Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Virgin at 40

The National Theatre is 50 this year but Virgin is just 40. It's odd to think of something like Virgin having a birthday and celebrating it - these days it's just another multinational company raking in the money. Ah, but back in the day it meant something.

It started out as a hippy record company and it's the music that's being celebrated. Its first release was 'Tubular Bells' by Mike Oldfield (which I've never heard other than the bits in 'The Omen'). A few more hippy and prog rock releases later and after dipping its toes into reggae, Virgin signed the Sex Pistols and everything changed. It saw the light of punk (or possibly just the money making potential) and suddenly punk records were available all over the place. At around the same time it started to open record shops and I remember the small shop behind Newcastle City Hall that I seem to recall always smelled of patchouli (once a hippy ...).

To celebrate its birthday, Virgin has released a series of triple CDs:

Losing Our Virginity: The First Four Year 1973-1977 - featuring artists like Mike Oldfield, Robert Wyatt, Can, Steve Hillage, Kevin Coyne, Gong and Captain Beefheart.

Never Trust A Hippy: Punk & New Wave 1976-1979 - with the Sex Pistols, X-Ray Spex, Penetration, U-Roy, the Mighty Diamonds, Magazine, the Skids and the Members.

New Gold Dreams: Post Punk & New Romantic 1979-1983 - Public Image Ltd, the Human League, The Ruts, Japan, Simple Minds, Culture Club and Heaven 17.

Methods Of Dance: Electronica & Leftfield 1973-1987 - with Sparks, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Cabaret Voltaire, Public Image Ltd and China Crisis.

Fascinating Rhythms: Sound Systems & Dancefloor - Neneh Cherry, Soul II Soul, Jesus Loves You, Massive Attack, Chemical Brothers and Everything But The Girl.

There's also a sort of 'hits' compilation called 'Virgin Records: 40 Years of Disruptions' with Mike Oldfield, the Pistols, the Spice Girls, Meatloaf, Chemical Brothers and. bringing the collection right up to date, some of the recent hits from people like KT Tunstall and Bastille.

I like the CD sleeves that resemble a 7" single from back in the day with the logo of the time. I'm especially pleased to see two previously unavailable songs from Jane Aire & The Belvederes on the 'Never Trust A Hippy' record - her picture-disc single 'Call Me Every Night' and 'Breaking Down The Walls Of Heartache', from Jane's only album. I will invest in 'Never Trust A Hippy' and 'New Gold Dreams' (obv) and, maybe sample some of the others.

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