WTF Island

10-Plus Vinyl Albums You'll Always See at Thrift Stores

I have been cursed with an affliction to mindlessly buy vinyl at thrift stores, garage sales, flea markets, and estate sales, without regard for how much room I have at home. The problem now encompasses compact discs too. It's a genetic trait. My father collects containers. His garage looks like the Container Store. Portions of my house look like an antique mall.

Along my record-hoarding travels -- beginning around 1997 -- I manage to keep seeing the same albums, over and over again. I'm not the only one who has written about these misfit collection castoffs, albums whose only crime was not being a Beatles or Rolling Stones LP.

The best things I have ever found? Every '60s Kinks LP in one crate at a Salvation Army and Black Flag's Everything Went Black and Public Image Ltd's Second Edition at an outdoor flea market near Almeda Mall. Everything else came in spurts, making the hunt evermore thrilling.

Switched-On BachComposer Wendy Carlos electrified take on the classics with an analog synthesizer is a common find at junk shops. It' snot bad either, and any fan of the enigmatic Carlos or just weirdo instrumentation should own it. her site has a great write-up on the album too.

Any & All Barbra Streisand

I still can't believe so many people bough her records. That's not a knock on her as an artist, I just don't see how she sold so well and still remains relatively off the industry radar.


Chances are you will find Boston's self-titled record or Don't Look Back over the course of a weekend digging for vinyl off the beaten path. Boston sucks, by the way. People say awful things about Nickelback and Creed, but I would rather listen to those guys than Boston.

Willie Nelson

Maybe it's just Texas, but Willie's albums can be found at a regular clip. If you disagree, you just aren't looking, or you have already been snaked by another collector. Somewhere Over The Rainbow, Stardust, and a stray Greatest Hits are the most usual suspects, though I once found a clean copy of To Lefty From Willie that I still use quite a bit. As for clean-shaven Willie, that's a bigger rarity.

The Big Chill

If you can get past the yuppie smugness of Glenn Close and company on the cover, it's a decent '60s pop and soul compilation.

That Lionel Richie Album That Everyone Thinks Is Autographed

Look, I was taken by it too once. I was in a Half Price Books in Corpus years ago and saw the album in a locked bin with a tag touting it as a "Signed Lionel Richie Album!" for just $20. I asked to see it and buy it, only to discover it was just a facsimile scribbling.

I told the clerk that it was not authentic and that they should put it in with the rest of their stock. He just laughed and put it back, ignoring me. Somewhere in Corpus someone is staring at a "signed" copy of Richie's debut solo album sitting in an ornate frame on their wall, and wishing for it to never be touched by human hands.

Neil Diamond

If I had a dollar for every worn copy of The Jazz Singer I have seen in the past 15 years, I could afford to hire Neil Diamond himself to perform at my next birthday party.

Moody Blues

People seem to have bought the Moody's Days Of Future Passed by the handful upon it's release in December 1967. I was excited to find my first copy, until I found four alone at an Austin thrift store, then it wasn't so cool.

Any Great Record missing an inner sleeve

It's true. Most of the time you will find a great classic record -- say Houses of the Holy -- only to find it sans inner sleeve and scratched to all hell. At that point you are just paying for a wall piece and not something you can jam out too.

The First Family

Comedian Vaughn Meader took on the President Kennedy and his clan in this 1962 release at the height of Camelot mania. It was a rarity too on the pop charts, a comedy album hitting number one that same year. After Kennedy's violent death, all remaining copies of the album were pulled from stocks and later destroyed. Now, almost 50 years since Kennedy's assassination, it's a fun listen from a more innocent time in America.

Billy Joel, Glass Houses

Billy Joel is big in the refuse-bin record world, with nearly his entire early discography a mainstay of Salvation Army and Goodwill inventories. Oddly enough, it's his Glass Houses that I see the most, with Joel in tight, dick-hugging jeans about to throw a rock through a window. As far as his sometime touring partner Elton John goes, his stuff is pretty common on the second-hand market too, especially Tumbleweed Connection (of all albums) followed by Honky Chateau.

Neil Young's Harvest

I buy this one no matter its condition, whether it's weather-beaten, half-eaten or missing the LP itself. It just feels good in your hands, and the rough-textured cover feels like home.


Our parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, must have really really liked Chicago at one time, but not enough to hold on to their albums. You are most likely to see any numbered Chicago releases collecting dust and gunk on a shelf, with almost pristine covers and vinyl. So people just bought them to donate to a thrift store 40 years later?

The Who's Tommy

Why would you want to donate this one to charity? it's awesome in any condition. It can be framed, used in some artsy-fartsy fashion you stole from Pinterest, or kept around for esthetic purposes. I almost never see the soundtrack to the film adaptation to Tommy, which I found superior to the source material. (ducks flying beer bottles)

Elvis Presley

For an Elvis fan, it's kinda sad to see the King sitting all discarded on the floor of a Pasadena thrifting outpost, especially his Christmas stuff. Even sadder when you realize that there are people who think his records are worth thousands of dollars, when in actuality the lion's share of his LPs don't have much market value. That's what happens when you sell seventy billion albums.

Christmas Anything

Speaking of Christmas records, most albums dealing with yuletide cheer clog up record bins all year long, but the fun part is that they have some of most peculiar cover art, from Santas being ridden by pin-up girls, to Santas enjoying some liquid holiday cheer. Fun fact: I own most of the George Strait Christmas LPs in Houston.

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass' Whipped Cream & Other Delights

If you don't own Whipped Cream for at least the boss, sexy cover, then something is wrong with you. The often-parodied cover, just a hot chick covered in the titular cream, was also responsible for making a lot of boys into men, or say I have heard. Who knew that an album cover featuring a comely brunette with full breasts would be popular with pubescent boys?

Random '78s

If you are a collector, always be sure to give that dusty and musty stack of '78s a look. You never know what you could find, and they can make for good decorative pieces. Oh, and they smash real good too.

Follow Rocks Off on Facebook and on Twitter at @HPRocksOff.

KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Craig Hlavaty
Contact: Craig Hlavaty