Perhaps the most ignored section of your local record store is the imports bin. This is very unfortunate. since with the declining quality of American album pressings, imported LP's generally offer more for your record dollar. (Be forewarned, however, that you're going to shell out more of them for an import.)
There is another reason for buying imports, aside from better quality vinyl, which I assume many Americans are willing to live without. Many import albums, while bearing the same title as their American counterparts, are far different.
This fact was first impressed upon me in the early seventies when I had the good fortune to borrow a friend's British pressing of Magical Mystery Tour. Much to my surprise, what I pulled out of the dust jacket was not the LP familiar to American buyers, but a double EP (extended play), containing the songs found on side one of the LP, the movie soundtrack.
Three of the more important albums of the last twelve months exhibit the trend of imports differing from domestic pressings. To look at them in rough order of release, they are:
Never Mind The Bollocks, Here's The Sex Pistols
In a rare ease of U.S. buyers getting more for their money in an American pressing. Warners-Virgin added an extra cut to side two of this album: "Sub-mission" was not released on the U.K. Virgin pressing. The dust sleeve was slightly altered, but the cover just had a "Sub-mission" sticker placed on it, and remained otherwise the same as that for the U.K. pressing.
Elvis Costello: This Year's Model
This album represents a slightly less mild case than does Never Mind The Bollocks. The front cover of the import, deliberately printed off center, is of much better color quality than the U.S. pressing, the front and rear cover photographs are different, and the inner sleeve is subtly different also. On the English disc you will find the songs "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" and "Night Rally." not found on the American LP, and "Radio Radio," which closes that disc, is not on the import. The American label is Columbia; the English label is Radar Records.
"Mushroom Records regrets that a contractual dispute has made it necessary to complete this record without the co-operation or endorsement of the group Heart, who have expressly disclaimed artistic involvement in completing this record.
We did not feel that a contractual dispute should prevent the public from hearing and enjoying these great tunes and recordings."
That disclaimer will never be read by the thousands of Americans who will purchase Heart's Magazine album. Why? It appears on the import copy. If that is not bad enough, the album was recorded for Mushroom USA, released by Arista UK and manufactured by EMI-Holland.
Unlike Elvis Costello's album, the covers on the two Heart releases look essentially the same: it is the albums inside that are different.
While the import is essentially an authorized bootleg of the 1976 recordings that were the original Magazine, the U.S. pressing has an all new set of vocals, recorded early this year. In the opinion of most people who have heard both, the import is far superior. If you can find one, get one. They are going to be worth even more than the original Lynyrd Skynyrd Street Survivors cover.
These are just three examples of how imports and domestic albums can and do differ. Import pressings offer superior quality, interesting differences from domestic LP's and quite often songs you could never hear on an American album. In these days when audio software lags behind hardware, they are one of the bargains in the former field.