2 Tone

The independent 2 Tone Records label was founded by Jerry Dammers of The Specials in 1979. Dedicated to dance-floor music performed by racially mixed bands, the label released The Special's own Gangsters in 1979. Signing an innovative distribution deal with Chrysalis Records, 2 Tone enjoyed further hits in 1979 with The Prince by Madness and(...)

Almost Better Than The Real Thing

Almost Better Than The Real Thing

From 1968 to 1979, studio-based musicians in the employ of Pickwick Records in Britain, mimicked everyone from The Sex Pistols to Roxy Music. Eight albums were issued every year for 12 years, one every six weeks, with each albums 12 tracks recorded in four days or less. Strikingly housed in sleeves adorned with Pans People look-alikes, those collections of faceless(...)

Atlantic Records

Atlantic Records has introduced the world to some of the most influential musicians this planet has ever produced; Jazz icons such as John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Ornette Coleman, and rock giants like Led Zeppelin, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Yes and Bad Company. But Atlantic will always be primarily associated with the urban sound of black America. This was, after(...)

Chess Records

Brothers Leonard and Phil Chess immigrated to America in 1928 from Poland. In 1947 they bought out Aristocrat Records in Chicago, which they renamed Chess. Their first record was a soul version of My Foolish Heart by tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons. Muddy Waters went on to become one of the most important blues artists on Chess, while(...)

Embassy Records

Embassy Records

Kids today want designer names, the genuine thing. But in the 1950's and 1960's when money was in short supply, they were happy to buy double-sided cover versions of chart hits on the Embassy label, sold for 4/6d (22p) and marketed exclusively by Woolworth's.   The label was initially an offshoot of Oriole who did(...)

Factory Records

Factory was founded in 1978 with an esoteric roster of artists which included A Certain Ratio, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, X-O-Dus, The Distractions, Durutti Column, Crawling Chaos, Section 25, John Dowie, The Names, Crispy Ambulance, Tunnel Vision and The Stockholm Monsters. But one act towered above the rest . . . Joy Division won(...)


With an $800 loan from his family and a roster of unknown young Detroit singers, former record shop owner Berry Gordy Jnr (pictured) started what he intended to be a small, inner-city recording company. From the time of the company's inception in 1958 to its sale 30 years later, Gordy and his Motown Record Company (short(...)

Rough Trade

A music-obsessed Cambridge graduate, Geoff Travis hitch-hiked across America in his mid-twenties, where he picked up "literally hundreds of records by the time I got to San Francisco," then shipped them back to London. A fantasy was forming in his head: "Opening a shop where you could listen to records all day without anyone bothering you(...)


Founded in an old movie theatre in Memphis (originally as Satellite Records) by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, Stax had been carving out a reputation since its inception in 1961 and boasted Booker T and the MGs as its house band. It was this band (and the horn section known as The Mar-Keys) who played behind notables like Otis(...)

Stiff Records

Memorably described by Pete Waterman as "a crepe soles and roll-ups operation" Stiff Records was set up by industry managers Jake Riviera and Dave Robinson in the eye of the Pub Rock boom in August 1976, with a £400 loan. Their first release was the Nick Lowe single, So It Goes. Stiff released eight singles that first winter(...)

Stock, Aitken & Waterman

In the late 1980s the pop charts were awash with songs written and produced by Mike Stock, Matt Aitken and Pete Waterman. They worked with everyone - Bananarama, Kylie Minogue, Rick Astley, Jason Donovan, Roland Rat, Samantha Fox, the England football team, Cliff Richard, Sigue Sigue Sputnik, Jack Duckworth off Coronation Street . . . Talent finder(...)