Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: While looking over some of the more valuable Elvis 45s, an interesting connection popped up.

Elvis made five singles for Sun in a two-year period (1954 and '55), all of which are very rare. He also made five RCA Victor Compact 33 Singles in a two-year span (1961 and '62), which are also quite scarce.

So which of these five-disc sets is now the most valuable?

This also leads to another question:

Around the time Elvis died (1977), there was a very big hit by a British group named Smokey, titled “Next Door to Alice.”

Everyone thought it to be a new song at that time, but I swear I heard it a few years earlier. Whether or not it is also by Smokey, I don't know.

Can you confirm this so I can defragment my memory, at least with regard to Alice?
—Natalie Watanabe, Racine, Wisc.

DEAR NATALIE: Yours is an interesting “History Repeats Itself” (Buddy Starcher) observation.

Now I will add other five-spot to the list because those RCA Compact 33 Singles all came with a picture sleeve, each of which is worth as much as the accompanying record.

Here is an approximate valuation for a near-mint set of each collection of all five items:

Sun singles (45 or 78 rpm): “That's All Right” (209); “Good Rockin' Tonight” (210); “Milkcow Blues Boogie” (215); “Baby, Let's Play House” (217); “Mystery Train” (223): $7,000 to $7,500.

RCA Compact 33 Singles: “Surrender” (37-7850); “I Feel So Bad” (37-7880); “(Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame” (37-7908); “Can't Help Falling in Love” (37-7968); “Good Luck Charm” (37-7992): $25,000 to $27,500. All of these play at 33 1/3 and not 45 rpm.

Remember, these are just the discs. Having all five picture sleeves that came with the records doubles the price to an amazing $50,000 to $55,000, which far surpasses the complete Sun singles collection.

Though previously known as Smokey, by the time they recorded “Living Next Door to Alice,” the spelling of the group's name became Smokie.

This Top 25 hit for Smokie is actually a remake of a 1972 track by New World (Rak 4514), which is likely the version you recall.

DEAR JERRY: Just finished reading your column about Rock and Roll vocabulary, and it really struck a chord with me.

I've been collecting records as long as I can remember, and your comments reminded me of a similar revelation.

I wasn't looking for “pompitus,” or anything like that, but when I was about 11 and listening to The Who's “Quadrophenia,” I discovered “oration.” This strange word turned up in the lyrics to “Punk Meets the Godfather.”

I remember running to the dictionary and looking for a hidden clue into Pete Townshend's modern rock opera.

I did find out what oration meant, but I doubt many of my classmates could say the same at the time. For that matter, I don't think any of them where as fascinated by “Quadrophenia” as was I.

That was 24 years ago and I still find rock music an amazing door to discovery on many levels.

Unfortunately, I think the industry has kind of forsaken this side of the art form. Shame on them.
—Patrick Rose, Chicago

DEAR PATRICK: Just when I thought we'd run our last letter on this subject, yours arrived.

Alas, I could not deny some ink to a gem like “oration” (an elaborate speech or discourse, composed according to the rules of oratary, and delivered in public).

I'll bet I'm not alone, but until today I had never used this word, ortorically or otherwise.

IZ ZAT SO? All of the RCA Compact 33 Singles listed above are monaural, commercial issues that anyone could have bought in retail record shops at the time for about $1.29.

One we did not mention is the Compact 33 “Living Stereo” Single of “Surrender” (68-7850), which, as far as we know, was not sold in shops. It may have been intended only for juke box operators. Unlike the other Compact 33s, this one had no picture sleeve.

Add this one to the treasure chest and it bounces your bounty by another $1,500 to $2,000.

Return to "Mr. Music" Home Page