Foursider LPs & Liza Minnelli

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Near as I can tell, the 1973 Foursider campaign featured LP selections from previously popular non-rock artists who either recorded the bulk of their music in the 1960s and/or were no longer recording for A&M.

Using Discogs as a reference, it appears the campaign was limited to the following five artists:
  • TJB
  • B66/77
  • BMB
  • The Sandpipers
  • Liza Minnelli
TJB.jpg


B66.jpg


BMB.jpg


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Liza.jpg


That most of the featured artists LPs were surely OOP by 1973, the 2-disc compilation was a nice idea. It would seem that campaign requirements necessitated a minimum of 3 previously issued LPs. The first four artists surely seem logical; however Liza Minnelli would seem to be a right-field choice. From what I could determine, her LPs did not sell well (three of her LPs did not chart; and none of her singles charted) and she had no hit singles; yet, she was selected over both Chris Montez and Claudine Longet, both of whom enjoyed genuine chart success in their heyday.

Of course, this brings up another question: how was it that Liza was able to keep recording LPs (I believe she issued four) when apparently none of them sold notably well? This is all the more interesting given A&M, at least up through 1970, appeared to be a one-shot you're out label with LPs: if the first didn’t meet sales expectations, there would probably be no second chance. This is particularly evident given the number of single artist offerings after SP-4148 when Jerry steered A&R into the realm of contemporary rock music (reviewing much of the post SP-4147 LPs, it would seem as though he was throwing LPs out there to see what would stick...).

(This all came about as I was reviewing SP-4141 to refresh my memory as to why I had no favourable memory of the LP (which only took about 20 seconds once she started singing — which was 18 seconds longer than it took to make the same decision for Chris Montez) and by chance saw the Foursider LP jacket, which, at first glance I thought might be a parody or a fictitious product from a fan.)
 
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LPJim

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A pair from my collection: Liza in Louisville KY in 2009 & Sergio in Nashville, 2007.
 

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rockdoctor

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In an interview that I heard with Bonnie Raitt, she once mentioned that the cost to produce albums by some artists was borne out of the profits made for the companies by very successful artists. That is probably how Liza was able to have her records. Claudine had just one gold album, Baja had no gold and Sandpipers one gold but their singles got a lot of airplay. Rita Coolidge did not have super success until her sixth. Lee Michaels did not have a hit until his 5th or 6th and then he disappeared. The success of Herb Alpert, Sergio Mendes Burt Bacharach and Carpenters helped cover a lot of the costs.
 

Steve Sidoruk

Founder, A&M Fan Net
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Disagree with much of the original post. Commentary almost 50 years after these releases likely doesn't reflect the rationale behind the original issue of the FOURSIDER Series. At the time, radio was the biggest way to promote releases by artists - radio station vinyl would get played down and this would be a fresh release of a 'hits' collection, as well as keeping the fans happy. The GREATEST HITS Series did the same. These kept the music out there.

BTW, I have multiple versions of all FOURSIDER issues and GREATEST HITS as well. :wink:
 

Rudy

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The success of Herb Alpert, Sergio Mendes Burt Bacharach and Carpenters helped cover a lot of the costs.
Carpenters' success certainly subsidized groups like Supertramp. One quote I read by someone in the UK (maybe their manager or press agent) telling Supertramp to face whatever direction the Carpenters were in that day and than them for the opportunity they're giving Supertramp.

Absolutely. The big acts carry the marginal acts. Pretty much the standard in the music biz, for better or worse.
 

Harry

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I always got the feeling that Liza Minnelli's signing with A&M was seen as a bit of "prestige". She was, after all the daughter of the legendary Judy Garland, so having her on the label gave it a certain gravitas.

Note that on the cover of FAMILY PORTRAIT, Liza is right up front with Herb, and on the A&M show on the HOLLYWOOD PALACE, she had a prominent placement in the early part of the show.
 

rockdoctor

Well-Known Member
Prominent, but she was never a hitmaker for A&M.
The only song I ever heard by Liza on the radio was her version of Come Saturday Morning where she used some of the dialog from the movie Sterile Cuckoo and it was played only a few times. Sandpipers version of the song got a lot of airplay and I still here it now and then.
 

Harry

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Her Collectors' Choice CD compilation contains her entire A&M Records output on two CDs. It includes four albums, all of the singles, and bonus tracks too.

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GDB2LV

Well-Known Member
The cd Results with PSB probably her best seller. Not on A&M though. Losing My Mind, Rent, and Twisting My Sobriety were all singles. The first one got airplay. The rest probably only in England. It’s an 80’s dance pop collection. Actually a pretty good album.
 

JOv2

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Thread Starter
I always got the feeling that Liza Minnelli's signing with A&M was seen as a bit of "prestige"...so having her on the label gave it a certain gravitas.

Note that on the cover of FAMILY PORTRAIT, Liza is right up front with Herb, and on the A&M show on the HOLLYWOOD PALACE, she had a prominent placement in the early part of the show.
Prominent, but she was never a hitmaker for A&M.

Harry nails it!

Though just 21 years of age in 1967, Liza Minnelli was probably already recognized as a personality -- perhaps more so than as a musical artist per se; and Jerry surely remained hopeful for a breakthrough — which explains how she was given a pass to continue issuing records despite low sales (whereas Merchants Of Dreams [SP-4149], Brewer & Shipley [SP-4154], Joanna Vent [SP-4165], Sea Train [SP-4171] et al. were not). As Harry pointed out, she was on that DEC1967 Hollywood Palace episode that was dedicated exclusively to A&M artists. (Herb and Jerry must have been sailing high to score such a jackpot episode, which for all intents and purposes was an A&M infomercial. I imagine Dot and Liberty — heck, even Columbia — must have been foaming at the mouth to have a similarly inclusive coast-to-coast network TV opportunity to showcase their finest artists. "TheTVdb.com" database indicates Minnelli was on The Hollywood Palace 4 times, 1967-68; so, getting her under contract in late ’67 may have been considered priority during pre-production stages in securing such a show.)

In the '70s, Minnelli continued to grow in overall popularity based on TV, stage and screen activities; so, based on this Jerry must have continued to remain hopeful. With this context the Foursider choice makes sense.

Thanks guys -- much thanks and appreciation. I learned a great deal today! The history of musical artists and record label management decision making always fascinates me.

(Interestingly enough, I remember in 7th grade I had just purchased South Of The Border and was so anxious to share the LP with my adult neighbor friends (I had been borrowing LPs from several adult neighbors since about age 10) that I brought the LP over to the next door neighbor’s house to play while we were eating dinner. I passed the LP jacket around the table and the mom was looking at the inner sleeve and remarked that Liza Minnelli had an LP. Following up on Harry’s opinion, I think that sense of gravitas was also a problem: As Rudy noted, Minnelli was prominent — but that unfortunately didn’t translate into airplay or LP sales. One could also say the same thing about Carol Burnett. For whatever reason, their TV/stage/screen talent and success just didn’t transcribe into radio airplay or LP chart success. While both were "visually" popular as singers, people by and large seemed satisfied with watching them sing...but not buying their records. Buck Owens once said that once he started playing on Hee Haw, his record sales dropped off considerably — he said something like "nobody’s gonna buy your records if they can see you on TV every week".)
 

Bobberman

Well-Known Member
Her Collectors' Choice CD compilation contains her entire A&M Records output on two CDs. It includes four albums, all of the singles, and bonus tracks too.

View attachment 6505
I own this CD as I couldn't Find her Foursider Collection anywhere so this collection More than Fit the bill And Beyond I did have her first Album on A&M which I wore out so this even replaced that one This gathers All Her A&M output in one place very handy to have.
 

Mr Bill

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What has always fascinated me most about the FourSider series is the number of original LPs each of the artists had (up to that point) in the A&M catalog. Herb and the TJB had 14 albums, BMB and Sergio each had 9, SandPipers had 8 but Liza only had 4. So her FourSider ostensibly contained 50% of A&M catalog while the other four only 25% or less.

I also wondered how many other artists, worthy of a FourSider were overlooked. Same can be said for the 25th Anniversary series in the mid 1980s. One has to wonder if Liza's FourSider was, perhaps, a "contractual obligation" album. I often consider Phil Ochs Chords of Fame double album (nearly half of which contains his Elektra releases) to be a Phil Ochs FourSider...

--Mr Bill
(Yes, my tally depends on how you count some things like GH packages, the inclusion of non-LP songs on FS lps and the odd non-US album releases for Sergio and SandPipers... but you get my point).
 

Mike Blakesley

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As Rudy noted, Minnelli was prominent — but that unfortunately didn’t translate into airplay or LP sales. One could also say the same thing about Carol Burnett. For whatever reason, their TV/stage/screen talent and success just didn’t transcribe into radio airplay or LP chart success.
It's because they weren't popular for singing -- Carol Burnett was popular for her comedy, and Liza Minelli was mostly an actress. Carroll O'Connor (as Archie Bunker) was the star of the #1 TV show of the 70s, but I don't think his Remembering You album was much of a seller.

A&M, at least up through 1970, appeared to be a one-shot you're out label with LPs: if the first didn’t meet sales expectations, there would probably be no second chance.

This isn't true at all. There are lots of A&M artists who didn't hit it big the first time out, some who did several albums before hitting. and others who never got much traction but saw the label stick with them. Carpenters being the most famous, but also Supertramp, Joan Armatrading (who did multiple albums but never really went anywhere), Phil Ochs (same), Sandpipers (who had one hit, but then went on to do five or six more albums before finally hitting again) and others. The bottom line, and A&M was well-known for it, was that if Herb and Jerry saw ANY potential in you, they would give you a full shot.

As for the artists chosen for Foursiders -- I always thought maybe they did these four as a starter to see what might sell, and would have done more if sales warranted. If any of these four would have been blockbusters, maybe there would have been others. And, maybe there were other artists who they considered for Foursiders but the artist's management may have vetoed the idea, thinking it would detract from a current project, etc. You never know what goes on behind the scenes.

I did always think Liza Minelli was a strange choice for A&M but then I thought that about a lot of their signings.
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
This isn't true at all
Mike, I'm sorry, but I think you missed that I was referring only up through 1970. Supertramp and Armatrading are from a different era, so they're not part of my survey. It's true the Carpenters' debute LP did not chart; however, according to the Both Sides Now website, all Sandpipers LPs charted (with only 1 lone exception -- the Spanish Album comp), and 3 of Phil Ochs' 4 LPs also charted, including the first 2. I think we can all agree that starting round about SP-4147 (mid '68), Jerry was pushing hard in the "contemporary rock/pop" direction. I think that's the reason there were a number of one-shots during that mid-'68-'70 period -- I count about 12 from SP-4147 to SP-4200 alone (after about SP-4275, I don't know; I don't really follow pop music much after 1970).

Actually Burnett, like Minnelli (and Sammy Davis!) was really a personality: essentially an all-in-one entertainer who be called on to perform just about anything in front of an audience. I argue that she was quite well-known as a singer -- a TV/movie/stage singer -- but not a recording artist. Her weekly show always featured musical artists and she would duet with them or perform solo.
 

Mike Blakesley

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Well, that's what I meant, actually. Like Carol Burnett, everybody knew she could sing but people didn't seek out recordings of her singing.

In my defense, you did say "At least" through 1970!

It is definitely no secret that they made a conscious decision to emphasize into the pop/rock arena.... Jerry, being no fool, knew that the E-Z listening market was drying up fast.
 

rockdoctor

Well-Known Member
Well, that's what I meant, actually. Like Carol Burnett, everybody knew she could sing but people didn't seek out recordings of her singing.

In my defense, you did say "At least" through 1970!

It is definitely no secret that they made a conscious decision to emphasize into the pop/rock arena.... Jerry, being no fool, knew that the E-Z listening market was drying up fast.
Back on a Carol Burnett show, a young lady asked her to sign a copy of an album that Carol had recorded. Carol commented"So you're the one that bought that?"
I remember the album being promoted on the show but never saw it anywhere.

For the Foursider albums, the selections were not compiled by the artists or the producers but some other names were listed as the compilers.
I feel a Claudine Longet Foursider could have been done, choosing from her five albums. I did hear that she left A&M suddenly and the tabloids had her and Alpert as an item but I never delved into the tabloid garbage.
 

rockdoctor

Well-Known Member
Disagree with much of the original post. Commentary almost 50 years after these releases likely doesn't reflect the rationale behind the original issue of the FOURSIDER Series. At the time, radio was the biggest way to promote releases by artists - radio station vinyl would get played down and this would be a fresh release of a 'hits' collection, as well as keeping the fans happy. The GREATEST HITS Series did the same. These kept the music out there.

BTW, I have multiple versions of all FOURSIDER issues and GREATEST HITS as well. :wink:
I have Foursiders of Sergio Mendes both CD and vinyl and Sandpipers vinyl. It is interesting to note that the one title is Sergio Mendes and Brasil'66 Foursider but the record and cd labels just say Sergio Mendes.
 

Mike Blakesley

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Moderator
I also thought it was kind of interesting (and here's where my total nerd-ness will shine through) that both the Sergio and Minelli collections said "THE" in front of the artist name, but the TJB and Baja ones did not. Consistency would have been good -- I wonder if anybody else noticed this little thing? (I'm betting not.)
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Yes. Up through 1970 — specifically mid-’68 to 1970. (From 1971 onward, my interest quickly diminishes so I have very little exposure as to the state of the label beyond 1970.)

The sudden A&R change starting round about SP-4149 and continuing through to approximately SP-4275 has always fascinated me.

In about 2 ½ years, the label issued approximately 130 LPs — a staggering amount relative to their previous rate. I surmise that following Monterey Pop (APR 1967, at which time A&M was at approx. SP-4125) the industry as a whole seemingly concluded (or conceded if you were Mitch Miller…) that "rock" music: 1) was not a fad; 2) was a viable genre; and 3) most importantly, was the new direction of the music industry. As industry executives, Jerry and Herb clearly embraced this. The most significant question at the time would have regarded what percentage of A&M’s artist roster should then account for the new music? (I know Herb was in San Francisco on the first night of Monterey Pop -- he was attending the Kingston Trio’s farewell performance; and according to a 2004 post from Michael Hagerty, Jerry attended the festival.) Something else to consider…Jerry’s and Herb’s opinion of, and how well they could appreciate, the "new" music in 1967-68. While I’d like to believe both men personally liked all the music A&M issued through to approximately SP-4125, I'm curious how much they personally liked the new music that would soon define A&M as a label (e.g., Lee Michales, Melvin Van Peebles, Joanne Vent)? I’m thinking by late ’67 (approx. SP-4138), they had knowledgable staff in place (to make gatekeeper determinations regarding the merits of potential new artists) who could then swing their recommendations to Jerry for the final yea/nay — though Jerry’s participation may have been more hands on with the first batch of UK artists given the excitement of it all! That within one year’s time A&M would issue music seemingly in step with that of Jethro Tull, Big Brother or The Doors must have been quite a memorable time at the office!

Beginning in late 1967, Columbia exhibited major roster changes while RCA was more cautious and didn’t really follow suit until 1969-70. Several years ago, one of my music friends wondered at how difficult it must had been for the "non-rock" artists at Columbia back in 1968 under Clive Davis’ leadership. Their roster was loaded with non-rock artists, but the label was permanently shifting gears and was now focusing squarely on the new music (look what happened to Tony Bennett and Ray Conniff).
 

JOv2

Well-Known Member
Thread Starter
Back on a Carol Burnett show, a young lady asked her to sign a copy of an album that Carol had recorded. Carol commented"So you're the one that bought that?"
I recently saw that episode! Carol's deadpan response was priceless.

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