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.