In the years preceding our issue of Complete Mythology, the only way you could purchase a new Syl Johnson album on vinyl was via shoddy bootleg. The packaging was terrible and the mastering was lifeless. We thought we’d solved the problem with our 6LP and 4CD box set, but it turns out there’s a whole slew of people who aren’t into “complete” anything. This week we’re making it a little cheaper to own a piece of Syl Johnson’s catalog by putting his first two LPs—Dresses Too Short and Is It Because I’m Black—back in print on their original format. There are no liner notes or extra tracks, just the LPs as they were intended, albeit with a superior mastering job, heavy weight vinyl, a tip-on jacket, and a little obi to make the albums stand out in the bins.
The best part? The price. Each LP is only $15.
Numero started the Jr. line to put rare LPs back in print at a price you can afford. We’re sick of walking into record stores and seeing new LPs at outrageous prices, and thought you might be too. Once a month we’ll issue an album in its original form, but at our quality standards.
The first eight are as follows:
And coming soon…
Jr.009 Otis G. Johnson: Everything-God Is Love ’78
Jr.010 Centaura: Lawdy Lawdy Lawd
Jr.011 Rokk: I Want To Get High
Jr.012 The Sixth Station: Deep Night
Sometimes, to get the records you want, you have to make them. That was one of the many considerations going through our heads as we pondered the first vinyl pressing of the near-mythic Shoes album Bazooka. Although a minuscule sample of the population was ever even aware of it, Bazooka was known to the Greg Shaw/Bomp set even back in the day as a great lost album that few heard.
Bazooka should probably long ago have seen the light of day. And really, it did in the ’90s on a CD collection amongst other oddities, sold primarily through the Shoes’ website… but it’s just not the same. As it was originally presented only as a cassette, with no imagery to accompany it, and shared only with the band members’ friends, the prospect of creating artwork that looked and felt right was awesome, and certainly intimidating. No one wants to pull a record that doesn’t feel right off their shelf.
Meet our knucklehead accomplice, Henry Owings, who rose to the occasion. He devised a way to make something look realistic and of its time without becoming kitsch. First, a key element is the image choice (selected by reissue producer Ken Shipley). This is from the negatives of an early live show shot for posterity, and one of the few in existence that contains the actual line-up of Shoes from this set of recordings. Drummer Barry Shumaker was the drummer on Bazooka and One In Versailles, to be replaced the following summer by Skip Meyer. The handwriting used for the text comes from actual set lists from the band’s shows where these tracks were performed. There were very few elements of the appropriate vintage… however, the resourceful Owings took these four chromalins, broke them apart and reassembled the separated color keys (the C, Y, M, and Ks) into the dynamic combinations seen here. Although they were laid out recently, every element existed contemporaneously with the actual recordings contained therein. It’s a record, first and foremost, that we’re really proud to own. Get yours, and the other early Shoes LPs, now.
The jackets are in. Inserts too. Iron on for Black Vinyl Shoes? Go buy a white shirt. And while you’ve got that credit card out, go ahead and pre-order these:
Shoes: One In Versailles
Shoes: Black Vinyl Shoes
Shoes: Pre-Tense Demos 1978-1979
All LPs are $15 each, which is a goddamn steal in this day and age. Shipping begins 11/1/12. They’ll be in stores a few weeks later if you’d rather wait.
Filed under: Shoes
Ah, 1979! Most of the Numero Group were in diapers or in a handful of cases pre-embrionic. The music business was in the middle of a serious recession, dropping off 27% between 1977-1980 (a figure that seems paltry now), and yet, the majors were still employing semi-adventurous A&R people. How Zion, Illinois’ Shoes were signed to Elektra in the winter of 1979 will be thoroughly documented in a forthcoming biography, but in summary, the house that Jac built was looking to go two for two in the new wave department on the heels of the Cars. And boy did they spend on Shoes.
In the run up to Present Tense, a handful of promo goods were created including shoehorns and these dance studio-type shoe stickers that were in the doors ways of every reputable record store in the fall of 1979:
And the “marketing” dollars didn’t stop there. With MTV still an idea rattling around the Warner-Amex Satellite offices, a budget was scraped together for four soundstage-styled promotional videos. They’re not the greatest videos ever made by any stretch, and apparently Skip only brought two shirts to the shoot (one of which is for England’s Manor studio, so he gets a pass). Regardless, none of this shit was cheap in 1979, especially not with Atari and home taping killing the record business. Get to know Gary, Skip, Jeff, and John before our Shoes LP reissues drop this fall:
Filed under: Shoes
Those up there are obi strips. They wrap around the left spine and are made of velum.
Filed under: Shoes
One of the challenges of this Shoes reissue series has been sorting through the immense amount of photos and ephemera to make period looking covers for the two never-issued-on-vinyl titles Bazooka and Pre-Tense: Demos 1978-1979. You’d think with hundreds of unpublished photos that this would be easy, you would be wrong.
For Bazooka, we used a series of chromalins and stripped them back to their barest CMYK properties:
The typeface was cribbed from a very early set list where the band somehow played every song featured on the 13 track album.
For Pre-Tense, since we were sequencing according to the original Present Tense track listing anyway, we jacked wholly from the original 1979 Elektra album cover, but set it in silver and a metallic gun metal:
And wanting to give it a more authentic feel, we copied the original Elektra labels as well, albeit with a slight twist:
Those hoping for a logo shirt are out of luck, we’ve filled our fake logo t-shirt quota for the year already.
Filed under: Shoes
After we got talking with Jeff Murphy from Shoes about including them on Buttons: From Champaign To Chicago, it occurred to us that we were standing on the precipice of a great catalog. The band has done a great job of keeping their albums in print on CD and LP since the early 1990s, but their vinyl was woefully difficult to track down. One In Versailles and Black Vinyl Shoes had both been issued in editions of 500 a few years back, but at $50 a pop, only the cult was being serviced. In an attempt at reintroducing this great pop band to a whole new audience, The Numero Group is pleased to announce an LP reissue campaign that beings with Versailles and revisits Black Vinyl, but adds the never issued on wax Bazooka and an entire of album demos that would become their landmark LP Present Tense.
Each LP will of course be packaged to Numero’s highest standard, including reprints of the stickers, lyric sheets, and even iron-ons that accompanied the original issues. We’re working closely with the band to remaster the LPs from the original master tapes, a marked improvement over the DAT conversions that past reissues of their catalog have been subject to.
We don’t have an exact release date on the first LP (One In Versailles) yet, but it should arrive this fall, with the others to drop every two months or so.
To show we’re serious about this whole thing, here’s a snapshot of the first round of ephemera we took home last Thursday: