Bristol record labels

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The English city of Bristol has, since the mid-1970s, had a particularly fertile music culture, resulting in not only a great many influential musicians and bands, but also its own sound, Bristol sound or trip hop. Along with the music, a number of local record labels also developed, some receiving national and international attention, others with a smaller audience appeal. In the 1970s, there was a DIY culture of record production and the independent record label came to prominence. One of the most successful at that time was Virgin Records started in 1972. Chiswick Records, Stiff Records, Rough Trade Records and Factory Records followed. By the later part of the decade, Virgin had become a part of the music business establishment, and new independent record labels began appearing in virtually every British town and city: Bristol was no exception. One of the very first Bristol punk bands, The Cortinas released its first single on Miles Copeland's Step Forward Records in 1977, eventually moving on to CBS before disbanding. Copeland also released, in 1977, The Pigs' Youthanasia EP on his newly formed New Bristol Records.[1] The explosion in punk/new wave bands forming in the area did not attract interest from the major London-based record labels, so local labels sprung up to release recordings from these groups. Amongst the first, and initially more successful, were Heartbeat Records, Fried Egg Records, Recreational Records and Riot City Records (a Heartbeat subsidiary). Others with more modest success were Wavelength Records (although its subsidiary Bristol Recorder, did achieve some popularity), Circle Records and Sheep Worrying. Some bands set up their own labels: Black Roots (Nubian Records) and Essential Bop (Monopause Records). Yet other labels, although not based in Bristol, had a strong representation of bands from the area: Y Records, Rialto Records[disambiguation needed] and Naïve Records.

After the initial burst of activity in the post-punk/new wave era, most of the labels folded (although Heartbeat, or one of its subsidiaries, still brings out the occasional release). Riot City came under the influence of EMI after it signed Vice Squad, and last released a record in 1988. Meanwhile, The Blue Aeroplanes released their first LP on Party Records in 1984, and there was some short lived output from Children of the Revolution Records (COR),[2] until a new generation of record labels was spawned from the trip hop movement. Exceptions to this were the rock label Sugar Shack Records, the indie pop of Sarah Records and the C86 sounds of The Subway Organization.

There are still a number of record labels operating in Bristol, but it is ironic that one of the most prolific is Bristol Archive Records, which specializes in unreleased tracks and re-releasing recordings (mainly for download) from the punk/new wave era of Bristol record labels, 1977–1981, and later.

Listed below are a number of Bristol (and surrounding area) record labels that, due to their short lifespan, few releases or poor distribution, may have received limited national or international attention:

3D Music[edit]

The own label of the Bath band Neon formed by Rob Fisher and Pete Byrne in 1979. It issued their first single "Making Waves/Me I See You" in October 1980.[3] The duo later found success with EMI]as Naked Eyes.

Amon Ra[edit]

Classical label of parent Saydisc, based in Badminton, Gloucestershire. “Amon Ra pioneered the recording of authentic performances on original instruments from the late 1970s and has built up a catalogue and reputation for quality and innovation in this field.”[4]

Bicycle Records[edit]

Record label formed by Jane Taylor a Bristol-based guitarist, pianist, songwriter and vocalist. It is distributed by Pinnacle. Taylor won the UK and International Songwriting Competition in 2003 with her song "Blowing This Candle Out".

Bristol Archive Records[edit]

Subsidiary of Sugar Shack Records, set up in 2008 and specializing in unreleased tracks and re-releasing recordings (mainly for download) by Bristol bands, from 1976 onwards. According to Mike Darby, the label owner, “Bristol Archive Records was officially launched this year 2008 as a vehicle to talk about and remember Bristol’s forgotten stars, those people that should have, could have or probably had no chance of fame and Global domination, but had a go, made some great music, went to the gigs, helped make the records, bought the records or just had great fun growing up in this ace city of ours.”[5]

Bristol Recorder[edit]

Innovative subsidiary label of Wavelength Records, that produced three issues of a combination LP/magazine, before folding. Bristol Recorder 1 included live tracks from Electric Guitars, Circus Circus, Various Artists and Joe Public. Recorder 2 had live tracks from Peter Gabriel (including "Ain't That Peculiar"), and Fish Food, The Radicals, The X-Certs and The Welders (otherwise known as The Korgis). Recorder 3 had tracks from P.B. Davies (of Crystal Theatre/Shoes For Industry), Essential Bop, Robert Fripp, Ekome Dance Company and Thompson Twins.[6]

Cat No. Artist Title Date Configuration
BR 001 Various Bristol Recorder 1 1980 LP/Magazine
BR 002 Various Bristol Recorder 2 1981 LP/Magazine
BR 003 Various Bristol Recorder 3 1981 LP/Magazine

Barrow Road Records[edit]

Barrow Road Records was established in 2012 to release Patchy's debut album "Barrow Road". The name is taken from the road on which the offices are situated on and the road sign also features as the album cover for the bands release.

Circus Records[edit]

Commercial label (distributed by Pinnacle) that produced six singles and a compilation LP in 1981, before closing. The LP, The Circus Comes To Town (TENT 0001), included tracks from Rimshots, Black Roots, Treatment, Alarm Clox, Gold, Riz Wah Wah, Steve Booton & Pat Jones, The Dangerous Brothers,[7] Forty Blue Fingers, Info-Mania, Kevin McFadden and The Bite.[8][9]

Cat No. Artist Title Date Configuration
CIRC 0001 Bohana Mouse Band F/Seven C’s 1981 12” single
CIRC 0002 The Source Like a Child/? 1981 7” single
CIRC 0003 The Stingrays Never do/Satellites 1981 7” single
CIRC 0004 Bendall’s Box Nightmares/Games Today 1981 7” single
CIRC 0005 Sky High Ghettos of your own kind/Part 2 1981 7” single
CIRC 0006 Slim Bridges And The Wildflowers Rocking Goose/Mole At The Circus 1981 7” single
TENT 0001 Various The Circus Comes To Town 1981 LP

Circus City[edit]

Established in 2013 Circus City operate as a fully established Record Label and publishing company to acts all across the world. They strive on finding the best.

Flightcase Recordings[edit]

Founded in 2008, Flightcase is a small independent label currently[when?] looking after the catalogue and new releases of the Bristol dance/DnB troupe and producer Dr Meaker. The first long player release was the album A Lesson From The Speaker. The label has gained exposure via Radio 1, 1xtra, 6Music and XFM, as well as print articles in Clash, Venue, Knowledge, Word magazine and others. Flightcase is distributed by Absolute Marketing and Distribution (AMD) and is run from the Easton area of Bristol.[10]

Green Goat Productions[edit]

Record label currently[when?] producing material from Steve Bush (ex-Essential Bop) and Fran Frey. Its first CD Row of Ashes was released in 2008.[11]

Heartbeat Productions[edit]

The parent company of the Bristol labels, Heartbeat Records formed in 1978, Punk labels Riot City Records and Disorder Records, the band Flying Saucer Attack label FSA Records and USA Garage Band label Trash City Records.

Hope Recordings[edit]

A Bristol-based record label established in 1998 by Leon Alexander and Steve Satterthwaite. It is run by Alexander, with the English house music DJ and record producer Nick Warren in control of its A&R, and is home to progressive house and breaks artists such as Starecase, Jaytech, Matt Rowan and Parallel Sound.

Monopause Records[edit]

This was Essential Bop's own record label, having previously had the track "Chronicle" on the LP Avon Calling. There were two releases, both in resealable plastic bags with folded picture sleeves and lyrics printed inside, and distributed by Bristols’ Revolver Records. The second single received airplay in New York, resulting in the band touring and recording there in 1981. The band subsequently released two tracks on the Bristol Recorder 3, an LP on TSAR Records and a downloadable album on Bristol Archive Records.[12]

Cat No. Artist Title Date Configuration
Moan 1001 Essential Bop Raider’s Blues/Eloquent Sounds/Failsafe/Mandarin Whores (live) 1980 7” EP
Moan 1002 Essential Bop Croaked/Butler (in running shorts) 1981 7” single

New Bristol Records[edit]

In 1977, Miles Copeland helped to set up a number of labels to ride the current punk/new wave. Bristols’ The Cortinas had already signed to Step Forward Records and New Bristol was another of his labels. As the label's first band, The Pigs put it, "August 12th at Sound Conception 4-track studio. It’s been about 20 weeks since we formed, we’ve written maybe 12 songs and played 6 or so gigs. Now we’re recording our whole set. As it turns out, most of this stuff won’t see the light of day for 30 years. Copeland chooses the four tracks for the EP that’s going to launch a new Bristol record label. They call it New Bristol Records. Yeah.”[13] The label appears to have had only two releases, by The Pigs and Gardez Darkx.[14]

Cat No. Artist Title Date Configuration
NBR 01 The Pigs Youthanasia/They Say/Psychopath/National Front 1977 7” EP
NBR 02 Gardez Darkx Freeze (In the U.L.zone)/Heartbeat 1978 7” single

Party Records[edit]

Released The Blue Aeroplanes first album Bop Art in 1984 and distributed by The Cartel.[15]

Saydisc Records[edit]

Founded in 1965, and based in Badminton, Gloucestershire, Saydisc has developed a wide range of releases from traditional, world, period, exotic and unusual recordings, through to folk and meditative.[16] It also has produced a number of local dialect and spoken word recordings. It is the parent of classical label Amon Ra and the folk label The Village Thing. Saydisc and Village Thing are covered in two books by the award-nominated Bristolian author, Mark Jones:

  • Bristol Folk provides a discographical history of many of the artists that recorded for Saydisc and Village Thing and also includes a partial history of the labels.
  • The Saydisc & Village Thing Discography includes the most comprehensive available discographies for Saydisc, Amon Ra, Village Thing and other related labels, such as Matchbox and Matchbox Bluesmaster. The book includes pictures of all available sleeves plus all known label designs and it is rounded off with a history of Saydisc and Village Thing.

Sheep Worrying[edit]

This label grew out of the Bridgewater-based magazine and entertainments promoter, Sheep Worrying, founded by Brian Smedley. It released the single "False Nose/County Councillor"(1980) and two tape albums, Internal Organs (1978) and Going Shopping (1980) by The Dangerous Brothers.[17][18]

Shoc-Wave Records[edit]

Shoc-Wave was based in Easton, Bristol, and run by Gene Walsh. It specialized in Dominican music and Jamaican reggae bands such as Joshua Moses and Buggs Durrant, but also released records from a variety of other genres including dub, disco and ska. In 1980, it released the single "“I Was Wrong / Stuck in a Boat" (SRP0007) by The Rimshots, five middle class white kids from Bristols’ northern suburbs playing two-tone styled ska.[19]

Wavelength Records[edit]

The label was set up by the drummer Thomas Brooman (along with Bob Hooton) to release a single by his Bristol big band, The Spics.[20][21] It subsequently released three further singles by Gardez Darkx, Joe Public (another Brooman band) and Color Tapes before reinventing itself in 1980 as a combination magazine/record called The Bristol Recorder, which ran for three issues.

Cat No. Artist Title Date Configuration
HURT 001 The Spics You and Me/Bus Stop 1981 7” single
HURT 002 Gardez Darkx Bliss/Winter Scene 1979 7” single
HURT 003 Joe Public Hermans Back/Travelling With Raymond/Like It 1979 7” single
HURT 004 Color Tapes Cold Anger/Leaves of China 1979 7” single
BR 001 Various Bristol Recorder 1 1980 LP/Magazine
BR 002 Various Bristol Recorder 2 1981 LP/Magazine
BR 003 Various Bristol Recorder 3 1981 LP/Magazine

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]