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Digital Subscriptions > Long Live Vinyl > Jul 2019 - David Bowie > THE ESSENTIAL Samplers


Despite often costing far less than a regular LP, many samplers have become highly collectible. Surely a definitive list of 40 is impossible? Step forward Mark Sampson

The birth of the sampler album is generally attributed to Jac Holzman, the head of Elektra Records. With no budget for advertising, he looked for other ways of promoting his catalogue (then) of folk and world music. Always big on concepts, in 1954 Holzman hit upon the idea of “a compendium of carefully assembled material all on a 10" album to sell for a bargain price of $2.”

It worked, and the canny label boss inserted a “sampler clause” in his artists’ agreements that enabled him to use one track from any album, royalty-free. Subsequently, the sampler became a commonplace means of showcasing a record label’s diverse wares. Arguably, the idea had peaked in the 70s, when labels such as Island and CBS used samplers as a way of promoting the kind of LP-oriented artists who didn’t get aired on commercial radio. Oten a fraction of the cost of a full-price album, these cheap and cheerful curate’s eggs usually had the kind of artwork that could induce a mild wave of nausea. But they enabled teenagers, students and cheapskates with limited funds to build their record collections and, more importantly, to open their ears to a wider range of styles and music genres. Series such as Virgin’s Front Line might even have played a role in forging that unlikely late-70s bond between reggae and punk.

Before the seismic shit triggered by the internet, every self-respecting record label had samplers in circulation. Some had “Son[s] of” and some had two- and even threerecord behemoths. Here, then, is a chronological sample of some of the most historically significant samplers and others owned or coveted by this particular compiler. Under-priced and often under-valued, Mint copies are as rare as Old English Spangles. Unless otherwise stated, rarest entries refer to UK releases.


The original big 10-inch record of “outstanding folk & ethnic recordings” was sold mainly through the post. A version of La Bamba by Cynthia Gooding reflected her own and her label’s interest in “music of the world”. Jac Holzman also provided a mouthpiece for black ‘folk blues’ artists such as Josh White and Sonny Terry, who is featured here on the evergreen Kansas City. RAREST US £22


Truer perhaps to the spirit of the sampler, this 12" successor demonstrated the wider variety of styles for which the label would be celebrated over the next two decades. Tracks by The New York Jazz Quartet, vibraphonist Teddy Charles and Art Blakey’s The Jazz Messengers bear witness to Elektra’s brief foray into the world of jazz. RAREST US £5


The first of the great CBS bloodline retailed at a penny under 15 shillings. Dylan, The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel and Leonard Cohen featured alongside lesser known material like Spirit’s Fresh Garbage, Taj Mahal’s Statesboro Blues, the United States of America’s gloriously entitled I Won’t Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar and Can’t Be So Bad by Moby Grape. RAREST £8 (STEREO PRESSING WITH MONO LABELS)

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About Long Live Vinyl

1969 was the year that changed everything for David Bowie, and in our exclusive cover feature we speak to his former girlfriend Hermione Farthingale, plus bandmates John 'Hutch' Hutchinson and George Underwood to get the inside story. With three new Bowie boxsets out this year, you won't want to miss these rare interviews with the people who knew Bowie best – and our stunning collector's cover. Elsewhere this issue, we meet the ever-engaging Richard Hawley for a pint and a chat about his new album, Further, while Calexico and Iron & Wine tell us about their collaboration LP, Years To Burn. On the 40th anniversary of Joy Division's stellar debut Unknown Pleasures, Peter Hook takes us inside the making of the album, and we look back at another classic, Talk Talk's The Colour Of Spring. We also pay tribute to US indie label Merge on their 30th birthday and hear from James Lavelle about working with DJ Shadow, Thom Yorke, Richard Ashcroft and Danny Boyle. If all that's not enough, we bring you 40 essential vinyl samplers and meet Super Furry Animals artwork designer Pete Fowler. Plus you'll find the widest range of new album, reissue and hi-fi gear reviews anywhere on the newsstand. Long Live Vinyl is THE magazine for vinyl lovers. Pick up your copy today…