Wednesday, December 7, 2016


There was a time when it mattered what label a band was actually on. I guess this was because you actually knew, there was the inescapable logo on the centre of the large spinning disc, seen whenever you placed the needle onto the outside groove. CDs never seemed to have that vibe and, hell, downloads? How would you know? Plus, record companies each seemed to have separate entities, rather than just merely being sub-divisions of the same corporate monster. Even if they were. Different genres seemed to fit better with some labels than others, a fact duly noted by the MDs of same. A nobody on a hip label could often sell more than a somebody on more of a loser label.
In the 60s the 2 labels that kicked my record buying pleasure off were Island and Harvest, both nominally still in existence, but, sold off and passed on so many times between majors as to have no relevance to the times I write of. And, given the theme of this piece, Island will have to wait another day.

Astonishingly, Harvest were named, or so it goes, around the UK mellotron heavy "poor mans Moody Blues", Barclay James Harvest, the label being formed, within E.M.I. as a competitor with, amongst others, the aforementioned Island. (The verity of these seems actually a little stretched, as the label opened for business  in 1969, the debut from BJH not arriving until the following year, but, hey!) With the lava lamp design in greens, this was aimed directly as the "Underground" scene of the day, the first release being Deep Purple's Book of Taliesyn, with other debutants being Edgar Broughton, Michael Chapman, Kevin Ayers and Pink Floyd, so a pretty heavy roster.

                                                             Edgar Broughton Band

                                                                       Kevin Ayers
Into the 70s and the focus shifted into a post-punk ethos with Wire and, for the U.S. imprint, Duran Duran. They lost Floyd and Deep Purple during this time, but, much to their undoubted delight, after the release of Dark Side of the Moon, gifting them one of the biggest ever returns ever, 3rd largest sales ever, after Thriller (Michael Jackson) and, astonishingly, Back in Black (AC/DC), even if some of these sales included later transfer of rights to other labels.

For the next 20 odd years it appears to have been a bit of  mess, as the imprint was passed from hand to hand, even having a brief re-launch as Harvest Heritage, for reissues of both the original artists and, bizarrely, others never included.

In 2013 it seems to have had another relaunch, primarily for a number of U.S.bands I am unfamiliar with, bar TV on the Radio, and this chap, who seems to have later fallen out spectacularly with them.

I miss the days when the label had a brand. As a child of the 50s, I grew up in the heyday of both vinyl and of record companies able to throw big bucks at all, hoping some would eventually deliver some return on the investment. I still have a stack of Harvest titles on my shelves, playing them still.

But, as a final thought, who remembers the guy in the clip below?

 Norman "Hurricane" Smith was one of the original founders of the label in 1969. Studio engineer for all the Beatles' early releases, up until Rubber Soul, he then hooked up with Pink Floyd, producing several of their early releases, thus unsurprising that they came to join his fledgling label. He also produced the aforementioned Barclay James Harvest and the 1st rock concept album, S.F. Sorrow, by the Pretty Things, the psychedelicised R'n'B contemporaries of the early Rolling Stones. Astonishingly, in 1971, he began an unlikely solo career, despite, at best, a voice shorn of most of the usual expectations in popular music, a public warming to him, largely totally unaware of his legacy of earlier involvements. Well done, that man!

Here is the entire catalogue of original Harvest releases.

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