As part of her job, my wife had to go to Princeton today, and I decided to tag along. I did so mostly to keep and enjoy her company, but also so I could visit the Princeton Record Exchange, among the best record stores in the Garden State. In the last few years that I have had a turntable and have been buying records, I have noticed that some albums, artists, and genres are found with alarming regularity. Since folks want to hold onto their Beatles LPs, it turns out that finding them used is a lot harder than picking up something by Steve Forbert. Many formerly popular albums simply failed to stand the test of time (at least in the minds of their owners), but still have subtle charms to offer. Some of the albums I discuss below can be had for a couple of bucks, but can give you a C-note worth of musical enjoyment. Of course, most are so cheap cuz they suck.
Singer-songwriters of the 1970s
In the first place, most joints that sell used records are full to bursting with 70s singer-songwriter albums. If you want to get Dan Fogelberg, Nicolette Larson, Carly Simon, or James Taylor on wax, you will have no problem. Music made for sensitive types to drop Quaaludes to while sprawling on the shag carpet has aged just as poorly as the 'ludes and carpet have. Lester Bangs would be proud.
This is not to say all that is readily available is bad. I have become a big fan of Traffic, enabled by the fact that I could easily acquire their entire back catalog at most record stores for a song. John Barleycorn Must Die is especially common in record stores, an album that I have learned to love and cherish. This was a group that married jazz, rock, and folk in bold and interesting ways; I am at a loss to explain their sudden lack of support, other than perhaps a prejudice these days against the use of the flute. (This also might explain why Jethro Tull records come a dime a dozen, too.) Perhaps it's because they don't really fit into the seventies hard rock template, and that their style of music pretty much died with that decade.
Speaking of hard rock, just about every used record store whose transom my shadow has ever haunted inevitably sold Humble Pie's double live Rockin' the Fillmore. They're another band that doesn't seem to have been able to maintain their substantial following from back in the day. No, not all artists can inspire the loyalty of a Barry Manilow, but that doesn't mean they have little to offer. Humble Pie was not a great studio band, but they could tear it up good and proper, and if you are looking for a double-barreled blast of grinding boogie rock, look no further.
Fleetwood Mac, Tusk
Speaking of double albums, 1979's Tusk may be a secret rock snob favorite, but it can be found just about everywhere, usually in immaculate condition. You get the feeling that a lot of people played this sprawling curiosity just once. Back in '79 the Mac's mainstream fans probably expected a retread of Rumours and instead got a supremely moody double album intercut with semi-avant grade experiments by Lindsay Buckingham. Do yourself a favor and let the lack of insight by the masses be your opportunity to get a slice of pure vinyl beauty for less than the cost of a latte.
Neil Young, Reactor
Many a time do I dig into the Neil Young section of the racks and come up disappointed after finding only a few copies of this album. At used record stores one tends to find tons and tons of lesser albums by great artists. I could imagine a lot of folks bought this lame record in the aftermath of Young's mind-blowing Rust Never Sleeps and felt cheated. It looks like they got the last laugh, cuz thirty years later record stores still can't resell the damn thing.
David Bowie, Tonight
Often, when I go looking for David Bowie records, I can find only this tossed-off mediocrity attempting to cash in on his all too successful sell-out bid for popularity on Let's Dance. Apparently a lot of people in 1984 got hoodwinked. To quote Johnny Rotten, "Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"