The Rock Machine Turns You On

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Discovered via the latest issue of The Wire magazine in a feature about compilation albums, The Rock Machine Turns You On (1968) was the first budget sampler album. Given the success of this release I’m sure I must have seen it over the years but that cover wasn’t familiar at all. I have to assume that the “Hey, pop kids!” title would have been enough of a turn-off to ensure the fingers kept flipping through the sleeves. Priorities change with the passing of time, however, and my attention was caught by the cover art alone, another example of the engraving-collage style whose evolution I’ve been tracing over the past few years. The only design credit on the sleeve is for the back cover photo by Wadham Artists. The front cover is credited online to Milton Glaser, some of whose album covers have already featured here. He was working for Columbia/CBS in the late 60s so it’s a possibility. If anyone out there has a copy of the vinyl then maybe they can tell me if that’s an artist credit in the lower right of the picture. A CD reissue in 1996 only copied the album credits.

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As to the music, it’s a pretty good compilation, lots of familiar names together with a track from cult favourites of mine The United States of America whose one and only self-titled album had been released that year. One of the few negatives about the superb United States of America album is the cover design which isn’t bad but does nothing to reflect the extraordinary musical invention within. It’s a shame that whoever designed The Rock Machine… couldn’t have worked on that sleeve as well.

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