Friday, August 19, 2005

Things I Found While Looking for Something Else, #1

Deviating from the usual song title as subject line in order to launch a concept I've had in mind for this blog for a while now. Pretty self explanatory: we all love the internet for its ability to misdirect us to accidental discoveries that end up being more interesting than the stuff we were originally trying to find, don't we?

In today's case, it's this mini-essay on those great double-album "Loss Leader" compilation albums Warner Brothers put out in the late sixties and early seventies. (FYI, I found it by way of this 2003 entry in the super-cool blog The Johnny Bacardi Show, which is roughly 80% comics and 20% music.)

I don't know if you're familiar with these albums--evidently there were just over 30 of them, according to this annotated list--but they were a touchstone of my music-fanatic adolescence. I only owned one of them, namely this scary-looking one--



--but I used to see ads for the series in Crawdaddy and on the inner sleeves of various Warner Bros albums of the day. (Ah, the inner sleeve: you never hear anybody lamenting the CD-era demise of that particular relic of vinyl culture, do you?) The design was great and the promotional text had a great wit about it--an early predecessor of the Ironic/PostModern School of Advertising, as it turns out. (Cue Thomas Frank/Baffler reference.) The lineup of artists was as eclectic and eccentric as mid-seventies FM radio; the one I've got includes AM hits by Wet Willie and America (Oz never did give nothin' to the Tin Man that he didn't already have, ya know), deep cuts from Maria Muldaur and Little Feat, stuff by Jimmy Cliff, the Meters, Dickie Betts, Elvin Bishop, and Jesse Winchester, a fairly obscure Van Dyke Parks single, a cut from Randy Newman's brilliant Good Old Boys album, and pre-stardom selections from Ry Cooder and Bonnie Raitt, among other treats both listenable and otherwise by people who promptly disappeared off the face of the earth (Ashton & Lord, anyone?). Some of the other compilations were much weirder, working in snippets of old radio dramas, soundbites from Warner Brothers movies, some great cuts from the Beach Boys' WB albums, even music that Van Dyke composed for the Ice Capades, of all things. (Now, that's one I'd like to hear!) Alas, these things are long out of print and unlikely to resurface ever again except perhaps in some dream garage sale. Anybody still know any reformed hippies selling off their old LPs?

All aboard the trip to Memory Lane. Now, what was it I started out looking for, again?

1 comment:

Johnny B said...

Tony Ashton and Deep Purple's keyboardist Jon Lord put out one amazing 1974 album, First of the Big Bands, which probably sold hundreds of copies. Lord went back to Purple (actually, he never left) but when the Purps split in 1976 he and drummer Ian Paice reunited with Ashton to record 1977's Malice in Wonderland, which pretty much went ignored, too. A few years later Lord and Paice went back to Purpling, and Ashton (who had a great, bluesy, yowl of a voice, kinda like a rougher-edged Gary Brooker) went to sessions and TV work. He died in 2001. Here's a website.

Those Loss Leaders albums pop up on eBay fairly often, but they usually don't go cheap. I've been eyeballing a copy of Zapped!, the Bizarre/Straight sampler, for a long time but they always go for double figures...