It Came from the Dollar Bin

As many of you know, I have a bit of a “thing” for records. They seem to follow me around and jump in my way, pleading for me to buy them and bring them home to hang out with the other thousands that Jen and I have accumulated over the years. It’s very hard for me to say no, especially when they’re only a dollar. I mean, even if only one song is any good, that’s better than a download from iTunes or some such. Plus, artwork!

Here are a few of the better recent finds.

Ian Matthews – If You Saw Thro’ My Eyes

Ian Matthews was among the founding members of Fairport Convention and sang on their first two records. After either getting kicked out or leaving on his own (depending on whom you ask), he started his own band, Matthews’ Southern Comfort, and then recorded a string of solo records. This one is from 1971 and features a bunch of Fairport Convention members, including Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny. Great British folk rock here. After I picked this up for a buck at Amoeba, I saw it for sale on line for $30 or much more. Bargain!

Woody Shaw – Master of the Art

Woody Shaw is openly acknowledged by pretty much every jazz aficionado as a true genius. He had a photographic memory and perfect pitch. His innovative arrangements are still admired by musicians. He played a mean trumpet, sticking with the “straight-ahead” style of the 50s and 60s until his untimely death at 44 in 1989. Sadly, he was hit by a subway car in Brooklyn and died of complications a few months later. Shaw was also a master practitioner of Tai Chi, hence the title of this record and his somewhat goofy-looking pose on the cover.

Anita Carter – Anita Carter of the Carter Family

Anita Carter was the youngest of the three daughters of Mother Maybelle Carter. After the original Carter Family stopped playing together, Maybelle started another group, Maybelle Carter and the Carter Sisters. Anita was 10 at the time. Later, the sisters had their own act and all had solo careers. June, of course, married Johnny Cash. Anita recorded the first version of “Ring of Fire” (which was written by June and Merle Kilgore). After he had a dream in which he heard Mexican horns playing this song, Johnny recorded his own version, which became a smash hit. This is Anita’s second solo record, on which she covers many Carter Family songs. Another amazing find, this was a buck in a thrift store. It goes for $40 or $50 on the internets.

Danny Kirwan – Second Chapter

This is another solo record from an artist better known as a member of another group. Danny Kirwan was 18 in 1968 when he joined Fleetwood Mac. Well before the Buckingham-Nicks heyday, the Mac at this time was almost strictly a blues-rock band. After some personnel changes, Kirwan became one of the main songwriters for a few records. The sound was still bluesy, but Kirwan was helping to develop a poppier side to the band. He got the boot in 1972, after drinking his way into alienation from the rest of the members. He recorded a few solo records (this was the first) and eventually disappeared from the music scene. Sadly, rumor is that he has been homeless for a few years. This is a solid British swamp rock album, but no Fleetwood Mac. Love that trompe l’oeil cover, though.

Last Chance on the Merry-Go-Round

I was first attracted to this record by its cover. Eerie, yes? I flipped it over to find that it was released on Takoma Records, which was founded and run by experimental blues guitarist John Fahey. Again, how could I resist? This is a live recording of the merry-go-round Wurlitzer organ on the Santa Monica Pier (crowd noises and all). “Turkey in the Straw,” “Onezy-Twozy,” and “Auld Lang Syne” are among the seventeen selections. Apparently, in 1973 when this record was made the pier was under threat of destruction, hence the title. The pier survived, but the organ was removed and sold off.

Ornette Coleman – The Empty Foxhole

The last record and this one were also part of the same thrift-store haul as the Anita Carter record above. Man, what a day that was! The cover of this one was eaten away in a couple spots by mold, unfortunately, which is one of the hazards of thrift-store record flipping. (Cough, cough.) I couldn’t believe my luck in finding an original 1966 Blue Note issue, whatever its condition. In better shape, this record could fetch $80 or $100! This is the first recording of Coleman with his son, Denardo, on drums. Denardo was 10 at the time. His drumming here is much better than any 10-year-old’s has a right to be, but still a little underdeveloped. All the same, shazam, that’s good avant jazz, baby!

I hope you enjoyed this tour through the dollar bin. See you around the record stores, baby.

Bonus! A shot of little Denardo, whackin them drums.

7 responses to “It Came from the Dollar Bin”

  1. K-S says:

    Reading that was every bit as satisfying as watching an episode of Antiques Roadshow, for me. It’s been about 20 yrs since I’ve owned a turn table or any actual vinal albums, but this made me miss a cool store in SLC called, I think, Grunts and Postures, where similar “finds” were often available (but for a lot more than a buck) in the 80s. Awesome memories.

  2. lane says:


    great post, thanks!

  3. K-S says:

    good grief, I meant VINYL.

  4. F. P. Smearcase says:

    Oh I miss my records, huddled in my parents’ basement until I live somewhere where a fellow can afford a little space, if that ever happens.

    Curious now to hear Anita Carter’s urtext Ring of Fire.

  5. Tim says:

    Mr. Smearcase, Youtube has a couple videos with Anita C. singing Ring of Fire, including this live version (no video of the performance, just stills floating around, but excellent all the same). She sure had a pure voice!

  6. J-Man says:

    There’s nothing better than buying a record simply for its interesting or beautiful artwork, and then discovering that it sounds interesting and beautiful too. Learning the story behind each one makes the whole search even more compelling. We’ve brought home a few clunkers, but I think we’re getting pretty good at as time goes on.

  7. PB says:

    I am huge Carter Family fan (Maybelle’s guitar is my screen saver) but had not heard Anita sing this song before. Wow, what a treat. I will never forget finding Melanie’s Living Bell album in a sale bin as a kid and looking around furtively thinking they had made a terrible mistake. This treasure in a sale bin??? Ever since, I always look. Found Glen Campbell and Dionne Warwick just the other day. What a fun post, love the stories.