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.

Monday, 23 January 2012

A History through catalogue numbers

Another gem acquired recently is the Spanish release of the Dead Can Dance debut album. I love this album and, as mentioned in the previous blog entry, non UK versions are rare to find. I had never seen a Spanish version, although I knew of it’s existence.

This was released under the Label Dro. The catalogue number is useful to help piece together when a release was licensed and distributed in another country. The pattern I have noticed with overseas licensing is that when an original release is licensed to another label, the license generally covers that version of the release only. Any subsequent re-releases by the owning label, seem to be given to yet another label overseas or re-negotiated again with the original one.

The Birthday Party’s album Prayers on Fire looks as though it reflects this. Before moving to the UK, the Birthday Party were signed with an Australian label called Missing Link. When 4AD signed the Birthday Party and released Prayers on Fire, Missing Link had the original license to release the album in Australia. Missing Link then re-released the album in 1988 on CD. In 1990, however, it was Virgin Records that got to re-release the CD again. By 1996 the license went to a label called Shock to release the album again on CD.

The history of these releases can be traced by following the catalogue numbers. A lot of labels, in a similar way to 4AD, have a catalogue history of sequential numbers. By looking at the release dates of other releases by the same label and the history of the label  itself, you can put together a time line. The Shock release of the Birthday Party’s album Prayers on Fire, has a catalogue number of CAKE2. The label Shock was founded in 1988, so wouldn’t have released anything before that date. The CAKE catalogue numbers looked to have been released between CAKE1 in 1996 and CAKE7 in 2001. So it would make sense that CAKE2 would between these two periods. If you do the same with the other releases, you generally see a pattern of periods where the licensing moved from one label to another.

This method helps to identify when the Dead Can Dance album was released in Spain. The Dro label was started in 1982 and has a long string of sequential catalogue numbers. This helps show that the debut album from Dead Can Dance was issued in Spain around 1984.

This method doesn’t always work, but it’s another piece in the puzzle which helps the detective work.

It is quite amazing to think that Dead Can Dance were distributed in the first year abroad. I also find it amazing that I managed to get a copy of it too. I know, I’m easily pleased aren’t I?

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