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Loss Leaders from Warner Brothers/Reprise: An album by album thread

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Seederman, Sep 14, 2015.

  1. Seederman

    Seederman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    So, I have the complete set of 35 Warner Brothers/Reprise Loss Leaders sitting here before me. I've never listened to them all, but the time has come. If anyone wants to come along for the ride, I'll be taking a look at each one in this thread.

    I aim to provide a little history (as accurately as I can), descriptions of the albums themselves, a few observations about the artists and the label, some pics, and a tad (not too much) of critical analysis. If anybody is into these albums, curious about them, or into some of the artists, I encourage your participation.

    Unless anybody has any objections (speak now or forever hold your piece), let's get started.


    Loss Leaders

    [​IMG]


    If you were a record buyer in the 1970's, it is quite likely you bought albums that had been released by Warner Brothers records. Headquartered in sunny Burbank, California (just a couple of miles northeast of where Universal Studios theme park is now located), Warner Brothers had one of the most prestigious roster of artists in rock/pop music during the 1970's. Among the artists and groups who were signed to Warner Brothers and its subsidiary, Reprise Records, during the 1970's were Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Alice Cooper, The Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac, Van Morrison, Frank Zappa, The Doobie Brothers, Curved Air, Arlo Guthrie, Little Feat, Seals & Crofts, Bonnie Raitt, America, Randy Newman, George Harrison and other, huge names.

    Part of what drew these artists to the label was its reputation for nurturing its artists, and letting them grow over the course of several albums, rather than demanding a hit right off the bat. Warner Brothers was the type of company willing to take a loss on a promising artist for a shot at the payoff when the artist found an audience.

    Loss Leaders was a natural extension of this philosophy. The concept was simple, but effective. The label offered albums (usually double albums, but some were single; there was one triple) featuring an intriguing mix of hits and deep cuts by familiar superstars and obscure newcomers, all drawn from the label's vast roster of artists. These albums were nicely packaged, and literally crammed with music. There was something of a grab bag element to each one, but usually they were programmed fairly well. Some albums adhered to a specific theme, while others offered a wide variety. The series was produced from 1969-1980, and ultimately encompassed thirty five albums. Taken as a whole, they produce a very interesting and unique snapshot of the 1970's, with a southern California slant.

    The albums were marketed primarily on inner sleeves of Warner/Reprise releases. The early advertisements were written in a very 'friendly hippies at the honest record company' point of view. The ads tried to be your friend. They emphasized that the company was all about great music, and made it clear that the company was willing to lose money on Loss Leaders if it meant new fans for the artists down the line. The price for the double albums was $2 at first (later, $3), at a time when most double albums retailed for $8.99. The company offered a money back guarantee on the albums. The albums often featured liner notes and blurbs about the artists. They could only be obtained by mail-order ("cutting out the middleman", the ads touted), and were described by the company as a "win-win" situation for the label and consumers. The ads were effective; the run of Loss Leaders exceeded what Warner Brothers had originally expected.

    [​IMG]

    The very first Loss Leaders was The Warner/Reprise Songbook (Warner Bros. PRO 331, 1969) and it featured an eclectic mix ranging from the Electric Prunes to Miriam Makeba to Joni Mitchell to Van Dyke Parks. The final Loss Leaders (not including two released in the 90's as a brief revival) was Troublemakers (PRO A-857, 1980), a heavily punk/new wave-themed collection featuring names like the Sex Pistols, John Cale, Gang of Four, and the Buggles. In between were the 1970's...


    Next Up: The first album in the series, The Warner/Reprise Songbook (PRO 331, 1969), later in the day.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015
  2. agundy

    agundy Forum Resident

    Location:
    Lock Haven, PA
    Awesome! I also have every one of these and I have been waiting for a thread like this!:laugh:
     
  3. Arkay_East

    Arkay_East Forum Resident

    Location:
    ATX
    I have a few of these! One called Monsters I think, another is Schlagers! ... I just picked up Supergroup for $1.99. Great idea I'm all ears!
     
    bpmd1962 likes this.
  4. stereoptic

    stereoptic Anaglyphic GORT Staff

    Location:
    NY
    Great thread!
     
    pscreed, bpmd1962, vince and 4 others like this.
  5. Ignatius

    Ignatius Forum Resident

    I think Big Ball has already been discussed here but I'm always up for more.:-plnktn-:
     
  6. hipster006

    hipster006 Forum Resident

    Location:
    pottsville,PA,USA
    I believe there were one or two single lp samplers before they moved to the double lps you have listed above
     
  7. Seederman

    Seederman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    We're gonna cover everything, I promise.
     
    uzn007 and hipster006 like this.
  8. Stone Turntable

    Stone Turntable Dedicated Listener

    Location:
    New Mexico USA
    Cool/crazy thread!

    Was Stan Cornyn a driving force behind these compilations? The titles and ad copy seem to have his touch/voice...
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015
  9. pbuzby

    pbuzby Senior Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
  10. Alert

    Alert Forum Resident

    Location:
    Great River, NY
    I bought one of these at the time.

    "Limo."

    My favorite track on it was "Runaway" by Bonnie Raitt.
     
  11. bibijeebies

    bibijeebies Forum Resident

    Location:
    Amstelveen (NL)
    Please change into Stan Cornyn.
     
    Stone Turntable likes this.
  12. Emberglow

    Emberglow Senior Member

    Location:
    Waterford, Ireland
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015
    Mowgli likes this.
  13. bibijeebies

    bibijeebies Forum Resident

    Location:
    Amstelveen (NL)
    I wish I had the book by Stan...he was da man!
     
  14. rstamberg

    rstamberg Senior Member

    Location:
    Riverside, CT
    I wish I still had mine. I started with APPETIZERS in 1973. Great collection.
     
  15. pbuzby

    pbuzby Senior Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    I believe he was an influence on the early ones, although I don't know if it's been confirmed.
     
  16. hipster006

    hipster006 Forum Resident

    Location:
    pottsville,PA,USA
    yes, at least for the initial batch, Cornyn was the instigator. also there were other single lp loss leaders other than the one referenced above. I was looking to find a photo of the covers but was unsuccessful. one that I'm thinking of has just writing on the front cover. Barret Hansen(Dr Demento) also wrote liner notes and compiled some of the early releases.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015
    Stone Turntable likes this.
  17. I can't believe their Order Form suggested sending cash as an option...
     
    Rock66 and Hey Vinyl Man like this.
  18. pbuzby

    pbuzby Senior Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    The order form is from around 1977 and the single LP Loss Leaders were out of print by then. Details should be at the Dustbury link in post #12.
     
  19. Seederman

    Seederman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I'm using this as one of my references, but I've already caught a track listing error on the very first album. The site omits A6 Neil Young - I've Been Waiting For You and B1 Wild Man Fischer - Songs for Sale (2)

    For track listings, Discogs is probably a safer bet: http://www.discogs.com/Various-The-1969-Warner-Reprise-Songbook/release/1991908

    But I'm jumping ahead of myself now. I've got some work to do, be back later.
     
    Dino and Emberglow like this.
  20. hipster006

    hipster006 Forum Resident

    Location:
    pottsville,PA,USA
    I believe the two lps I am referencing were titled-October 10, 1968 and some of our best friends are warner bros seven arts recording artists(non-dairy creamer) and together.
     
    Last edited: Sep 14, 2015
  21. Humbuster

    Humbuster Big hat, no cattle

    I had Songbook and the Big Ball.

    They were great!

    Looking forward to the discussion.
     
  22. Arkay_East

    Arkay_East Forum Resident

    Location:
    ATX
    I'm stoked :) this thread is a good excuse to listen to the 3-4 I own, so I can make some educated comments :agree:
     
  23. pbuzby

    pbuzby Senior Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    October 10, 1969 is the correct title and date for that one.
     
    hipster006 likes this.
  24. Seederman

    Seederman Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Not Loss Leaders

    [​IMG]

    As with many things, there is controversy over what can be officially included among the Loss Leaders series, however a strict interpretation leaves little doubt as to what belongs and what doesn't. In the 70's, Warner/Reprise records released several sampler albums, as did many record companies of the time. Usually, these were budget priced albums that sold in record stores. Others were distributed to radio stations or were giveaways in targeted promotions. Some of these titles include:

    Alternatives (WS 1873 - 1970)
    The Warner/Reprise Radio Show (PRO 463 - 1971)
    Burbank's Greatest Hits (PRO 548 - 1972)
    New Music That Stays New (PRO 617 - 1976)
    New Music That Stays New (PRO 656 - 1977)
    Gold Medal (PRO A 841 - 1979)

    These albums, despite sharing similar-sounding titles, cannot be considered part of the Loss Leaders canon on the grounds that they were not mail-order only releases, and they were not mentioned in the Loss Leaders ads. Also, I don't have any of these to listen to. The canon, for the purpose of the thread, will be the U.S.-market albums offered for sale at $1-$3 via the mail under the Loss Leaders banner.

    I am going to go by this simple criterion, which is also applied by these two informative sites on the series:

    http://www.dustbury.com/music/wblist.html
    http://www.willardswormholes.com/archives/28018 (this is a remarkably comprehensive site, with beautiful scans)

    More resources:

    http://www.bsnpubs.com/warner/warner/warnerpro.html

    http://historysdumpster.blogspot.com/2012/08/warnerreprise-loss-leaders.html

    Proto Loss Leader

    [​IMG]

    One interesting release that falls outside of the canon could be considered a proto-Loss Leader. Released in 1968 during the two-year span that the company was known as Warner Brothers/Seven Arts, the single-disc Some of Our Best Friends Are (PRO 290 - 1968) featured a lineup that would have fit right into the series. Its tracklist included:

    A1 –Kensington Market I Would Be The One 2:33
    A2 –Joni Mitchell Night In The City 2:26
    A3 –Eric Andersen Avalanche 3:53
    A4 –The Collectors What Is Love 3:48
    A5 –Tiny Tim Then I'd Be Satisfied With Life 2:52
    A6 –David Blue Ambitious Anna 3:53
    A7 –The Grateful Dead Born Cross-Eyed 2:04
    B1 –Jimi Hendrix If 6 Was 9 5:33
    B2 –Arlo Guthrie The Motorcycle Song 2:45
    B3 –Randy Newman I Think It's Going To Rain Today 2:55
    B4 –The Fugs Crystal Liaison 3:34
    B5 –The Electric Prunes Kyrie Eleison 2:17
    B6 –Tom Northcott 1941 2:29
    B7 –Van Dyke Parks Donovan's Colours 3;38

    The album cover was designed by Ron Cobb, who also did the cover for Jefferson Airplane's After Bathing at Baxter's. This album is ultimately not canonical because it was literally given away for free. “This album is free, and it’s yours to do with, at no obligation. Our idea is that you may be appetized by some of what you hear here, and want to dig down deeper.” It was not offered for sale when the Loss Leaders promotion was launched, nor was it included among the back catalog of titles you could order. However, the philosophy and the general tone of the promotion is in place. When the company reorganized in 1969, Loss Leaders was born from this concept. While it is unknown who had the grand idea in the first place, it is known that this was a project favored by Mo Ostin (president of Reprise, and the man who signed Jimi Hendrix to his US contract) and Joe Smith (producer and creative executive). I don't have this title in my collection, so I can't really talk about the music much. However, the story rightfully should start here.

    Early Ad Copy for the Loss Leaders Series


    I tried to find definitive mention about who wrote the ad copy for the series, but came up empty. I don't know if Stan Cornyn was involved or not. However, to set the mood for the thread, it might be worth posting the typical ad copy here:

    "These Warner/Reprise specials are full stereo, double albums in deluxe packaging. The double albums ($2 for two records) average about 28 selections, each of them is filled with the best of the artists' work, plus some extra collectors' items (like unreleased singles, even an Ice Capades commercial by our Van Dyke Parks).

    You can't buy these albums in a store; they are available only by mail, for the ridiculously low price of $2 for the doubles, $1 for Zappéd, and $3 for the deluxe three-record set, Looney Tunes & Merrie Melodies.

    We can get away with that low price because these celebrated artists and this benevolent record company have agreed not to make a profit on this venture. We (and they) feel it's more important that these samples of musical joy be heard.

    If you're as suspicious of big record companies as we feel you have every right to be, we avert your qualms with the following High Truths:

    This is new stuff, NOT old tracks dredged out of our Dead Dogs files. If our Accounting Department were running the company, they'd charge you $9.96 for each double album. But they're not. Yet.

    We are not 100 per cent benevolent. It's our fervent hope that you, Dear Consumer, will be encouraged to pick up more of what you hear on these special albums at regular retail prices.

    That you haven't heard much of this material we hold obvious. Over 8000 new albums glut the market (and airwaves) each year. Some of our Best Stuff has to get overlooked. Or underheard. Underbought. Thus, we're trying to get right to you Phonograph Lovers, bypassing the middle man.

    Each album is divinely packaged, having been designed at no little expense by our latently talented Art Department...."

    [​IMG]



    A variety of writers wrote the liner notes to the various albums, some well-known names among them. We'll mention those as we come to them. The albums themselves were mostly compiled by a young man named Barry Hansen, who later became a familiar name under the moniker Dr. Demento.


    Next Up: The first album in the series, The Warner/Reprise Songbook (PRO 331, 1969), later this evening. I meant to address it in this post, but decided to answer the queries about "other" Loss Leaders first. We'll get to it next.
     
    Juggsnelson, Mowgli, DaverJ and 6 others like this.
  25. pbuzby

    pbuzby Senior Member

    Location:
    Chicago, IL, US
    There was also a series of "Display Case" LPs in the early 70's. I have a needledrop of one and it is a pseudo-radio show with an announcer discussing upcoming Warners albums and playing tracks from them, presumably meant to be played in record stores. Another "Not Loss Leader" since although they are similar, they were not offered for sale to the public. One example: http://www.discogs.com/Various-Warner-Reprise-Display-Case-Vol-5/release/3691632
     

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