Labels

I didn’t enjoy the experience of recording my first albums for major labels at the end of the 1960s so from that point onwards I decided to stay independent. And, of course, once you have a label as a home for your own stuff, it’s a natural progression to put out records by other artists you’d like people to hear as well. And it’s very addictive …
The first of these labels was Village Thing (subtitled ‘the alternative folk label’, decades ahead of the coining of ‘alt.folk’, let alone ‘psych folk’, ‘acid folk’ and all the other bewildering terms that get showered on it these days). Formed in Bristol in 1970, we put out two dozen vinyl albums plus a few singles (and even the odd cassette and 8-track cartridge!) over the next four years including
songwriter/guitarists Wizz Jones, Dave Evans, Steve Tilston, Al Jones, Chris Thompson, Tucker Zimmerman and myself as Ian A. Anderson, American banjo legend Derroll Adams, duos The Sun Also Rises, Hunt & Turner and Lackey & Sweeney, folk entertainers Fred Wedlock, Noel Murphy and the anarchic Pigsty Hill Light Orchestra, and good time blues singer Dave Peabody plus his band Tight Like That.

“Village Thing’s releases have gained cult status.”

It was essentially the contemporary folk scene’s complement to the more traditionally-based recordings being simultaneously released by Bill Leader’s wonderful Trailer label, and soon both were manufactured and distributed by the folk ‘major’ of the day, Transatlantic. Over the years, many of Village Thing’s releases have gained cult status amongst collectors of ’70s contemporary folk and songwriter/guitarists, often changing hands for high prices as they’ve enjoyed a revival of interest.
V illage Thing was literally a cottage industry: its official headquarters were at Inglestone Common, a tiny hamlet in the wilds of Gloucestershire where business partner Gef Lucena of Saydisc lived and many of the initial recordings were indeed done in Gef’s cottage. Later, we were able to set up in a Quaker meeting house at Frenchay on the outskirts of Bristol.

Equipment was good but basic — at least one album was recorded with a pair of mics

plugged straight into a Revox tape recorder in my flat in  Clifton Village, and the maximum was a pair of tape machines, multi-mics through a small mixer and a simple reverb unit.

Anything more complicated than that, on the few occasions when it was needed, we took over to record at Rockfield near Monmouth. It was also very much a family of artists and musicians, as will be apparent from the way that names crop up on each other’s recordings.

There’s a recently released ‘best of’ Village Thing compilation called Ghosts From The Basement.
A decade later in 1982 I set up Rogue Records, initially to put out records by my own bands The English Country Blues Band and Tiger Moth plus projects by member musicians including Maggie Holland (solo and with Jon Moore) and Rod Stradling.
But it soon dawned on me that we could release other things on it as well, initially by licensing favourite obscure albums from abroad but soon doing our own productions, especially in West Africa and Madagascar.

And so we became one of the pioneers in producing albums in the field that eventually got called ‘World Music’, among them the first UK releases by Bulgarian singer Nadka Karadjova (on the FMS imprint);

Gambia/Senegal’s kora masters Dembo Konte & Kausu Kuyateh; Baaba Maal & Mansour Seck and Pascal Diatta & Sona Mané from Senegal; Madagascar’s Tarika, Jaojoby and Tianjama; the USA’s conjunto accordeon king Flaco Jimenez and nuclear polka band Brave Combo; Mali’s Sidiki Diabate Ensemble (featuring a very young Toumani Diabate) and Abdul Tee-Jay’s Rokoto from Sierra Leone. We also put out albums by the UK’s Cock & Bull and Deighton Family and singles by Jumpleads and The Mighty Clouds Of Dust.

Somewhere in the middle we switched from vinyl LPs & cassettes to CDs (there was a brief period when had to do all three formats!)

It soon dawned on me that we could release other things as well

Later, Rogue launched its mid-price Weekend Beatnik CD label to re-issue full length, well annotated ‘best of’ compilations including of Hot Vultures, The English Country Blues Band, Tiger Moth, Dembo Konte & Kausu Kuyateh, Abdul Tee-Jay’s Rokoto, and some earlier Village Thing material including Dave Evans and myself.

“Tarika regularly topped the World Music charts.”

We also formed a separate imprint, Sakay, for the later records released in the UK and Indian Ocean territories by Madagascar’s Tarika, who we had developed into first an international touring success who regularly topped the World Music charts in Europe and the USA, and then finally became superstars back home in Madagascar after 1997.

Shop

You can buy CDs and downloads at our online shop.

Gallery

Here’s a gallery of Village Thing LP covers.

Gallery

Here’s a gallery of Rogue, Weekend Beatnik and Sakay covers.

Lately, as there are so few record shops left with decent ‘specialist’ sections, there seems less and less reason to go through conventional record distributors. So my current micro-label is Ghosts From The Basement, selling CDs and downloads direct to the public via Bandcamp and Amazon, the physical copies in environmentally friendly, plastic-free digipaks.

The nine releases so far are my two 50+ year compilations Onwards! and Onwards Vol.2 – A Crown Of Crows, my solo album Deathfolk Blues Revisited

from 2017, and CDs of my duo The False Beards with Ben Mandelson;an EP of English traditional icon Bob Copper on which we accompanied him singing the blues (oh yes!); expanded re-issues of the Village Thing albums I produced by Derroll Adams and Al Jones; an exhumation of my very earliest blues EPs, compilation tracks and a couple of previously unissued live recordings; and a digital-only EP of Tarika’s greatest hits.

You can find all of these plus some of the Weekend Beatnik compilations and more in the Ghosts From The Basement shop.

Gallery

Here’s a gallery of Ghosts From The Basement covers.

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