Bull & Gate to close to music
We heard about the Bull & Gate potentially closing its doors a few months back. Rumour had it that the owners were looking to sell-on and retire. What this meant for one of Kentish Town’s most famous new music venues was still up in the air.
Yesterday we finally received confirmation that the venue will be sold to Youngs and redeveloped as a gastropub with the kitchen and restaurant area taking over what was the dark room at the back where bands played.
The Bull & Gate is what one might lovingly refer to as a toilet venue – a small, dark and, post-cigarette ban, extremely smelly place to watch some of the most exciting new acts around. Bands like the Manic Street Preachers, Blur, Coldplay, Carter USM and many others all learnt their trade playing the venue.
In recent times promoters Club Fandango took over the music side of things at the B&G…. They had this to say…
“The irony is that having weathered the storm of free gigs and hipster swinging out of East London, having battled through five years of recession and having fought against the tide of depression rolling over the guitar-gripping side of the music industry throughout this decade the venue is going to be taken down by a gastropub.”
The venue will continue to host music until May when the pub will close for refurbishment.
At Music Heritage UK, we’re sad to see this venue go. It really was a stepping stone to greatness and anyone who has made a name for themselves over the last twenty years or so will have played the Bull & Gate.
Decisions like these inspired our formation… we truly believe that by closing these gig venues down we are putting at peril the future of the UK’s music scene and loosing some of the most culturally significant places of recent times. Places like the Bull & Gate are the backbone of our new music scene, an inspiration for the next generation of artists, and where history happened. Without these “toilet” venues our music industry would be both financially and culturally much poorer.
Twitter was the place to go for immediate reaction. Jim Bob of Carter was among some of the first to comment…
Jamie Wednesday, Carter, Jim’s Super Stereoworld. All did some of their first gigs at the Bull & Gate.— Jim Bob (@mrjimBob) February 6, 2013
Still, I suppose there just aren’t enough gastro pubs in London.— Jim Bob (@mrjimBob) February 6, 2013
Can’t believe the Bull and Gate is closing down. So much history in that place, for me and for British music.— Rosie (@roseformyrose) February 6, 2013
Sad to hear of the demise of the Bull and Gate in Kentish Town as a live music venue. I should remove a piece of carpet as a keepsake.— Mark Sheldon (@MeMarkSheldon) February 6, 2013
For unsigned or any band for that matter, the Bull and Gate was a diamond in the rough that was Camden/London bullandgate.co.uk— Marmaduke Dando (@marmadukedando) February 6, 2013
The bull and gate in Kentish town to close..another piece of amazing musical history turned into more bland flats or a mini tescos..#sad— Leona (@leonaw66) February 6, 2013
Image credit: Time Out
Modern sounds… retro artwork
A great tribute to the artwork associated to recorded sounds in the 1960s from the good people at Penney Design. See below for an idea of what the Libertines’ artwork might look like if it was released in 1965!
A great tribute to the style of the era, if anything else. Check out their website for more examples from Interpol and Lady Gaga. Thanks to the NME for the heads up today.
Selling his soul to the metal
We met music heritage scholar and curator of the Crossroads of Sabbath, Rob Horrocks for a quick chat about Sabbath, Birmingham, his Sabbath influenced tour and his experiences of working at a successful heritage exhibition, the Home of Metal.
In a nutshell, could you please explain your project for Music Heritage UK supporters?
My favourite review from Christina McDermott in The Quietus described it as, “one man’s hand-knitted mix of sociology, anecdotal history and musical geekery – a personal project rather than a tourist cash-in.”
To which I would expand as… The Crossroads of Sabbath walking tour is an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the original Black Sabbath line up and learn about the area they grew up in during the period 1948–1970. The tour has been developed using original research material to accompany some of the stories you may recognise from the various biographies, autobiographies and documentaries about Black Sabbath.
A booklet to accompany the tour has been produced so that the tour can be undertaken independently. The booklet is a lovingly produced collectors artefact for fans of the band that may never be able to visit Birmingham to undertake the tour.
Why were you inspired to create the ‘Crossroads of Sabbath’ tour? The direct inspiration was a Graham Greene walking tour of Berkhamsteadbut there aremany other examples of walking tours of all sorts of heritage sites that also inspired me. Inspiration also came from a belief that the Sabbath story is more interesting and has a broader appeal than some of the other subjects of heritage tours I have seen.
I walk the route regularly as it is close to my home. That was inspirational as I had plenty of time to think about all the stories I might include. Another inspiration was the way that the area is generally derided. This doesn’t do anyone any favours. So there was a political motivation too.
It was also inspirational to observe the way that people talk about heritage. The temptation to talk up big ideas is rife. I just wanted to get on and do something. So, I limited the idea to what is doable within the restraints of cash, time and all the other practical considerations. I also wanted to do something that didn’t involve anyone else. That way I retain control and it exists. It’s off the drawing board, it has escaped the meeting room and is now out there in the real world. Anyone who reads this is just a few clicks away from booking onto the tour or buying a copy of the booklet. There’s a punk element to my thinking and actions!
You do try and make your tours about more than the music… Do you think that music heritage is as much about the geography, the era, the times as much as about the bricks and mortar?
Good question! One that reveals how much of the content of heritage is down to the heritage practitioners themselves.
My short (and heavily theoretical) answer to that is that music heritage is as much about the music heritage practitioner as it is about the geography, the era, the times or the bricks and mortar. Heritage does not happen by accident.
It’s about what I, as the expert, want it to be! It’s up to me to choose what to focus on and decide the story I want to tell. Crossroads of Sabbath is 90 minutes long, about the length of a film. It has a beginning, middle and end. Its not fiction, but the facts I include are entirely my decision. So, the narrative of Crossroads… might be very different to different versions of the Black Sabbath story that you may find in other sources.
A more practical answer is that It’s very handy to have the bricks and mortar in place so visitors can see the building where x/y/z actually happened. Everybody loves that. It’s great to stand outside the building and tell the story. But if you don’t have that bricks and mortar opportunity there are many other strategies that the heritage worker can use.
Heritage deals with the past so anything you can use to bring that past into the presentation is useful. I loved using old newspaper cuttings and maps, statistics and pithy quotations that demonstrate aspects of life at the time. I use records, sounds and of course the stories themselves – many of which are from the band’s contemporaries. It’s a rehearsed performance. I’ve thought about the script very carefully in order to evoke the period we are interested in.
You previously worked at the Home of Metal in Birmingham, didn’t you? For those who didn’t go can you please describe what that was all about?
Home of Metal was a very ambitious music heritage project that took the fact that several prominent heavy metal bands have links to Birmingham and the Black Country as a basis for claiming the region as the birthplace of the genre. In 2011 a series of exhibitions and events took place across the region. The main exhibition was at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery where the story of the music and the region were told through displays of artefacts from priceless yet tiny pieces of ephemera to huge stage props and equipment.
The exhibitions also included fine art shows and made connections between the industrial heritage of the region and the music that became known as heavy metal. A good example of that is the exhibition at Walsall Leather Museum that focused on Judas Priest and their use of leather (a prominent local trade) in stage costume. Meanwhile up the road, Walsall’s art gallery had a Mark Titchner show with large pieces inspired by metal iconography. It was a great success.
Do you think that the exhibition has changed perceptions around metal/hard rock – or about how they’re viewed in the heritage sphere?
Home of Metal was part of the process where ideas of music heritage are being applied to artists other than The Beatles. Home of Metal is one of many music projects that have strengthened the case for music heritage projects of all types. Any museum worker seeking to bring in a music exhibition can now point to dozens of examples of other institutions doing the same thing. From pop to rock and across the decades, music heritage activity is increasingly viable. And there are more and more examples of best practice and writings about the processes involved in music heritage projects that are also helpful.
The Home of Metal project helped concretise the connections between the genre and the region. Home of Metal kind of accelerated the processes of popular cultural myth making so that its easier for the region to claim itself as the birthplace of the genre and more difficult for another locality to make that claim. In particular this was achieved by bringing the connections between the region and the significant bands to wider attention. Within the heavy metal community the idea that Sabbath are the key band is well established and pretty much universally embraced. Home of Metal helped authoritatively broadcast that idea beyond the metal community and into the culture supplements of the broadsheets.
But I don’t think Home of Metal has had anything to do with the first 5 or so Sabbath LPs being increasingly widely lauded outside the metal community though. That’s been happening for a while. It was interesting to note that there weren’t any Sabbath LPs in that 100 Influential LP thing that ripped through Facebook a few days ago. That took me by surprise.
A bit of a toughie, but why do you think such a heavy rock music scene developed around the West Midlands/Birmingham area?
Because heritage practitioners say so!
The home lives and environment of the band were by no means untypical. In 1968/9 young men up and down the country were pretending to be Cream. Black Sabbath had a particularly good manager and broke through. Simple as that really. And as it turned out Black Sabbath, in particular Tony Iommi, were extremely good and in many ways unique. Their innovations came to characterise heavy metal as they were picked up and developed by later artists. Black Sabbath’s hometown then becomes seen as the cradle of heavy metal and the idea that a heavy rock music scene developed around the West Midlands propagates. It’s a very densely populated region, lots of music gets made, some of it is heavy.
Of course the standard story is that the sound of the factories influenced Sabbath’s music. I don’t hear it in the music or the lyrics of those first few songs though. But clearly I am missing something as many other people do hear those theme or sounds.
And finally! Don’t tell anyone but the members of the band spent very little time working in factories!
Your interest in musical heritage extends beyond this tour and the Home of Metal? What’s your background?
Crossroads of Sabbath comes out of my work on Home of Metal and my post graduate research around music heritage. I’ve always been interested in the cultural role of music and through various twists and turns I find myself researching the ever expanding field of music heritage. Music heritage is just one aspect of wider contemporary cultural heritage. Heritage – what it is and how it is treated, is a big deal for how societies define who they are and what they are about. It’s a key site of power. The landscape and practices of heritage are constantly evolving and worthy of academic study.
It’s all about the past but the ideas around heritage tell us a lot about relationships in today’s society. That 100 most Influential LPs thing I mentioned earlier is a very good example of these processes.
How would you like to see the music of Black Sabbath / Heavy Metal / Hard Rock celebrated in the City? Do you think there’s the interest for a permanent exhibition?
Every now and again a local councillor will issue a press release that alludes to a new initiative for celebrating the Sabbath story and Birmingham’s part in it. The most recent one that readers might remember is the “Ozzy Osbourne Airport” story. Of course the authorities at the airport had no idea this was being mooted.
I’d like to see any initiative being brought to fruition by private enthusiasts/entrepreneurs. Credibility is also important. It’ll take passion and drive but I am sure that one day - probably soon - someone will do the right thing. Whatever it is I hope it will be in the city centre, focus solely on Sabbath and have very low running costs.
Where can people find out more about the Crossroads of Sabbath?
You can find out more at my website, www.crossroadsofsabbath.com! Our next tour is taking place on Saturday 9th February 2013.
End of the road for 90 year old record shop chain?
Much has been written about HMV with the news last night that they have gone into administration.
Views seem to be split between two camps. On the one hand many are bemoaning the loss of a store which helped them to discover music and which played such an important part in many a teenager’s discovery of music. Others see it as karma playing out in a particularly revengeful way… In the eighties and nineties, many claim that HMV forced plenty of independent record shops out of business thanks to their dominant position in the marketplace.
What seems to bring these two camps together is agreement on the issues which helped to bring about downfall of HMV. On the one hand, HMV seemed unable to deal with the arrival of the internet (the then chief executive of HMV claimed as late as 2002 that “downloads were a fad”) and failed to develop a credible online strategy to counter the rise of Amazon, iTunes and Spotify.
Coupled to this was the sense that the shop didn’t know what it was in recent times. DVDs and computer games were heavily promoted in a shop which sold posters, t-shirts and even sweets at one point. Meanwhile specialist sections were lost, vinyl was relegated and music prices were sometimes nonsensical with back catalogue titles being sold at hugely inflated prices.
Meanwhile the poor treatment of knowledgable staff ensured that HMV became nothing more than a shopping window for online retailers staffed by a disinterested workforce. This seems to be a far-cry from the original ethos of the store. From The Guardian’s archive article on the opening of the store at 363 Oxford Street by Sir Edward Elgar…
“The bright young men from the country will come to Oxford Street to learn all the fine shades and nice feelings of their profession - how to satisfy varying music tastes, how to pronounce the names of foreign musicians, and generally to understand what they are selling and the idiosyncrasies of those who buy”
And this is the key to our thinking on both the downfall of HMV and the future of music retailing. No one is going to argue that being a physical retailer in the 21st century in the middle of a recession is easy. But the chain lost complete focus on what it was and had no idea on what it was trying to be.
At its peak it was a national chain of 300 outlets and an international brand with a presence (at one time or another) in Australia, India, Singapore, Canada and the US. Today it is not much more than a collection of memories and a special place for many who first discovered music some 15, 20 or 30 years ago in one of their stores. Hence the loving tributes across the web.
And what of the future? Time will tell what happens with the brand We’d love to see the larger spaces in the larger cities turned into some kind of umbrella site for a complete range of music retaillers. They could become places where specialist record stalls sit alongside a performance space, bar and cafe, as well as other independent stalls selling related wares (fashion, books, magazines, classic posters). Maybe, why not, a gallery space for music heritage exhibitions? All of this would ensure that those who “understand what they are selling and the idiosyncrasies of those who buy” are given a space and an audience to sell to.
We still believe that the 90 year old iconic music brand has a place to help people to discover music, just as it did for its customers in its heyday. All that’s needed now is someone with the vision, funds and balls to make this happen.
The Joe Meek Society - keeping a musical legacy alive
We met up with Rob Bradford, a member of the Joe Meek Society. A group dedicated to keepingJoe Meek’s name and his musical legacy alive. Joe Meek was the legendary 60’s maverick record producer who pretty much invented small-scale recording. From a small studio above a shop on Holloway Road, Joe Meek recorded hundreds of artists and made countless hits.
We asked Rob about the man and about the work of the Joe Meek Society (JMS)…
Joe Meek was born in Gloucestershire and was interested in sound from an early age?
Joe Meek was born in the small rural town of Newent on April 5th 1929. His lifelong fixation with sound and recording began when he was given his own phonograph on his eighth birthday in 1937. He soon began experimenting with old 78rpm discs when he discovered, completely by chance, that if he yelled or spoke loudly into the ‘bell’ of the tone arm that the sound was recorded into the run out grooves of the disc and could be played back. By age eleven he was already building his own valve radios from scratch without the need to refer to any kind of plans or circuit diagrams.
And he left for London already an established sound engineer?
Joe left Newent for London in 1954 at the age of 25. By this time he was a highly skilled radio and TV repair expert. Joe’s family and relatives owned the first two TV sets in Newent, which Joe himself built from scratch. He was fired from one of his jobs in Gloucester for building his own amplifiers and tape recorders from spare parts lying around (or about to be discarded) in the workshop during company time! Joe had also become a skilled Radar operative during his National Service days. By the time he left for London he’d already made his very own FX LP and other private recordings.
And he eventually ended up in London in the 1950s where he worked for Radio Luxembourg and with IBC…
Yes, after working briefly for Stones Electrical Stores on the Edgware Road he was indeed working for both IBC and Radio Luxembourg by early 1955. As well as working for Luxembourg, IBC and recording for EMI, Philips, Decca and Pye, Joe jumped at the opportunity to help to design and fit out Lansdowne Studios (‘The House Of Shattering Glass’) which truly was state-of-the-art sound recording wise for many a year.
However, he was always rowing with people and stormed out in mid -session late in 1959 vowing never to return. Fed up with compromises, he was determined to be his own boss, answerable to no one.
So he went on to create his own company and studio in London…
So, yes, his plan was to set up the UK’s first ‘major’ independent record label – Triumph – with himself in charge of the roster of artists and their recordings. The recordings (ultimately) would be done in his very own studio.
In the event he did indeed record literally thousands of tracks at 304 Holloway Road. Over 700 (featuring just over 100 different groups, singers and ensembles) were commercially released (leased to the major record labels of the day) in just under 7 years - which is a monumental achievement!
The Triumph label itself lasted for just a few heady months during 1960 itself. Its failure was not actually down to Joe Meek – but rather his financial backers and a chronic inability to press sufficient discs to meet public demand. Craftily, Joe had all of the artists and all of the original master tapes under his personal control and shortly before the label folded, Joe quit…taking all of the recordings and artists with him!
Joe Meek seems to have worked with nearly anyone who is anyone in the 1960s….
People forget that Joe Meek engineered over 1,000 commercially released recordings before he branched out on his own. All of the major record companies of the day were after his services. As well as hundreds of acts whose names are now long forgotten, Joe recorded and worked with some of the biggest stars of the era including: Kenny Ball, Chris Barber, Shirley Bassey, Acker Bilk,Petula Clark, Lonnie Donegan, Emile Ford, Edmund Hockridge, Gary Miller, Harry Secombe,Anne Shelton, Frankie Vaughan, Dickie Valentine, David Whitfield and Marty Wilde to name but a few. These people were amongst the genuine superstars of the era.
It’s also not as widely known that Joe Meek was the first to record many artists who later went on to superstardom – including: Ritchie Blackmore, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Adam Faith, Georgie Fame, Tom Jones, Steve Marriott, Jimmy Page, Status Quo and Ten Years After to name but a few more!
But there were also some high profile acts that he didn’t want to work with too! You’re presumably referring to the fact that he turned down the Beatles. It’s true that he did – but definitely not as depicted in the “Telstar” film. Joe Meek certainly had connections with Brian Epstein. Joe turned down the Beatles on the basis of their demo tape – which, to be fair, had been rejected out of hand by every single record company Epstein had approached – until EMI took a chance. Less well known is the fact that Joe Meek wasn’t exactly impressed by schoolboy Rod Stewart’s interpretations of Elvis songs in 1961. He apparently put his fingers in his ears and blew raspberries at the youngster before throwing him out of the Holloway Road studio!
And there was of course a very sad ending to the story…
Joe was brilliant sound engineer – but a terrible businessman. Again, it’s a complicated story. Suffice it to say that, by early 1967, Joe’s hits had dried up and his financial / business affairs were in total chaos. He had spiralled into deep depression and was undoubtedly in the throes of a complete physical and mental breakdown.
On February 3rd 1967 (the eighth anniversary of his idol Buddy Holly’s death) he literally blew his own head off with a shotgun he kept at the flat. Moments before he’d tragically gunned down his landlady Violet Shenton – or so it seemed. The jury at the time quickly returned a verdict of murder. In ensuing years, doubt has been cast on this appalling scenario. Joe Meek was clearly out of his mind at the time with (it has subsequently been proved) a notoriously unreliable shotgun in his possession. There were definite connections with the Kray twins and Lord Boothby. Conspiracy theories abound.
Moving on now to the Joe Meek Society, and your work. Why do you think that Joe Meek is so deserving of recognition? What made him unique and so special?
What made Joe Meek so unique was that he did everything literally single–handedly and succeeded against all the odds. Students on sound recording courses nowadays refer to him as ‘The Godfather Of Home Recording’. Record company magnates and ‘Captains of Industry’ back in 1960 were genuinely staggered and dumbfounded that Joe Meek could produce massively successful commercial hit - recordings from a couple of incredibly small rooms above a leather goods shop in the middle of the A1 in North London (304 Holloway Road). Moreover he found acts to record, he produced them, and in many cases he even managed them too. Even more remarkable…the likes of George Martin would have at least four or five people (engineers, tape operators, etc) to assist him whilst recording sessions. Joe Meek did it all by himself.
But why the continuing appeal to this day? Many other producers have come and gone and are largely ignored by music historians, but Joe Meek seems to be different?
He literally broke the mould, pushed the envelope, challenged so many ‘studio norms’ and refused to bow to convention. He was a maverick – and he existed literally for recording and experimentation. He pioneered (in the UK at any rate) the use of bizarre and esoteric FX. He treated voices and instruments electronically. He experimented wildly with excessive echo, compression, and deliberate distortion of sound. You want more? Tape - speeding, tape manipulation, overdubbing (superimposition of sounds), close–miking, DI….
Plus, he built his own equipment (or adapted commercial hardware) in order to create new sounds in the studio.
Do you think that the tragic events at the end of his life have added to his continuing appeal? Music fans do have a tendency towards mythologising tragic lives, I’m thinking of people like Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix for example.
Even JMS members are divided about this. Inevitably there is - or can be - a macabre fascination with Joe Meek’s private life. He was obviously a very complex personality and some aspects of his personal life were disturbing. Plus, the shocking way in which his life ended, coupled with the dreadful fact that he apparently murdered the innocent Violet Shenton casts a long shadow.
I try to maintain that literally the last five minutes of Joe Meek’s life should not overshadow the incredible work that he did over many years in the recording studio. In many regards, the JMS has always tried to be even – handed about this. We can’t ignore the awful way his life ended and it is discussed, analysed and debated from time to time.
But….we obviously concentrate much more on the music and sound recording aspects of his life and career. I believe that we do all that we can not to ‘mythologise’ Joe Meek. Whilst not ignoring the darker aspects of his psyche – there was also a fun – loving, kind and positive side to Joe Meek’s personality which is frequently overlooked.
He had a very distinct sound to some of the more popular recordings, how might you describe it to a layman?
A very dense, ‘edgy’ sound. Quite often his recordings include highly unusual ‘electronic’ treatments of both voice and instruments. The use of bizarre effects which somehow become an integral part of the overall sound. Pronounced bass and drums. Many recordings feature numerous overdubs. Much more echo and compression than would be allowed on ‘normal’ recordings from the major UK labels. Above all – a haunting melancholia and….I can’t describe it any other way….a kind of ‘unworldly’ or ‘other worldly’ sound which just sweeps all before it in its finest examples. Fey … yet utterly uplifting too.
What do you think his enduring musical legacy will be?
In the history of music throughout time, only the ‘greatest’ tracks from different eras survive into posterity. I’m confident that in 50, or100 years’ time, “Johnny Remember Me”, “Telstar” and “Have I The Right” will still be played and talked about. I truly believe too that Joe Meek’s name, and his contribution to sound recording history, will endure.
Why the formation of the JMS? Did you feel that not enough was being done to recognise his contribution to culture, or was it more about like-minded fans creating a forum for discussion on the man and his work?
Firstly - the original society, the Robert George Meek Appreciation Society (RGMAS) was actually founded on the very day that Joe died in 1967 by Jim Blake. It was John Repsch’s book “Joe Meek: The Legendary Telstar Man” which created huge media interest when it was published in 1989. Shortly afterwards the Joe Meek Appreciation Society, JMAS (now shortened to JMS) was launched - with both Jim and John at the helm. They subsequently fell out and Jim re-activated the RGMAS.
Nowadays though the two societies co-exist very happily. JMS has kept going always serving fans, collectors and aficionados for almost 25 years now. It’s run by a dedicated group of people whose only aim is to keep Joe’s name and music alive. Many former RGM artists are members like Clem Cattini, Roger LaVern and John Leyton. As is Joe’s niece, Sandra Meek-Williams who is incredibly supportive. And, yes….discussion and research about Joe’s music still forms the vital core of everything we do.
What kinds of activities does the JMS get involved in?
Nowadays there’s quite an Internet presence, which enables so many more people to get involved with Joe Meek matters online. We produce the JMS magazine “Thunderbolt” three times per year and a regular Newsletter six times per year. Former RGM artists frequently contribute and new ‘old’ information still continues to come to light. We also have a dedicated Joe Meek / RGM tribute group, The Triumphs. JMS has been involved with putting on Joe Meek shows and events.
Finally, several JMS ‘experts’ answer an awful lot of press, media, and personal enquiries about Joe Meek and his various acts and recordings through the website I also give regular lectures and presentations about Joe Meek and the RGM Sound.
How has his life been celebrated to date?
Way back in 1992, the Joe Meek Appreciation Society arranged for a plaque dedicated to Joe’s musical and sound recording achievements to be placed at 304 Holloway Road. The society worked hard to achieve this – but none more so than John Repsch who was also Joe Meek’s biographer. The same team also arranged for a plaque at Joe Meek’s birthplace at 1, Market Square in Newent. In 2011, the plaque at Newent was actually replaced by one from the Heritage Foundation – in formal recognition of Joe Meek’s achievements.
In 2006 Gloucester Folk Museum housed an extremely successful Joe Meek Exhibition, which led to the Newent Initiative and a Joe Meek Festival in 2007 – which continued for several years. In 2012 the NME voted Joe Meek as the Greatest Record Producer and the importance of his early work on tape manipulation and Electronic sounds has been recognised by the likes of “Mojo”, “The Wire” and “Sound On Sound”.
Do you think more could be done to honour the man and his work? If so, what?
Although recently honoured by both “Mojo” and “NME” and even though the film (the flawed “Telstar: The Movie”) is out there….Joe Meek’s name still hasn’t entered the national consciousness of the general public at large.
To be fair though, the vast majority of the general public would be hard pressed to name any producers. To be honest….if you really narrow it down….most people would probably just name either George Martin or Phil Spector. Joe had tremendous success with a handful of big hits, but, really…it was all over by 1964. In so far as international, global hits on a massive scale (& for the sheer number) he can’t be compared in that respect with the likes of Spector’s roster or the Motown artists, the Beatles or Quincy Jones with Michael Jackson.
But….I think that there is still a growing recognition of Joe Meek’s undoubted genius and his original contribution to sound recording techniques per-se.
If there was one record which best encapsulates the Joe Meek sound, what would it be?
I will ‘cheat’ slightly here, if I may, and select one vocal and one instrumental recording. Inevitably, they both represent Joe Meek’s greatest hits and sound recording achievements – being “Johnny Remember Me” and “Telstar” respectively.
Rob - thanks very much for your time!
The Sound of Dobells - a Kickstarter campaign worth backing
We’re delighted to be supporting the British Record Shop Archive’s Kickstarter campaign which is aiming to raise (a modest in our eyes) £3,100 to put on an exhibition on Dobells - one of London’s most historic record shops.
We’ve launched a campaign page over at www.musicheritageuk.org with all of the details, but please take a look at the video below first to get a bit more info about it all.
You can donate anything from a pound on the kickstarter page, and for those donating more than £20, you will receive a free Dobells bag!
All good stuff and definitely worth donating a few pounds towards!
Check out their video below….
The British Record Shop has kindly scanned some images of lost record shop bags for us. These are on display over at our Gallery. Check out the Dobells bag scan below!
Holiday miracle for Foote’s as Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason saves iconic music shop
A lovely news story to finish the year off. Nick Mason, drummer from Pink Floyd, has personally stepped in to save Foote’s music shop from closing.
The iconic music shop was where he first bought his first ever drum kit.
After 40 something years of playing, I still have great affection for a real drum shop. And Foote’s has a special significance for me. In 1958, I headed down to the West End of London to a basement in Denman Street where a kindly man called Sid, in a white coat (maybe that’s significant as well) sold me my original kit for £7.50.”
“Included in the job lot was a Gigster bass drum, a snare drum of indeterminate age and parentage, hi-hat, cymbals, and an instruction book on the mysteries of flam paradiddles and ratamacues (Which I am still attempting to unravel). Armed with this devestating kit I joined my friends to form “The Hotrods.” The fact that none of us could actually play our instruments seemed a minor problem on our road to stardom.
Foote’s is relocating from it’s current position in Soho to Store Street in Bloomsbury, London. Mason has invested in the shop and longtime shop worker Rob Wilson are buying out the family which has owned the shop since the 1930s.
It’s great to see the rock royalty stepping in and investing in the places that helped to make them who they are all those years ago. Three cheers to Nick.
The world’s only eight track museum
A great interview from Collector’s Weekly with the founder of the world’s only eight-track museum. Bucks Burnett opened his museum in Dallas, Texas to the now defunct audio format.
Always more popular in the United States than in the UK, the eight track was the world’s first major automotive music format. Designed by Bill Lear of LearJet (the private jet company), the format was created so he could listen to music on his plane. But he also realised that the format would work inside cars too. And it was this way that people were able to choose the music played in their cars for the first time.
The format grew in popularity and record companies started to create eight-track versions of albums. Owing to technical issues songs had to be rearranged to fit the format. The result has meant some albums were different - for example there is an eight track version of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which features about ten extra seconds of the ending of ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (Reprise)’ tacked onto the track. It is the only place this version has appeared.
As well as being present in cars, the format also appeared in the home as stand-alone tape decks/players appeared. Soon, home recording was made easy thanks to the eight track recorder. People could for the first time by an LP and make a copy for the car.
However, the format was not without problems. Over time the tapes would ware out, as would the players and a music industry which was looking to streamline the number of formats it produced for quickly focused their efforts onto the eight track’s distant cousin, the compact cassette in the 1970s. The cassette did not produce as good a sound as the eight-track, but with advances in technology they had improved massively since the launch in the early 60s to the point where it could be considered a viable music format.
It is interesting to note that this is perhaps the first time that form triumphed over function in the music industry - later replicated with CDs (compared to vinyl) and MP3 compared to CDs. As in all these instances, sound quality lost out to ease of use.
Run by a true music hero, the museum is a great example of the fanaticism that music tends to produce - Bucks Burnett has created his shrine to the eight track for the love of the format and for the love of music. As his quote on the museum’s home page clearly demonstrates - “There are only two choices. A world with an Eight Track Museum and a world without. I choose with.”
We’d love to see this collection come to the UK! Until then fans can go to the Museum’s two locations in the US - Dallas, Texas and a new outlet in Roxbury, New York State. All that’s left is for us to raise a glass to fans like Bucks keeping the format alive for future generations to discover.