In September, members of Vinyl Me, Please Essentials will receive an exclusive edition of U.F.O., the debut LP from L.A. troubadour Jim Sullivan. Vinyl Me, Please partnered with Light In The Attic on this new edition of the album, which comes on exclusive Coke bottle clear vinyl and with alternate artwork in a gatefold jacket. Read below for the details of our release. You can sign up to receive it here.
Andrew Winistorfer: I’m betting that most of the people beginning to read this don’t know the story of Jim Sullivan, so I’m going to give it to you here. Sullivan was a singer-songwriter in the ’60s and ’70s in L.A., who made these searching, stunningly beautiful psych-folk songs about finding himself, space, and wishing you could go back to better days. He had this unique voice that could be raw, but also pretty sweet. He was gigging around Malibu in the late ’60s, and it became clear to some regulars at a bar he played at that he was making music that deserved to be recorded, so they launched a record label basically just to release his debut LP. They hired the Wrecking Crew — the legendary group of session musicians in L.A. — to back Sullivan on what would become U.F.O., his amazing 1969 debut. The album unfortunately didn’t get much traction, though it did lead him to make his sophomore album, 1972’s self-titled affair, for Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Records.
When that album didn’t vault Sullivan to fame either, he struggled to make ends meet, and decided, in 1975, to drive to Nashville to relaunch his career, where acoustic troubadours were making waves. Sullivan made it as far as New Mexico, where he was pulled over for erratic driving, and told to check into a hotel by the local police. He did, and called his wife to let her know where he was. He was never heard from again.
The next morning, police found Sullivan’s car, abandoned in the desert, along with his guitar. No one knows what happened to him, but there have been various rumors floated involving the mob, police foul play, and, due to his closeness to Roswell, alien abduction. Because of the mystery of his disappearance, the lyrics on U.F.O. took on an otherworldly quality; the songs about aliens, and being in the sky, and vanishing seem like they were written to explain his disappearance, just written six years early.
**The album became a crate-digger classic, one that sold for hundreds of dollars when rare copies surfaced, before it was rediscovered by Matt Sullivan at Light in the Attic (no relation), who heard a song from U.F.O. on a blog, and spent years chasing down the rights to the album, and found Jim’s family and got their blessing to reissue U.F.O. **
Cam, how did this album get on our radar? I remember you sending this to me like more than 2 years ago and laying the story out.
Cameron Schaefer, Vinyl Me, Please Head of Music & Brand: About two years ago, I was in L.A., and sitting in the offices at Light In The Attic, talking with Matt Sullivan, co-owner and founder of Light In The Attic. It was the first time we had gotten a chance to sit down and talk about stuff, and obviously we respect what they do, and vice versa. I specifically asked him what some of his favorite releases were in the history of the label, and Jim Sullivan’s U.F.O. was at the top of his list. At that time, I hadn’t heard of the album, and Matt told me the story of Jim Sullivan, and how the project came together. And how working on Jim’s music has been a passion project for the label for more than 10 years now at this point. We also talked about how hard they worked to make sure that they were able to tell the story of Jim in a good way; his story lends itself to a lot of sensationalism, and I really respect that Light in the Attic really want to do it in a way that is respectful to Jim’s family. They worked really hard to make sure that the way they presented Jim’s album and story wasn’t exploitative at all.
Yeah, because ultimately, this is a tragedy. It’s an interesting story, but ultimately their dad and husband disappeared.
Yeah, exactly. I listened to the album when I got home and found it to be even better than Matt described. Magical isn’t a phrase I like to say about music, but that’s the perfect term for it because there is something that, when you put all the music and the album art with the story, and then are listening to the lyrics and the music, there are a lot of goosebump moments. It makes you wish that he hadn’t disappeared and got to make more albums, because he’s obviously a rare talent that really never got his due when he was alive. For me, I’m excited that we got to partner with Light In The Attic to introduce more people to this album.
Their 2010 edition has been sold out for a minute, too.
Yeah, they were really waiting for the right moment to reissue it again and had every intention of doing it themselves, but it’s really an honor for us to work with them on doing this version with one of their most prized projects and being able to present it to our members.
So what are the details of our edition? It’s been remastered, right?
Yep, new lacquers were cut at Elysian. Our edition comes with an alternate cover color; instead of the blue and gray and turquoise look of the original, ours comes in pink. It’s a gatefold as well, and they updated the liner notes booklet for this edition. The vinyl is Coke bottle clear, which goes really well with the pink. The art print is a great pic of Jim as well.
Andrew Winistorfer is Senior Director of Music and Editorial at Vinyl Me, Please, and a writer and editor of their books, 100 Albums You Need in Your Collection and The Best Record Stores in the United States. He’s written Listening Notes for more than 30 VMP releases, co-produced multiple VMP Anthologies, and executive produced the VMP Anthologies The Story of Vanguard, The Story of Willie Nelson, Miles Davis: The Electric Years and The Story of Waylon Jennings. He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.