IN JULY 1966, COLUMBIA RECORDS announced that Gene Clark had left the Byrds. A month later, Clark was in the studio recording as a newly signed Columbia solo artist. In November 1966, his first single, Echoes, was issued with great fanfare and considerable expense. Nonetheless, it bombed. In February 1967, his album was issued with considerably less enthusiasm from and a noticeably smaller promotion campaign by Columbia. Predictably, it bombed.
Within a year of release, GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS was out of print and a hard record to find for fans, many of whom didn’t even know it had been released! Then a funny thing happened in the early ’70s: both the “singer-songwriter” phenomenon (courtesy of Carol King and James Taylor) and country-rock (courtesy of the Eagles and Jackson Browne) caught the record-buying public’s attention.
On top of that, Clark’s WHITE LIGHT album for A&M had sold modestly well in 1971, especially in Europe. The decision-makers at Columbia reconsidered the money lost on the Gene Clark album and decided to invest even more money on it! They paid to have Clark revamp the album: He recorded new lead vocals and remixed the original tracks. This ‘new’ album was issued in 1972 as COLLECTORS ITEM – EARLY L.A. SESSIONS (Columbia KC-31123).
It’s an interesting record: Clark’s vocals are warmer, deeper, a bit more mature. The backing vocals are less prominent. And for some reason, Elevator Operator was left off the final record, so this album had ten tracks instead of eleven.
But like the original release, it only sold a few copies, was deleted from Columbia’s catalog, and quietly found its way into the cut-out bins of American department stores.
Here’s what Clark should have done: erased the Gosdin’s overdubbed vocals from the original eleven tracks, added The French Girl and Only Colombe, and then remixed the tracks to his taste. The resulting album could have been more appropriately titled something like GENE CLARK 1966–1967.
This crappy cover art probably didn’t help sell this record to anyone other than Clark fans who hadn’t found an original 1967 album. Columbia shipped stock copies of the album to radio stations with a title and timing sticker affixed to the front cover.
The album that just won’t go away
By the 1980s, GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS had become a hot item on the collectors market. There was even enough demand among new fans that it has been reissued several times on vinyl. A few of these reissues are now collectable to some degree.
CBS/Sony of Japan issued the first facsimile edition of this album in 1981. Very few copies were exported and this is a hard record to find thirty-five years later. The album with the blue paper strip (obi) is the 1981 pressing; the album with the red obi may be a later pressing, or it may have a different catalog number. This record is out of print.
Seven years later, Edsel Records provided fans with a second facsimile edition. While the front cover art remained the same, Edsel wisely dropped the song title from the lower left and right corners. The back cover art was modified slightly. By this time, small record stores had popped up across the country and this album was imported by many of them, and consequently was easily found for a while. This record is out of print.
In 2000, the American specialist imprint Sundazed brought out another edition, this time pressed on 180-gram virgin vinyl. But unlike the others, this included three bonus tracks: both sides of the unreleased single Only Colombe and The French Girl, plus a demo version of So You Say You Lost Your Baby.
The front cover art was identical to the original, including the song titles. But the back cover was dramatically altered, and for the better, replacing the dull shot of Rex and Vern with a great photo of Gene and added liner notes!
The record labels looked like those of the original 1967 Columbia record. There are two variations on this label:
• First pressings have “Columbia” and “360 Sound Stereo” in white print. This version is out of print.
• Second pressings have “Columbia” and “360 Sound Stereo” in black print. This version is still available from Sundazed.
The image at the top is a sealed copy with a sticker on the shrinkwrap that reads “Renew your faith in music” and notes the special vinyl.
Music On Vinyl MOVLP-1423
The most recent facsimile edition is from Music On Vinyl pressed on 180-gram virgin vinyl. Music On Vinyl licenses their titles from record companies and artists who control their own repertoire. This record is still in print.
FEATURED IMAGE: The image at the top of this page was cropped from the Sundazed single Only Colombe / The French Girl. This single was scheduled for release by Columbia in 1967 but pulled and the two sides left sitting on a shelf for decades. I cropped the image of Gene from the picture sleeve and then I messed around with the colors.
Mystically liberal Virgo enjoys long walks alone in the city at night in the rain with an umbrella and a flask of 10-year-old Laphroaig who strives to live by the maxim, “It ain’t what you know that gets you into trouble; it’s what you know that just ain’t so.
I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn, and a college dropout (twice!). Occupationally, I have been a bartender, jewelry engraver, bouncer, landscape artist, and FEMA crew chief following the Great Flood of ’72 (and that was a job that I should never, ever have left).
I am also the final author of the original O’Sullivan Woodside price guides for record collectors and the original author of the Goldmine price guides for record collectors. As such, I was often referred to as the Price Guide Guru, and—as everyone should know—it behooves one to heed the words of a guru. (Unless, of course, you’re the Beatles.)