Some 40 years ago, my father was the engineer of what would become a collectible/cult L.P. album release of only "a few hundred" copies. For the past decade, this album has consistently sold for $500 to $1500 on ebay.
The Zerfas album was the first and only release penned by a young David Zerfas and performed with his brother and their friends. It was recorded in what was then my home (I was 8), the front room of which my electronical engineer father had converted into a recording studio.
This praise is typical of the Zerfas album:
" It was lovingly cut over six months in 1973 at the tiny 700 West Studio in New Palestine, Indiana, using a four-track 3M recorder, plenty of overdubs, a lot of homemade wine and a hell of a lot of creative ingenuity. There’s no need for me to give a detailed historical perspective of the band, the album or the studio here, because it’s all available at the excellent website dedicated to 700 West and I couldn’t improve on that compiler’s excellent job."
The Zerfas album - while overflowing with wild-eyed youth-driven creativity and imaginativeness imposed by the in-studio constraints of the time - was not a commercial success. Marketing budgets to support records from smalltown wonderkids were non-existent and 700 West artists were unable to compete with commercial studio-backed efforts. Airplay was rare.
In 1981, my father closed down the studio and re-entered the world of professional employment. Bands scattered, but many stayed in touch with the man who had helped bring their dreams to life.
The brilliance of the Zerfas album has always been appreciated by collectors. The scarcity of the Zerfas album has given it a tremendous mystique and driven the prices sky-high. One can listen to the thing online, but only a handful of people at a time can hold a copy.. And I believe that is part of the appeal. There's a "cool kid" aspect to people who have the physical item.
Like other artists with desirable back-catalogs, Zerfas have done high-quality re-issues, now that the world has come to re-discover the physical appeal of L.Ps.
20 years ago, a re-pressing was approved by the group. There have also been a couple of unauthorized CD bootleg releases taken from vinyl copies.
But re-issue diminishes the (monetary) value of the original item. And each re-issue necessarily sounds "different" from the original and falls short of the experience they are trying to capture.
What once was appreciated not only for its sonic characteristics but for its "can you believe this thing exists", "have you ever heard this" .. has become a cheapened bucket-list item.
And yet. Time being what it is, and the needs of aging artists being what they are, Zerfas are considering yet another re-issue of their legendary record.
I have mixed feeling about this.