Sampler Daze: A Last Look at the Loss Leaders
When The 1969 Warner/Reprise Songbook appeared in early 1969, the liner notes said, by way of explanation, the sampler’s goal was “hopefully to win new friends for some very creative people.” People like Jethro Tull, the Pentangle, Frank Zappa, Van Dyke Parks, Randy Newman, even Tiny Tim. Warner Bros. Records, founded in 1958, was just beginning to hoist its freak flag, and in just a few years the label’s roster would be the cream of the crop.
And so the ride began: with L.A. street freak Wild Man Fischer’s “Songs For Sale” introducing “My Sunday Feeling” by Jethro Tull. Eleven years later, the Warner Bros./Reprise Loss Leaders series ended on the sampler Troublemakers with Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols snarling, “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”
Well, no. The 34 Loss Leaders samplers that appeared between 1969 and 1980 formed my musical tastes and exposed me to artists I would never have dreamed of seeking out, to people who may have been just a little too adventurous even for early-Seventies radio. I remember calling up my local AM pop station and smugly asking the DJ to play some Zappa and the Mothers, or that flip side by the Beach Boys, only to get the response, “What?” The Loss Leaders made me cooler than the disc jockey!
But I wasn’t alone – thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands, experienced the same revelation each time a new Loss Leaders sampler was placed on the turntable. So let’s see what you remember about the Loss Leaders:
Diane remembers: “I was too shy to go to dances, but I loved music. I remember my brother gave me copies of The Big Ball and Appetizers, and behind my bedroom door I danced like the belle of the ball.”
This is what Kevin had to say: “I had several of the Loss Leaders albums when I was in high school… Songbook, The Big Ball, Hard Goods, and the Looney Tunes –Merrie Melodies 3-fer. Sadly I didn’t save any of them. But I learned so much about various bands from those, and the liner notes were always excellent. If I had to choose just two or three songs from those sets that were really special to me (and that have not been posted in this series), they would be: Everly Brothers, “Lord of the Manor” (Songbook) … a wonderfully creepy Southern-Gothic kind of song … reminds me of the Louvin Brothers gone just a little psychedelic. (And) Fleetwood Mac, “Oh Well, pts. 1 & 2” (The Big Ball) … having known the Mac in 1977 only for Rumours, I thought part 2 was astounding and beautiful. A soundtrack for my own imaginary desert island.”
And our good friend Randy: “From the first one I bought (Big Ball? Looney Tunes? I forget) these were little treasure chests of music largely unavailable in broadcast form where I (and you) lived. For a cash-strapped teen with a hunger for the amazing world of rock music that was exploding in the early ’70s, these two-dollar treats couldn’t be beat. Because of these albums, everything I ever heard by Fleetwood Mac was compared to “Tell Me All The Things You Do;” every singer-songwriter had to pass muster through Randy Newman; every guitar solo made me want to hear Ry Cooder. I probably would have discovered all these things without the WB samplers, but it would have been less fun.”
The Loss Leaders showed us the way – to the best music, to the music and the artists that maybe we would have overlooked or never known about. The samplers gave us rockers and folkies, crooners and shouters, and artists who were just plain weird. They reminded us that you can follow a trend or you can go against it, and it was OK. It was OK to be just plain weird, too. Thanks for all the support and patience you’ve shown for this series, we’ll keep it online as long as the web gods allow us to. Here are a few more cuts from the Loss Leaders series, mainly from the early years. And thanks, Warner Bros. and Reprise Records – for the Loss Leaders series that some of us will never forget. That’s all, folks!