

Neal Umphred Same thing.

so one’s alive and one isn’t?

One is dead and buried. The other, well, there’s an on­going de­bate …

so what cat­e­gory do i put all those bob dylan records in that i sell? can’t put them in folk be­cause folk doesn’t sell. shall i put him in the “generic rock” cat­e­gory?

ALWAYS put Dylan in rock, even his first few folk records.

Wonder if the“success” of Freak Out was the reason Verve tried again with the in­sane double LP by Harumi from ’68, with a lot of the same cast of char­ac­ters in­cluding pro­ducer Tom Wilson who worked with both Zappa & Dylan…BTW, the All Music re­view of Harumi lists “Rosko” as Wilson, but it’s famed WNEW-FM/WOR-FM DJ Bill “Rosko” Miller

Ac­tu­ally got Rosko’s name wrong (spellcheck?) It’s Bill “Rosko” MERCER… also Haru­mi’s arranger was Larry Fallon, who was doing arrange­ments for a bunch of MGM/Verve artists (Velvet Un­der­groun, Nico, Beacon St Union) but came into his own on As­tral Weeks…