Acoustic Sounds
Spike Jones in Stereo
By: Michael Fremer

December 28th, 2023



A Look At The Famous Warner-Reprise "Loss Leader" Albums

only available by mail from the world's hippest late '60's-mid '70s record label

Warner Brothers got into the record business in the late '50s releasing a series of super-corny records half-heartedly aimed at the growing "audiophile community". It was a "catch up" effort and too little too late. The label did it without its own recording studio or much of an A&R department and it showed! However, someone there knew good sound—not surprising since WB invented "The Talkies"—movies with sound.

A few years later, Warner-Reprise was the hippest label on the planet with the most complete counterculture catalog featuring: Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, Captain Beefheart, Randy Newman, The Kinks, Alice Cooper, Pentangle, Van Dyke Parks, James Taylor and on and on! In this video I do some some "record holding up" and much more talking about Warner Brothers Records' rise from cultural irrelevance to prominence as a counterculture musical leader with the richest roster of rock and folk talent of any label in the world (well, maybe Island U.K. gave WB some stiff competition).

Between the late '60s and mid 1970's the label released a series of "loss leader" compilations that consumers bought directly from the label for $2.00 each. You'll see them all in this video. So, after watching, next time you're record shopping if you see any, if you weren't already familiar with them, you'll fully understand what these records are and why they are musically and culturally significant.

Check out the two headed guy in the Spike Jones cover. Do you think it inspired "Men In Black" director Barry Sonnenfeld or someone else involved in that great comedy/sci-fi flick?


  • 2023-12-28 11:29:00 AM

    Al in New York wrote:

    I remember these! They all had R. Crumb-like covers, as I recall. (Indeed, the covers were more interesting than the music on the records.)

  • 2023-12-28 12:55:30 PM

    Anton wrote:

    I loved these.

    They were, what, maybe 60 gram pressings?


    • 2023-12-28 02:13:29 PM

      Silk Dome Mid wrote:

      Very early floppy disks. They went "wocka wocka wocka" when you flexed them between your hands.

  • 2023-12-28 02:45:09 PM

    Brenro wrote:

    I can't take the way he sings but I love to hear him talk.

  • 2023-12-28 11:14:56 PM

    Adrian Galpin wrote:

    Just an aside, but the twin-headed guy on the cover puts me more in mind of The Hitchiker's Guide To The Galaxy, rather than Men In Black.

  • 2023-12-29 11:32:35 AM

    Outastylus wrote:

    Surprised you didn't include "Zapped," a 1970 single LP with Frank on the cover and featuring associated artists including Captain Beefheart, Wild Man Fisher, the GTOs and even Alice Cooper. Still, a very enjoyable video.

  • 2023-12-29 11:54:28 AM

    Dave Becker wrote:

    There were actually 35 Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders issued from 1969 to the mid-80's. With the exception of 2 two single LP versions of "Zapped" and Looney Tunes which was a triple LP; the rest were all 2 LP sets. We lived overseas at the time and I recall asking my Mom to write a check for $6 for the first three. Fortunately we had an APO San Francisco address and a month later all three arrived in a cardboard shipper. Great listening! I treasure this collection. There is a lengthy well researched and written thread on the Steve Hoffman website authored by "Seederman" that provides detailed insights. Thanks Michael for the video.

  • 2023-12-29 01:13:52 PM

    Dave Becker wrote:

    Michael, In your video you mentioned Van Dyke Park's 'Song Cycle'. To commemorate the 45th anniversary of its release, there was a mono Record Store Day release limited to 2500 copies. Cut by Chris Bellman and pressed at RTI. It replicates the gold WB label and inner sleeve at the time of release. It's a totally different listening experience in Mono.

    • 2023-12-29 03:56:15 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      I have an original mono WLP but I'm pretty sure it's a "fold down" and not a dedicated mono mix.

  • 2024-01-03 02:08:02 PM

    Matthew Zagar wrote:

    For those interested, Stan Cornyn (with Paul Scanlon) published a book "Exploding" in 2002. This reviews the history of what became the Warner Music Group. Informative and fun reading of the good, bad and ugly from 1957 to 1999 or thereabout.

    • 2024-01-03 05:29:25 PM

      Michael Fremer wrote:

      I am. Thanks for the tip! I didn't know about the book, though we'll soon publish our Warner Brothers story dating from the mid 1990s.