Wednesday, April 18, 2007

When albums don't sell

I've been sent a splendidly repackaged edition of Andy Roberts and the Great Stampede. Andy Roberts was a much celebrated guitar player who was a member of the Liverpool Scene and Plainsong. John Peel was a great patron of Roberts. In 1973 he had a deal with Elektra and made this record. I never bought it but it had one of those covers that you often paused to examine as you browsed the racks in One Stop in South Molton Street or Harum in Crouch End. Andy's still around and the best of luck to him but I can't help smiling at what he writes in the sleeve note about the fact that Great Stampede wasn't a big success. The record company's offices moved, the publicity was mistimed and the oil crisis meant there weren't enough records in the shops because EMI was holding back vinyl in order to produce more Beatles albums for the Christmas market. In such terms have musicians down the years always explained away a project that didn't take off. It's never anything as simple as "we weren't popular enough". Andy may believe that there weren't enough records in the shop but I think there were quite a few because I visited most of them.


  1. Super sleeve notes on this month's reissue of Loudon Wainwright's mid-seventies albums T-Shirt and Final Exam. Loudon writes, "Yesterday I listened to my 30 something year old albums "T Shirt" and "Final Exam". It's been quite a while since I put myself through that particular ringer and for good reason. Throughout the process of recording, mixing and sequencing a record you (me) listen to it literally hundreds of times. You obsess over the thing until it becomes a sort of love object, a new puppy if you will. As you enjoy your album over and over again you beging to fantasize about the wonderful critical reception you will receive for all this fine work, as well as the massive airplay and terrific sales figures headed your way. As for the listening process itself, when it comes to making sonic judgement calls about an album those big ass speakers in the recording studio don't help much and your headphones back home are even bigger liars. Everything, which is to say anything, sounds great. Finally when the mastering is done, all the artwork is completed, and the label bosses see fit, your album is released, in much the same way a clay pigeon is sent hurtling skyward. Perhaps it will magically transform into a beautiful white dove or a mighty bald eagle and soar up to the heavens, bulleting its way up the Billboard chart to make all your wallowing, pathetic dreams come true. However, it's entirely possible that your opus will be blown to bits and/or fall and shatter harmlessly to the ground from whence it came. This is a rude awakening and often traumatic experience. In 1976 when "T Shirt" was released it received a negative review in Rolling Stone and "negative" is pulling it mildly. The guy hated it. Naturally being the sensitive artist, songwriter and producer of the record I was completely devastated and more or less went to bed for about 5 days."

  2. That's classic. I'm starting to believe that most albums are a year in the making and then about five minutes in the unravelling. Bands love recording them but secretly hate releasing them because they know this.

  3. Anonymous11:25 am

    Unlike Andy's previous release, Urban Cowboy. I was then [and still am] a bit of a Roberts fan and certainly loved Plainsong, but even I was totally unaware of "Cowboys" existance for 3 years, by which time it had sunk without trace and only the services of Rock Revelations secured me a copy. More to the point, it was a great album - the title track, "Home At Last", the incomparable "Richmond" and one of my all time favorites, "All Around My Grandmothers Floor", a track made for Plainsong's long delayed [by 30 odd years!] second album.