Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Independence Days

I'm reading Independence Days - the Story of UK Independent Record Labels by Alex Ogg. It's pretty thorough - 600 pages covering everything from Topic Records in the 1930s to the present day, but mainly concentrating on the extraordinary period between the mid-70s and mid-80s (similar in range, then, to Simon Reynolds' excellent Rip It Up). 
So we get Chiswick, Stiff, Rough Trade, IRS, Beggars Banquet, 4AD, Factory, Cherry Red, Mute, Postcard and scores of lesser known labels (but with larger than life owners). Ogg - now there's a name - interviewed over 150 people (count them, they're listed) and it makes for a fascinating read. It was an amazing time. Punk really did change things - if not musically (most bands played what was basically old-fashioned RnB played at double speed), then certainly in terms of setting up a genuinely independent record 'industry', though the term has to be in inverted commas given its wonderfully amateurish methods of operating. I was around at the time, dabbling on the edges of it all and knew some of its key players, and feel privileged to have experienced what was - yes, really - a significant cultural era.
My only slight criticism of the book, published by Cherry Red five years ago, is that it could have benefited from a decent editor. But a minor gripe.   

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