Following the success of the Rock Machine albums CBS came up with a trio of new samplers during 1970 and 1971.  First up in March 1970 was Fill Your Head With Rock.  Priced at 29s/11d (£1.50) and boldly subtitled “The Sound of the Seventies” it broke new ground by extending the format to a double album for the first time.  Resplendent on the cover, bare-chested with long hair flying, was a colourised image of Jerry Goodman, violinist with Chicago jazz rockers the Flock (but soon to join the Mahavishnu Orchestra).  The iconic photograph was the same one used on the back cover of the Flock’s self-titled CBS debut album, except much larger and in colour. “The Sound of the Seventies” tag was used to advertise many CBS LPs during 1970.

Compiler David Howells stated that while the earlier Rock Machine samplers were aimed at promoting specific full-price releases, this record was part of a major push to establish CBS as “the top label in contemporary music” in the UK.  Of the 23 tracks, 16 came from US artists, six were by UK acts and one (Amory Kane) was by an American living and recording in Britain with UK musicians.  There was nothing from Bob Dylan this time, but several artists, including Spirit, the Byrds, Leonard Cohen, Al Stewart, Taj Mahal, Blood Sweat & Tears and Laura Nyro had appeared on the earlier Rock Machine LPs.  New arrivals such as folk rock hopefuls Trees and prog debutants Black Widow and Skin Alley got a chance to rub shoulders with the big names. Fill Your Head With Rock reached #19 in the Melody Maker LP charts in March 1970 and early copies included an eight-page booklet insert.

With its striking image of a pre-fame Arnold Schwarzenegger in full “Mr. Universe” pose taking up the entire gatefold sleeve (which opened vertically), Rockbuster surely has one of the most recognisable covers of all the CBS samplers.  Stylistically, though, the gaudy artwork left much to be desired and, Arnie notwithstanding, the frightful red and yellow striped design could have come straight from the fevered imagination of K-Tel or Ronco.  But perhaps that was the intention.

FILL YOUR HEAD WITH ROCK (CBS SPR 39/40) 1970

ROCKBUSTER (CBS PR48/49) 1970

Overseen by David Howells again, the Rockbuster double set saw the return of Bob Dylan with “Days of 49”, a track from the unloved (by the critics, if not the fans) Self Portrait album.  Elsewhere, the Byrds, Argent, Spirit, Trees, Black Widow, BS&T, Johnny Winter and Al Kooper were again represented.  New this time out were cuts by Miles Davis (continuing his foray into the jazz rock fusion world), Soft Machine, Gary Farr, Robert Wyatt and (fresh from his appearance on Zappa’s Hot Rats album) Shuggie Otis.  Of the 26 tracks on the double album, the US/UK split was 17/9 this time.

The final CBS sampler from this period was Together, released in April 1971.  Although just a single LP, early UK copies were pressed on blue vinyl (a big deal back then) with an eight-page newspaper insert.  The usual suspects, including Laura Nyro, Spirit, Byrds, Trees, Argent and Johnny Winter were joined this time by Poco, Janis Joplin and the Chambers Brothers.  Mainland European pressings of Together substituted the Soft Machine track with one by Norwegian band Titanic who scored a big hit late in 1971 with the Santana influenced instrumental “Sultana”.

TOGETHER (CBS SPR 52) 1971

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.

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.

CBS: PART 1 – The ROCK MACHINE

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.

ROCK MACHINE I LOVE YOU (CBS S/PR 26) 1968

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.

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.

HARVEST – LIFE’s A PICNIC

In the early 70s few record companies immersed themselves in the nascent underground rock movement more comprehensively than the Harvest label.  Formed in 1969 by EMI to compete with other major players in the prog rock scene such as Vertigo, Deram and Chris Blackwell’s independent Island label, Harvest was one of those rare companies where virtually every release in their catalogue was worthy of attention.  In its first year alone the label gave us records by Deep Purple, Pink Floyd, Kevin Ayers, Edgar Broughton Band and Shirley & Dolly Collins, with albums by Roy Harper, The Move and ELO not far behind.  It really was a case of “All Killer, No Filler”.

But the main drawcard was the otherwise unavailable Pink Floyd track “Embryo”.  Recorded in November 1968, the studio outtake appeared nowhere else until 1983 when it was included on Floyd’s Works oddities compilation.  Picnic sold well, especially for a double album, reaching #14 in the Melody Maker album charts in July 1970.

A second sampler The Harvest Bag arrived in November 1971.  Employing a tortuous visual pun on the “budget price album” theme, the cover photo showed what was presumably intended to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer standing outside number 11 Downing Street holding aloft his ceremonial briefcase, or “bag” (complete with Harvest logo) containing, we assumed, the, ahem, Budget.  Despite some solid contributions from Roy Harper, the Grease Band, ELO, Edgar Broughton Band and others, The Harvest Bag flew under the radar and is now largely forgotten.

Other excellent Harvest samplers, including Harvest Sweeties (1971) and A Good Harvest (1973), appeared in mainland Europe, but they were not released in the UK.

PICNIC – A BREATH OF FRESH AIR (Harvest SHSS 1/2) 1970

Retailing at 29s/11d (a shade under £1.50) the first Harvest sampler album, Picnic – A Breath Of Fresh Air, arrived in May 1970.  Clad in a distinctive Hipgnosis designed sleeve, the 19-track double album featured a wildly diverse mix of folk, rock, blues, prog and assorted obscurities by the likes of Quatermass, Bakerloo, Forest, Third Ear Band, Pete Brown & Piblokto and Syd Barrett.

But the main drawcard was the otherwise unavailable Pink Floyd track “Embryo”.  Recorded in November 1968, the studio outtake appeared nowhere else until 1983 when it was included on Floyd’s Works oddities compilation.  Picnic sold well, especially for a double album, reaching #14 in the Melody Maker album charts in July 1970.

The Picnic – A Breath Of Fresh Air name reappeared in 2007 on a triple CD sub-titled A Harvest Records Anthology 1969–1974.  But while the title and artwork were similar, the CD shared only three tracks with the 1970 vinyl release (Pink Floyd, Panama Limited and Quatermass).

THE HARVEST BAG (Harvest SHSS3) 1971

THE HOUSE THAT TRACK BUILT (Track 613016) 1969

Track – The Revolution’s Here

Formed in 1966 by Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, Track Records is probably best known as the UK home of Jimi Hendrix and the Who.  But the label had other less illustrious signings such as John’s Children (featuring Marc Bolan), Golden Earring, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Marsha Hunt and Pete Townshend protégés Thunderclap Newman.

Track was late to the sampler market, but they soon made up for lost time, releasing around 20 budget compilations and reissues between 1969 and 1973.  First up in September 1969 was the excellent The House That Track Built offering genuinely rare tracks by Fairport Convention, The Who, John’s Children and Thunderclap Newman alongside more obvious fare from Hendrix and Arthur Brown.  The jewel in the crown was undoubtedly an unreleased studio version of The Who’s “Young Man Blues”, as recorded during the Tommy sessions.  It’s a different take to the other studio version added to the expanded Odds and Sods compilation in 1998 and hard to find elsewhere.

The laminated gatefold sleeve was designed by David King who also worked on The Who Sell Out and Jimi’s Axis: Bold As Love sleeves, as well as the infamous Electric Ladyland UK “nude” cover and The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown.  In the 70s King designed posters and logos for the Anti-Nazi League, the Anti-Apartheid Movement and Rock Against Racism.  An art historian with a special interest in Leon Trotsky, part of his huge collection of 250,000 Soviet graphics and photographs is housed in the Tate Modern, London.

But the most well-known Track samplers are undoubtedly the Backtrack series.  Comprising 14 volumes in total, they were all released during 1970, the first batch appearing in May of that year, with the rest following in November.  No record company today would dare release an LP showing a little kid smoking a fat joint on the cover.  But the first six Backtrack volumes did exactly that.  The picture was retained for the second batch in the series, albeit greatly reduced in size and relegated to a corner of the sleeve.

The Backtrack series was part of Polydor’s budget price “99” series, introduced in 1970 and used across the entire family of labels (including Atlantic releases before 1972, see below).  Most releases carried the “99” logo in the top left corner of the sleeves denoting the 99p price, a year ahead of decimalisation in 1971.

The Backtrack albums were superseded in 1973 by Allsorts, a series of four budget samplers individually titled Aniseed, Peppermint, Coconut and Liquorice.  The name comes from Liquorice Allsorts, a type of confectionery first produced in Sheffield by George Bassett & Co Ltd around 1900.

The first three LPs were general rock compilations while Liquorice Allsorts was devoted specifically to R&B/Soul artists, just as Backtrack 6 had been.  Curiously, alongside the familiar Track artists on Aniseed, Peppermint and Coconut Allsorts were three cuts each by Joe Cocker, the Move and Procol Harum.  All three artists were signed to David Platz’s Essex Music and had recorded for the recently defunct Regal Zonophone label before transferring to Fly Records around 1971, which in turn became the Cube label.  Presumably, the nine Essex Music tracks were part of a one-off licencing agreement just for the Track Allsorts samplers.

The track titles were embossed in braille on the back cover of each LP, an innovation Track also used on the Who’s 1974 Odds & Sods album sleeve.  This became a trend for a while, with braille messages appearing on Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book (1972) and Paul McCartney’s Red Rose Speedway (1973).

TRACK ALLSORTS SAMPLERS (1973)

2409 205 – Various Artists – Aniseed Allsorts
2409 206 – Various Artists – Peppermint Allsorts
2409 207 – Various Artists – Coconut Allsorts
2409 208 – Various Artists – Liquorice Allsorts

MARMALADE 100° PROOF (Marmalade 643314) 1969

Marmalade – The Sound That Spreads

Created in 1966 by former Rolling Stones and Yardbirds manager Giorgio Gomelsky, the independent Marmalade label lasted only a couple of years before folding in 1969, leaving behind just 14 LPs and around 20 singles.  Despite (or perhaps due to) a wildly eclectic artist roster which included Blossom Toes, Chris Barber, Sonny Boy Williamson and John McLaughlin, sales were disappointing and only one single, “This Wheel’s on Fire” by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity entered the UK charts, reaching #5 in late 1967.

Released in 1969, Marmalade 100° Proof (wittily subtitled A Taste Of Marmalade – The Sound That Spreads) was the only UK sampler LP on the label (although at least one other title appeared in Europe).  All the label’s big names were represented, plus rare tracks by French guitarist Robert Lelievre [billed as “Le Lievre (The Hare)”] and future 10cc members Graham Gouldman and Kevin Godley.

IMMEDIATE LETS YOU IN

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.

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.

ALL GOOD CLEAN FUN (United Artists UDX 201/2) 1971

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.

GUTBUCKET (AN UNDERWORLD ERUPTION) (Liberty LBX3) 1969

SON OF GUTBUCKET (Liberty LBX 4) 1969

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.

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