Melvin Records/Overby Productions was started by Beatles fan Eddie Fennell with more than just a little help from Fred Arnold. Thanks to a well written and researched article about Fred’s life, a lot is known about him and selected parts will be used to introduce the label.
THE MAGIC OF TELEVISION
“Our family got its first Sears TV set in the middle ’50s. I was about 8 or 9 years old. I enjoyed “Oh, Susannah”, “Leave It to Beaver” and “I Love Lucy”.
The first music I was exposed to was church. Nothing happened. Second was seeing a variety show in the late ’50s and hearing “One Eyed, One Horn Flying Purple People Eater”. Still nothing. Chubby Checker on “American Bandstand” doing the “Twist”. I went out and bought a hula hoop. My first movie was “My Friend Flicka”. I would go over to my best friend’s house and his big brother would play Beach Boys records. I didn’t care about them, nor those Motown songs.
High school started. I got my first transistor radio just in time to hear that President Kennedy had been killed. Most friends and neighbors didn’t seem to mind, but I was very depressed.
At school, during lunch on Feb. 7, 1964, I heard “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on my radio. I was so excited. Some friends and I were talking about how good the song was during the broadcast, and we almost missed the name of the artists, The Beatles. The DJ also said that they would be on the “Ed Sullivan Show” that very Sunday.
Sunday night, I was glued to the TV, watching the show. The adults in the house couldn’t figure out what was going on. I didn’t know either, but after the show, I went to my room, missing “Bonanza” probably for the first time since it came on the air.
The next morning, I took my entire earthly savings, went to the Piggly Wiggly supermarket next to my high school and bought “She Loves You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “Twist and Shout” at 77 cents each. I saved my lunch money and bought Beatles bubble gum after school. And my Beatles collection hasn’t stopped since.”
(The writer later bought and sold Beatles records at The Prism, a store he owned in Charleston, S.C.)
This piece of Beatles nostalgia solicited from “heavy hitters” in the world of Beatles collecting in the USA, appeared in Beatlefan #2, February 1979. Although, seeing the Beatles on live television for the first time had a similar ‘love at first sight’ effect on many teenagers, the effect was more pronounced in some than in others. “He acted like they were a gift from heaven,” his sister Linda remembered of that night, in Arnold’s words , “They are all gods really, at least to me.”
“The next morning, Arnold sold all of his belongings and began a Beatles collection that would grow to become one of the largest of its kind in the world.”
To some of us, the Beatles are more than just a group whose music you like, they can be an anchor to lives thrown into turmoil and trauma. Fred was born in 1948 to a mother who worked as a circus sideshow attraction, appearing as an albino couple together with her brother. Baby Fred also carried the albino gene and was severely vision impaired on top of this. He and his younger sister had to live with their grandparents after their mother started to manifest violent symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia and began harming the children.
Fast forward to 1970 and Fred was the owner of a record store in Charleston, SC called The Odyssey. “For a time, he kept a “Beatles Museum” in a room in the back of the store, but worried the ceiling would leak and destroy his prized collection, so he moved much of his rare material into an adjoining warehouse. Rather than live in apartments, for much of his career Arnold preferred to live in his stores — typically in a back room, where he’d stash his money in the microwave.” One day, Beatles fan and journalist Eddie Fennell walked by and saw two Beatles LP’s in the window he had never seen before. He decided to investigate and enter the store and found in the owner one of the most eccentric figures he’d ever meet. “Just one-of-a-kind,” Fennell laughed. “A real unique guy.”
Fred with Yoko in the 1980’s
“In 1975, Fennell profiled Arnold for the Post & Courier, as an embodiment of the continued existence of “Beatlemania” in the wake of the group’s demise. Arnold’s pride (and obsessive compulsion) leapt off the page. “I have 234 different Beatles albums from 17 countries,” Arnold told him. “Along with several hundred 45s, two Beatles lunch boxes, a Beatles game, a can of Beatles Talc, two Beatles pillows, a Beatles bank and many Beatles films, posters, books, coins, bracelets, shirts, mobiles, ticket stubs, tapes of recordings not on albums, photos, slides, magazines, dolls, cards, buttons and promotion material.”
“Fennell himself had become drawn to the outer limits of collecting, inspired by afternoons at The Odyssey. With Arnold’s store as his exclusive distributor, he launched a Beatles-centric bootleg record label, Melvin Records, that would go on to gain an enduring cult reputation for its bizarre design aesthetic (many of its records featuring Arnold’s catchphrases in tribute) and consistently impressive archeological discoveries (live sets, phone interviews, demos and other rarities).”
For more insights into the life of the only bootlegger to have met the Fab Four, please visit:
And so, in 1975 their first release numbered MM-01 was proudly offered in the store. The pressing run for their first effort was obviously very limited as copies are extremely hard to locate and command a high price. Supposedly, the copy shown here was sold for the minimum bid of $1,999.75 in April of 2017.
USA: Fall of 1975, distributed via the Odyssey record store in Charleston, South Carolina
Unfortunately, Melvin’s first offering to the world of Beatles’ bootlegs was a complete rehash of previously available material. Side 1 contained mostly BBC recordings and one Decca Audition track.
The only part of the record I was able to listen to was “Lucille”, as the seller had uploaded it as part of the auction. Which versions make up the other tracks (and if there any upgrades here) on the Melvin LP can only be guessed.
- Lucille – the complete 3 September ’63 recording included here first appeared on TMOQ’s Outtakes 1 in July of 1972
- I’m Gonna Sit Right Down And Cry (Over You) – first released on TMOQ’s Yellow Matter Custard in January of 1972
- I Just Don’t Understand – see previous entry
- Love Of The Loved – the lone Decca audition track available prior to the 1977 “Deccagone” 45’s via CBM’s L.S. Bumblebee, where it appeared as an extended edit. A bootleg single released in 1974 (Love Of The Loved / Reunion) provided an unedited upgrade
- Crying, Waiting, Hoping – see Yellow Matter Custard
- Hippy Hippy Shake – see Outtakes 1
- Soldier Of Love – first released on Wizardo’s Rare Beatles/Happy Birthday/Soldier Of Love album (WRMB 345) around mid-1975, which helps date the Melvin album
- Don’t Ever Change – see Yellow Matter Custard
- The Honeymoon Song – ditto
- What’s The New Mary Jane – an incomplete version of RS2 first appeared on CBM’s Mary Jane in 1972, a complete dub followed in July of 1973 on TMOQ’s Spicy Beatles Songs and finally a true stereo version in 1974 on Benbecula’s Live at Shea Stadium 1964
- Step Inside Love (home demo) – this poor quality off-line recording was taken from DJ Kenny Everett likely playing an acetate on one of his shows and first appeared on CBM’s Abbey Road Revisited in 1973
- A medley of: Besame Mucho; Cottonfields; When You Walk; Whole Lotta Shakin Goin’ On, Suzy Parker and Those Were The Days – a hodgepodge of mostly Get Back session snippets with John ‘butchering’ “Cottonfields” on the Kenny Everett Show and his short rendition of the Mary Hopkins hit – that replaced “Hey Jude” at number one – taped at the Amsterdam bed-in, thrown in. All previously released as well.
- Bye Bye Bye- not the Beatles at all but Kenny Everett’s Nice Time TV show, also first released in atrocious off-line quality on CBM’s Abbey Road Revisited as US bootleggers missed the original Deram Records UK single
- All Together On The Wireless Machine – Paul’s jingle for Kenny Everett, from Where It’s At a radio special about the Magical Mystery Tour double EP, broadcast 25 November 1967, see Abbey Road Revisited as well
- Have You Heard The Word – by the Fut, first appeared on CBM’s album of the same title and was upgraded in length on Abbey Road Revisited