Ever heard a good story about a "phantom record"?
That's a release (normally on vinyl) that was never actually in production. The tales I've heard vary in intensity from people gossiping about a band's next perceived output, to outright fakes making national news outlets.
When I was in primary ed, my parents couldn't afford daycare, and used summer school as their way of getting rid of me for at least half a day. When my public school wasn't holding classes, they'd dish out a bit for Catholic school. According to the Sister Mary Elephant of my youth, there were 12" records distributed by Satanists that could evoke the Devil, or have incantations possess you with demons.
I knew these imp-producing discs didn't exist, and were just a nun's way to freak kids out, but it sparked in me a few interests that I hold to this day.
Even so, when I bought Current 93's Dogs Blood Rising LP in 1986, I thought this was surely the closest thing to that, and would use the last 60 seconds of that record's "From Broken Cross, Locusts" in crank calls for years after.
Anyhow, most stories of these types of releases are hot gossip. Many spread hearsay about albums that never were, such as the Beastie Boys' Your Daddy's Caddie, which people spoke of a year before Paul's Boutique debuted. The hushed whispers of a Kurt Cobain solo album. The Pink Floyd LP Household Objects—where rumors have the band playing only on utensils. What came of the tracks from Trent Reznor and Maynard Keenan's Tapeworm recording? How many future albums are in Prince's secret stash anyway?
Some "phantom records" turned out to actually exist, like U2's 1997 MOFO III 12" (a Matthew Roberts techno remix); the Scepter Studios acetate by a pre-Nico 1966 The Velvet Underground; Beastie Boys' Country Mike's Greatest Hits joke album; the MC Hammer and Tupac collaboration LP, Too Tight; and the infamous record 1987, What the Fuck's Going On?, by The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (who later became The KLF)—which was rumored to have been sued into nonexistence by the Swedish band ABBA.
There are a few funny anecdotes of ghost releases, such as the constant searches for a handful of records from a fictitious band in an article from the Feral House book Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth. How could you not expect hundreds of music nerds to not start the hunt when you open the piece with the words, "They're among the most sought-after bootlegs in all of rock 'n' roll."?
Written by the book's co-editor, David Smay, the story is about The Daisy Bang, a fabricated act, which—after releasing a slew of psych-pop—recorded a night's meth-fueled practice, nearly inventing hardcore punk (releasing it as The Black Beauty Demos). Those imaginary recordings had a few hundred confused collectors in those pre-search engine days bugging every record store employee they knew—all because they didn't notice the work was in the book's (very) brief section of fictional writing. You can still look it up and find forums where people ask if The Daisy Bang ever were. The band's other albums that people still keep an eye out for, but don't exist, are Daisy Bang Days, Harmony Cathedral, and Cin Songs Seventeen.
There is a case of an entire collection of phantom records, which at one time existed only in the universe of one man: Mingering Mike.
In 2003, thrifty crate-digger Dori Hadar was flipping through his flea market finds, when he came across 38 handmade record covers. Being an encyclopedic record collector, he knew he stumbled onto something of note. Mingering Mike was prolific—releasing his first LP, Sit'tin by the Window, in 1968—moving on to score action films, and even releasing a 1972 live album. So far, 150 pieces of Mingering's work has surfaced, and are now items sought after by art collectors as well as record aficionados. Of course, not a single note of music has ever come up.
Almost every "record" found in the Mingering Mike catalog is a hand-painted cardboard circle, painted black, complete with grooves and a center label.
The most famous case of a "phantom record" made it all the way to the Billboard charts.
In June of 1979, a band—simply known as D.A.—held the 106th spot on Billboard's "Bubbling Under the Hot 100" for three weeks. Listed as a 7" single for the track "Ready 'n' Steady," no one has ever seen a copy, heard the song, or been able to trace down any such band. For three consecutive, nationally-published music polls, it first appeared as America's 106th favorite record, then 103rd, and following with 102nd place the last week. Two spots before it could make it into the Top 100, the song listing disappeared.
Music historian Joel Whitburn, whose company Record Research analyzes music charts and is believed to have held a physical copy of every record in existence, wrote in the last edition of his book that "the existence of this record and artist are in question," though in 1995 he said in an interview he thought they may have been an all-girl punk group from Chicago.
A band on the national charts—basically "popular music"—that did not exist.
It had me thinking what D.A.'s music could have been like, as well as the cover art to this bizarre apparition of music-less musical history.
I thought it'd be a laugh to make up a cover image to go along with this piece, and after finding myself in Photoshop for about 30 minutes, I had come up with what I thought a record under the title Ready 'n' Steady, by a band called "D.A.," would look like in 1979.
I decided to tell the story to a few creative types, and asked them to offer up interpretations of what that sleeve may have looked like.
These are their visions: