Great albums plus great musicians equals collecting gold
When he bought his first album in 1975 – “Alive!” by KISS – a pre-teen John Brennan would never have guessed a lifelong passion was being born. Collecting albums and autographs became his focused and beloved hobby for more than four decades.
Our inaugural auction from The John Brennan Collection (May 10-17) will feature an incredible selection of autographed albums from the legends of music history. Here are six of our favorites:
Lot 7054: Beatles’ “Abbey Road,” signed by Paul, George and Ringo
Few would argue that the photograph on the cover of “Abbey Road” is one of the most iconic images ever captured of the Beatles. The famous four are seen crossing the named street – Lennon in the lead in his crisp white suit, Starr looking dapper in a dark one immediately behind him; McCartney follows, barefoot, with Harrison bringing up the rear in casual denim.
This album flat features the signatures of Paul, Ringo and the elusive George. Collector Brennan discusses the travails of getting Harrison’s autograph:
Reflecting solemnly on Harrison’s reluctance to sign following John Lennon’s 1980 murder at the hands of one-time autograph seeker Mark David Chapman, Brennan remembers “I met him around the time of his solo album (Cloud Nine) and a few times afterwards. He wasn’t around much. [George] wasn’t against signing, per se; he was against getting killed.” Of Harrison, John says, “He was extremely reclusive. I saw him at Heathrow airport in 1988, and near a HandMade Films set; I saw him in NYC at the studio with Clapton in the late 1980s.” And chillingly, when Brennan asked for his autograph, Harrison remarked, “Sure… As long as you’re not going to kill me.”
Lot 7085: “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” album, signed by the artist
This album gave us some of Dylan’s most timeless classics, and earned him a spot in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry of the top 50 culturally, historically or aesthetically significant works.
Dylan was also a tough autograph to obtain, Brennan said. He was shocked when the legendary singer-songwriter not only deigned to have a photo with the young collector, but especially so when Dylan returned the gesture and put his arm around John:
Brennan recalls the difficulty of obtaining Dylan, “He’s tough to get now; all of my autographs and photos were done many years ago. He has a better quality signature now, but it’s more difficult to get.” In reference to the candid photos of Brennan with Dylan, “The photos of us together are from 1987; he was appearing at a Tribute to George Gershwin at Brooklyn Academy of Music. The album offered in this inaugural auction was signed many years later.”
Lot 7010: Pink Floyd’s “Animals” album, signed by the entire band
Loosely based on Orwellian cautionary tale “Animal Farm,” this Pink Floyd album is signed by Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright – quite a feat, according to Brennan:
“The chase started in the 1980s, when I got Waters; then Gilmour on his solo tour; then more on the reunion tour (sans Waters). Brennan noted, “Roger Waters lived in NYC on and off; he was very accessible. He was generally a friendly person anyway.” “My complete-signed Pink Floyd is a big deal because David Gilmour is the most rare signature, having been so reclusive and not really signing since the 90s (next rare would be the late Richard Wright).” In-band fights were always tough on the autograph seeker looking to complete band signatures. “One time when Gilmour and Waters were fighting, Waters ripped up an autograph that Gilmour had already signed for a buddy of mine.” Brennan noted wistfully, “It’s been almost my whole career getting Pink Floyd completed, because there was no real reunion with all of them. It was just hardcore collecting, one by one, in all different spots.”
Lot 7155: The Eagles’ “Hotel California” album, fully signed
On a dark desert highway… This first-pressing of the iconic “Hotel California” album includes the record, and is signed by Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh, Don Felder and J.D. Souther.
Another difficult band to get a fully signed item from, the sometimes-contentious hitmakers broke up and famously answered the query of a possible reunion with “when hell freezes over.” In a cheeky nod to their testy declaration, they named their eventual reunion “The Hell Freezes Over Tour.” Brennan struggled for years to get all of them to sign this pivotal album.
Lot 7322: Prince promo album (record included), “Do Me, Baby / Private Joy,” signed by the artist
As he shot like a rocket to success, Prince became more elusive and protected by his inner circle. But he was always generous and friendly, according to countless stories from Prince insiders and fans lucky enough to meet him.
Brennan was able to get close to the multi-instrumentalist and talented singer-songwriter early on, and came away with not only an autographed album, but a provenance photograph that boasts a surprising source:
Brennan recalled of Prince’s untouchability, “There was a very small window [of accessibility] after ‘Purple Rain.’ But one night, he was in New York, coming back to the hotel after a late night of clubbing. He got out of a car at his hotel, no bodyguards; just like a normal person. This photo of Prince and me, while he was signing my ‘Purple Rain’ album, was taken by legendary photographer Vinnie Zuffante [paparazzo famous for getting punched by Sean Penn].” John notes: “Prince was so sought-after. Getting this autograph was like the prom queen giving you a kiss; you don’t forget a special moment like that. It’s like your wedding day; it’s unforgettable.”
Lot 7467: Amy Winehouse, “Back to Black,” with record, signed by the artist
In the annals of heartbreaking female artists, the story of Amy Winehouse ranks right up there. A talented singer-songwriter with a unique bluesy, retro style and singular image, the young Winehouse was on her way up with “Back to Black.” But her career was cut tragically short by her personal demons and destructive choices.
Brennan managed to get tipped off to a rare Winehouse sighting in New York City, and scored an autograph, a posed photograph and even one from the paparazzo that had been following her:
Brennan recalled of an elusive sighting of Winehouse in the city, “She was walking around the city with Blake [Fielder-Civil]. Anything Amy-in-NY is pretty scarce, because I knew President Bush wasn’t letting people in after they got into trouble [with drugs or the law]. Amy and Pete Doherty got banned from coming to the US eventually. I found out from one of my connections that she was here, and dropped everything to get over there. I got tipped off by a camera guy; you gotta network. The photos of us were taken by paps down the block that had been following her all day. This was still early in her career and her performances were hot and explosive.”