Record collector Keith Dalgleish has a treasure trove of vinyl that spans the ages. But it’s the latter part of one decade in particular that really lights his fire. Mark Alexander finds out more…
You can trace Keith Dalgleish’s love of 1960s music back to his childhood, and beyond. “I have a theory that I heard that style of music in the womb,” says the Scottish collector, sipping a beer. “It’s a theory I have, because I wonder why it’s captured my imagination so much.”
Of his 700-strong record collection, the majority are early pressings or reissues from a time of change – the late 60s. It was the era when rock and pop came of age; when manufactured chart-topping tunes gave way to social consciousness, political statements and experimentation. Festivals and psychedelia were the watchwords, and Dalgleish’s collection is full of the latter.
“It stems from my parents’ love of music,” he says. “It’s very common, but it’s significant. You associate music with good times and nice feelings. My mum loved Simon & Garfunkel and Nancy & Lee. It’s a very significant album for me. It’s that sort of ‘LA songwriting’ interpretation of folk rock. And my mum loved it. My first recollection of enjoying music is mum playing those records.”
Dalgleish and his siblings grew up around music, with the stereo a focal point of family life. “It wasn’t a status symbol, but my dad liked listening to music and decided to get himself a really nice stereo,” he says. “He spent £500 in 1970 on it. He wasn’t flash, but part of growing up was getting to use that stereo, although my dad was never precious about it. In fact, I blew one of the speakers once with too much volume and bass.”
Soaking up musical influences from his family through a repaired Bang & Olufsen stereo, Dalgleish had an eclectic approach to music. He confirms the first record he bought, and still has, was Elvis Presley’s I Got Lucky. “It is absolutely terrible, but I loved Elvis Presley. I cried when he died.”
From the vagaries of the charts and pass-me-down LPs, Dalgleish found a focus when he attended Glasgow University in 1988. “I had a period when I didn’t have a defining musical style. When I went to university, my musical tastes were very sporadic; from Public Enemy to Whitesnake to James Brown. It was all over the place.” Then he was introduced to The Doors.
“I’d never heard of them. Although I’d been brought up with loads of music, I was actually really naïve. I’d never looked into it or questioned it. That changed when I heard The Doors.”
By contrast to his first purchase, the latest addition to Dalgleish’s record collection is a carefully produced album of previously unreleased live recordings of 60s LA psych band Spirit, which joined the throng 10 days prior to our interview. It illustrates the musical journey Dalgleish concluded during his early 20s, which culminated in his passion for a very special era in popular music culture and a fascination with vinyl.
“This one has just been released and it’s called Live At The Ashgrove, 1967 Volume 1,” he says. “It’s a beautiful example of Spirit prior to their first album, playing in the summer of 1967. Their first album came out in early 1968. They were one of the cool bands coming through then. It’s a nice example of how vinyl is still going on.”
By the time Dalgleish completed his first year at university, his musical horizons had been suitably broadened, which led to an obsessive fixation with The Doors and the late 60s in general.
“I went through a stage of being quite particular about that era. People made fun of me about it. It was 1965 to 1968, and I adopted a fairly anal approach to my records back then.”
A devotee of record fairs and a regular at Glasgow’s most discerning record shops, Dalgleish set about amassing his collection, which has now spread across his living room and kitchen. It occurs to us that the physical age of late-60s records must present its own problems for the collector…
“For me, it’s about quality rather than endless quantity,” he says. “I can’t be doing with records you can’t listen to because they’re in such bad nick. Condition is important. If you can’t listen to it and enjoy it because the condition isn’t great, then why have it?”
Without a shadow of a doubt, Dalgleish – who works for Scottish Natural Heritage – enjoys his music. It is part of his infectious charisma, evident as soon as the needle hits the first record. But why the late 60s?
“I tend to like first or early albums,” he says. “But this is about an era. It’s about a sound, ultimately. It’s about a particular tone and a particular sound that I love.”
Keith’s Super Eight
Choice cuts from Dalgleish’s collection
Country Joe & The Fish – Electric Music for the Mind and Body 1967
“Possibly the definitive Berkeley band. They are from the political, lefty side of San Francisco. What attracted me to this album was the cover. If you’re into 60s music, you couldn’t make it up! This is the thing about LPs; it is a beautiful part of that era, it’s got it all going on. It captures the imagination. I bought this totally unknown, which I loved doing. I fell in love with the sound. I have three copies of it. The first one I got was an 80s reissue on Vanguard. Then I got another copy, but the condition wasn’t as good, and then I bought an early pressing. It’s still one of my favourite albums.”
Traffic – Mr. Fantasy 1967
“This is Steve Winwood’s band. He was an absolute child prodigy; playing the organ and sounding like Ray Charles. He’d left the Spencer Davis Group, sick with all the pop stardom, turned into a bit of a hippy… and recorded this album. I’m always interested in joining the dots, so I went looking for his stuff. It’s one of the definitive early English psych albums, and the quality’s there. But it’s also got the silliness of English psych. And it’s got folk in it. I love the way they’ve chucked everything in there. It comes across as fun and joyous music. It’s original, mono, and a Pink Island label – that’s what matters. The Pink Island label was only produced for a certain period.”
Crosby, Stills & Nash – Crosby, Stills & Nash 1969
“It’s one of the best-known albums out of the eight I’ve chosen. Crosby, Stills & Nash was an early supergroup. You have Dave Crosby from The Byrds, Stephen Stills from Buffalo Springfield and Graham Nash from The Hollies. There are loads of lovely stories about how they got together at Mama Cass’ home. If you want country rock, this is it. The blend of the voices and harmonies is one of the most incredible sounds and it captures that fractured end to the 60s, when the euphoria was coming to an end. It’s an early pressing and you can tell by the mottled finish – that’s a good indicator.”
The Doors – Strange Days 1967
“I have two copies of it; one I got while on holiday in Florida in 1991. I found a flea market where an old hippy woman was selling off her LPs and I bought all her Doors albums for $2 each! They weren’t in amazing nick, but a couple were okay. I bought them because they had been bought by her in 1967. The Doors is where I got into this… for me, Strange Days captures that early Doors sound so beautifully. It’s my first love. Love Me Two Times; it’s the definitive 60s LA pop sound. My Eyes Have Seen You; it’s only 2:22. That’s why I love this era; they pack so much in. There’s not too much flannel; that comes later, in ’69, when it becomes big, progressive and overblown.”
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Are You Experienced 1967
“This is a beautiful reissue from the late 80s – really nicely pressed. It was one of the first albums I bought after hearing Hendrix and The Doors for the first time. It’s the raw sound the album has: some of that is down to technology and recording techniques, some of it’s down to desire and lack of ability to do anything else. It captures a time when all those things collided, to create a certain sound. They didn’t have loads of tracks to record the instruments onto. So they inadvertently created a sound that people have tried to replicate and have never been able to do.”
Art – Supernatural Fairy Tales 1967
“This is an interesting one. This is a reissue on Island, but they’ve absolutely mimicked the original pressing of it, even down to the fact it has a Pink Island record label. And it’s in mono. It was only ever available in mono. That cover is done by Hapshash And The Coloured Coat, well-known graphic artists in the 60s – it’s a definitive cover. The band is in a state of transformation, going from that R&B, mod sound into the new psych sound. Lots of bands tried to make that move, because that was selling. But inevitably what had gone before was transmogrified into something new – which is great art. You take your influences and reinterpret them through a new lens.”
Caravan – If I Could Do It All Over Again, I’d Do It All Over You 1970
“I bought it at an Edinburgh record fair, an early American pressing on Decca. In Britain, they were on Deram, which was an English progressive label; in America, it was Decca, but it was called London Records. Caravan were at that crossover where psych becomes prog – that phase of shifting into another era, but taking what you had before and using it to influence what you’re about to become. They were from the south of England and part of the Canterbury Sound. A very English, folk-influenced sound, but moving into the progressive side of psych. It’s when I started to discover that early prog sound.”
Grateful Dead – Anthem of the Sun 1968
“One of the first LPs I ever bought. I subsequently bought a boxset of reissues of the first five albums. These are really high-quality, 180-gram vinyl reissues that replicate the originals. It’s the second Grateful Dead album, so again, very transitional. This album is literally spliced together from late-67 through to early-68 live recordings, overlapped with studio recordings in sync to create this big sound. The cover has the details about where the recordings come from. They mixed it for hallucinations… It’s an unusual sound, not to everyone’s taste – because it can be quite muddy at times – but it captures what it must’ve been like to hear them in those auditoriums.”