In contrast to the present day, during the 1960s and 1970s an evening's quality entertainment usually involved seeing and hearing a real live artist in the flesh. The power of the musicians' and entertainers' unions meant that pre-recorded music was not used in the same way and in such quantities as it is today in the pubs and clubs across the nation. Nightclubs were only allowed to play a minimal amount of pre-recorded music and so, should dancing be on the agenda, it was usual for a live act to provide the sounds for a quick spin around the floor. This general rule applied across the board, from big bands resident in sequined ballrooms to beat combos filling grotty basements in Soho. Live music was everywhere and live artists proliferated. Many made demo recordings for major labels; some got to release 45s that disappeared without trace and a few even hit the big time. For every Engelbert Humperdinck there were a hundred crooners who never quite got the break they wanted, but who nevertheless had a loyal band of a few hundred followers who were desperate to have a recording of their favourites to take home and play.
It is worth remembering that society was structured very differently back in those days. Huge sections of the population of a given town or city would be employed at a single factory, steelworks or pit. Here, the workers and unions operated their own social calendar to boost the spirits and turn a profit for union coffers at the same time. These social clubs were the hub of the community - a concept alien to current times. Attendances could run into thousands at big city venues, and a full evening's entertainment and dancing was on the agenda at most of them.
It is easy to underestimate the popularity of the cabaret club throughout the 1960s and 1970s. In reality, there wasn't much of an alternative. Things back then do not compare with the modern day DJ -dominated club scene. The largest nightclub in most towns and cities was usually part of the Mecca Ballroom chain, who had their own stable of live bands: even provincial discotheques and the much revered Northern Soul nights featured live bands. Other social factors were in play too - public transport closed down early in the evening and taxis, if there were any, were too expensive for normal punters to afford. For a night out, you walked to the local Miners Welfare, Working Man's or Factory Social Club, just like everyone else - and with a captive audience and a full nights' worth of entertainment laid on, a good time was had by all.
Clubs often employed a resident combo to back up whichever travelling performer was booked in to sing that night. Standards - popular chart hits or established classics, rather than original material - were the musical staple of the time. Residencies at pubs, clubs and hotels built up loyal followings for talented artists. It was a logical move for artists to make a bob or two by manufacturing their own recordings. Studio time (usually a day, often less) would be booked in one of the cheap provincial studios that were springing up across the country as recording technology became more advanced and affordable. The band would rip through their best stage repertoire at double speed, the tapes would be dispatched to the local record pressing plant - often one whose stock-in-trade was manufacturing for the major labels, but who was free to take in other work - and hey presto - an album, EP or 45 would result, which the band could flog to inebriated punters after their show. Given obvious budgetary constraints, pressing quantities were miniscule for these records compared to chart material. Pressing runs of 1000 copies or less were the norm; as a result, these records are now incredibly rare artefacts.
During the later stages of the cabaret era, the market for the manufacture of these recordings was cornered by a company called SRT (Stereo Records & Tapes). SRT sold huge quantities of albums every week according to music trade publications, but their sales were made up of albums from hundreds of different artists rather than a few key big names. SRT would finance the recording and manufacture of albums on behalf of artists, who would then buy back the records to sell on to punters. SRT sessions were usually recorded at Fairview Studios in Willerby near Hull and were more often than not engineered by Keith Herd - who to this day still works at Fairview. Hundreds of albums appeared on SRT until the middle of the 1980s when the bottom fell out of the cabaret circuit - the advent of which went hand-in-hand with massive socio-political changes throughout British society.
The post-war period until the mid-1970s is widely regarded as a time of great unity amongst the working community - before the "I'm all right Jack" Thatcherite credo had a chance to divide and conquer communities. The end of the cabaret era was directly brought about by the political changes resultant after the general election of 1979. After securing a second government term in 1983, Thatcher took on the trade unions in the arena of heavy industry. The year-long miners strike divided communities and impoverished families. Similar events unfolded in major cities across Britain, in all of the major industrial sectors; mining, shipbuilding, steelworks and car manufacture. Unemployment rose above three million. Families struggled to make ends meet, let alone have a few jars down the club on a Friday night. This political disaster tore the heart out of many urban communities; it also killed the nightclub and cabaret circuit by slowly and steadily closing the venues and creating divisions and poverty amongst the audiences.
While society has changed and those days will never return, the vinyl artefacts from the cabaret years remain and in this collection, we aim to bring back into view the cream of the funky cuts from that dimly lit world.