Pink Label

The Pink Label

The following article was written with the co-operation of Simon Down of The Pink Label and Frank Sweeney of the June Brides.

The Pink Label was a sort of mid-league label which began in 1984 with the release of the June Brides first 7" single, and continued for three years, concentrating on a small roster of seven acts. the eight were the legendary 1977 art-school band Wire.

In an interview with Simon Down, the label's founder spoke about Pink's second biggest selling release: a mini LP (released in 1986) entitled Play Pop which sold in excess of 10,000 copies.

"The Wire compilation was licensed from EMI: Wire had nothing to do with it. We felt that it was a good idea and knew that other companies were intending to release a compilation. We knew that we could get there quicker and make a better record. It was a very cheap compilation with just the 'pop' records on it. We got slagged off by the purists, but if it hadn't been for that, most of the later records wouldn't have been released." 

The record collected together Lowdown, Dot Dash, Mannequin, Map Ref 41N93W, Outdoor Miner, I Am The Fly and 1 2 X U.  To quote the press release they are "what we feel are the seven best 'pop'  records the band made............representing the best of the most influential bands of '77".

Such a move as this - which effectively saw Pink 'buying' material from EMI - serves to illustrate further what Simon had said to London listings magazine, City Limits, in 1985:

"We don't want a Label Sound, we want people to be surprised by the kind of records we put out. If a band walked in tomorrow that were as good as Chic we'd put them out.

"We don't really like the idea of being independent. It doesn't achieve anything. I want us to sell lots of records. To get into the charts, you need thousands to buy the (sales) strike force to make sure the shelves are full. That's why you need that record deal. There's no big romanticism in being independent."

How much effort did you put into getting a major deal for the label?

"In all we probably had five or six interviews. There was some sort of deal discussed with Go! Discs and Island and Chrysalis. The problem was either that they weren't impressed by Paul and myself, ie, that we weren't up to the job of running a licensed label, or that though the bands were doing quite well and the choices of bands showed some talent, they were not doing that well. We also, perhaps in our immaturity, overplayed our independence, not working hard enough to get a deal. There were never any serious negotiations."

So the lack of a deal contributed to the label's demise?

"The outlook for the future was - without the major deal - always gloomy. 

"Thinking they would get a better deal with In Tape the June Brides left and then the return of capital was not substantial enough to support all the new bands we were trying to push through. I knew that if The Wolfhounds LP didn't sell really well - which it didn't - I would not be prepared to in-debt myself further. The label owed money above its Limited Liability status. We really did need capital input and we were unable to raise it.

"If we were to get some money we would have been able to expand the label, releasing  more LPs, perhaps licensing more stuff such as the Wire LP. We also wanted to divert into dance orientated material.

"Perhaps we didn't exploit all the possibilities, but fashion was fickle and the label wasn't fashionable enough: we were fed up with all the unrewarded hard work we were putting in and the glamour of the label had worn off by then.

Naturally things were much more optimistic in the early days when inspired by his love of music and also Alan McGee's Creation label, Simon offered to use his 500 savings to release a record by the June Brides: a London band whom knew personally:

"Alan and I were quite good friends. I knew the drummer of his band The Laughing Apple - Ken Popple - and started to see the band quite often. Alan finished the band and started Creation Records. I played on the first single, '73 in '83 by The Legend!, helped with things generally and started to manage the Jasmine Minks. I also helped in the running of The Living Room, the club Alan ran to support the label. Being involved with the label did inspire me to emulate his achievements.

"He wouldn't put the June Brides record out, so I did. That's how my label started. Later I started to get a clearer idea about what I wanted to do, and then I got my partner Paul Sutton and things got more organised from there.

"He put some much needed capital up at about PINKY2. Paul ended up doing a lot of the work towards the end as I began to lose interest, but it wasn't enough to keep it going. I think it would be fair to say I had the last word: I was majority shareholder. He went on to manage McCarthy and The Wolfhounds and released their records on September Records."

E M Down is also listed as a director. 

"Edward Down is my brother, and was mainly a financial partner, but was always a good help when things were busy: the best ligger I've ever met.

"The Pink Label was always distributed by Rough Trade and The Cartel. The continual release of records was facilitated by credit arrangement: we'd press the records on credit and all the records we'd sold went to pay back the credit, minus a cut for Rough Trade. Recording costs were however included on our credit arrangement; all other costs were down to the label's bank account.

"It goes without saying that we never actually saw any money from record releases."

Wire aside (never a real Pink band), other than That Petrol Emotion none of the bands on the label have made much of a dent on music's historical tapestry, although some of the bands have gone on to produce pop stars of some note, namely Jamie Wednesday metamorphosed into Carter USM, Dave Callahan from The Wolfhounds is now playing with ex-Creation Records outfit Moonshake and Tim Cane from McCarthy is working with indie darlings Stereolab. Both Moonshake and Stereolab are now recording for the Too Pure label.

The Pink Label's output can quite fairly be referred to as limited, with no band releasing more than three 45s and an LP, but there is no disputing that it was the June Brides - the reason for starting the label - who were responsible for its high standing with their John O'Neill produced LP, There Are Eight Million Stories. It was the label's biggest seller: in excess of 20,000 copies were shifted. The LP, incidentally, includes a cover version of the Irish punk group The Radiators From Space's song Enemies, which included Simon Down singing. The song does not appear on the sleeve's track listing, presumably for copyright reasons. The LP includes amongst its eight tracks their first 45 Saturday To Sunday (PI001) as well as their second, Every Conversation (PINKY2): their swansong. 

The June Brides were also connected with another Pink band, The Ringing, through viola player Frank Sweeney:

"After their single - which sold terribly - we didn't feel it was wise to record anymore. They were very much ignore by the press and thy split."

The Brides moved off to In Tape Records to record the four track No Place Called Home and the three track This Town and then split. Singer Phil Wilson moved to Creation to record his own, smoother sounding versions of a couple of Brides tracks: Waiting for a Change and Ten Miles, augmented by a band which included Frank Sweeney of the Brides. Frank then teamed up with old Brides drummer - Mat Lloyd - to play in a band he now regards as his 'hobby band': Buick Circus Hour; one of numerous bands to be blighted by the demise of independent record distributor, Red Rhino: they were scheduled to release a single with Joe Foster's (originally a Creation counterpart) Kaleidoscope Sound label, but this was not to be.

Another notable feat of Pink was an early release by a band who went on to score a Top 40 hit: That Petrol Emotion. Attracting attention from the beginning because they had amongst their ranks the O'Neill brothers from The Undertones, they released in May 1985 a 7" coupling Keen with A Great Depression On A Slum Night. The single didn't sell as well as it could have done but eventual demand from distributors led to it being re-released as a 12" with the addition of their rendering of Beefheart's Zig Zag Wanderer, a live favourite from the time. The band since recorded for a number of other labels including Demon, Polydor and Virgin.

Whilst on the subject of Pink's involvement with embryonic bands it is well documented how Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine previously played as part of the Pink band Jamie Wednesday. They recorded eight tracks in total for Pink; the four track Vote For Love 12", the three track We Three Kings Of Orient Aren't as well as a track named Till The Cows Come Home for Pink's It Sells Or It Smells sampler. Simon said there was never any question of Pink releasing the first Carter USM single:

"No. Not at all. We lost loads of money on Jamie Wednesday, who we thought would cross over into mainstream. We had to drop the band in 1986. They kept in contact but it was a good few years before Carter really got going and the label was long since gone."

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