Cherry Red Records

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Cherry Red
Founded 1978
Founder Iain McNay
Richard Jones
Genre Punk rock, alternative rock
Country of origin United Kingdom
Location London, England
Official website

Cherry Red is a London-based independent record label formed in 1978. Since the late 1980s, the company has also become known for reissuing out-of-print albums from other labels, and is owner of the subsidiary labels Cherry Pop Records and BBR (Big Break Records).


Cherry Red grew from the rock promotion company (similarly named after the song "Cherry Red" by The Groundhogs) founded in 1971 to promote rock concerts at the Malvern Winter Gardens. In the wake of the independent record boom that followed the advent of punk rock, founders Iain McNay (who remains company chairman) and Richard Jones released the label's first single, "Bad Hearts" by local punk band The Tights, in June 1978.

Cherry Red's early roster included releases by Morgan Fisher under various pseudonyms, using a tiny studio installed in his Notting Hill flat, as well as material licensed from The Hollywood Brats, Destroy All Monsters and The Runaways. The latter was the label's biggest seller until McNay invested $10,000 in the recording of the debut studio album by San Franciscan political punk band Dead Kennedys. Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables (1979) and its attendant singles sold well worldwide and ensured the cash flow that would allow the label to grow to its next stage. New A&R head Mike Alway had promoted the Snoopy's venue in Richmond and been involved with the Scissor Fits, and would sign a clutch of groups (The Monochrome Set, Everything But The Girl, Eyeless in Gaza, Felt, Five Or Six, etc.) who helped define a new aesthetic in independent music. Specifically, he believed that punk had breached the existing music industry edifice, but there was an opportunity for artists to follow a different creative path, not limited by what he saw as punk's self-imposed constraints. Alway would later state: "The records that had the influence on me to do things like sign The Monochrome Set and to get Tracey Thorn and people like that, and to go in a 'light' music direction that ran contrary to the way things were going? They were 'Ambition' by Vic Godard, the first Durutti Column album on Factory Records and the Young Marble Giants album on Rough Trade. All those things said to me that 'light' music has a place in this [post-punk] revolution." McNay's view is that Cherry Red was at heart a label that offered a space for artists who would otherwise not fit the image of some of the more succinctly defined and stylised independents. "Cherry Red Records was always about musical individuality, diversity, character, commitment and passion," he stated in 2008.[1] They also marketed other smaller independent record labels, like Bristol's Heartbeat Records, who recorded the Glaxo Babies.

Cherry Red's role as one of the keynote labels of the early '80s independent scene was confirmed by the huge success of a budget compilation album compiled by Alway and released at Christmas 1982. Retailing for 99p, Pillows & Prayers topped the independent charts for several weeks and significantly raised awareness of the group's roster.

Cherry Red continued to sign contemporary artists but increasingly moved into the reissue market from the late 80s onwards. It has a number of subsidiary labels dealing in genre-specific releases, curating many "critically unloved" musical genres, in partial continuation of McNay's earlier advocacy of the unfashionable.

The company has also forged links with a number of specialist quality reissue labels, which operate with a degree of autonomy using Cherry Red's logistical and financial support. Mark Stratford"s RPM Records label focuses on pop music from the 1960s to the advent of punk. Esoteric Recordings, headed by Mark Powell, specialises in progressive rock and folk catalogue. Mark Brennan heads 7T's Records, which reissues albums by that decade's glam/glitter generation. (Brennan originally helped Cherry Red form one of its first subsidiary labels, Anagram, covering punk, Psychobilly and Goth, which remains active). él Records continues under the auspices of Mike Alway (but purely as a re-release label), alongside other labels such as Rev-Ola, Poker, Giant Steps, Mortarhate, Now Sounds, Ork, etc. The Cherry Red label group continues to house reissues at its core, but is also once again active in the release of new studio material by established artists, such as The Fall, Suzi Quatro, Marc Almond, Red Box, Van Der Graaf Generator, Jah Wobble & Keith Levene, Squackett (a collaboration between Steve Hackett and Chris Squire), Hussey-Regan (a collaboration between Wayne Hussey and Julianne Regan), Hazel O'Connor, The Christians and Ken Hensley.

Still headed by McNay, a fan and director of AFC Wimbledon, alongside managing director Adam Velasco, Cherry Red also has considerable interests in football-related releases, with the most complete catalogue of soccer-related songs extant. In 2007, the company also launched its own streaming television showcase, cherry red TV, publishes its own in-house magazine and its own 'in-house' publishing division, 'Cherry Red Songs'. The label won its first major award in June 2008 when the Pillows & Prayers box set won the Best Catalogue Release category at that year's Mojo Honours.

Cherry Red artists[edit]

Original label[edit]

Reissue label[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ I'll Give You My Heart, I'll Give You My Heart box set sleevenotes, 2008.
  2. ^ [1][dead link]

External links[edit]