Thursday 20 June 2024

Charly Records at 50 - celebrating our Independent Record Labels

Imagine my delight at being asked by Tony Gleed, the promoter at The Dublin Castle, London's most iconic music pub, to play at the celbration they are hosting to celebrate 50 years of Charly Records. The headliners will be The Bollock Brothers, who released several albums and singles on the label in the 1980's. The label these days specialises mostly in reissues of jazz and 1960's slightly obscure music.  The catalogue is quite amazing and worth a look at if you are interested in music. For an independent label to keep going for 50 years is a fabulous achievement and we are delighted to be participating. They have done a sterling job in keeping the music of a whole host of musicians alive and also providing royalties for artists who the major mainstream labels had long ago lost interest in. Here's a list of just some of the acts associated with the label

The anniversary gives us an excellent chance to pay some homage to the Independent labels that have shaped the UK music scene. There are so many, operating in different genres, that it would be impossible to cover all in a short blog. Most labels eventually get gobbled up by majors, who want to monetise the back catalogue, and the creativity often dries up. Some manage to heep their identity, to some extent. Perhaps the most iconic of the Jazz labels is Blue NoteEstablished in 1939 by German-Jewish emigrants Alfred Lion and Max Margulis.  Andy Warhol also did work designing covers before he was well known.

As well as releasing much of the best Jazz music ever released, Blue Note was noted for the amazing album covers, usually created by graphic artist Reid Miles using the photography of Francis Wolff. There are probably almost as many posters and prints of these adorning the walls of jazz collectors and music lovers as there are copies of the records (a slight exagerration but you know what I mean).

I suspect that without Blue Note, popular music as we know it would not exist. Blue Note invented the concept of cool, the music was cool, the album covers were cool, the artists looked cool. The rhythms on these recordings have formed the foundation of everything musical that has followed since. 

Blue Note Records was acquired by Liberty Records in 1965 and subsumed into EMI in 1971, who phased it out. Fortunately. in 1985 EMI saw sense and relaunched it as a specialist Jazz label. 

Next up on our journey we will look at Trojan Records. The label responsible for the late 1960's UK Ska Explosion. Trojan was set up in 1968 by Duke Reid and Lee Gopthal in 1968. Reid, a Jamaican, realised that the islands music had enormous potential for the UK market and teamed up with record shop owner Gopthal. Trojan was instrumental in introducing reggae to a global audience and, by 1970, had secured a series of major UK chart hits. Successful Trojan artists from this period include Judge DreadTony TribeLee "Scratch" Perry's Upsetters, Bob and MarciaDesmond DekkerJimmy Cliff, the Harry J All Stars, The MaytalsThe MelodiansNicky Thomas and Dave and Ansel Collins. For me, the impact of Trojan is impossible to understate. I would not be in a band if it wasn't for Trojan. Bands such as The Clash, Madness, The Specials, The Police and The Beat, to name a few would probably not exist without the influence of Trojan. As a lover of Ska music since I was a nipper, Trojan was the soundtrack of my youth. 

In 1972, Island Records owner Chris Blackwell withdrew his interest and the label went bust in 1975. It was revived in 1985 by businessman Colin Newman, who sought to re-release much of the catalogue and has been owned by Sanctuary, Universal and BMG since. 

Next up on our tour is Stiff Records. Set up by music hustlers Dave Robinson and Jake Riviera, Stiff was at the forefront of Punk and New Wave. 
 Stiff signed various punk rock and new wave acts such as Nick Lowethe DamnedLene LovichWreckless EricElvis CostelloIan Dury, and Devo, also signing artists with significant crossover appeal such as MotörheadLarry Wallis and Mick Farren. In the 1980s, with most of their early signings having moved on, the label found commercial success with MadnessThe PoguesTracey UllmanThe Belle StarsKirsty MacColl and others.

The Damned released the first UK punk single. New Rose on Stiff. Stiff records was well known for it's innovative marketing and slightly naughty slogans "If it ain't Stiff it isn't worth a F**k". The label organised tours, with the likes of Ian Dury. Elvis Costello on the first "Be Stiff " Tour. Stiff were seen by many ast the label to be on. The label ran into financial trouble in 1985 and was acquired by ZTT.

If you've ever heard The False Dots, you will instantly recognise how much I love Stiff Records. It is impossible for me to deny the influence (not that I'd want to) of Ian Dury, Madness, The Damned and Elvis Costello on the band. I have all the releases by these artists on Stiff Records in my record collection. Given Stiff records annoying policy of deleting vinyl from the catalogue after a few months, this was something that required me to get a paper round when I was 14 to ensure I had cash and didn't miss out. 

And finally. A quick mention for a label that was one which changed the world, but unless, like me, you are a punk rock nut, you'll never have heard of. It is New Hormones. It was set up by Manchester band The Buzzcocks, to launch their career with the Spiral Scratch EP. It was the first UK self released punk single. It sold 10,000 copies of the first release. Although it didn't bother the charts, it inspired  a whole generation of artists to 'Do it yourself'. To this day, the ripples of New Hormones live with us. The concept of Indie Music was born. The Buzzcocks proved it could be done. 

In this day and age, setting up a label for your band is easy. The False Dots have our own label, Blue Moon London Records and we release songs on streaming platforms. It is not hard and inexpensive. It opens up your music to the world. As we do this, we realise that we are walking in the footsteps of giants!

If you want to come along to the party on Saturday night at The Dublin Castle, CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS

You can listen to our independently released catalogue of songs here

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