The British punk- and new wave movement of the mid-1970´s to late 1970´s was the beginning of many good things as it turned out to be promising for the future musically.
Wheather you like the punk of Sex Pistols, The Clash or The Damned- the new wave of XTC, The Skids or Elvis Costello & The Attractions or later on the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal´s Iron Maiden, Saxon and Def Leppard or not, you got to admit that it certainly started the careers for a whole new generation of musicians and indeed gave us a lot of great music in years to come.
The so-called supergroups would continue their trodden paths and sell records by the truckload most notably Led Zeppelin´s 1979 "In Through The Out Door", Pink Floyd´s 1981 "The Wall".
Queen´s 1981 compilation "Greatest Hits" would sell 6 mill. albums in the UK alone(!) yet it still sounded like music from the past played by established bands that struggled hard to better the work they had already done. Rock concerts were blown out of proportions and took place at stadiums or other large venues in order to facilitate a large audience thus making a healthy profit for both promotors and bands.
In this respect we must thank God, or at least Malcolm McLaren for his (in)famous creation: the Sex Pistols. The impact they caused in the music business can´t be exaggerated let alone the turbulence and scandals they caused in just over two years time. It has been said that all who went to the early Sex Pistols concerts formed a band the next day!
This new music- most of it just basic rock ´n´ roll really, played loud and simple but with aggression- needed the support from not only the fans themselves.
Concerts or "gigs" were one thing. Often (un)organized by amateurs, friends of the bands or the bands themselves. Often chaotic. But it was a whole new and fresh approach with these upcomming bands who played small venues like the basement at the Hope And Anchor- the famous pub/venue in Islington- or The Nashville Room, both London- allowing the fans to get close to the stage- something that was impossible at large stadium concerts.
Before going to a punk concert the fans would dress up in a totally new attire: clan skirts with (lots of) chains, zippers, safety pins, a dog collar, a mohican hairdo and of course (8 or 14 eye) Doc Martens. For girls a black torn pantyhose was a must! And if you could possibly sneak in- just for the shock effect, of course- a swastica somewhere....
I believe it took a lot of courage traveling through London by the Tube wearing this gear showing the world that you belonged in this tribe called Punk.
"Original Postcard records courtesy my good friend Jan"
Apart from going to concerts the punks also wanted to take the music home with them as well and this is where the independent/indie label comes in!
The ethos of this new music was "Do It Yourself": "Learn a chord, now form a band", was the maxim of the day. Also when it came to releasing records. A task normally done by big international corporations who controlled the market now a whole new musical underground grew up all over the UK.
In the past only a few independent companies excisted. Island for one emphasising on prog rock, folk and reggae. Virgin who was both a record company, a chain of record stores and a post order company. Virgin founded its fortune on Mike Oldfield´s Tubular Bells and never looked back. Prog rock, Krautrock and finally...well never mind the B****cks!!
I´m not going in depth here about the Sex Pistols´ signing/un-signing EMI, A&M and finally Virgin or why (declared socialists!) The Clash strangely signed (major label) CBS or even how the novice label Stiff Records (founded on a £400 loan courtesy of the Feelgood´s Lee Brilleaux!) signed a young Elvis Costello before stricken with (or by) Madness!! You either know this or you can easily google it anyway...
Instead I´ll continue my musical trip to Scotland, if you don´t mind, by jumping forward to the year 1979.
As we have seen in my earlier blogposts on The Skids and Scars something exciting was happening all over Scotland too in the late 1970´s! And also in Scotland the indie labels were a big part of this!
We heard that Edinburgh had the Fast Product label and Dunfermline had No Bad Records (releasing the Skids´ first 7" single)
Glasgow now got their indie label too: Postcard Records.
Taking their motto from US label Tamla Motown by way of replacing the country calling their music: "The Sound Of Young Scotland". Open minded to this new emerging music Alan Horne signed local groups Orange Juice, Josef K., Aztec Camera and when Australian Go-Betweens went abroad to get signed in the UK they ended up auditioning at Postcard in Glasgow and who could say no to them? Certainly not Alan Horne who gave them a single(!) chance of moving on to bigger things...and they did!
It has been said that Orange Juice introduced shorts in rock music! Being very young but talented their Scottish new wave with catchy melodies, the soulful voice of Edwyn Collins and a distinct Gretsch rhythm guitar sound was recorded and released on the Postcard singles, "Falling And Laughing", "Blue Boy", "Simply Thrilled Honey" and "Poor Old Soul" before they went on and got signed to Polydor where they released the excellent "You Can´t Hide Your Love Forever" in 1981. Three albums followed and to this day singer Edwyn Collins still releases solo albums, plays live and produces records for other artists.
Aztec Camera was a bit different being almost a one man band. Roddy Frame was 17 when he recorded Aztec Camera´s debut single "Just Like Gold" He both sang and played guitar...in fact he had learned several chords before forming Aztec Camera!
After the debut single "Just Like Gold" and the next 7" "Mattress Of Wire" Aztec Camera signed to (London indie label) Rough Trade and released the brilliant debut album "High Land Hard Rain" in 1983.
Signed to Warner Bros. eventually in the 80´s and on, Aztec Camera finally became just Roddy Frame who released a number of albums as a fine singer/songwriter now again going indie on various labels.
Josef K. from Edinburgh, originally a new wave band playing Television, Talking Heads and Blondie covers in 1978 heard The Scars (see my blogpost on the Scars!) at a concert changed name from TV Art to Josef K. and started writing their own material.
An album, "Sorry For Laughing", was to be recorded but unfortunately there was little to laugh about when they had recorded the whole album for Postcard and then...withdrew it again because they felt the overall sound was to clean!! Only a few of this album were released.
The only Postcard album was to become their "The Only Fun In Town" recorded in two days Belgium where they went for a live sound now with the vocals low in the mix and brittle guitars...
The Go-Betweens enjoyed their entry on the British market, released "I Need Two Heads" on Postcard and then via indie label Rough Trade signed to Beggars Banquet.
The interest for these new bands on independant labels got so big that an indie chart for both 7" singles and vinyl albums were published in the English music press in 1980. The indie labels themselves formed a union, called The Cartel in order to have total control over the distribution of their records to record stores as well as being able to control the record production and the musical direction of their bands.