A scene that forever changed British rock music.
“It’s not about the labels themselves, it’s about people. It’s about their characters and goals.” (Noel Gallagher)
N – The Nightingales
In 1979, The Nightingales rose from the ashes of The Prefects, the first Birmingham punk band. They earned a Birmingham reputation for The Fall thanks to their uncouth indie: Beefheart tangled guitars, Krautrock punching beats, and vocalist Rob Lloyd’s scandalous jokes.
Their indie mandates were also reinforced by the patronage of John Peel (only Half Man Half Biscuit and The Fall bypassed them in the number of sessions recorded by Peel). In 1985, Lloyd founded his own label “Vindaloo” to release recordings of We’ve Got A Fuzzbox And We’re Gonna Use It !!, a band consisting of only girls, and anti-comedian Ted Chippington. The Nightingales indie fire still burns, in 2004 they reunited and have since released six defiantly financially disastrous albums.
O – Vaughan Oliver
When Ivo Watts-Russell founded “4AD” in 1980, he saw his label as the beginning of a new era of discovery and experimentation in indie rock, and designer Von Oliver from Epsom turned out to be a very useful ally in this matter. The abstractions on the covers of Oliver combined fine art and innovative typography – the ideal design for esoteric moods that reigned on 4AD in the 80s and 90s.
His covers for Pixies, Cocteau Twins, and The Breeders have become as iconic as the albums themselves. Writer Martin Eston in his book “Turning the Other Side: 4AD History” wrote that for Watts-Russell “only the artifact mattered – the music and its sophisticated packaging.” In Oliver, he found the perfect shell for himself. Now album covers have a new template.
P – Postcard Records
Postcard Records influenced the 80s indie aesthetics more than any other label. The label was a product of despair as much as innocence; it originated in Glasgow in 1979 and was famous for having all the label accounts stored in a sock box in a student apartment located in the red light district. The Sound of Young Scotland was a devilishly beautiful invention of two renegade romantics. The talent was Edwin Collins – a fan of Velvet Underground and Jonathan Richman, a day artist who painted ducks for a local park department, a frontman and writer Orange Juice at night, who initially saw Postcard Records as a platform for one group. The evil genius was Alan Horn, a fan of Motown and Bowie, expelled from the Faculty of Botany, without hysterical tricks and a rogue vein which it is impossible to imagine the Jacobin attack, committed by the label on the industry south of the border.
Having collapsed 963 copies of Orange Juice’s first single, “Falling And Laughing,” Collins and Horne loaded the circulation with Austin Maxi with naive heroism and set off for London, hoping magazine trips, loading boxes in music stores, including Rough Trade, “and annoying John Peel on leaving the BBC will help them earn some reviews. Horn’s typical PR reception – he didn’t ask Peel so much as threaten him and say that his beloved Manchester and Liverpool were already bent, the future is for Glasgow and “it’s time for you to grow wiser, old man”. His bravado worked. A month later, “Falling And Laughing” was sold out (in eBay terms, now the original copies have become the indie holy grail), and Horn invested in three new singles Orange Juice, Josef K from Edinburgh and the then unknown Australian duet The Go-Betweens .
By the end of 1980, thanks to the singles Orange Juice and Josef K, the label had won the love of music critics. Stylistically, these singles were reminiscent of “Blue Boy” and “It’s Kinda Funny” and laid the foundation for the ensuing decade of the indie guitar boom. From the point of view of the graphic art of the album cover (the cowboy ranch of the 80s, later replaced by Victorian motifs of refined Scottish stereotypes) and the logo with a drumming kitten, they also set the format for countless exquisitely faded imitators, although there was nothing clairvoyant in the nature of Horn and Collins themselves.
The more successful Postcard Records was, the more desperate the scam of incorrigible rascals became: they lied to the press that they had a contract with Zoe – the son of Bowie, wrote insulting begging letters to Elton John, saying that he had slipped and “better just give us your money “wanted to besiege Paul McCartney’s farm so he agreed to produce the next single, Orange Juice (but they got lost along the way and drove home defeated). Later, they discovered the miracle child Roddy Frame from East Kilbride and Aztec Camera, which only added prestige to the label. But this did not stop him from destroying himself practically in one night at the moment when Orange Juice signed a contract with Polydor in London: Horn lost not only the second half of his impeccable team, but also his enthusiasm. Josef K broke up at the same time, and even the latest Horn protégés The Bluebells traded him for a major label.