An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Thursday, 31 December 2015

The sands of time keep on dropping away, darn it!

Can anyone remember where I was this time last year?

Well I was desperately trying to get my want list down to below 900 items. Time is running out quicker than you may at first think between now and 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. I know what you are saying, 900 items in 15 years, that should be so easy. But I'm still discovering as many new items as I am finding, as last year's countdown to the new year showed. 

I really wanted to be able to strike off a 100 items per year and at least stay ahead of the falling sands. All year I have been giving myself a hard time as the reduction in my wantlist just didn't seem to go down that much month on month. 

Now at the end of 2015, a year on from trying to get below 900 items ....and failing and now have my wantlist down to...wait for it....


Hold on though, despite the awful lack of stuff to buy at record fairs and shops around the country, I have been buying online all year through (well except for December as I was a little strapped for cash). So I have I ended up only 13 items lower than this time last year. All year I've been perplexed as to why this is happening until I looked at how many items I have acquired this year, nearly 130. 

This is why I don't have much time left until 2030. It doesn't help of course that I have such problems finding the stuff I need to get on top of everything else. Thankfully I got some great Aussie releases, thanks to a cousin in Oz (thanks Sophie and Tom) and travelling family. Postage from Australia is so expensive!

There's a few things I ought to be adding to this blog by now. I have some amazing posters, I have actually got some complete releases now other than Cocteau Twins Peppermint Pig and Bauhaus's Dark Entries. I have actually visited and had a nice discussion with an actual professional trader, so it would be nice to get a trader's perspective from him. And, of course, I still have many duplicate items that I need to give away, including a very nice Japanese Cocteau Twins vinyl edition of Treasure, worth a reasonable amount I'll tell you. So I have plenty to blog about in 2016

So a Happy New Year to you all and all the luck for this year in all your crazy collecting ventures!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Top Ten 4AD Covers, What's Yours?

A reader got in touch with me recently and asked me to do a feature on my top 4AD cover designs (Thanks Ar Ti).

The late seventies and early eighties independent music labels became renowned for their artwork. Of course 4AD, along with Factory, became synonymous for a label identity created through their cover art. All art is so very subjective. I did a blog entry on my favourite 4AD albums, but I'm sure there were many people that scratched their heads wondering why I picked what I did. I think visual art is even more subjective and opinion seemingly more open to ridicule. Nevertheless, I know what I like and why. My opinion has been asked for so I shall give it.

It is my opinion though which tends to cause some arguments. I have always had an issue between the lines of art and function or art and business. The past couple of decades have seen very clever people in business using clever strategy to sell something as art, that basically isn't art at all. Many of us are drawn to limited numbers, a special opportunity to experience something that only the appreciative will get to experience, but marketing anything as limited doesn't make it an instant collectible. Limited edition Mars bar anyone? In a similar way, just because something is marketed as art, doesn't make it art in my opinion. Designers are the problem. That half way house where an artist uses their talent to spruce up a functional item. While I respect the talent, I think many of these examples are simply not art. If a ceramic artist creates a cup, it's still a cup, no matter how talented the artist is. Selling it as a piece of art is just marketing. A cup is not made to represent any kind of emotional state or to represent the feelings or despair of its maker, it's simply to drink out of. A car is a functional item and, while it is nice to drive a nice looking car, it's not a work of art. Instead it is an object that has had the food budget of a third world country spent on it just to get potential buyers to go weak at the knees at the sight of it rolling around the streets of an eerily deserted city road.

The music industry is where sonic art meets visual art and a greater clash between representation and pure marketing uncomfortably meet. There's a blurred line between music made purely for commerce, cleverly marketed and packaged as the "real deal" against music made by artists that primarily make music to express themselves. My opinion is that designers for labels such as Factory and 4AD, although true artists, inadvertently helped blur the lines between function and art. For me album design is just on the right side of art, like a beautiful piece of painting on the side of a cup. The cup isn't neccasirly art, but the painting is. It doesn't matter how much artistic talent a designer has, if their work is poured into a functional item, for me the item doesn't become art.

But then I am an over opinionated walrus!!!

I've always loved the visual side of collecting music. I was always in awe of Roger Dean's designs in the seventies of strange other worlds on his Yes album covers. There was nothing better than sitting listening to Budgie's Never Turn Your Back On A Friend while studying the gorgeous full colour gatefold sleeve

I always thought that the Cocteau Twins cover design for Love's Easy Tears was very similar to Pink Floyd's Meddle

Anyway, onto my top ten 4AD covers, in no particular order, let's get on with it...

1 - Birthday Party - Junkyard

You may think that I would completely bow down to 23 Envelope but thats not true. I don't care for popular opinion or trend of thought. Just because I love much of what 4AD produced, there is no rulebook that says I have to be elitist in my personal taste.

This picture was created by an artist called Ed Roth who was a custom car designer and builder who put his talents into cartoons and illustrations. His character Rat Fink (with the gun) was a sort of alternative Mickey Mouse. I think that this cartoon represents the music perfectly, tight and structured while on the verge of chaos and both simultanious implosion and explosion.

2 - Dead Can Dance - Aion poster

Not the actual cover, but the UK tour poster. I like the actual cover of the album itself which is a very small part of the Garden Of Earthy Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. The poster covers the tour around the UK for the Aion album, a tour I had a chance to witness but regrettably I didn't go to. The tour poster is probably my favourite peice of 4AD artwork and looks fantastic framed and displayed. The quality of the colour and print is remarkable and must have cost a sweet sum to have had printed. If you ever get a chance to purchase this, you won't be disappointed. Of course the album is amazing too and featured in my Top 10 4AD Albums list (in fact, a lot do, so am I biased towards the sleeve design).

3 - Dead Can Dance - Within The Realm of a Dying Sun

This cover always reminds me of Joy Division's Closer album cover in a small way. It's a step between life and death as the figure almost looks like an actual person cloaked and not an actual statue in a graveyard. The cover's photograph was taken in Paris, at the Père-Lachaise cemetery. It features the grave of the politician Raspail. Can you get more gothic than this and could the music be anymore gothic as well. Another fine example of the cover reflecting the mood of the music therein.

4 - Colourbox - Baby I love You So

I'm a sucker for reds. I know nothing about the images on this release, I just love the feel of the image. Very velvety. Let's hope that somewhere out there, there exists a poster for this. For me the font and text are irrelevant. "Sacriledge!" I hear you scream, but this is where function has to be performed for me. This would be even better without the text, yet maybe the 45 in the centre I would let stay. Don't get me wrong, the choice and style of font and the presentation of text is amazing, but it is functional in my opinion and would be better without it. But needs must as the devil grinds the marketing wheel. Still an amazing cover though

5 - Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares - Le Mystere Des Voix Bulgares

Used for the background of this blog. Reminds me of a drowned former glamourous life like a memory on a sea floor of some luxury liner. I wouldn't say the music is as atmospheric as the cover suggests, perhaps one small example of where the cover doesn't always accurately reflect the music within. I love the music on this album, but Bulgarian folk music can be quite harsh and beautiful at the same time, something not really reflected here. Still as a piece of artwork stood alone, it's a magical piece of photography.

6 - Pixies - Doolittle

The original UK release of Doolittle came as such a great package. A plastic bag with the cover printed on it, a full colour 12" 16 page booklet and an inner sleeve. Also 4AD sold a set of postcards with the artwork from the booklet. This is a full art set, an amazing collection of photography reflecting the songs of the album. The graphical element added to the overall look of the artwork and fits the metronomic feel of the songs. The images fit so well with the music on the album, even if the cover is overtly obvious with it's interpretation of the song Monkey Gone To Heaven, the artworks only negative reflection.

7- Coctea Twins - Treasure

Maybe it's because V23 liked to reflect the music in their covers that I like a lot of the covers for Cocteau Twins releases. I like the music and the covers reflect the music, so it should go that I like the covers as well.

This cover for me is very gothic. Hints of the Victorian and a melancholic wedding. The use of material gives you a reminder to your senses of something that you have have touched before and felt in your fingers, material that feels soft to the skin but coarse between a finger and thumb. Eerie and beautiful, it looks almost derelict, decaying. Incredible gothic beauty

8 - Cocteau Twins - The Spangle Maker

Victiorialand would be included in my top ten except for the beige surround which ruins the cover. But The Spangle Maker is a beautiful piece of work.

The original UK release came with an embossed sleeve where the frame was slightly raised around the photograph by Gertrude Käsebier called The Crystal Gazer. Once again that Victorian feel blends with the gothic feel of the music and the blurred, distorted edges reflect the wash of effects used on the Cocteau Twins signature guitar sound. There are no fonts and text needed here. The tour poster is quite an incredible piece as well.

9- Cocteau Twins - Head over heels & Sunburst and Snowblind

Head Over Heels along with Sunburst and Snowblind is just the most brilliant photography. Nigel Grierson did some of the most unusual things to get shots like these. The high quality and sharpness in the variation of colour is just breathtaking. The photos encourage you to not only look deep into the detail and the range of colour, but to look more closely at the every day beauty around us all in the seemingly randomness of patterns in nature, things you wouldn't normally look at closely. A set of posters from these photography sessions looks incredible framed and mounted. I know as I have them in my hallway.

10 - Lush - Scar

The reason I have included the rear sleeve here is because the whole cover (even inside the outer sleeve) is a collective work of art. Once again it reflects the harsh and soft combination of the music. If this is shoegaze, those are some interesting footwear. This was released in an era when computer generated graphics were all the rage and years on look really tacky. But here Vaughan Oliver and Christopher Bigg have resisted the trend and produced something much more timeless.

All comments are welcome, remember these are just my personal choices and opinion, which I have a right to, even if you think my opinion is total tosh. Would love to hear your preferences....

Monday, 26 October 2015

How do you organise your vinyl, autobiographically?

I've started running out of room... and so begins the record collectors dilemma. If I'm making room perhaps I should also re-order my collection?

There is something very OCD about storing records. I'm not too bad with it, not as bad as some collectors that like to implement all kinds of wierd and wonderful filing systems. Collecting records is a strange past time. I think that any record collector would love someone to browse through their records in awe, jealousy or just admiration. Unfortutely, this rarely if ever happens. So it's probably best to sort your own collection in what ever way suites yourself, becasue it's highly unlikely that anyone else will be struggling to find anything in your racks of vinyl.

To start with I thought I had made some room, which I could then use to expand my growing 4AD collection into. But as is usual I couldn't just stick to just re-organising the vinyl. So I had a total rethink (once again) of how I store my CD's, cassettes, 7 inches, posters, awkward boxes etc and also my wife's books and our DVD's. The whole room then was up for a re-design. Then, if the room is under review, shouldn't the decor?

No, No, No, No STOP!!!!

The spare bedroom where all my stuff is stored has had so many changes over the last ten years. To begin with it was a spare bedroom. Then it got transformed into the computer room, until we realised that the last thing either of us wanted to do was go and sit like billy-no-mates up stairs every time we wanted to go on the internet. I then redecorated the whole room, made a whole wall a rack of shelving units for videos, books and of course vinyl. I also designed and built a huge four poster bed to fit snuggly in the room. It was an amazing room, but it was never used as a bedroom and the four poster bed was so large there was no room for anything else.

So I sold the four poster bed and we got a bed settee. That did seem like a good idea at the time, a sofa for most of the time and a bed if visitors ever stayed over. That worked ok except we were never popular enough for anyone to stay over. Then when my wife started to study for her exams we needed an office, yet again. So now out has gone the bed settee and back in has come an office desk.

I made some room by moving around some of my box sets and set about re-ordering the 12" singles and LPs which were all in alphabetical order (easy mode). I needed to make room for my expanding 4AD which was the main reason for the re-sort. So I've split everything into three parts, 4AD, old music and new music. Typically this was a self styled seperation. My definiation of old and new music was pre-punk and post punk, so all my prog is pre-punk and all my goth and industrial is post punk. Of course there are some that are very close to call. Would Nirvana go under the pre-punk style as just another rock band, or were they heavily influenced by punk and therefore go under post punk? Of course they were punk influenced so that one was quite easy, but some records proved to be difficult. Still, I managed to split my collection into three parts ok. But then after an itial re-arrangement, I found out I didn't make much space for expansion at all.

I had to get more vinyl storage space. I could have gone to a specialist cabinet maker. There are a few out there that specialised in vinyl storage such as the i-Cube. I had invented a more robust version of this myself 20 years ago when I moved around quite a bit. It involved a square cabinet which could be stacked either end up, that fitted vinyl inside perfectly but also cleverly stacked well either side my side or one on top of another to what ever arrangement I required. Each box was also handy to tip onto it's back and carry and stack when moving home. But I succomb to the simpliest solution, Ikea sell a unit system called Kallax that are perfect for vinyl and can easily be transformed into other useful additions such as draws and baskets. They also stack and fit well with other Ikea units as well. So I bought and assembled a two by two unit which sits nicely on a set of draws. That has opened up loads of extra storage space now on my main vinyl racks for more 4AD.

Once I've done the vinyl, then will come the CD's, cassettes, posters and everything else to re-organise again. Spare time to do this of course is also at a premium.

So one part of one room had to be re-organised, which had a knock on effect on the rest of the room and what a suprise, nearly every cupboard, draw and shelf in the whole house nearly has also been re-organised. Always remember when starting a job like this, there are always implications that also need to be taken into account which will throw out any plans you make completely out of the window. At least loads of tat has been thrown away from around the house, loads of clothes recycled and lots of useful but never used stuffies relocated to poeple that will use them.

It's good to know I'm not a extreme hoarder!!!!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Will I ever fall in love with Record Fairs ever again?

Over the last two weekends I have visited two record fairs in the vain hope of not relying solely on the internet to find the stuff that I want. There is a certain pleasure in rummaging through loads of boxes of interesting music. The elation when finding something you've been looking for for a long time is there for the picking, in good nick and priced reasonably is hard to put into words. It's mostly hard to put into words because I can hardly remember the feeling.

The vast majority of record shops have little in the way of anything different or away from the norm. I always know how poor a shop is going to be in the first five minutes of entering one. If the shop has no Cocteau Twins or Pixies, stuff that's can be easy to come by on the internet, there's practically no chance of finding any Dead Can Dance, Throwing Muses, Birthday Party or Clan of Xymox.

I don't just limit my searches when out looking to 4AD stuff. There seems to be an English vacuum in second hand goth, industrial or anything more alternative to Wonderstuff. It would be great to find a section with Front Line Assembly, Diamanda Galas, 1919, Ausgang, Sopor Aeternus and on and on. That would be a dream. But when a simple list as that is just a pipe dream what chance do I have to find any Cold In Berlin, Soviet Soviet or some of the other remarkable music that's around lately. Go online I guess

But I keep trying out shops and record fairs and the last two weeks have been fine examples of disappointment. The first fair was in Derby a couple of weeks ago. I had been to the fair once before and there was a guy with a stall that had mostly punk and new wave stuff, so I was eager to see if he had any new stock on. After over three hours in a record fair with about 7 or 8 traders with stalls, I didn't find a single item on my want list of nearly 900 items. I did pick up a few interesting little other items though including a Gary Numan LP, 2 Crime And The City Solution singles and a Shellyann Orphan single

At least I walked away with something. It is disappointing to still have the same amount on my wantlist, to find nothing at all for my 4AD collection is extremely disheartening when a record fair supposed to be the best place to find these items.

So I decided to travel a bit further affield a go to a record fair that was billed as "the biggest outside of London". Surely that would be what I was looking for. Advertised as 100 tables with traders from all over the country, attended by buyers from all over the world it sounded too good to miss. One of the things I always find funny about these fairs, is how late the traders turn up to the event. 2 minutes before doors open and traders are still wheeling boxes of stock into the venue, leaving you thinking "this is your trade, wake up earlier in a morning".

There may have been 100 tables (I didn't count), but there were only about 15 to 20 traders, three of which had been at the other fair in Derby just a week before. On asking they had no new stock since the week before. Then as usual there were the bargain basement traders. These have hundreds of CD's, usually mass bought stock that no-one can sell. I know even without spending hours looking that there's gonna be nothing in there. After about three minutes of walking two loops around the tables, I knew only one of them had any chance of anything remotely like what I was looking for. Still I persisted and stretched my patience as much as I could tolerate, knowing I would be writing this blog, and searched though as many of the traders stock as my willingness allowed. But my initial hunch was right, as aways. Only one trader had anything worth buying, the one I had picked out in the first three minutes and none of his stock hit any of the hundreds of items I was looking for, except one.

The NME Peel sessions compilation was the only find out of thousands of records. I did pick up Cocteau Twins and Birthday Party bootlegs as well as an Xmal Deutschland peel Session release, but none from my list. The bootlegs were quite recent and the Peel session was some years later after Xmal Deutschland had moved on from 4AD.

It is dis-heartening at times. I would have thought after this long that I would have picked up some specialised trader, eager to find the stuff I want. Instead I generally get "good luck with that" in a semi-sarcastic voice based on the experience of how rarely 4AD stuff is picked up and how quickly it's bought up. As much as buying online is nowhere near as satisfying as browsing through physical boxes looking for that special gem, it's the form I have to keep relying on.

As a finishing note and as mentioned before, I'm accruing quite a stock of duplicates again just wanting a good home. So watch this space as there are plenty more 4AD items to give away. Here's a sneak preview and you won't believe some of the items I have that just maybe you could own soon. Tell me if you recognise any...

...and as a last note Andy and I are back in the studio again putting together another song. After months of just not feeling it, Andy has managed to kick me into shape and we're composing again.

Until next time....guess the releases

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Thank You Dear Reader, Thank You

I just had to post again.

Congratulations to Jez Smith in Florida who won the Greek pressing of the Cocteau Twins album Treasure on lovely vinyl, posted today to Jez. Thanks to Martin Aston for picking the winner as well. I put a list together of folk who entered the draw, numbered by the date and time order of when they requested to be entered. Martin Aston then gave me a random number and what a surprise, that number was 4 of course.

When I first started this blog I wondered if anyone would be interested in reading it, I guessed that with the power of the internet that I may find one or two like kinded people. More than anything, I wanted to make sure I stuck to this quest and the best way to do that was to make my mission public and more embarrasing if I ever was tempted to change my mind.

After seven months from starting this blog, I was estatic about getting 1000 views of my humble blog. I couldn't believe that there are enough folk out there interested in my crazy mission to want to read this.

4 years and loads of blogs later and I have over 950 related items collected and I'm expecting to be about half way through getting to the final target of acquiring every release by 4AD from the first decade from every country, in every format, inlcuding all the related compilations and pre-4AD signing releases. I still haven't began to look at putting a website together or even where to exhibit the collection in 2030, which is the main part of the grand plan.

The journey so far has been incredibly interesting, frustrating, fun, depressing, humbling and rewarding. Today has been a very rewarding day. Giving away a piece of 4AD history to a fan is part of the whole mission and makes me so very happy. If the mission is to exhibit my 4AD collection in order to make sure that the amazing art that 4AD released does not drift into obscurity, giving away a part of it fulfills that same mission. It's also a good day because.....

This morning this little blog reached 49,999 page views, then......

...........50,000 page views

I'm absolutely bowled over. Thank you so much for everyone that has taken time to read this blog, commented on it, entered for any of the giveaways or just given me moral support. I actually believe I can get another 50,000 over the next 4 years which is so far beyond any amount of interest I even dreamed of when I started this. So thank you to you all and please keep on reading, please keep on commenting and please keep your eye out for more giveaways.

The journey continues ..............

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

You bought it for how much?

It's been a long time since my last entry. Ah what can I say, I have no real excuses. But interesting things have happened on ebay this week. Three early Bauhaus test pressings went up for auction in the week and I watched with suprise and dread as the bids sky rocketed for them. Take a deep breath, if you have any of these on your radar...this could induce a wallet attack.

First up is a test pressing of the flexi-disc 7" of God In An Alcove. This was released in 1982 and was blue in colour and was part of the flexipop magazine that gave away a single with each copy of the magazine. The song came from their debut album In The Flat Field which was released under 4AD, so although released in 1982 after the band moved to Beggars Banquet, it still fits into my collecting criteria. On Discogs the test pressing for this release has sold twice in the last year, once for €15.00 (around £10) and again for $10 (around £6.40). These were sold in February and June of this year, so not so long ago (I can't believe I missed those).

The ebay auction finished at a whopping £180....ouch!

The three auctions were all from the same seller. All looked as genuine an item as they could, but I do always wonder how easy it would be to get the regular release and paste a white lable onto it. The next item was a white label test pressing of the 7" single Telegram Sam. I haven't seen a test pressing for this before, so I was quite eager to see if the bidding would stay in the sensible area or sky rocket like the item above also did. When going into an auction, I always think it best to think rationally beforehand of the absolute maximum you are willing to go to before you get involved with the bidding process, as many times a sort of primeval instinct takes over and you can easily convince yourselve that this is the only moment in your life that you will ever see this item for sale and start bidding accordingly. I judged that the item might be worth around £40, seeing as you can easily pick up the full release for a couple of quid. it was already at £45 by the time I found it listed....arse!

The final winning bid .....£205....what???

I know smart ass, this isn't the uk version!!

The final item, the one I could easily have arguments with myself over about how willing I was to push the spending limit on, was a white label test pressing of one of the first pressings of the 7" single Dark Entries. I have reviewed the versions I currently have here and it looked as though this could be the crowning piece as the matrices showed it either to be the first Axis version or the blue 4AD labels version. As with the Telegram Sam release, I had never seen a test pressing of this before. It was hard to know what this would be worth so as to set myself a reasonable limit. I actually thought £50 would be a reasonable upper limit, as this would very likely be the only test pressing of this release I would ever see. This is what you have to be careful of with auction sites such as ebay, you can so easily argue with yourself into bidding more and more and if you dont make up your mind beforehand about your upper limit and leave the decision until near the end of the auction, you can easily argue even more with yourself. The typical argument is, "wouldn't be a shame if it just went for £1 more than I was willing to go to" or "I'm losing, I'm losing". It's so easy to get drawn into a bidding war with someone. As usual the bids went through the roof on the final few seconds.

The winning bid .......£361.....!!!!!!!!!!!

Needless to say, I came away from the bidding empty in basket.

Following from my previous submission, I did promise further research into CD production and the ability to be able to spot newer prints from older ones. There were a few little things I spotted at the time, such as the change from the black print text on the CD to later having colour picture CDs. One very interesting piece of infomation was about the introduction of SID codes in 1994. These are 4 character codes on the inside ring, near the hole of the CD itself. These are usually marked with the letters IFPI followed by the 4 character code marking the mastering and replication source of the CD. Becasue this standard wasn't introduced until 1994, it's a very good identifier for later re-prints. Here is an official PDF which introduced the standard to the industry.

I have found that I have a number of CD's myself that I thought were original copies but have SID codes. This is a really useful piece of infomation for those trying to identify an original.

In the last few months, I toyed with a visit to the Netherlands in the autumn and the Utrecht International Record Fair. This has to be one of the largest record fairs in Europe and has been on my radar for many a year now, but I easily talk myself out of things. The typical argument with myself is how poor every other record fair has been and this was likely to be just as bad, but on a larger scale. But then if I dont give it a go, I can't really have an informed opinion can I? The window of oppurtunity passed me by and I managed to talk myself out of it, but my lovely, long suffereing wife persuaded me to perhaps have a more serious attempt to go next year. So there is a good chance I will go sometime soon. When I do, I will certainly report back.

For two reasons I have another giveway for anyone that fancies a slice of history. The first reason is the fact that it's been way too long since I gave anything away on this blog, I'm piling up quite a pile of duplications. The second reason is down the usual bumbling uselessness from a trader, making out they were selling a white label test pressing then sending the standard release,... numpty. I've had my money back and the trader doesn't want the item returning.

So I'm giving away a copy of a Greek pressing of the Cocteau Twins album Treasure on Polygram. If tens of thousands of copies of this album were sold in the UK, then thousands must have been sold around northern Europe and by the time the album filtered down to Greece I would not at all be suprised if the number of pressings were in just the hundreds. So in my estimation this vinyl copy is a rarity indeed. Not stupidly rare, but a lovely item to own none the less.

It also has those unusual Greek labels that seem to be either poor copies of earlier 4AD releases in the UK or left overs from the same period sent to the Greek manufacturers. Anyhoo, in the usual fashion, if you want to get your hands on this, just get in touch with me and I'm sure it will end up in a good home, I already have this anyway. Facbook, email, comment on this blog or carrier pigeon will do.

Thanks for reading as always

Saturday, 2 May 2015

4AD original releases, re-prints and releases - Tips and Guide

Hello again. I have been spending a little time trying to put together a simple buyers guide to buying 4AD from the second hand market, particularly of course the first ten years of 4AD's existence. It can be very frustrating when you think you have found one of those lovely original 12"s, only to find out much later that it's a re-release or a second print and actually isn't that rare at all. So I have been going through what I have acquired so far to try and find some pattern in the releases from 4AD in the UK between 1980 and 1990.

It turns out to be a very interesting decade. I know because I was a new consumer in that decade and things were changing so very fast. I remember seeing a TV programme called "Tomorrow's World" that highlighted the newest technology. I saw the now famous episode that introduced the new format, the Compact Disc and demonstrated that you could eat your dinner off it and it still played afterwards. Of course, we now know that you can eat your dinner off a Compact Disc and it will play, but don't get a fingerprint on it or a dog hair becasue that will completely bugger it up!

In the eighties, the 12" remix became king. While it cost about £7 for a new vinyl album, it cost about £15 for a new CD and that was those fortunate enough to be able to afford a CD player in the first place. Cassettes became commonplace and the 8-track disappeared. Then the trend for everything see through came into fashion. Cassettes followed the trend of Swatches (or was it the other way around?) making the mechanisms of technology observable by changing whatever the tech was clothed in transparent. Plastic see through watches and plastic see through cassettes.

Strange represenatations of a zebra's back started appearing on products everywhere. The struggle to find a price at the checkout at the store was replaced with that annoying beeping sound as barcodes took over the world.

CD sales went up, taking vinyl sales down and loads of second hand record fairs became more popular as fair traders struggled to get rid of the masses of stock bought at rock bottom prices from people swapping their record collections for CD's. Folk didn't want their turquoise lettered Led Zeppelin LP anymore, they wanted it on crystal clear CD instead. You could buy masses of rare vinyl for next to nothing by the late eighties. Record companies must have really thought they were onto a winner as people took even less care of their CD's and cassettes than they did of their vinyl. CD's were bullet proof, you could eat your dinner off them and cassettes were very convenient. It was not until the nineties that folk realised that CDs didn't last forever and that they had lost all those albums on cassette becasue their Sony Walkman or in car cassette player had chewed every cassette tape up.

The portable cassette player was a bit of a joke. Adverts with joggers and their hip strapped portable cassette player were common place in the late eighties. The adverts failed to warn you though that the tape would also jog around inside the player and wrap itself around the pinch rollers that guided the tape across the playing head. Everyone had tapes where on a particular track the music would go all whirly and druggy as the previously crinkled tape had been pulled back in a botched repair attempt. Those cassettes were the lucky ones. Many times they had to be thrown away because the tape had unraveled so much you couldn't get it all back in, like some war wounded soldier with his intestines spilling out. If the cassette unraveled in a car stereo player, you had little chance of salvage. The tape would bounce around in the jossle of the car on the road and get stuck around those pesky pinch rollers and get wrapped around them so many times that if you were lucky enough to get the cassette ejected out of the player, there would be a black spaghetti like trail dragging back into the teeth of the machine, and like a dogs locked jaws, it was never going to give you your tape back. Portable in car cassette players were thrown away left right and centre because of mangled cassette tape around the pinch rollers becasue the players were so portable, you couldnt get inside them to remove the tape and sometimes the whole cassette without breaking the whole player. It's a miracle that any cassette tape survived the eighties at all.

So, I've scrutinsied the best I can of the stock I have so far and looked to see any patterns from the changes in that first decade of 4AD releases. Some of this info may be wrong and if I find it is, I will come back and update it from time to time. There are quite a few signposts that can help a collector figure out what's genuinely original and what's a re-release. It was a useful decade for collectors becasue of the many changes.

In the begining....

As we know, 4AD started its life as AXIS. So in 1980 the first four UK releases had the AXIS red labels on them, all 7" singles

For the rest of 1980, the blue and white 4AD square box was on the labels of all that years releases. This also meant that the Bauhaus Dark Entries 7" single that originally had the AXIS labels above was re-pressed again with the blue and white labels

All of the 1981 UK releases had this crumpled paper black and white picture label on one side of the label. So far I haven't found one that doesn't.

In 1982, the folded paper picture was done away with and the three picture types below were all used instead. The female wrestlers in black and white in both positive and negative and a male wrestlers in negative. So far the compact disc didn't exist commercially and the barcode zebra hadn't made it to the shores of the UK. The tape cassette was also not on the format list for 4AD in 1982

In 1983, another three types of black and white picture labels were used grass, grit and lights. That's a daft naming convention I know, but look at the samples below

At the end of 1983, 4AD issued their first cassette format release. This compiled an album and an EP together of the Cocteau Twins' Head Over Heels and Sunburst And Snowblind. The cassette was made of white plastic with labels glued on. From the end of 1983 to the end of 1986, only albums appeared on cassette tape. The see through clear plastic cassette tape wasn't introduced until 1985 by the record label Warner. There is an interesting site about the history of the compact cassette tape

In 1984, 4AD went full colour on their labels. Still no barcodes, still no clear cassettes and still no CDs from 4AD

In 1986, 4AD began issuing releases on CD. They also went through some of the back catalogue and re-issued some earlier releases again on CD. For the next couple of years from 1986 to 1988 they re-issued a number of albums.

I hoped that by looking through the CDs released in those two years, I would be able to find a pattern of some sort that would help distinguish the years specifically, but that seems a task too far at the moment until I get my hands on a few more releases. There are some distinct CD print styles from 1986 to 1989, all silver CDs with varying print styles from sparse amounts of text to band logo fonts and then text which shoots off in all directions on the CD. From the CDs I curently have, I can't seem to find any clues to get them down to any time frame. The first few CDs of 1986 were French made CDs and have a small ring on the inside of the outer CD, here (below) it shows black, but on the actual CD is a goldish hue. I suspect that the original batch of CDs made in 1986 where manufactured in France where a lot of the vinyl was also cut, but a very short time later, 4AD could have started to use a manufacturer in the UK either alongside or instead of the French manufacturer. As yet I can't make a judgement, if this did happen, the change was very quick

The same can be said for the re-issues made of pre-1986 albums onto CD. The design of the CD print changes quite quickly over the next couple of years

During 1987, 4AD issued its first video cassette for the label compilation Lonely Is An Eyesore

Also in 1987 was the first cassette single from 4AD Throwing muses Chains Changed, still on black plastic cassette with paper labels

Originally I suspected that the first CD single issued from 4AD must have been for the chart topping No 1 single from M/A/R/R/S Pump Up The Volume as there is a CD version of the single, but the copy of the CD I have is also the one showing on discogs, which is an English made black CD, which doesn't fit in with the style of the other CDs printed during the same period. I reserve judgement on this one for now, as the black print on the CD could be a clever use of text print in negative, where the text is clear showing the silver CD underneath and the rest of the non text part of the CD is black. Full coloured CDs weren't introduced by 4AD until 1989

The first clear cassette from 4AD appears to be in mid 1987 for the Lonely Is An Eyesore compilation. As of yet I haven't seen a cassette of this compilation on a coloured plastic. As with the next release from 4AD on cassette, which was Dead Can Dance's Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun, there are non paper label versions with red text printed directly on the cassette and no paper labels. At this moment in time, I suspect that these are later re-prints.

All the releases up to the end of 1987 can be found without any barcodes anywhere on the artwork. Sometimes you can find a release with a stickered barcode attached, most likely added by the retailer. The first release of 1988 from 4AD suddenly appeared with a zebra strapped to it's back.

In a decade obsessed with size, technology just had to get smaller and smaller. The CD was the way forward, or so the industry thought, smaller, compact, but annoyingly for them still not as portable as the cassette tape which could fit into a small player you could go jogging with. Mobile CD players at the time where useless and wouldn't stop jumping everytime you breathed. Out of this industry obsession came the DAT tape, carrying on the myth that digital sound was superior but packed into a tiny little cassette tape like the type you used in an office dictating machine. The biggest problem was for the industry was that you could record onto them. The Compact disc must have been a dream for the record industry. It was smaller, so a lot less needed to be spent on packaging, the average man on the street could easily be duped into thinking that the quality was so much better than vinyl, it could be sold at many times the price of vinyl just because it was amazing futuristic technology and best of all, it was a format that couldn't be recorded on. The record industry hated cassettes because of home copying. They even had a massive campaign in the eighties to try and make the public ashamed of copying music and sharing with their mates. Remember this?

The DAT may have been the next big format, but the industry hated it and the equipment cost put the public off buying it. Still, in 1988 4AD released their one and only DAT release, Cocteau Twins' Blue Bell Knoll

In 1989, after a couple of initial CD releases on the usual silver disc, the UK CD releases from 4AD went full colour! Well, black to start with anyway with Pixies album Doolittle

4AD soon moved onto coloured and picture CDs at the end of 1989 and into 1990. This pink beauty is Lush's Scar

Then in 1990 with Pixies Velouria came the totally clear cassette with no paper labels from 4AD. This may be the period that the afore mentioned red text printed Lonely Is An Eyesore and Dead Can Dance's Within The Realm Of A Dying Sun were re-printed.

Later in the 90's, 4AD went on another re-releasing spree on CD, but at least had the courtesy of labelling them with new catalogue numbers which helps collectors no end. These were labeled with a GAD number and started to appear around 1998. A GAD catalogue number is a sure sign that the CD is way after the event of it's original release, at least as far as the first decade releases are concerned.

Well, I hope that is a lot of useful information for you collectors. May I remind you all that none of it is definitive and so far just an observation from the releases I currently have and may be changed in future. In fact scrub that, this is very likely to change in the future as there are a lot of 4AD knowledgeable folk that read this blog. At some point in the future, I will have a go at observing the other major countries releases and try and ascertain any patterns from those too

Thanks for reading