Monday, 13 July 2020

Fill Your Head With Rock! Part 1 - Elektra, CBS, Liberty & United Artists

UK Sampler Albums 1968-1975
by Stuart Penney

If you were a record buyer in the late 60s and took even a passing interest in what was then quaintly termed “underground” rock music, the chances are you owned one or more sampler LPs.  Samplers have been around almost as long as the long playing record itself, but the golden era of these showcase compilations was between 1968-1975, a period when virtually all the major labels released them, as did some of the smaller, independent companies.  
Sampler albums should not be confused with the modern chart hits compilations or retrospective collections we see today.  They were a marketing device typically consisting of newly-released LP tracks and were usually (but not always) sold at budget price by way of introduction to a genre of music from a specific record label or, more often, to promote a series of albums on the label itself.  The liner notes invariably made a point of showing the name and catalogue number of the album from where each track was lifted, so the listener could easily go out and find it. 
Considering they were usually sold cheaply (often less than half the price of a regular LP) samplers from the late 60s/early 70s were not disposable in any sense of the word.  They often featured intricate sleeve artwork by top designers such as Hipgnosis and “Keef” and some came with expensive inserts, posters or booklets .  Far from being ephemeral promotional gimmicks, they are now seen as design icons which perfectly capture the era in which they were created.  Most samplers were only on sale for a short time but a few big sellers, such as Island’s You Can All Join In and Nice Enough To Eat and CBS’s pair of Rock Machine LPs, remained on catalogue much longer and are still easy to find cheaply today.  
Elektra – Where It All Began
The name “sampler” is derived from the Latin “exemplum”, meaning “example” or “model”.  In this context it came directly (if unexpectedly) from the world of needlework where “sampler” refers to a piece of embroidery or cross-stitching produced as a specimen of achievement, demonstration or a test of skill.  The first time it was applied to a musical compilation was probably in 1954 when Elektra records issued a 10” LP titled A Folk Music Sampler.  Elektra released several such compilations to promote their roster of what we would now call world music artists throughout the 50s and early 60s.  These LPs were initially only available to radio stations but were later sold to the public by mail-order directly from the record company.  
As Elektra records’ founder Jac Holzman explained in his 1998 book, Follow The Music
"I was...searching for a way to take our specialized and distinctive catalog and have it heard by many people.  As a fanatical moviegoer, I knew the value of the film trailer.  I translated that to the record business.  My concept – I have always been big on concepts - was a sampler LP: a collection of musical trailers, a compendium of carefully assembled material, with lyrics and notes, all on a 10-inch LP that would sell for a bargain price unheard of in 1954: $2.00.  I inserted a "sampler clause" in all new artists' contracts, allowing me to use one track from any album, royalty-free.  With no royalty obligation and only the raw cost of manufacturing to consider, a good sampler could net between ten and twenty thousand dollars.  This was the best of all possible worlds. We were actively promoting our records, the public was paying for the privilege and getting good value in return, and Elektra was being fertilized by the profits."


1. Jean Ritchie - Black Is The Color
2. Frank Warner - Keep Your Hand On The Plow
3. Shep Ginandes - The Cruel Mother
4. Voudoun Ceremonials Near Croix-Des-Mission And Petionville In Haiti - Ayizan Marché 
5. Cynthia Gooding - Ankaranin Tasina Bak
6. Shep Ginandes - The Monkey's Wedding
1. Cynthia Gooding - La Bamba
2. Shep Ginandes - Le Joeur De Luth
3. Hally Wood - The House Of The Rising Sun
4. Cynthia Gooding - The Lowlands Of Holland
5. Tom Paley - Little Maggie
6. Sonny Terry - Kansas City
Elektra established a London branch in the mid-60s and by 1968 had joined the UK sampler race with the locally compiled Fantastic Folk.  The only British artists on the album, however, were the Incredible String Band with “Maybe Someday” a song from their debut LP.  The remaining tracks were by established US names including Judy Collins, Tom Paxton, David Blue, Tom Rush and others.  The whimsical sleeve notes were provided by Clive Selwood, the UK head of Elektra, who took over from Joe Boyd in late 1966.  Selwood later formed the Dandelion and Strange Fruit labels with John Peel.
A second home grown sampler Select Elektra, also issued in 1968, showcased the rock side of the Elektra catalogue with tracks by the Doors, Love, Clear Light and the Butterfield Blues Band although Tom Paxton, Judy Collins and the Incredible String Band from the folk world were again featured.  This time John Peel wrote the sleeve notes which were even more rambling and florid than Selwood’s essay on Fantastic Folk.  Although marketed as samplers both these Elektra LPs retailed at full price.

FANTASTIC FOLK (Elektra EUK 259) 1968
1. Phil Ochs - Hills Of West Virginia
2. Tom Paxton - Bottle Of Wine
3. Martin and Neil - Dade County Jail
4. Mark Spoelstra - France Blues
5. The Incredible String Band - Maybe Someday
6. Dave Ray - Baby Please Don't Go
1. Hamilton Camp - Girl Of The North Country
2. Judy Collins - Pack Up Your Sorrows
3. Spider John Koerner - Duncan And Brady
4. Charles River Valley Boys - I've Just Seen A Face
5. David Blue - So Easy She Goes By
6. Tom Rush - On The Road Again
SELECT ELEKTRA (Electra EUK 261) 1968

1. The Doors - Light My Fire
2. Love - She Comes In Colours
3. Tom Paxton - Leaving London
4. Cosmic Sounds - Aries
5. The Incredible String Band - First Girl I Loved
6. Tim Buckley - Morning Glory
1. Clear Light - Black Roses
2. Judy Collins - Suzanne
3. Tom Rush - Shadow Dream Song
4. The Butterfield Blues Band - Born In Chicago
5. Earth Opera - Home Of The Brave

CBS: Part 1 - The Rock Machine
But it was CBS who really popularised the sampler format in Britain with their Rock Machine albums.  Initiated in January 1968 by Columbia Records’ US president Clive Davis but compiled and overseen in the UK by CBS art director and sleeve designer David Howells, The Rock Machine Turns You On is often cited as the first true UK budget priced rock sampler.  
Offering unparalleled value for money at a shade under 15 shillings (75p), at a time when a full-price album retailed at £2 or more, The Rock Machine Turns You On and the follow-up, Rock Machine I Love You proved irresistible to a generation of record buyers, selling well enough to enter the mainstream charts and going on to move an estimated 150,000 copies each.
Containing tracks by a mix of established stars (Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds) alongside a bunch of hip new signings (Roy Harper, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, Spirit etc) the idea was, after being attracted to the affordable sampler by one or more of the big names on offer you'd then be seduced by the lesser-known artists and immediately go out and buy one of their albums at full-price.  It certainly worked with me.  I can honestly say The Rock Machine Turns You On was the first place I become aware of the music of Taj Mahal, Moby Grape and the wonderfully-named Peanut Butter Conspiracy.  And I still treasure that debut Taj Mahal LP today. 
The Heath Robinson-style “Rock Machine” logo which appears on the covers of both albums was the work of Milton Glaser (1929 – 2020).  He is probably best known today for designing the “I New York” logo, but Glaser’s links with the music industry (and Columbia/CBS in particular) run deep.
Glaser designed the iconic poster which originally came with the 1967 US version of Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits LP and also the sleeve of Paul Simon’s 1973 album There Goes Rhymin’ Simon.  He even created his own typeface font called “Baby Teeth”.  First seen on the Dylan poster mentioned above, in 1973 the font was adopted as the main Columbia/CBS label typeface and used until the late 1990s.

Both Rock Machine LPs featured the same painfully hip sleeve notes which read: 
THE ROCK MACHINE IS A MACHINE WITH SOUL.  The Rock Machine isn’t a grind-you-up.  It’s a wind-you-up.  The sound is driving.  The sound is searching.  The sound is music.  It’s your bag.  So it’s ours.  It’s the Super Stars.  And the Poets.  It’s the innovators and the Underground.  It’s the Loners and the Lovers.  And it’s more.  Much more…
David Howells was involved with several other CBS releases, including the 1970 samplers Fill Your Head With Rock and Rockbuster (yes, the one with Arnold Schwarzenegger on the cover, see below) before helping to launch the Gull label, a subsidiary of Decca, which he ran from 1974 to 1982.  Howells was then appointed managing director of Pete Waterman's PWL Records, the label which gave us Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan.  It was a very long way from the Peanut Butter Conspiracy. 
In 1989 there was an attempt to transfer both Rock Machine LPs to CD but this ran into problems right away.  Long-expired licensing rights meant the track listing was reduced from 30 songs to just 20 and the CD looked very different to the original albums.  Gone was Bob Dylan, Roy Harper, the Zombies, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera and Simon & Garfunkel.  One of the two Byrds’ tracks was also dropped.  In their place were a pair of cuts by electric violin exponents the Flock and It’s A Beautiful Day, both of which fell slightly outside the time frame of the original 1968 LPs (although “Tired of Waiting” by the Flock later appeared on another CBS sampler, Fill Your Head With Rock in 1970, see below ).  
In 1967 CBS launched the Direction label to issue mainly* American soul and R&B records in the UK and a sampler titled Soul Direction appeared in 1968.  Stretching the piscine sole/soul pun to absolute breaking point, a flatfish of some description was pictured on the cover.  Despite releasing some great music, Direction didn’t flourish, and CBS closed the label in 1970.  

*There was a degree of cross pollination between labels, as US bluesman Taj Mahal and UK psych outfit Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera were both signed to Direction in the UK, yet their tracks appeared on the CBS
Rock Machine albums. 

1. Bob Dylan - I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
2. Moby Grape - Can't Be So Bad
3. Spirit - Fresh Garbage
4. The United States of America - I Won't Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar
5. The Zombies - Time of the Season
6. The Peanut Butter Conspiracy - Turn on a Friend
7. Leonard Cohen - Sisters of Mercy
1. Blood, Sweat & Tears - My Days Are Numbered
2. The Byrds - Dolphins Smile
3. Simon and Garfunkel - Scarborough Fair / Canticle
4. Taj Mahal - Statesboro Blues
5. The Electric Flag - Killing Floor
6. Roy Harper - Nobody’s Got Any Money In The Summer
7. Tim Rose - Come Away Melinda
8. Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera - Flames

1. Blood, Sweat & Tears - More and More
2. Laura Nyro - Stoned Soul Picnic
3. Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper - Stop
4. The Byrds - You Ain't Goin' Nowhere
5. Grace Slick & the Great Society - Somebody to Love
6. Walter* Carlos - Brandenburg Concerto No 3 in G Major (*now Wendy)
7. Leonard Cohen - Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye
1. Simon & Garfunkel - America
2. John Simon - My Name is Jack
3. The Electric Flag - See To Your Neighbour
4. Don Ellis and his Orchestra - The Tihai, Excerpt
5. Big Brother and the Holding Company - Turtle Blues 
6. Dino Valente - Time
7. Taj Mahal - Ain't That a Lot of Love
SOUL DIRECTION (Direction S/PR 28) 1968

1. Johnny Johnson & the Bandwagon - Stone Soul Picnic
2. Inez & Charlie Foxx - I Ain't Going For That 
3. Taj Mahal - Dust My Broom 
4. Pretty Purdie - Funky Donkey 
5. The Tymes - People 
6. Ray King Soul Band - Knock On Wood 
1. Sly & The Family Stone - Life
2. Peaches & Herb - Something You Got
3. The Glories - Give Me My Freedom
4. Cliff Nobels & Co - The Camel
5. Chambers Brothers - In The Midnight Hour

Immediate - The Industry of Human Happiness
The success of the CBS LPs didn’t go unnoticed and before 1968 was out, other record companies were rushing their own sampler LPs onto the market.  One of the first was from Andrew Loog Oldham’s Immediate label.  
Other than the Small Faces, Chris Farlowe and the Nice, Immediate didn’t have too many big names on the artist roster and their first sampler Immediate Lets You In suffered accordingly.  But the rare John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers’ single “Telephone Blues” featuring Eric Clapton was a worthy inclusion.
Immediate Lets You In was issued as a CD in 1999 on the Sequel label.  The track listing was unchanged but the card sleeve was upgraded from black & white to colour.
The following year Immediate tried again with Happy To Be A Part Of The Industry Of Human Happiness.  Once again, the Small Faces were the main drawcard alongside a pair of album cuts from Steve Marriott’s new band Humble Pie, then in their early psych/acoustic rock incarnation with Peter Frampton.  Fleetwood Mac’s big hit single (and their only Immediate release) “Man Of The World” was included together with another hard to find Mayall/Clapton track “On Top Of The World”.  In Germany a sampler titled Immediate Lets You In Vol.2 appeared in 1969.  Although not identical, the track listing was very similar to Happy To Be A Part Of The Industry Of Human Happiness.
The title Happy To Be A Part Of The Industry Of Human Happiness became the official Immediate slogan and appeared on the generic company sleeves of their late 60s singles.  It was all for nothing, however, as the label went out of business in 1970.  The Immediate catalogue has since passed though many hands, including NEMS, Sanctuary and Charley Records, who currently own the label logo.  In 2000 Happy To Be A Part Of The Industry Of Human Happiness was the sub-title of The Immediate Singles Collection, a six CD box set containing the A & B sides of every single released on the label - 162 tracks in all. 

Immediate released several other late 60s compilation albums, including the four volume Blues Anytime series and Anthology Of British Blues Volumes 1 & 2, but they don’t qualify as sampler albums. 

1. Small Faces - Afterglow
2. Chris Farlowe - Handbags And Gladrags
3. The Nice - Happy Freuds
4. John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers - Telephone Blues
5. Eric Clapton with Jimmy Page - Draggin' My Tail
1. The Nice - Rondo
2. Cyril Davies & the All Stars - Someday Baby
3. P.P. Arnold - God Only Knows
4. Duncan Browne - The Death Of Neil

1. Amen Corner - So Fine
2. Fleetwood Mac - Man Of The World
3. Albert Lee - Water On My Fire
4. Eric Clapton & Jimmy Page - Tribute To Elmore
5. Humble Pie - Alabama '69
1. Humble Pie - Cold Lady
2. The Nice - Hang On To A Dream
3. John Mayall's Bluesbreakers & Eric Clapton - On Top Of The World
4. Amen Corner - Recess
5. Small Faces - Lazy Sunday

Liberty & United Artists - Gutbuckets Of Fun
Formed in 1955 as a pop/easy listening/film music label, Liberty records almost went out of business in the mid-60s before the UK arm was aggressively re-launched in 1967.  Liberty then began to assemble an impressive roster of diverse rock/blues talent before finally crashing and burning in 1971, with most artists being transferred to the United Artists parent label.  
But it was great fun while it lasted, and in 1969 Liberty issued a pair of much-loved sampler albums.  The first of these, Gutbucket (An Underworld Eruption), has achieved legendary status with an eclectic mix of blues, psychedelia, and underground rock.  Here was Captain Beefheart, the Bonzo Dog Band, Canned Heat and the Groundhogs rubbing shoulders with Lightnin’ Hopkins, Alexis Korner, Hapshash & the Coloured Coat, and the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation.  
A German pressing of Gutbucket was released with only 10 tracks (instead of 14) and a different back cover.  In fact, only seven tracks correspond with the UK version, as a different Canned Heat song was used (“Catfish Blues” replaced “Pony Blues”) and tracks by German bands the Motherhood and the Petards were substituted elsewhere. 
Later in 1969 came Son Of Gutbucket.  Once again Canned Heat, the Groundhogs and Aynsley Dunbar were featured, along with Roy Harper, T.I.M.E, Johnny Winter, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Jeff Lynne’s band Idle Race. 
Both albums were reissued in 1994 on the EMI CD Gutbucket (An Underworld Eruption), but minus six of the original 31 tracks.  Gone were cuts by Roy Harper, CCR, Famous Jug Band, Ian Anderson’s Country Blues Band and two by the Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation.
A “gutbucket” was an improvised bass made by attaching a broom handle to a metal washtub.  It was similar to the tea chest bass which was popular during the UK skiffle craze of the 50s.  The word was later used to describe any music of a raw, bluesy nature.
Many of the artists who had appeared on the Liberty label found themselves shunted sideways onto United Artists and some turned up on the 1971 double LP All Good Clean Fun.  Arriving in an intricate textured “envelope” cover with custom inner sleeves and a 12-page booklet, this was one of the most elaborate samplers to date.  The complex design construction proved problematic when buyers tried filing the album at home, however.  Inevitably, the three fragile flaps which held the “envelope” sleeve together fouled the albums around it, causing all kinds of collateral damage and it’s rare to find a copy of All Good Clean Fun today without some evidence of this.  But the basic idea was good and the design mightily impressive.  
The front cover shows a cartoon illustration of three Victorian figures seated in what looks like a railway carriage.  The young lad in the middle closely resembles Lord Snooty from The Beano comic and, as if to pinpoint the demographic the compilers were aiming for with this sampler, the boy is holding a copy of the notorious underground magazine Oz, while the older men look on.  
Fun fact: The copy of Oz shown on the sleeve is the genuine issue #33 with a cover date of February/March 1971.  Articles listed on the front of that issue include “Farmer’s Daughter Rapes Hog – Exclusive interview”, “Angry Brigade’s Bible” and “The Anarchist’s Cookbook”.  The cover of issue #33 used an illustration by Australian artist Norman Lindsay.
Containing 23 tracks by 20 artists, the double LP featured an interesting mix of established names (Canned Heat, Groundhogs, If, Eric Burdon & War, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band) and newer bands including Man, Hawkwind, Amon Duul II, Brinsley Schwartz and B.B.Blunder.  Three bands (Canned Heat, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Morning) were represented by two tracks each. 
To promote the album Man, Help Yourself and Gypsy embarked on “The All Good Clean Fun Tour” of Switzerland.  This gave rise to the song "All Good Clean Fun" on Man's 1971 fourth album Do You Like It Here Now, Are You Settling In? 
In 2004 a cumbersomely-titled 39 track triple CD All Good Clean Fun – A Journey through the Underground of Liberty/United Artists Records 1967–1975 was released.  Although the cover artwork was remarkably similar, the CD featured fewer than half the tracks included on the original 1971 double LP.

1. Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band - Gimme' Dat Harp Boy
2. Hapshash & The Coloured Coat - The Wall 
3. Lightnin' Hopkins - You're Gonna Miss Me
4. Alexis Korner - I'm Tore Down
5. The Groundhogs - Still A Fool
6. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Dismal Swamp
7. Papa Lightfoot - Wine, Women & Whisky
1. Canned Heat - Pony Blues
2. The Hour Glass - Down In Texas
3. Tony McPhee - No More Doggin'
4. The Bonzo Dog Band - Can Blue Men Sing The Whites
5. Big Joe Williams - Mama Don't Like Me Runnin' Around
6. Jo-Ann Kelly - Rollin' And Tumblin'
7. Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation - Call Me Woman
SON OF GUTBUCKET (Liberty LBX 4) 1969

1. Creedence Clearwater Revival - Bootleg
2. Ian Anderson's Country Blues Band - My Babe She Ain't Nothing But A Doggone Crazy Fool Mumble
3. Johnny Winter - I Got Love If You Want It
4. T.I.M.E. - Preparation G
5. High Tide - Walking Down Their Outlook
6. Jo-Ann Kelly & Tony McPhee - Oh Death
7. Floating Bridge - Don't Mean A Thing
8. Roy Harper - Sergeant Sunshine
9. Groundhogs - Mistreated
1. Canned Heat - Sic 'Em Pigs
2. Andy Fernbach - Hard Headed Woman
3. McKenna Mendelson Mainline - T.B. Blues
4. Famous Jug Band - Sunshine Possibilities
5. Idle Race - Hurry Up John
6. Brett Marvin & the Thunderbolts - I'm So Tired
7. T.I.M.E. - Leavin' My Home
8. Aynsley Dunbar Retaliation - Sugar On The Line
ALL GOOD CLEAN FUN (United Artists UDX 201/2) 1971

1. Eric Burdon & War - Spill The Wine
2. Help Yourself - Street Songs
3. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Chicken Reel
4. Colin Scot - Take Me Away
5. If - Here Comes Mr Time
6. Man - Daughter Of The Fireplace
1. Cochise - Home Again
2. Morning - Dirt Roads
3. Gypsy - Let Me Take You Home
4. Allan Taylor - Song For Kathy
5. Ernie Graham - Don't Want Me Round You
6. Canned Heat & John Lee Hooker - Boogie Chillen No. 2 - Excerpt
1. Groundhogs - Cherry Red
2. Sugarloaf - Hot Water
3. Hawkwind - Be Yourself - Excerpt
4. Amon Duul II - Race From Here To Your Ears a) Little Tornadoes b) Overheated Tiara c) The Flyweighted Five
5. Morning - Roll 'Em Down
1. Canned Heat - That's All Right Mama
2. Brinsley Schwarz - Funk Angel
3. Reg King - Gone Away
4. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Yukon Railroad
5. Sweet Pain - Joy - Excerpt
6. B.B. Blunder - Seed 
Coming soon in Pt.2, more legendary samplers from CBS, Harvest, Transatlantic, Decca and Track


  1. I owned a few of these sampler LPs but others passed me by at the time. Clearly I missed some excellent compilations. This excellent piece encourages me to seek them out

  2. hiya Ive managed to collect nearly all of these albums either at record fayres or through ebay there are quite a few super track on these albums

  3. What a thoroughly enjoyable article! So many memories! Thanks a lot.


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