Friday, August 03, 2007

Presented by hermanthegerman

"Bumpers... Island Sampler"

In the late sixties British record labels started to release a selection of their artists’ material on records known as samplers. These were not intended as anthologies or compilations – the purpose was to allow listeners the opportunity to sample a range of acts at a reduced price, showcasing in particular those for whom there was not a conventional singles market and hence little opportunity for radio airplay in the UK. Columbia’s “The Rock Machine Turns You On” and Liberty Records “Gutbucket” started the trend, but Island Records produced a series of gems from “Nice Enough to Eat” and “You Can All Join In” in 1969, to “Bumpers” in 1970 and “El Pea” in 1971. “Bumpers” was, as it’s name would suggest, the pick of the crop, with an eclectic yet cohesive collection of music across two 33rpm vinyl discs. It was also the first album I ever bought, me a pennywise 14 year old thumbing through the new releases in a record shop in Aberdeen with the 30 shillings (actually 29/11) cover price burning a hole in my pocket. The album came out in two pressings, one with the pink label and "i" logo, the other with the label displaying a palm motif on a white background and a pink rim. There are subtle differences between the recordings (as noted by Dave Sanderson), although the variations on overseas versions were much more fundamental, with a wholly different selection of tracks for the Antipodes (see here). In addition the sleeve notes and label information are shoddily compiled - to the numerous errors recorded by Bob McBeath at The ProgArchives add that John & Beverley Martyn are simply called "John & Beverley" on the back of the album. Incidentally, I have little idea what the motif on the back of the album represents, nor where the picture inside the album was taken, but I can tell you why there is the choice of artwork on the front - it is because those distinctive basketball-style shoes, popular in Britain at the time, were known as "Bumpers".

1970 was the year that 18 year olds got the vote, and women got equal pay. The first transatlantic Boeing 747 flight arrived at Heathrow and Britons got a taste of the new decimal currency ahead of decimalization in 1971. Ted Heath led a Conservative victory in the General Elections in a decade which would end with Margaret Thatcher in power. Tonga and Fiji gained independence from Great Britain, signaling the last small death throes of the British Empire, whilst white Rhodesians and the IRA initiated their own brands of independence movements. Across the pond, Americans protested for and against their invasion of Vietnam and Cambodia, and the National Guard shot unarmed students on the campus of Kent State University. A dazzling Brazilian team led by Pele won and retained the Jules Rimet Trophy, football’s World Cup trophy won by England four years earlier at Wembley stadium.

Simon & Garfunkel, the Rolling Stones, Andy Williams, the Beatles and Led Zeppelin has the biggest album successes of the year, and Elvis Presley topped a singles chart which had Rolf Harris’s “Two Little Boys” heading up the chart at the start of the year. This was the year of the Isle Of Wight festival that featured Jimi Hendrix, who was to die in London in September and achieve a posthumous number one single with “Voodoo Chile”. The Beatles split up and Janis Joplin died. Mariah Carey was born.

The music scene appeared remarkably vibrant, and Island Records was arguably the most innovative and diverse label around, and easily the most successful independent label before its founder, Chris Blackwell, sold it to A&M (PolyGram) in 1989. Blackwell had started in the record industry in 1958 in his native Jamaica, promoting the emerging bluebeat and ska sounds. He had a crossover hit with “My Boy Lollipop” from Millie Small in 1964, by which time he had moved his Island Records label to Notting Hill Gate in London. The label would expand to include a diverse range of pop, rock, folk, jazz, blues, reggae, progressive, underground and experimental acts that included the Spencer Davis Group, ELP, Bob Marley, Robert Palmer and U2. Along the way it developed a reputation for originality that attracted maverick and talented producers such as Joe Boyd and Guy Stevens. And, of course, the artists featured on Bumpers. Incidentally the pink label period releases are lovingly documented in a series of articles in "Record Collector" magazine between September and December 1996. I once read that Chris Salewicz was going to write a history of Island Records but I guess it is still a work in progress - should be a good read when it finally comes out. And Joe Boyd has written an outstanding book on the music industry called "White Bicycles" which co-incides with the time he was associated with Island.

I’m not going to say too much about my own recollections of Bumpers – that job has been done far more eloquently than I could dare by Dave Sanderson (see his page at If you have something to add, know of corrections, wish to be acknowledged or just want to say hello, please click on the button at the foot of the page to get in touch.


Blogger dave said...

These samplers were VITAL to me as I was growing up and trying to find out about music. One friend would have Son of Gutbucket, one would have The Rock Machine Turns You, I went for Nice Enough To Eat. I still have that (with the 14/6d sticker intact!) and You Can All Join In and Bumpers and Fill Your Head With Rock (yeah 29/11d exactly!). There's definitely a PhD thesis in there somewhere.Thanks very much for this!!

03 August, 2007 02:45  
Blogger dave said...

And,of course, we had the Blessed John Peel without whom I would never have bought my first elpee : the Marble Arch re-issue of Safe As Milk, 10 bob from a swapshop in Doncaster. I still have it.

03 August, 2007 04:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent stuff. Similar to yourself, I also bought this album (pink label version)in 1970 as a 15 year old and still own it to this day. Alongside Nice Enough To Eat and You Can All Join In, they provided a fantastic taster of the supreme quality of artists on the Island label at that time.

I am being totally spoilt by your posts and this is fast becoming my favourite web site.



03 August, 2007 04:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I tried to compile this from seperate albums (some where never released on anything else)and managed to do about 75% of it.
Now I have the real thing! Thanks.
Titus Lux

03 August, 2007 11:12  
Anonymous Math said...

A lovely, lovely post!. I had this and "Picnic" from harvest for years, and I can't wait to listen to it again.

Thnk you

04 August, 2007 19:05  
Blogger Juan said...

Hi Hermanthegerman,
A lot of thanks for your kind in to share with us this great sampler.


05 August, 2007 00:00  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wow does this ever take me back...
thanks -- very nice...

taro nombei

06 August, 2007 00:09  
Anonymous ianinspain said...

These samplers, along with the 'loss-leaders' that Warners brought out in the US gave us poor school-kids the chance to broaden our musical horizons, and boy did they do a good job!! Fabulous post, 'cause my copy of 'Bumpers' got lost in one of the many house-moves I've made over the last thirty-five years, thanks again.

09 August, 2007 21:05  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Takes us back to a very interesting music scene. Still have this at my old house so thanks for this version.


25 August, 2007 04:20  
Blogger Stephen said...

I have always loved sampler records and have collected them over the years. Bumpers was the first and turned me onto Rock Music - or Prog Rock even - as a teeneager. Bought for the princely sum of 29/11 when me, my brother and sister pooled together 10/- each. I still have the record + an extra copy I have since bought for good luck.

I have collected many CDs just to get the tracks off this recording - Mott The Hoople, If, Renaissance - and always said if I came into money I would love to re-issue it on CD as a complete set.

Oh happy daze.

25 August, 2007 21:42  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Waouh, toute mon enfance !!! :) Merci.

25 March, 2008 03:17  
Anonymous lesthehawk said...

Brilliant!! Thanks so much for the memories. I was heavily into these cheap samplers myself as a kid - I was also 14 when I bought Bumpers instead of school dinners ;-)
I half remember there were two excellent similar efforts from Polydor - one a double lp, similar graphic 'style' to Bumpers but predominantly green in colour, which had 'What's going on' by Taste, the other, a single lp, had 'Eat my words' again a Taste track. Is anyone else's memory on this better than mine (or even still has these beauties in their collection)?

12 August, 2008 21:11  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many thanks for this blogspot. It really is excellent!

Like many of the other posters I contributed with a friend to buy this when it first came out. Somehow I ended up taking possession :) On seeing the tracklisting for this I now discover there must have been two versions for the 2nd track on side 2 of mine is Creedence and Cascade by King Crimson. That said, Traffic's Roamin' In The Gloamin' with 40,000 Headmen is a nice surprise!

As for the poster who asked for info on Polydor samplers... I have a single LP called 'Supergroups' with John Mayall, Blind Faith, Fat Mattress, Savage Rose, Jimi Hendrix, Cat Mother & The All-Night Newsboys, Jack Bruce, Cream, Julie Discoll with Brian Auger & The Trinity, and Taste. The Taste track is Blister On The Moon so this can't be the album to which you refer. It's a goody though even if it does lean too heavily on Cream members. Anyway, I've since recreated it from various CDs and will upload as soon as I work out how.

02 November, 2008 07:13  
Anonymous Nick said...

Aaargh the joy of finding this -i have it on vinyl but not had a record player for years.... i tried to download but theres some weird thing that comes up asking me to ente a competition... any ideas? pleeeeease :D thanks for awesome post. white bicycles is indeed a great book...

12 August, 2010 00:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm being especially obtuse, but I cn't find the link. Could someone please help someone slowly getting senile! Many thanks

23 February, 2011 22:54  

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