Sampler Daze: WB/Reprise Loss Leaders, Part 2

thebigball schlagers

I didn’t really think through how I was gonna do this series of blog posts: Warners released about 34 of these LP samplers between 1969 and 1980, sometimes springing three or four of ’em in one year.  I don’t have all of them, so maybe I will try and survey them year by year.  After the success of the first three samplers in 1969 (there was a single-disc collection we didn’t mention last time), Warners kept goin’ in the new decade with The Big Ball and Schlagers!

The label called these samplers “Loss Leaders” because while they obviously took some money and resources to produce and advertise, and they were selling them for a very cheap price (basically one buck an album) the company stood to lose money on the records.  But they were an awesome promotional tool: mixed in with songs that were already hits and soon-to-be hits were selections from artists on the label that were a little tough to market.  The samplers were a good way to put a taste of their tunes in listeners’ ears.  If not for the WB/Reprise samplers, I probably would not have heard people like Joni Mitchell, John Cale or the Youngbloods.  Samplers were certainly the first place I heard Little Feat, Black Sabbath and many others.

Anyhow – The Big Ball, from 1970, was a serious dose of rock and roll.  This had some classics-to-be including Arlo Guthrie’s “Coming Into Los Angeles” (which he performed at Woodstock); Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well (Parts 1 & 2)”; Neil Young’s “The Loner”; and the Grateful Dead’s showstopper “Turn On Your Lovelight.”  The Beach Boys had recently jumped over from Capitol and their first appearance on a sampler was here, with “This Whole World.”

The compilers must have had a hell of a lot of fun putting these together.  They often bunched like-minded songs on one side of a vinyl LP, for party and private play: side four of Ball is one of these, with Ed Sanders of the Fugs kicking it off with his politically incorrect “The Illiad.”  Later, you get Captain Beefheart with “Ella Guru.”  Captain Beefheart is really poet/painter/musician Don Van Vliet, and in the late 60s and early 70s he was known for putting out music that was strained through blues and rock, but sounded pretty much like nothing else.  His high point was 1969’s Trout Mask Replica, which had licks from jazz, blues, psychedelia and Zappa-esque weirdness.  Captain Beefheart was later cited as an influence on American punk rock, and he retired from music in 1980.

Schlagers! was the second sampler from 1970 and it showcased the label’s middle of the road (non-hippie) artists like Frank Sinatra, Petula Clark, Trini Lopez, Theo Bikel and others although a few longhairs (Arlo Guthrie, Mason Williams) popped up.  The label also gave Frank Zappa his own one-disc sampler Zapped, and he chose to feature Beefheart, the Mothers and young weirdo-in-training Alice Cooper.

So let’s jump to Looney Tunes Merrie Melodies, the mother of all looneytunesLoss Leaders and the only triple-disc sampler that Warner/Reprise ever issued.  This one spent a lot of time on my turntable back in the early 1970s, and here’s why: “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath; “Sugar Magnolia” by the Dead; “Apeman” from the Kinks; the Beach Boys, Van Morrison, Little Feat, The Faces,  Fleetwood Mac, Alice Cooper, the Mothers of Invention, Ry Cooder and Randy Newman.  Plus some old cats gettin’ cool again – Little Richard howling on the Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” and the Persuasions with “It’s All Right.”

The Persuasions were an all-accapella quintet who first got together singing on a street corner in New York City around 1961.  Somebody in a New Jersey record shop was enthused enough to gather the boys in his store and have them sing over the phone to Frank Zappa in L.A.  Zappa was a huge fan of doo-wop, and he knew he was hearing the real thing even through the long-distance connection.  So Zappa produced the group’s first LP, Accapella, in 1970 and the Persuasions were on their way.  To date, they have recorded about 25 albums and although the personnel has shifted a bit they still perform today.

Complete with a couple of radio commercials for Warner Bros. records in general, Looney Tunes-Merrie Melodies certainly spotlighted everything the label had to offer.  There’s even a straight-from-the-vault, Lazarus-like appearance by the revered Jimi Hendrix, “Stepping Stone.”

MP3: “Ella Guru” by Captain Beefheart (from The Big Ball)

MP3: “Coming Into Los Angeles” by Arlo Guthrie (from The Big Ball)

MP3: “WPLJ” by The Mothers of Invention (from The Big Ball)

MP3: “The Illiad” by Ed Sanders (from The Big Ball)

MP3: “I Was The Rebel, She Was The Cause” by Eric Andersen (from The Big Ball)

MP3: “Soft Soundin’ Music” by Harpers Bizarre (from Schlagers!, appropriately)

MP3: “Fill The World With Love” by Petula Clark (from Schlagers!)

MP3: “It’s The Plastic Radio Spot/Real Good Time” by the Faces (from Looney TunesMerrieMelodies)

MP3: “Tell Me All The Things You Do” by Fleetwood Mac (from Looney TunesMerrie Melodies)

MP3: “Chip Dip Radio Spot/I Saw Her Standing There” by Little Richard (from Looney TunesMerrie Melodies)

MP3: “Stepping Stone” by Jimi Hendrix & the Band Of Gypsys (from Looney TunesMerrie Melodies)

MP3: “It’s All Right” by the Persuasions (from Looney TunesMerrie Melodies)

Inside the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders from

CBS/Columbia rock samplers

9 Responses to “Sampler Daze: WB/Reprise Loss Leaders, Part 2”

  1. Thanks for an interesting post. Appreciated

  2. CBS also put out some great sampler music in the late 60s and 70s. My favorite “samplers” were the Rock Machine twins, Turns You On and Loves You, featuring well knowns like The Byrds, The Zombies, Blood Sweat and Tears, and Bob dylan as well as lesser knowns like, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Circus, Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Laura Nyro, and Taj Mahal.

  3. 30daysout Says:

    Sorry about all the ticks and pops! They came straight from the LP … it’s a wonder I can even play them.

  4. 30daysout Says:

    Follow the link at the very bottom of the post, you can see the item we did on Rockbuster and Fill Your Head With Rock. Thanks for dropping by!

  5. Thanks for posting these.I recall ordering them all,& I was selective with the tracks I liked,too.
    It seems we enjoy the same ones.
    No worry about the vinyl,that’s just the way it was.

  6. Thanks for this great Hendrix track – keep up the good work



  7. Mitch Lee Says:

    I have all of these from PRO336 (The First?) up through PRO608 (I Didn’t Know They Made Music Like This Anymore) when I kind of lost interest. The best for me are first few ending with The Whole Burbank Sampler and The Big Ball. They are all in pristine shape, but ripping them has always been too much of a daunting task for me to even begin. Nice of you to do this! They capture a very special moment in our music. It was, indeed, like a very good FM college station. The sequencing is spectacularly musical without being predictable. Taken together these Loss Leaders were a great education. As an aside, I also have a PRO551 that is labeled “For In Store Play Only”. My sense is that these are a lot of promotional samplers from this period of Warner Reprise that we will never hear of because they had very limited and specialized distribution.

  8. David Seymour Says:

    Does anyone recall a song on one of these WB Loss Leaders with the lyrics “I believe in good little children hiding in the summer air?” Could that have been a Nick Drake tune? This old hippie’s memory is fading . . .

  9. Larry Williams Says:

    Will there ever be another promotional program like Warner Brothers Loss Leaders again? I think not, the times will never be the same again. It was a great promotion that fit the era so well.
    The Warner Brothers Loss Leader LPs became an obsession of mine back in 1999. I made a concerted effort to acquire all the ones that I missed back in the day. Thanks to ebay this became a relative easy task and after a year or so I finally had them all or so I thought. It seems that I missed a few mostly because I was unaware of their existence and had no Idea to even look for them. Because of sites like this I now have to find the single disc ones, and so the hunt begins again.
    It’s good to know others thought so highly of them as I do.

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