Thursday, December 11, 2008

Geography Lesson

The joys of free services on the internet have afforded me the opportunity to take you on a tour of the sites and locations that have contributed to the history of this unique and special record label.

The intention would be to provide you with a daily significant place that will hopefully feed a story or a fact on the blog.

Let's see what happens.

The A to Z of Ugly Man Records - click here

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Giving it the Elbow

It is unlikley that I am bringing you news but, the other week elbow won the Mercury Prize, the UK's annual attempt to indentify a single LP that is better than any other brought out in that year. Stupid idea, yeah. But if you are going to make such a pointless and groundless assessment then Seldom Seen Kid is fully worthy of such an accolade. It is simply wonderful.

I say that completely and totally biased by the fact that the artists are friends of mine and in all the time I have known them, they have worked tirelessly to create such beautiful music and conducted themsleves as decent and admirable people in the process. So there, I am biased, swayed by personal frailties on my part. Buy the LP and if you don't love it I'll swap for something you feel better disposed to.

I first met Guy Garvey, elbow's front man, in 1999, he was drunk - no surprises there - but unlike most musicians of my aqcaintance, he was waxing lyrical about somebody else's music, describing it with such love and generosity, it was a real shock to found out later that he was in a band himself and that they weren't half bad either.

At that time he was producing them and they were I am Kloot. Over time I met Guy a few occasions always impressive and charming. When I am Kloot had progressed to a more substantial and organised record label and kindly repaid the support and money I had invested in their amazing project with a cheque, Peter Jobson IAK's bass player suggested I meet up with Guy, his band and their manager and see if we could bring out a record.

All hell had broken out in elbow land at that particular time. They were on the receiving end of a large dose of music business politics. Legendary record label Island in London had signed them years previoulsy. The label had been the subject of a take over by a larger multinational groupand in the fall out and rationalisation, elbow were felt to be surplus to requirement and told to leave.

Another large record label had shown interest but that deal too fallen through. As I met Phil Chadwick - The Manager, Mark and Craig Potter - The Brothers, Rick Jupp - The Drummer, Peter Turner the bass player and Guy, they were stirring down the barrell of having to get a proper job each. The mood was sombre and vaguely depressing. Phil Chadwick took the lead an outlined an opportunity that he had negotiated with one of the lawyers at Universal - the company who owned the LP elbow had lovingly created whilst under the loving arm of the pre mergered Island records. Phil told me they would be open to loaning out some of the tracks on a limited basis to enable give elbow the chance to get a new deal and then possibly buy the LP back and get Island and Universal some money back from their now dead elbow investment. It seemed like a great idea but in the music business such pragmatisim is rare and it is testament to the wit, guile and persistance of Phil that he had managed to broker such a deal.

Universal were indeed happy to let an enthusiastic music lover in Manchester, release a limited edition ep of tracks from elbow on his boutique label, in an attempt to help the band out. I think that was the official line and that's what happened. Legend has it that that the enthusiatic msuic lover did bring out the ep without having heard a track by the band. "Print the legend" Tony Wilson famously said. I can confirm that the "record deal", such as it was, was indeed completed without a note of elbow passing my ear drums.

Some 3 weeks later I heard the track newborn on platform of Stockport station at roughly 6:30 on a Saturday morning on route to London. I was blown away by the song it was truly amazing. It still is.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


I set up this blog as a form of therapy - I went through some very dark days - i wanted to tell myself and those that loved or cared about me that I was okay. This is what I did. There was a reason behind the actions and problems that ensued from those actions. It has served a purpose too, in that I have been able to get things out that have previously not been said written my history, a history that sometimes fails to make into some other people's histories. So hopefully it is all good.

The real joy has come now with the realisation that my experience has formed part of a lecture that Tony Kostrzewa made to some aspirant musicians in Leeds some time ago. You can click here and read it. It made the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. I have arrived if Tony K said it, it is fact it is true. Well all except the bit about making money out Colin Whatsisname.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tony Kostrzewa RIP

Tony Kostrzewa died last night at 23:45.

He was a super hero in the very truest sense of the words. He had powers that we do not have. He made things happen. He saw through to the core of stuff. He was a god.

Over the coming weeks the world will come to know what he did for us all and will then recognise his monumental contribution to the world of popular music.

For now I will content myself in the knowledge that he was my friend and he helped make me what I am today.

God Bless Tony .....

and Gerri, Alice and Ben

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Desert Wolves - what happened next

It is said that hindsight is a great thing, I venture that may not to be true. That said I guess looking back the Desert Wolves would have been a lot more successful if they had slogged there way around the country building a legion of fans to go out and buy lots of records. They didn't, but that isn't to say they were not successful.

To the contrary, with the first single released, they were cutting quite a dash and garnering a great deal of support and adoration in the printed media. Locally the Manchester Evening local music writer Mick Middles was fulsome in his praise of the band

"It becomes obvious that The Desert Wolves are poised to become another important outpost in Manchester's flourishing left field pop scene"

and nationally Record Mirror gave "Love Scattered Lives" the honour of record of the week. No mean feat when you consider that also reviewed that week, and considered secondary, Aztec Camera and REM (yeah that REM)

Such things build careers and the important action now was for us to get another single out and into the shops. Here was band with songs and a repertoire and great personal charm to share with the record buying public.

"Speak to me Rochelle" was another deliciously light pop moment crafted by Marin King and his Platten brothers song writing partners. Again the highly stylised 60's pop tune was supplemented by a lavish full color sleeve art directed and design by one of Martin's friends. It was quite a production and the press continued to build

Another Record of the Week in the Record Mirror. Wow!!!!

"The groove of Summer days - sounds so great you just have to chew it"

proclaimed Johnny Dee the famed music writer in his review of the week's releases, which must have deeply hurt those who weren't record of the week. I'm guessing Pet Shop Boys, Aha, Nina Simone, Everything but the Girl and ...... The Beatles could console themselves with extensive amounts of radio airplay to help get their records out and into the public consciousness and ultimately into the charts the following week.

And that sadly was it, in terms of The Desert Wolves and Ugly Man records. In an ideal world a third should have been released and then an LP. "Passion in the Afternoon" would have been that 3rd slice of the perfect pop cake, had my personal resources not started to evaporate. It was the best thing they ever did and stands the test of time listening to it today.

To hear the tracks you may want to click on the picture below and hear 4 of their finest moments and read the cuttings. Add yourself as a friend and you will be in the company of many other folk who affiliate with the band some 20 years after the event. In that number you will find people who are only just now finding the music for the first time as well as the world wide audience of people who see The Desert Wolves as an essential part of the Jangly Guitar scene of the late eighties, one that has since been categorised "tweepop"

Post Ugly Man The Wolves shed bassist Richard Jones, who had always appeared on the periphery of the group and it's essential core. He had become increasing interested in developing a career as a working musician and initially worked as a session trumpeter with Black, and The Pasedenas, appearing on Pebble Mill at One, at one point. He had always shown an interest in the business side of things and how the whole process worked. More of Richard later.

Having seconded a friend Stuart Bowman, in on Bass the group became more tight knit but sadly nobody showed interest in continuing their recording career. As with most student bands the end of studies heralded the end of the band. A legend died but a legacy lingered.

As the internet was born, so was the ability for people who live all over the world to share common passions for obscure musical forms. The call them "communities" in the world of commerce and just such a community existed and was called Tweenet. Driven by Peter Hahndorf a guy from Hamburg who was building the internet, it became the central point for a world of people consumed by the guitar scene of the late 80's and all that it inspired.

In the late 90's Peter was based and working in London and I met up with him. As a result he introduced me to some of his fellow Desert Wolves fans, who ran a wonderful record label and were based in Berlin - Firestation Tower records. A plot was hatched there and then to release an LP of all the available tracks that the Desert Wolves had ever recorded. The band were delighted to be able to chronicle the past and Pontification was born and released in 2000. The CD is now every bit a valued and sought after as the vinyl that spawned it, as people snapped up the limited edition release.

The joy now is that people from all over the world - east and west of Stretford - listen to those songs each day and get the same joy they engendered in 1987 and 1988 and inspire another generation of songwriters.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Desert Wolves - Part I

In the random style this blog has chosen to emulate, we are about to move into the world of International fame and fortune. The Desert Wolves may not be one of those bands that you have personally heard of. However I can guarantee that their story will demonstrate much of what makes the music industry such a compulsive and fascinating landscape to view and in which to live.

The Desert Wolves where one of the many guitar bands circulating around Manchester in 1987. They were very well connected, having friends like Dave Halsam and being managed by Tony Mikaledis a prominent local DJ whose music business career read like a bible of cool. They played a mellow guitar pop that was styled by their Lead Singer and driving force Martin King. He was somebody who unashamedly loved 60's pop music and wasn't afraid to wear his pop heart on his sleeve. Coming together with two sibling guitarists David and Nick Platten they formed tight and classically named songwriting team Platten King Platten.

They never entered the outsider angst of The Smiths, the political chicanery of Easterhouse or the arty insanity of James. they wrote songs about love that would have had even Burt Bacarach drooling, Certainly they were not the typical Mancunian fayre of the time. The band was completed by Richard Jones on Bass, a student friend of the Platten's and Craig Winterburn on the Drums the only indigenous Mancunian in this group of educated scholars. As with most Ugly Man relationships the catalyst to them releasing material on the label was not the iconic live performance "toilet" venue of your choice - Epstain/Beatles/Cavern nor King Tuts/McGee/Oasis.

We were all playing for the same Sunday league football team at the time. The truth of the matter, was that we played together in a couple of matches before I seriously damaged my knee ligaments in an ill judged tackle ten minutes before the end of a friendly. The team was based at The Salutation a student drinking den in the Hulme district of Manchester. I knew Nick (a goalie) was in a revered band and he knew I was running a record label. We talked loosely about what they fancied doing and at that time I only had The Man from Delmonte on the label and was keen develop the label more.

As a direct result of the footballing injury I was in need of some repairs to my knee and duly went to hospital to have my cartilage removed. Whilst coming out of the anaesthetic I agreed with Nick that Ugly 7 would be Love Scattered Loves by the Desert Wolves. He had come to visit with a bunch of grapes and a get well soon card with Madonna on it. Not very Alan McGee and Oasis but this is Ugly Man.

At this point we were still in the land of the 80's indie 12" so the plan was to manufacture 1,000 12" singles and do a promotional 7" for our friends at radio stations. After The initial successes of Black and now with The Man from Delmonte making it on TV and some radio and ample support from Mick Middles at the Manchester Evening News, the Desert Wolves felt like just the kind of band to build on our pop sensibility whilst offering a slightly more mainstream tilt at jangling C86 fever.

The Delmontes where on the edge of mass acceptance with there thrashing style and openly ambiguous lyrics, The Desert Wolves were certainly more classical boys guitar band fitted nicely into the general pre baggy jangle of 1987. The band organised the recording at Out of the Blue studios in the centre of Manchester. Out of the Blue was situated on the top floor of one of the mills that proliferated in Manchester at the time. It is probably now a studio apartment for an architect or similar hip city dweller but twenty years ago it was a dank and dark enviroment. Owned by a couple of guys Nick Gartside and his partner Adam, the studio had played host to previous Ugly Man acts The Danny Boys and The Man from Delmonte as well the likes of James. For the Desert Wolves -Love Scattered Lives session, we managed to obtain the services of Mark Radcliffe at the controls as a producer. Not since the first Black recordings had we gone beyond using the "Bloke who owned the studio" to "produce" the tracks.

Mark Added an extra layer of showbusiness glamour to the session as well as some keyboards. The artwork was styled by Martin with the look and feel of a 60's e.p picture cover. Beautiful. Classic a suitable match for the music.

These were free flowing times and having produced videos for The Man from Delmonte and The Waltones. I decided we would extend the opportunity for Martin the superstylist to broaden his vision of the band. An away day to Scarborough was covened and on a glorous Summer Sunday in August 1987 Martin's concept and Lian Kan's genius created a peachy delight of a super 8 video which definitely positioned The Wolves as teen pop idols rather than earnest indie wannabees.

In them olden dayes the practice was to release a record then hope that everything would happen after it came out. Today a record is played on the radio, written about all over the place and then eventually, it is released to the general public. When this delayed tactic started in the 90's I wonder if that was the catalyst to people stopping buying as many records as they had in the 60's 70's and 80's. Any way, whatver.

With this release we did all the usual stuff sent it to the radio chums we had , the local newspapers, the national music papers. It was out there and we were waiting to see if any body was going to give us another hit. Whatever that means.