The Holy Grail
I sell real estate as a day job, with a specialty in midcentury-modern homes in the Boston suburbs. More often than not, we help folks edit down their stuff. It is rarely a painless process.
Yesterday, my partner John and I just happened to stop by to do an impromptu video shoot at a listing we have coming up this spring. The house is nowhere near ready and the deceased owner’s retirement-aged son and his wife were there chipping away at the huge amount of stuff the owners had accumulated for close to 60 years. And one thing worth noting about midcentury-mod houses is that they generally are not known for having enormous amounts of storage space. There are usually no attics getting in the way of the soaring cathedral ceilings, and basements tend to be partially above grade and finished. So when someone is, to put it gently, a collector, the spaces tend to fill up, sort of negating the benefits of the proverbial open floor plans.
The owners of the house are as sweet as they come, so our unannounced visit was actually greeted warmly. When we were done with our video bit, they repeated a previous plea to take anything we wanted. We always hook up sellers with furniture dealers and other people who would give them fair prices for stuff. Most sellers take us up on that, or they give stuff to family members. We don’t take advantage of, say, getting an Eames Lounge Chair for free or $200.
But few people think records are worth the hassle. So the owner pointed to a few stacks and told me to have at ’em after I told him I might have some interest. There was a lot of great stuff. First pressings of Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Ellington, swing, and more. No rock & roll. Except this one record that caught my eye. It looked like a Paisley Underground retro cover of a ’60s garage band. A quick examination showed it to be an actual ’60s garage band, The Rising Tide, from 1967, formed at the Phillips Andover prep school, at that time an all-male institution. It notes the school right on the cover.
I asked the owner if he knew these guys. Andover is about 10 miles up the road. They recorded it in Framingham, about another 10 miles west. It was the only record that did not seem to be his father’s and these guys would be about the same age. It did not seem to register with him.
I threw it on a huge stack of records I took home, figuring I could research and see if there were any local connections. After spinning some Django and Wes Montgomery, I put on the Rising Storm. I did not expect it to be so great. But it blasts off with a great version of Barry and the Remains’ garage classic, “Don’t Look Back.” There’s a cover of a Love song and some really great originals. The recording is well done.
I Googled the most identifiable name and emailed someone who matched it. In the meantime, I searched the name of the Remnant label, with the theory that it had something to do with Barry and the Remains. That led me to Discogs. I really didn’t think something like what appeared to be a small-run vanity project by some prep school boys would show up, but there it was. And there were dozens of reissues, notably on the well-known Sundazed label.
But scrolling down, I saw the Remnant release and clicked it. It said initial pressing of 500. Then I saw in the right margins that existing original copies were being sold for $3,500 and up. I called out to my wife, “THIS RECORD IS SELLING FOR MORE THAN THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS!” She laughed, until I convinced her I was looking at the right thing.
My record collecting friends are probably thinking, “How did you not know about this record?” While I have been buying records since childhood, I have never been a collector. And I took most of the CD era off from buying any records. But anyone who noticed the 2017 NYT article about the band probably already knew what I was not aware of when I picked up this record out of curiosity.
By the way, it — like the rest of the records — were heading out to Goodwill. I just happened to stop by the house at that time. I just happened to stop on that record as I quickly thumbed through.
The drummer in the band, Tom Scheft, emailed me back quickly.
Yes, I was/still am the drummer.
Did you know about the band before, or did you just stumble upon this?
And while you’re at it … who are you and what do you do?
I got back to him. Turns out he had just listened to me on Maron’s WTF podcast and plays in a band with a singer who is a big Buff Tom fan. I mean, that was maybe the sort of thing I was thinking I might get when I picked up this record: a connection. He also sent a link to this fabulous short documentary about the whole phenomenon.
Of course, I told the owner of the house what he happened to unknowingly give away. He told me to keep it. I just posted it up for auction on eBay for lower than the prices i was seeing. But I will be happy to keep it if it does not achieve those heights. Do Not Sell at Any Price, say some collectors. I am more like that with vintage guitars and amps. And I sure would like to buy an old 64-note mini piano for my small house. Or maybe I am more than halfway to an Eames Lounge Chair, ha.
My wife says, “BERMUDA!”