An Introduction

I first became interested in 4AD, a UK independent record label founded in 1980, towards the end of the '80's. I was falling in love with the music of Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, Pixies, Bauhaus and The Birthday Party and was surprised when the 4AD label sampler "Lonely Is An Eyesore" came out in 1987 that all these bands were from the same label.

After visiting a Pre-Raphaelite exhibition of some American's collection of art, I came to thinking of all this musical art that 4AD have released that may one day drift into obscurity unless someone shows it as art. So now I'm on a crusade, to collect the first ten years of 4AD's releases and exhibit the collection on 4AD's 50th anniversary in 2030. This is a big task which will have some interesting twists and turns along the way.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

The first disappointment

 Of course, it’s not all going to be plain sailing. I was really excited about finding It’s a very useful site. It is a very large database of releases by just about every artist that has existed. If something isn’t on there, an account holder can add it. Users can also rate the quality of the information that is already on there and you can add any release to your collection and thus create an online record of your collection. Really the data is owned by the people that use it.

All looking good. This was going to save me a lot of time and trouble. Each release can have photo’s added to it and plenty of room for release notes etc. I got to realize that instead of going to all the trouble of creating a website with a database, I could use this on any website I put together. I could also track my collection in one place, create want lists, find releases I didn’t know existed etc.

But after putting my collection on, I realized that it doesn’t cater for non-audio/video formats. This is a blow. This means non of the postcards, posters, catalogues, calendars etc that have been officially catalogued releases cannot be added. This means keeping a separate and additional database and keeping this updated in a separate place.

This then has an effect on any future plans. If I put a website together it will have to have a database to store this second collection.  A database added to a website means greater complexity and cost. ARSE!

If I’m to have a database on my eventual website, I may as well do the lot. This was never going to be a walk in the park was it?

Thursday, 14 April 2011

The Collection Definition Conundrum

When deciding to collect something, it’s interesting trying to define the boundaries of what classes as “part of the collection”. I did decide that the first decade of 4AD releases would be a reasonable amount to collect. But the thought processes then where, should I be thorough, or just collect the music itself?

Well just the music is only part of the picture. What would 4AD be without graphic design? So the collection had to have to be physical releases really. Ok, but what about format? This is an interesting and changing decade for music. The compact cassette in the late seventies had taken over 8 tracks and reel to reel. By the mid eighties cassette singles were becoming a popular format. Then of course it was the decade of the CD (a well known UK future technology TV show, practically told you it was no problem to eat your dinner on a CD and it would still play. Wow! that of course was before dust was invented).

Ok, so maybe format then as well. So that makes the collection quite large, all releases all formats. But what about the music that the artists produced while signed to 4AD but not released by 4AD? It would be a shame to miss out on that music as well. Also, if 4AD managed to get them signed just after the artist’s first release, surely a collection would be incomplete without those releases as well? Then, of course, there’s also releases under license.

As you can see the definition gets more and more encompassing. I think I’ve finished moving the boundaries from this point. I had thoughts recently of including more recent re-releases. Some of them are wonderful. Dead Can Dance box sets, This Mortal Coil white vinyl, Bauhaus re-masters. Very tempting, but I have to stop the expansion before the waistline breaks.

So the definition is :

The first decade of 4AD releases in all formats, under all licences (within the same decade) and all other releases made by the artists in the same decade within a year either side of their contract to 4AD.

That’s still quite a haul

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The male obsession with collecting

I wonder what makes some humans collect? It’s a valid question, because sometimes I go through the self doubt phases and wonder why I’m doing this. Really I’m collecting pieces of plastic. But I have to remind myself that in a lot of ways music tends to be forgotten as a form of art.

If I collected Constable artworks, it would be a respectful hobby and collection (and of course very expensive) and I would most likely be asked to exhibit all over the world. If I had a collection of Henry Moore sculptures, the story would be the same. But for music, it’s completely different. It’s probably because these artists did one to a handful of the same piece and it is these that are collectable, not the reproductions of them that the general public could pick up.

If this is the difference, then surely music has a near equivalent. If a painting by Constable is the non reproduced master of his art piece, then I suppose the master tapes of a musicians recordings must be the “real” musicians art piece. A set of master tapes would be rather boring to exhibit though.

So enough of this mumbling, the last couple of days has seen me acquire the cassette tape mini album “Scar” by the band Lush. This was interesting, bought off ebay. It was a “Buy It Now” item with an expensive price, although this cassette is pretty rare, I’ve not come across it before. A nice feature on Ebay is the “Make An Offer” feature on some “Buy It Now” items. This was really helpful, as the vendor accepted half the stated price for it. So I suppose it’s always worth having a go.

I heard the band Lush on the radio in 1989 and was in love with the heavy guitars and soft vocals over the top. I then saw them at Crystal Palace Bowl supporting The Cure along with James and All About Eve. Lush where incredible and their music fitted a huge outdoor concert in the late afternoon summer sun. I then saw them a few months later at the Leadmill in Sheffield. Although this gig was ok, the cosy, sweaty confinement of the Leadmill was a completely different vibe and showed more of their indie pop / rock side than the hard rock / ethereal Lush that I fell in love with. The former was the musical direction Lush decided to go in later releases.

Although I’m collecting the first ten years of 4AD, I can’t help also picking up other stuff along the way, Like Lisa Gerrard’s “The Silver Tree” promo and a Dead Can Dance “Into The Labyrinth” promo. Lisa Gerrard is my wife’s favourite artist and kind of helps keep her sweet when spending lots of money on a stupid hobby.

I’m full of useful hints today aren’t I. See you later

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

A Good Week!

This is a good week!

Nearly finished putting all the 4AD I’ve collected so far onto Discogs. This is a good database. I’ve got to go through everything again on Discogs to make sure I verify or make accurate the data that is on there. Mostly the data is pretty good and accurate.

Yesterday I got the first 4AD release. Well, actually the first AXIS release as 4AD was called AXIS first, until they found out that another label already had the name and so changed their name to 4AD.

The first release was by a band called “The Fast Set”, the single is called “Junction One” and the catalogue number – oh yes, AXIS1.

The next thing to do apart from verify all the accuracy on Discogs, is to have a chat to a few folk that have contributed on the site to adding the releases “Dark Entries” by Bauhaus. Now, why do I say releases in the plural? So far I have five different versions of this single. Only two of these on Discogs match with what I have. There are another three on there that don’t match what I have. It will be interesting to compare and see how many separate releases there actually are.

AXIS 3 - First release Red AXIS labels
Stamp on the centre label which says AC1365
Sleeve has Axis 3 and Label address

AD 3 - Re-release Black & white 4AD labels ("wrestlers"), picture sleeve.
Matrices : MPO AD 3 A1 JA TAPE ONE // MPO AD 3 B1 JA TAPE ONE.
Sleeve has the oval 4AD logo and the catalogue number, AD 3, on the back, plus this: # 1980 4AD # RECORDS, minus the information address.

BEG 37 / AD 3 - Blue & white 4AD labels
Matrices : W-3 (AD-3  scratched out) BEG 37A AXIS 3 A-1 MADE IN FRANCE // (AD 3B scratched out) BEG 37B W-4 AXIS 3 B-1 MADE IN FRANCE
No Picture sleeve.

BEG 37 Blue & white 4AD labels on label “# AXIS Records 1980 Beggars Banquet Andrew heath music”
Matrices : L-1 W-4 BEG 37 A-1(AXIS AD3 3 A-1 MADE IN FRANCE scratched out) // L-1 W-2 BEG 37 B-1 (AXIS AD 3 B-1 MADE IN FRANCE scratched out)
Sleeve has the AXIS 3 and square 4AD logos and BEG 37 on the back, plus this: # 1980 4AD # RECORDS

BEG 37 Red "BB" labels
Matrices: W-2 (AD-3 Scratched out) BEG 37A AXIS 3 A-1 MADE IN FRANCE  // W-2 AXIS 3 B-1 MADE IN FRANCE (AD 3B scratched out) BEG 37 B .
Sleeve has the Axis 3 and square 4AD logos and BEG 37 on the back, plus this: # 1980 4AD # RECORDS

So hopefully we will find out soon. Watch this space