Saturday, July 8, 2017

Absolutely Fabulous

In their attempts to branch out from the five-and-dime and variety store shelves, Topps started creating some very innovative sets as the Sixties wore on.  Certainly one of the oddest of these was a set of 16 flexi discs called Fabulous Rock Records. The title of the set is very accurate in one sense but no so much in another.  Fabulous?  You bet!  It's one of the nicest sets ever issued by Topps but it's not even close to having any rock n' roll hits-it's 100% Motown artists!

I won't list the individual song titles but there are eight different artists represented:

Diana Ross & The Supremes (5 records)
Four Tops (2 records)
Martha & The Vandellas (2 records)
Stevie Wonder (2 records)
The Temptations (2 records)
The Marvelletes (1 record)
Marvin Gaye (1 record)
Smokey Robinson & The Miracles (1 record)

For artists with multiple records a different picture was used on each. Clearly the label was promoting Diana Ross & The Supremes-wow!  And clearly, Topps took advantage of a push toward the mainstream to get advantageous terms for licensing purposes.  A classic win/win!

The year of issue per Chris Benjamin was 1968 but the packaging bears a 1967 commodity number. However, While researching this post I discovered something very interesting and believe it was probably issued twice.  I've had this Marvin Gaye example for a while now (Tamla was the original "Motown" label, although it became a subsidiary of the latter pretty quickly):

The back is full on groovy:

The record is 6 7/8" in diameter by the way, while the sleeve that held it measures the proper 7 inches each way (excluding the "cut out"):

That sleeve just screams psychedelic and acid rock! The back was very similar to the front:

Howvwer, I have found sleeves with the center hole cutout to reveal a portion of the artwork but all of the artist's name and the song title:

The commodity numbers are the same but clearly the packaging is different.  I assume either the non-cut out version was a test issue (they seem a lot harder to find), or the configuration was changed to (presumably) make it either more or less obvious which record was within. The sleeves look like they were taped shut so I have to guess more visibility and a reduction in mangled sleeves left in the retail box was the goal.

A box proof just surfaced on eBay and is similarly fabulous:


Even "knit-picking", it's stupendous!  Here's' a better look at the graphics:

I'm thinking the go-go girl was Nancy Sinatra inspired. She was seemingly finished by Norm Saunders but this set is not on his website's list of work he did for Topps, so maybe not.

There you have it, one of the great Topps sets ever!


Brett Alan said...

Just because Motown isn't part if the rock radio format doesn't mean it isn't rock and roll. It all evolved out of the same 40s/50s rock stuff.

toppcat said...

I see Motown as R&B but no matter, it's great stuff, especially by the time 1966-67 rolled around. The big disconnect is the acid rock looking musicians on the sleeve vs. the 100% Motown artists in the set.

CaptKirk42 said...

My brother had and I think somewhere still has the Diana Ross & The Supremes "Baby Love".