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Wednesday, March 4, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 18.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Vinyl Cave: Kind of a Drag by The Buckinghams

Aah, the magic of a small label having a monster hit record out of the blue. There's nothing like it to create weird variations of vintage records for the obsessive collector to keep an eye out for decades down the road. One particularly obscure instance occurs with the debut LP from The Buckinghams, which exists both with and without a ripping, Yardbirds-styled cover of "I'm a Man."

Kind of a Drag is a pop classic and one of my favorite '60s discs, with or without "I'm a Man." But being a huge fan of Chicago garage sounds, the rare version of the LP has remained near the top of my want list since seeing its existence noted in an album price guide.

The specifics of that variation have largely remained a mystery over the years, with little solid information to be found either in old guides or online. Even the Sundazed CD, which includes the track, simply describes it as "unreleased" in the booklet notes. For years, I diligently checked every LP I saw for "I'm a Man" to be listed, only to eventually learn in some obscure corner of the Internet (where I can't find again) that one can't identify it by the album cover or label. The song was never in the track list, though many covers do mention it in the liner notes.

Well, all right, then: How can you identify one of these puppies? Obviously, the easiest way is by playing it, but that's not an option in many places where the record may turn up -- garage sales, thrift stores, and so on -- to say nothing of trying to find one online. I've spent time looking for a copy with an extra track (the "normal" version is 12). Another thought I had was to look for a really long song on the record itself, since "I'm a Man" is more than five minutes long. That method ended up working fairly well for identification purposes, but not for the reason I thought it would.

While looking at an unusually nice copy of the album recently, I noticed that the song "Summertime," normally the fourth track on side two and the standard album's longest song -- hence, the widest band on the disc -- was instead the third track. This got me thinking, but there was no really wide band to indicate the inclusion of "I'm a Man." However, this copy was also in better shape than any I'd seen in ages, so I took a flyer ... and hit the jackpot.

It turns out the alternate version of Kind of a Drag is quite a different animal. It's actually only 11 songs, and for mysterious reasons "I'm a Man" has a blank band in the middle like it's two tracks. Even goofier, one of the songs missing from the disc is "Kind of a Drag" itself! Also missing in action is "I've Been Wrong," the single A-side just before "Drag." Otherwise, the track order is shuffled around as well (see below), which leads to speculation time -- how, exactly, did this version come to even exist?

My guess is that this track lineup was an early projection for an LP after the band had some Midwest hits, and at least some copies were pressed up. Then, when "Kind of a Drag" became a monster hit the LP was reconfigured ... and somewhere along the line a few copies of that early version made it out the door, either accidentally or because the label was trying to sneak out the "incorrect" one to save on pressing fees. I can only imagine anyone buying the album at the time and finding it did not include "Kind of a Drag" was probably pretty miffed.

Here are track listings for each version of Kind of a Drag.

"Early" version:
Side 1

  1. I'll Go Crazy
  2. Beginners Love
  3. Don't Want to Cry
  4. Virginia Wolf
  5. I'm a Man pt. 1
  6. I'm a Man pt. 2
Side 2
  1. I Call Your Name
  2. You Make Me Feel So Good
  3. Summertime
  4. Sweets for My Sweet
  5. Love Ain't Enough
  6. Makin' Up & Breakin' Up

"Normal" version:
Side 1

  1. I'll Go Crazy
  2. Don't Want to Cry
  3. Virginia Wolf
  4. Beginners Love
  5. Sweets for My Sweet
  6. I've Been Wrong
Side 2
  1. I Call Your Name
  2. Makin' Up & Breakin' Up
  3. You Make Me Feel So Good
  4. Summertime
  5. Love Ain't Enough
  6. Kind of a Drag

Now that I have a copy in hand, I can report that there really isn't an easy way to identify the alternate pressing. The matrix numbers are exactly the same on both versions, with no indication a change was ever made. Earlier copies do have the mention of "I'm a Man" in the liner notes, but that version of the cover actually seems to be more common than the corrected version. So if you're looking for one, just check the record to see where the longest band on side two resides! It's also worth noting for the sound conscious that the "I'm a Man" version does not have any of the tape drag/wavy sound issues encountered on side two of many copies of the standard issue. (U.S.A. Records LP 107, 1967)

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