Thrift store find: Billy Lee Riley Beatlemania


Someone passed along this 1965 gem from a local thrift store the other day. Pretty cool, huh?

Billy Lee Riley Harmonica Beatlemania finds the rockabilly legend tapping into the British Invasion with this 12-track, 27-minute Mercury Records release (MG20974).

While the album itself is not in good shape, the four “moptops” drawing on the front make it all worth while.


I like how the record companies at the time describe their albums. Here’s what Mercury says about the process:

The MERCURY record is the result of the most modern recording techniques in the phonograph industry.

In STEREO — The 15-degree cutter slant angle is utilized, the latest development in the art of disc recording. The vertical-tracking-angle between cartridge and groove greatly reduces intermodulation distortion and gives the utmost reproduction of the original sound through its dynamic depth control and reliable stylus tracking. To protect your stereo recording, play only on a phonograph with stereo reproducing cartridge according to RIAA standards.

In MONO — The master tapes are transferred through the finest Ampex 300 series tape machine to a specially designed power amplifier which drives the BBC Grampian Feedback Cutting Head. Because of the simplicity of our new recording techniques, quality listening on either stereo or monaural phonographs is assured.

In monaural or stereo your MERCURY record will give you the truest possible reproduction of the original sound.

That’s a lot of big words the probably mean something to someone who knows what they mean. I just want to drop the needle and listen. But it comes with the times, I guess.

I remember similar language when CDs first came out and then faded away. It seems like the longer we have a technology, the less we have to demystify it. And I can’t really imagine the same kind of labeling on this album’s mp3 download, can you?

I guess they just don’t make them like they used to, huh? These you don’t need to know the practical implications of “intermodulation distortion.” You just push play.


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