Saturday, April 22, 2006

So Steve Baker - the Black strand continues

A meeting with Steve Baker was set up. Steve was Black/Colin's manager. This was a surprise since the impression we had was that Colin was managed by the same people as Pete Wylie - he of the mighty Wah!.

In leaving the Warner Bros major label deal Black had declared complete independence and new management was the order of the day. Steve Baker, I recall, had previous experience of the music business and highlighted on several occasions the folly of excursion Andrew (my brother) was making going into the business. He himself had been in the situation of investing his valuables into musical things that hadn't returned. That said, he was happy to take advantage of the offer of help. He had a very definite plan and listed things he felt would maximise the success of the project and with a list from him and the guidance from Red Rhino (our new distributors) a fairly robust master pan was created.

Originally in pure independent style, a 1,000 12" vinyl records were going to be pressed and sent to the shops and people were going to buy them. Andrew had probably bought a 1,000 records in his time, now he was going to sell a thousand.

But this is were things started to change.

Red Rhino said "If you spend the money you were going to spend on pressing the records, on marketing, we will cover the expense of the manufacturing and take it from the sales you make."

That sounded like a good idea, and they recommended a press and radio specialist promotor down in London who would be able to help us get the exposure and publicity to make more people go out and buy the record. If nobody knows it's out there nobody will buy it. Ten Times Better were a embryonic operation set up to help small independent record companies get publicity for their music. Mel Bell was in charge of getting music and national press coverage and Terry Hollingworth was the guy who got you on radio one and TV. When written down quickly it seemed like a very easy task. Heck is that a bad job – what a thankless task it is.

Terry Hollingworth Said: “if you want a record played on Radio One you have to give them 7” singles they won’t accept anything else”

A seven inch white label run was ordered, more expense but all justified in enabling us to shift our 12” stock of 1,000 and getting the message out to the masses.

Steve Baker said “we need publicity pictures of Colin”.

Bit by bit this was developing into much bigger budget affair and as yet no guarantees of any returns. Red Rhino had high hopes and were keen to help in support of what could be a significant departure for them. Up to that point Red Rhino’s reputation as a distributor had been built upon the likes of Sisters of Mercy. The Sisters had come out of the Leeds Goth scene and with the astute support of Red Rhino they had become a mainstream success. However finely crafted 80’s synth pop from Liverpool did not easily fit into this newly emerging independent music genre, here was an opportunity for them to show their ability with more mainstream music.

At this time I was working in the UK’s sixth biggest mail order company. I did marketing and was charged with selling more stuff to people who were our loyal and happy (dare I say it privileged customers). It was an unglamorous career which has since been glamorised by the advent of the internet. The glamour of the job was further diminished by the fact that our customer base was the more mature woman (in both size and age) We specialised foundationwear that had long since became outmoded and dresses in sizes that could double for tenting. It was no surprise to find out that some of our male customers in the largher sizes, were not buying them for their loved ones. Personally I loved the job but it wasn’t the sort of job that others coveted.

However a happy bi-product of this marketing role was a relationship with lots of sparky creative people who worked in advertising agencies who warmed to the idea of the young skinny guy at the corset mail order company helping his brother launch a record label. Martin Kemp was one such bloke. I later found out that he had co-written “I’ve got your number written on the back of my hand” by the Jags – he wasn’t the one in Spandau Ballet and Eastenders. But in those days he was an Account Executive at ADS – one of Manchester’s thrusting communications companies. I shared my ambitions and aspirations with Martin and he sharply stepped in and offered his, and his colleagues, services as the designers of the packaging for new Black single and the logo for the emerging Label Ugly Man records.

Martin, a man possessing enormous personal charm, had convinced one of the creative juniors, a wee strip of girl called Tracey Savage to knock up some logo designs and a visual idea of how the single should look. We favoured the na├»ve innocence of her ugly man logo (on the right) and the classical style of the Wonderful Life cover that eventually became the signature of the release and was also made into t-shirts at a later date. As with seemingly most things connected with this history the artwork was not the sum of Tracy Savage’s creativity. She subsequently progressed up the ranks at ADS and then moved to London joining BBH ( a very hot agency – they did all the Classic Boddington’s stuff) and ending up the head creative character changing her name to the equally creative title – Tiger Savage.

All manufacturered up and boxed and ready to go to the shops we were just about to release Wonderful Life by Black – a Liverpool Band. It was very exciting and to a, just slightly more ambitious and professional, plan than the one we had originally set out with. Now the question was what happens next………….

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