The mid to late sixties saw an explosion of experimental music aimed at the album market rather than the singles charts. Album sales started
to increase and got the record companies attention. But the exposure of this new music was limited. All we really had in the UK was John
Peel's late night shows, first on the pirates and then on the shiny new BBC Radio 1. Record companies were falling over themselves to sign
new album-orientated artists but, basically, if John Peel wasn't inclined to push them, they didn't get heard. Into this environment the
sampler was born, and The Rock Machine Turns You On was the first, released by CBS (Columbia) in 1968.
It was sold very cheaply, less than half the price of a normal album. It was a marketing tool, designed to get you to buy one or more of
the albums featured on it as a 1-track sample. But it turned out to be a great success in its own right, selling steadily for over a year
and at one point entering the album charts itself. Following this success, many other samplers followed, both from CBS and other companies.
The title sounds like it was assembled by a middle-aged marketing executive from phrases he had heard the young people use, and the blurb
on the back is painful to read these days, but I was 18 when it came out and I don't remember it being the target of much derision by me or my
friends. We were just grateful to get such a great album (by accident or design) for such a cheap price! Kicking off with the already established
star Bob Dylan as an enticer, and including the already selling well Simon & Garfunkel and The Byrds, all the remaining tracks were by more
obscure artists. You may think now that the inclusion of Leonard Cohen was a pretty safe choice, but at the time he was almost unknown and this
album would have been many people's introduction to him.
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