Shirts, Mods and all that Jazz
Daniel Cadwallader checks out the launch of Acid Jazz’s new pop up vinyl store at Ben Sherman’s Mod_ular space.
It could have been any other Thursday night in East London, The bright young things were out in bars getting an early start in on the weekend, a few people were prowling around for late night shopping and that sense of “it’s nearly Friday” was everywhere. Everywhere except one small stretch of Commercial Street where you’d think you were at a Who concert circa 1964. About 30 customised Vespa and Lambretta scooters line the street, while the cast of Quadraphenia hang around outside the Ben Sherman store smoking, drinking and talking. There here because tonight, legendary mod/dance/soul label Acid Jazz are launching a pop up vinyl store in collaboration with the classic mod brand and everyone wants in on the action.
Acid Jazz were one of the most forward thinking record labels in the world in the 80s and 90s, mixing up classic jazz and funk sounds with modern house production, and releasing classic albums from the Brand New Heavies and early material from Jamiroquai. Today they are still going strong and releasing great compilations of classic material, as well as new artists such as Janis Graham Band.
I asked Label Founder, Eddie Piller what the inspiration was behind the pop up shop.
“Well it’s quite simple, the music industry itself, something I’ve been involved with for a long time, is in free fall. Why? Because probably 50% of all music is stolen from the internet. Acid Jazz is known as a vinyl record label. We release everything on Vinyl and we try and do as good a job as possible. So when Ben Sherman said “hey we’ve got this space, what do you want to do?” I thought I’d put my money where my mouth is. It’s not just about Acid Jazz Vinyl, I’ve been out and sourced 1000 things from around the world, deleted records etc for this pop up. Vinyl’s important, it’s very important to me personally and it’s the future of the bespoke side of the music industry, which is what I do, I don’t make Jessie J records, I make interesting, leftfield, collectable pieces of music and the chance to actually have my own shop, albeit just for two months, is A) an honour and B) very exciting.”
Mark Maidment, creative director at Ben Sherman, shared Eddie’s excitement:
“The thing I love about Acid Jazz is that they emerged at a time when “what’s the next thing?” and the labels was very much a part of bringing things together, mod, jazz, house, soul etc, and moving it on again, very much how Ben Sherman operates in terms of our heritage and style. We also know Eddie well and it seems to be a perfect marriage.”
The pop up itself has that “high fidelity” quality that all the best record stores have. While it may have been full of people sipping G&T’s (including the quite frankly awesome Matt Berry, star of Snuff Box, the Mighty Boosh and recording artist in his own right) you could still squeeze in and flick through the racks to reveal classic ska, mod and soul records, clearly selected by someone with impeccable taste. Standing out among the “pre-loved” records are the shiny new reissues from Acid Jazz, Eddie gave me a run down of the selection.
“As part of the 25th anniversary we decided to choose 20 iconic albums and 20 iconic singles that haven’t been available for 20 years or whatever. Obviously that includes the Brand New Heavies, the James Taylor Quartet, Mother Earth, but also things like a track called ‘From the Ghetto’ by Dread Flintstones, which was our first number one club hit and that hasn’t been available for two decades”
Given that Acid Jazz have released some excellent compilation albums of rare music over the years I ask him is the conservation side of owning a label is important to him, “yes and it always has been, and it is a challenge, and I’ll tell you why. Major labels have been going round for the last 50 years buying up the independents. And major labels very much like to own their catalogues and they don’t really like indies like us putting the records out. They’d rather sit on things and have no one hear them for 50 years than let us put them out. What we have to do is track down the artist, and something like the rare mod series is very unusual in that it is things that have never been out before, or its things that were released for two weeks and then the company went bankrupt. We’ve tracked down the artist, and they’ve got a master tape or an acetate somewhere that we can use. we’ve found probably about 200 tracks in that series that have never been heard before, and it’s one of our biggest selling compilations.”
And what about favorite releases?
“It’s a very difficult question. I’m basically a soul fan so some of the most important things I’ve released have been important to me, not necessarily the most successful things we’ve put out on the label. I tracked down a guy called Terry Callier, and I persuaded him to come out of retirement and I re-released his, super rare, 1982 northern soul and gospel record called “I don’t want to see myself without you” in 1991 and because of that his in entire career got rediscovered and that’s something I’m massively proud of. Obviously I’m proud of Jamiroquai’s first couple of records, the Brand New Heavies stuff. The thing is, I’ve released 550 records, so it’s very difficult to answer. The funny thing is a lot of those records are compilation albums, and you forget what you’ve released”
As the age of the CD comes to an end it’s hard to fault Eddie’s argument that vinyl is, ironically, the future of the physical side of music. MP3’s may be convenient, but there will always be those of us that like to have something to hold, liner notes to read and a product to collect. The melding of music and fashion taking place on the first floor of the Ben Sherman store is just one of the ways the independent music industry is fighting the good fight, and for that we salute both Eddie and Mark for keeping the fire going.
The Acid Jazz pop up is open from now until the end of October. See www.acidjazz.co.uk for more details.