Series exploring British indie music. This episode looks back to a time when the independent labels transformed from cottage industries into real businesses.
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This programme contains very strong language
Starting in the 1970s, a countercultural movement
would change the way music was made, forever.
From grass-roots beginnings in the backwaters of Britain,
a new DIY approach to music-making would give rise to a whole new genre.
Not just a sound, but an attitude and an ethos.
This is indie.
We'll discover why it spoke so perfectly to a generation
and reveal how this music for misfits eventually came of age.
In the late 1970s there was an explosion of
independent record labels in Britain.
Set-up by driven music obsessives,
these amateur businessmen released records because no-one else would.
In this episode we look at the 1980s, when some of these
independent labels begin serious businesses, even rivalling the majors.
It was also the decade in which indie became a genre of music,
with its own sound, fashion and culture.
This is the rise of indie.
SONG: Big Apple by Kajagoogoo
# See my face You know where I've been
# Walking in jungle... #
By the early 1980s, Britain's charts were alive with huge-selling pop acts.
But they weren't for everyone.
I suppose you've got to reference the times in the mid-80s when I was
a teenager. You know, you had all that crafted pop and everything...
Bizarrely, there was... So much pop music felt so aspirational,
and that aspiration that was mirrored in shiny '80s pop music
was such an anathema to the era and place I was growing up in.
# Give me back my heart
# That's all I had to give you... #
We now see the '80s through this slightly rosy lens of nostalgia.
And nostalgia is a form of curation.
You cut out the bits you don't like.
You cut out all the crap bits.
# Sleep! #
You had Madonna and Prince, who were interesting.
# Wave your hands...#
Everything else that you got or you were going to get on Radio One
or Top Of The Pops was just crap.
# Sneeze! Achoo! Achoo! Achoo! Go for a walk... #
It was just absolute rubbish.
'At number five, The Reflex, Duran Duran.
'At four, You Take Me Up, the Thompson Twins.
'This week's number three, I Want To Break Free by Queen.
'At number two, Phil Collins, Against All Odds.
'And this week's number one, the sixth week
'for Lionel Richie and Hello.'
So that was one side of the '80s.
There was an alternative.
Indie was thriving, if rarely troubling the mainstream pop charts.
But one band from the scene was about to stage an intervention.
They would seduce the world with a style, a sound and an attitude that
felt completely different and yet remained true to their indie roots.
# I would go out tonight
# But I haven't got a stitch to wear
# This man said it's gruesome
# That someone so handsome Should care... #
They were so evocative.
Morrissey's voice and his lyrics are so evocative
of an era and of a place.
# This charming man... #
It was singing about real people, whereas, as we know,
many pop groups sing aspirational songs.
They're not singing about where they've come from and that reality,
and I think that really hits home.
# A jumped-up country boy... #
What the Smiths stood for looked totally unlike what was
happening in mainstream rock
in '82, '83.
# He knows so much about these things
# He knows so much about these things...#
So they genuinely seemed quite shocking
if you saw the Smiths on Top Of The Pops.
I just remember the day after The Smiths' first appearance
on Top Of The Pops with gladioli
hanging out of, you know, of Morrissey's arse pocket.
He came in and that was kind of like his Sex Pistols moment.
It was. He was like, "Did you see that last night?"
And he came with flowers in his front pocket, kind of thing.
It was massive for Nick, you know?
Morrissey especially was gigantic for Nick. Just...
Just actually asking the world to listen
but not to necessarily like you.
I remember seeing him doing William, It Was Really Nothing
round a friend's house, I'd have been 12, and...
I think he ripped his shirt open, Morrissey,
and he had "marry me" written on his chest.
And, you know, that was kind of a weird thing to see.
# Would you like to marry me?
# And if you like You can buy the ring
# She doesn't care About anything... #
Morrissey had spent about a million years in his own head,
you know, deciding what this was going to be like
and how his moment was going to arrive.
I actually think that the great genius of The Smiths
was their contradiction.
They're still full of that Manchester gloom in Morrissey's lyrics,
you know, his lyrics are morbid, it's bedsit-land,
it's melancholia, it's dejection, it's all those things,
but Marr's guitar riffs are incredibly poppy and breezy
and jangly, and they forged these two things together.
Yes, I'm somewhat of a back bedroom casualty.
I spent a great deal of time sitting in the bedroom writing furiously
and feeling that I was terribly important
and that everything that I wrote would go down in the...
Go down in the annals of history or whatever.
And it's proved to be...quite true.
The Smiths connected with a wave of young fans all over the UK
who identified with the band's awkwardness with the world around them.
# I'm right and you are wrong. #
It was an outsider spirit that came to epitomise indie music.
Independent music in the '80s felt like a place where
people could be safe who felt they were different.
People who maybe had less distinct ideas about their sexuality
and their identity.
A lot of that music, I think, had a feminine side.
It was a place where awkwardness and shyness
and gaucheness were celebrated.
It was another world. It was a place they could call their own.
It was a place that had its own identity.
The Smiths showed there was a market for alternative music.
Their debut album went to number two,
and a string of hit singles made the top 40.
They were all released on the Indie label Rough Trade,
and their success was a turning point for the independent sector.
We had a ripple effect across...
It consolidated the development of the distribution network,
And certainly Rough Trade needed a band like that.
If you can chart something then HMV come and say,
"Hmm, maybe we should do more ordering from you,
"cos you convinced us you're professional enough to deal with."
The Smiths changed everything for independent record labels
because Rough Trade managed to get The Smiths into HMV,
and it was the first time that independent records had been
available in those shops, so that opened up that market for us.
So The Smiths, in the story of it all, were really, really important.
And that next step that the indies made into mainstream consciousness.
Two points there. Morrissey, one for you to identify.
The Smiths had cracked open the world of indie to a mainstream audience.
But they had only broken through thanks to their devoted fan base.
Killing Moon, Echo And The Bunnymen.
Echo And The Bunnymen.
Yes, absolutely right. Two points for you, well done.
Radio wouldn't play them.
The only reason they had hits was because everybody who liked
the Smiths bought their record on the first day
and it went straight in at number five or number eight, whatever,
and then went straight back out again.
Let's not mince words.
In the lifetime of The Smiths, when The Smiths actually existed,
they were not a mainstream band, really.
They were a large cult.
# Move-a, move-a... #
Two very different worlds were emerging in the 1980s -
the alternative and the mainstream.
And you either belonged to one or the other.
I think it's wonderful to have a band like Dire Straits in the world.
No, I do, because you say to somebody, "Do you like Dire Straits?"
And if they say, "Yeah, I think they're really great",
then you know that they're a stupid git and they want their head shutting in a door.
If you wanted to find out more about the independent world,
and indeed hear the records that everybody was talking about,
pretty much your one stop shop was The John Peel Show,
and in the early '80s when I first came to Radio One, I used to
produce Peel Sessions here at the BBC studios at Maida Vale.
Hello, fans, I'm your effervescent Radio One personality
and I'm allowed in through the front door.
You properly heard people talk of John Peel Sessions, in fact,
you've probably got tapes of one or two of them in your bedroom.
I got to see first-hand how John Peel fanatically championed
independent music when nobody else in broadcasting
really gave it much of a chance.
This is Mark, he's the producer,
and this is Mike, the engineer. Highly trained people.
Nice yellow jumper and mullet combo, there.
John Peel was the way that you could find out about music.
Particularly when you were at school when you weren't able to go to gigs
cos your parents didn't allow you, he was the only way
to find out about the kind of music that I was excited about.
# Clear... Clear Clear the ranks... #
Well, now it is Rob's turn to add the final track, the vocals.
I don't think John Peel's place in this can be underestimated.
It was huge.
He was like a one-man crusade.
Well, like most records,
the finished product from the session needs to be built up
track by track, instrument by instrument, or so I am advised.
There wasn't anybody else on the radio in the way that he was promoting it.
-OK, is that it?
-What does it sound like?
It sounded a little bit ragged, that, to me.
-Do you want to have a listen to it?
I think everyone from that period will acknowledge that,
that he played a massive part in the music education of our youth.
My first band, The Drowning Craze, when we got a Peel Session
we just thought we had died and gone to heaven.
It was the best thing ever.
It felt like we'd really arrived, you know?
And I think with the Cocteaus it felt the same.
SONG: Lorelei By Cocteau Twins
With help from John Peel,
by the early 1980s a wave of bands started to emerge on independent
labels, which were fast becoming home to the innovative and experimental.
SONG: Lorelei By Cocteau Twins
Formed in 1982, the Cocteau Twins signed to London label 4AD
and were immediately celebrated
for their distinctive look and ethereal sound.
Elizabeth Fraser, what a voice!
Astonishing technically, characterful, beautiful,
a unique voice.
SONG: Aikea-Guinea By Cocteau Twins
The sound she made was just not like a human being,
except for it was exactly like a human being, in the same way. It was very beautiful.
And Robin Guthrie, the kind of lengths he probably went to in the studio,
creating these atmospheres.
For me it was just, you know, it was heartbreaking music,
you know, very beautiful and very emotional.
So that was the inspiration for me.
We would just literally go in the studio,
lock the door, roll up an enormous amount of spliffs
and smoke ourselves stupid and make music for our own amusement.
We never, ever thought about an audience. Never.
One of the beautiful things was, you know, in our relationship
with the label at that point, we were just left to get on with it.
And that's a really wonderful thing they gave us, there.
And I think probably if I've learned anything,
without realising it, from that period, it's that.
You've just got to trust the band to get on with it.
The independent labels were approaching the music industry
in a completely different way to the majors.
They weren't driven by the need to deliver hit records,
and because of this they became the breeding ground
for some of the UK's most ground-breaking artists.
SONG: Never Understand By The Jesus And Mary Chain
# The sun comes up Another day begins
# And I don't even worry About the state I'm in
# Head so heavy And I'm looking thin
# But when the sun goes down I wanna start again... #
Formed in Scotland in 1983,
The Jesus And Mary Chain were one of the first acts to sign to
Alan McGee's fledgling indie label, Creation Records.
I give them a gig, not expecting anything.
They were all screaming at each other to the point of, like,
it was like verging on violence at any moment.
And I was just thinking, "Fuck. Horrible.
"Go away and sound check."
And then they just made this noise and it was fucking amazing.
They started feeding back.
I suppose the eternal debate will be,
did they mean it or was it a fucking fluke? I really don't know.
Creation put out their first single, Upside Down,
and it went on to be one of the biggest selling indie records of the 1980s.
# We're moving round and round
# Can't hear a single sound... #
I mean, it wasn't a label the way most people
think of as a record label.
There was no offices. There was nothing.
When Upside Down was released, you know, we would sit there folding
the little paper covers and putting them into plastic bags.
Me, William, Douglas, Bobby and Alan, in his spare bedroom, you know what I mean?
It was not... Glamorous it wasn't.
But it got the job done.
I mean, nobody else wanted to put out a Mary Chain record,
and Alan did, and it was great.
And it kind of...
It put both of us on the map, really.
I think it's fair to say that nobody had heard of Creation before Upside Down.
They certainly had afterwards, but likewise,
nobody had heard of the Mary Chain.
They've been featured in every major music magazine in the country,
a number of their shows have ended in violence -
all the essential ingredients for success.
-Why are people so excited about you?
-Because we're so good.
Because we're so much better than everybody else.
Because so many other people are complete rubbish.
People have got to pay attention to us. It's pretty obvious, really.
Their live shows could be as violent as their feedback,
sometimes ending in rioting.
Bobby Gillespie always says this to me -
"one of your greatest statements, McGee, this is truly art as terrorism."
They were charging people ten quid to get into
the North London Poly, and playing for 15 minutes.
But they were so pissed and went on so late they couldn't even play,
so it was like, you know... So no wonder there was a riot.
All of those gigs were done pissed and then some.
Yeah, I'm painfully shy, and the only way that I could get through,
certainly those early years, was to be permanently drunk.
What was great about the Mary Chain is they were just anti-everything.
They were nothing to do with the pop culture of the time
which was Kajagoogoo and Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran.
They were anti-all that.
-What do you know about The Jesus And Mary Chain?
-The next big thing. They're flavour of the month.
-Flavour of the month?
-They're damn noisy!
All the press... All the press say so.
-What's so good about them?
The resulting press attention turned them into
one of the biggest bands on the independent scene.
There is a recording of a gig The Jesus And Mary Chain did at The Ambulance Station in London
in late 1984, and around that point they'd been getting
a lot of really overheated press, very overexcited press.
The NME have said they're the best band in ten years or something like that.
One person heckles, one person goes, "Best band in ten years."
And Jim Reid's response is just...
I've just never had anything like it. He goes...
You don't talk to your audience like that.
When you're a band on the rise, that's...
You know, you just can't imagine a band doing that now.
And they weren't even going down badly, you know?
The Jesus And Mary Chain might be an extreme example,
but in the 1980s the independent music scene was all about being different.
And here in Manchester on a grimy, unprepossessing corner,
one independent label applied that philosophy to everything they did.
'Factory records - a partnership, a business, a joke.'
Factory was run by scrupulously clean TV presenter Tony Wilson,
who put his passion for releasing
new and alternative music before anything else.
Can you tell me briefly about Factory Records?
You see, the record business functions by securing
your investment, which is to secure your talent.
So you sign people for seven-year deals and stuff.
But we're only doing this for fun.
Tony believed his own press and became a music business mogul,
but he wasn't at heart.
Because he wasn't... He wasn't bothered, even at the end,
he wasn't bothered about money.
"We'll get some from somewhere else, it's OK.
"Don't worry about it", you know?
Well, I'm a bit disturbed by the man who's in charge of our destiny.
I want to know, do you know what you're doing?
-Do you really know what you're doing?
From minute to minute, I know what I want.
-It might change.
-That's no good to us, is it?
Factory was to some extent a kind of playpen of indulgence.
It was an art project.
I mean, I think you could nominate Factory Records these days
for the Turner Prize.
Factory, without a doubt, was an art project.
Factory gave its artists the opportunity to realise
extravagant and unusual concepts,
and one band who benefited from this was New Order.
In the early 1980s, after the suicide of Ian Curtis,
the remaining members of Joy Division became New Order and were
initially criticised for sounding too similar to their former band.
So Tony Wilson sent them into the studio and gave them
time to develop a new sound.
He thought we were musicians who would go into the studio
and write songs.
He put us in a studio for a few days, and
he would say, "you bang something out, at least one hit."
All we did was just went through all the presets on a synthesiser.
-Ding ding ding. Ding ding ding.
"What do you think of this?"
"Got anything else?"
MUSIC: Blue Monday by New Order
Eventually they came up with Blue Monday,
a record that not only sold over three million copies,
but one that would have an immeasurable influence in both
the evolution of electronic dance music and graphic design.
# I see a ship in the harbour
# I can and shall obey
# But if it wasn't for your misfortune
# I'd be a heavenly person today... #
This cultural landmark could only have come from an independent record label.
A major record label would never release Blue Monday,
it is a seven minute long single.
I mean, seven minute long singles are not played on the radio
so not released. End of.
It's a seven minute long single, which is not on the album.
Who would...? Why would anybody release that?
Why would anybody want to do that?
And nor would a record company release a product
with nothing written on it. Nothing at all.
And yes, it was expensive. But nobody asked. OK?
There wasn't an accurate enough system within the company to cost things.
Of course, had that been with a formal record company
I would have taken it into the director of production who would
have said immediately "what planet are you on?
"This is more expensive than an album cover.
"We do not have the margin in single sales to accommodate this kind of packaging. Take it away."
This is the famous sleeve to Blue Monday,
one of Peter Saville's classic and distinctive designs that gave
Factory's records a look that the majors could only dream of.
And it was phenomenally expensive.
Apparently it was something to do with having to individually
cut out all these indentations here,
and so that wasn't part of the standard process.
Or something like that.
Anyway, the more they sold, the more money they lost,
or so the story goes.
Blue Monday was just one of a series of innovative record sleeves
designed by Peter Saville that gave Factory a distinct identity.
Independent labels didn't allow profit to
get in the way of creativity.
It might have made no financial sense, but inventive packaging
set the indies apart from the majors, and appealed directly to the fans.
I was fanatical about the ethos of the label.
It was artistic as well, if you look at the sleeve, the artwork.
I know it sounds an odd thing to say, but it was beautiful
and it was definitely worth collecting, as well.
I do like my art, as well.
So there's no reason why... What Saville was producing at that time was special stuff.
I mean, I can remember the day, picking up a 12" single
and looking at it, thinking, "That is beautiful.
"I don't care what this thing sounds like, I'm going to love it anyway!"
Things like the artwork, it is very specific, with The Smiths,
New Order and the Cocteau Twins, the whole 4AD thing,
they had this collection of artwork.
The Smiths obviously had this series.
With New Order you had Peter Saville.
And with each of these things,
that drew me into a world that made you think when you were
listening to the record...
It made you think of that sleeve.
That was what was a really strong thing about it for me,
that when I listened to the music I thought of
the colours of the record, because of the sleeves.
Part of that idea of going back to the idea of independence and being
alternative and going against the grain is doing things differently,
and exploring and experimenting.
I think what's crucial was the time we were given on this.
You got time to work on it, you got time to think about it,
you got time to put everything into it.
So it would go beyond a front sleeve.
It had to work with the back sleeve, it had to work with...
Everything a homogeneous feel to it.
Work with the inner bag, take out the bit of sexy black vinyl
and you've got a lovely label on it, it's complete.
Now, few designers were afforded that luxury of time.
I might have two months to work on it.
So you can see it wasn't commercially led at 4AD at all.
You know, one of the great legacies of the independent scene is
that sense of authenticity.
A reinjection of authenticity into pop culture, youth culture.
SONG: All Day Long by Shop Assistants
# All day long we walked about And all day long you talked about her
# I can see I'll never make you stay... #
The independent music scene was providing an integrity
that its fans thought the pop world wasn't delivering,
and by the mid-1980s it wasn't just the leading independent labels
they were turning to to provide this fix of authenticity.
Dozens of little indie labels sprang up,
putting out record by bands that the major labels would never have signed.
Groups like Half Man Half Biscuit.
SONG: The Trumpton Riots by Half Man Half Biscuit
# There's gonna be a riot down in Trumpton tonight. #
So there was definitely a kind of indie scene that lay below
the bands that were properly popular, like the Cocteau Twins
and The Smiths and latterly The Jesus And Mary Chain.
# She's always somehow Coming through
# Acting tough like nothing else...#
It was much more bottom-up, ground level.
You could be quite successful in your own little way with
very little by way of radio play.
And there was only ever going to be John Peel anyway.
Here's music-loving John Peel.
Thanks very much, Peter.
Part of our jobs as disc jockeys is listing for new bands with
which to thrill our audiences,
and to help with this I rely on a wide assortment of magazines.
There aren't nearly as many independently produced fanzines
as there were in the late 1970s,
but they still come in at a fairly impressive rate.
This week there's been Deadbeat from Edinburgh...
It was very important to read fanzines first
because it was the way of finding out about new bands.
And you could start getting a network of people that you would
know, and if you got there fanzine you'd think,
"Hang on, maybe I can do this and maybe I can sell through that
"person and go to the record shop and sell it through there."
So fanzine culture seemed very much part of it.
The aesthetic of them was basically hand done, typewritten,
lots of scribbles, bright colours.
It was also, for the people who wrote them,
a great way to meet people,
because you would turn up to gigs, you wouldn't necessarily know anyone,
but you could go up to anyone you wanted to and say,
"Excuse me, would you like to buy a fanzine, 30p?"
And then you'd strike up a conversation
cos they'd say, "Oh, look! It's got the Razorcuts in it."
And then you'd have a chat about why you've got the Razorcuts.
# Across the space that separates
# Your social world from mine... #
Through these fanzines you'd discover the latest indie bands
and where you could get their 7" single.
Collecting records became a part of your life.
I'm not even sure how many 7"s I have, but an awful lot.
And this was the favoured form of music, really, for indie music,
because it was a blast of pop.
These are some of mine.
Subway, The Flatmates... This was actually by The Pastels.
It was the one that probably first got me into Creation
when I heard it on John Peel.
Age Of Chance. Slamming.
Political, arch, aggressive, wore cycling gear.
Ahead of their time.
Meat Whiplash is a good example. They were on Creation.
They, as far as I know, just did this one single.
It's a brilliant single. Don't know much about them at all.
And then you had The Weather Prophets, Pete Astor that was in The Loft.
The Loft - Up The Hill And Down The Slope,
one of the best indie singles of all time.
Then he formed The Weather Prophets, probably one of the...
One of the best guitar groups that never sold a million records.
They were absolutely amazing.
# Down by the shoreline With my back to the land
# I felt my feet sink down in the sand...#
Of course there's a badge of honour that comes along with buying
indie obscure records.
I think the thrilling thing about our school days was there was
nobody into this music except us.
You know, and we didn't even really feel the need to share our love
of this music with anybody in our school.
It was such a private, elite club.
And like any youth movement,
you identified with each other through your clothes.
The '80s saw the rise of the indie kid.
There were tribes when I was growing up.
The person who sat next to me at school or in the row behind,
what he wore, his haircut, all that stuff defined his music,
and told me everything about him and whether I needed to speak to him.
And it was as simple as that.
And I found that really easy, the world was easy to work out.
It meant that I didn't actually talk to anyone, as the down side.
Actually, though, I dyed all my clothes black.
You can get a dye which you put in the washing machine which was
sort of black but dyed everything grey,
and it just went in, ruined all the clothes
for about six washes afterwards,
but I went into black, looking like Jim Reid.
Not sounding or acting very much like Jim Reid,
but really trying to take that on.
The indie uniform of the mid-80s
was the opposite of, kind of, power dressing.
You know, you think of the mid-80s, it's sort of
big shoulder pads, and men in big suits.
And this was kind of dress down, charity shop.
You just sort of looked hopeless.
And that shambling look became associated with a movement known as C86.
Now, originally it was a compilation cassette given away with the NME.
There you go - "Tape offer! The class of '86."
It was almost like a little rebirth of indie.
It was given another little push and a shove.
And, you know, it definitely gave you hope that,
"We're going to do our own single, we can do it."
For me, it feels like the golden age of indie,
and it's a really trite, you know, thing to say.
But looking back at it and talking about it, it feels like it.
C86 ended up as a sort of catchall term for a particular
type of indie music.
It was all jangling guitars, amateurish playing
and fey affectations.
# Every day she wakes up
# Her life will be a movie...#
Its fans were called cuties,
and the music was criticised for sounding twee and shambling.
Talulah Gosh was one of the movement's leading bands.
I didn't actually mind shambling,
cos I kind of thought we were shambling, in that we...
No-one quite knew what they were doing, and it did shamble.
We stopped an awful lot of songs halfway through
and had to start again.
We didn't like twee because I just don't think
we felt we were twee, and also it was derogatory.
Now it's been reclaimed as a kind of good term,
but at the time it felt really derogatory.
"Those bands, they're so twee. Ugh!"
It was almost the opposite of rock.
I thought it was rubbish. I thought C86 was total garbage.
I hated it, to be honest. I don't know what it reminded me of.
It was just so wet.
But despite its detractors, the C86 scene had built up quite a following.
Some critics called it the birth of indie pop,
and this made the major labels pay attention.
I think the record labels realised that potentially you could
make a lot of money out of indie music,
cos they had seen it with The Smiths being successful.
And so they had A&R people scout indie stuff,
you know, quite consciously.
# You can't stop my heart From turning inside out... #
Major record companies began signing up bands from independent
labels, like the C86 group The Mighty Lemon Drops, who left
Dreamworld Records for Chrysalis.
For the artists it posed something of an ethical dilemma.
Did you sign to an independent label
and stay true to the indie philosophy, or did you sell out
to the major and hope their financial clout could make you a rock star?
I had this notion, I suppose, in the '80s, that my music, you know,
MY bands, were the ones that would stay underground.
It never occurred to me that they would want to sell a record.
It never occurred to me they would want to be a chart band,
that they would want to rule the world or do the other things
that most rock and roll bands...
In my mind I had this relationship with that kind of music,
that they were strictly underground.
Good evening and welcome to another exciting, enthralling Top Of The Pops with me and him.
And for openers, The Jesus And Mary Chain, brilliant song, April Skies.
MUSIC: April Skies by Jesus and Mary Chain
# Hey honey, what you trying to say?
# As I stand here, don't you walk away
# And the world comes tumbling down
# Hand in hand in a violent life
# Making love on the edge of a knife
# And the world comes tumbling down. #
'The indie scene was very important in the '80s,
'but there was a lot of...
'..there was a lot of, like, aiming too low about it.
'We kind of felt'
pretty good about what we were doing.
And we wanted to take it as far as we could.
And we wanted to be on Top Of The Pops.
The whole kind of punk thing, where nobody wanted to be
on Top Of The Pops, we couldn't get that at all.
MUSIC: Somewhere In My Heart by Aztec Camera
# Summer in the city where the air is still
# A baby being born to the overkill
# Well, who cares what people say?
# We walk down love's motorway. #
'But when bands, like Aztec Camera,
'were lured away from their indie label home by a major record company,
'some fans found it affected their music.'
# But somewhere in my heart
# There is a star that shines for you. #
So a major label signs an indie band,
throws money at them, puts them in a studio with a producer,
a big producer, erm...
There was no middle ground that could be found
between those two sounds. They ended up sounding, you know,
getting that kind of mid-80s rock sound grafted onto them
and lost loads of the stuff that had been charming about them
and interesting about their sound in the first place.
MUSIC: Some Candy Talking by the Jesus and Mary Chain
# I'm going down to the place tonight
# The damp and hungry place tonight. #
When The Jesus and Mary Chain left indie Creation for Warner's,
they discovered the major label had a very different approach
to running a business.
'I wish we wouldn't have signed to Warner Brothers records.'
It was the biggest mistake we made.
# For a young heart to take, cos hearts... #
'Nobody really understood what we were about.
'It was a constant struggle to get anything done.
'It was like we spoke a different language from those people.'
We used to go into these marketing meetings and it was like...
you know, mid 1980s.
It would be a bunch of guys sitting in a room with, like...
powder blue Armani suits with the sleeves rolled up
and sort of blond streaked hairdos
and all of that. Sitting around, like,
-"Yeah, come on, tell me about it."
And it would be...it would be like you'd walked onto the set
of Miami Vice or something like that.
I remember sort of having a...
a discussion about Psycho Candy to people at Warner's
and I had to end up saying, "Look, I know you think it's shit.
"But just put it out and you'll see, people will buy it."
-And they're like...
"God, you guys are such losers", you know? That was it.
# Some candy talking. #
Psycho Candy did eventually shift thousands of copies
and it went on to be one of the '80s' most acclaimed indie albums.
Even though it came out on a major.
As the decade moved on,
the definition of indie was becoming blurred.
Was it guitar music or the label you were on?
MUSIC: Never Gonna Give You Up by Rick Astley
Complicating matters even further were producers and songwriters
Stock, Aitken and Waterman.
In 1987, Pete Waterman launched his own label,
PWL, to release all their records.
# We're no strangers to love
# You know the rules and so do I. #
They would eventually sell over 500 million units,
beating the majors at their own game,
with number one hits from artists like Rick Astley.
# Never gonna give you up. #
You'd struggle to hear any guitars on a PWL record,
but, because of their independent status,
they qualified for the indie charts.
# Never gonna say goodbye. #
And the rest of the industry didn't like it.
We dominated that chart and they knew they couldn't...
If we put a Kylie record out, or a Jason record,
they couldn't put a record out for five or six or seven weeks.
Because it would just... Their records lost.
MUSIC: I Heard A Rumour by Bananarama
As an indie purist, which I was at the time,
to me, that stuff was a blot on the landscape.
And you'd see Kylie and Jason and stuff and you'd think, "Oh, come on. That's not...
"That's not right, they shouldn't be there."
Kylie Minogue, she's up to 16, with I Should Be So Lucky,
filmed specially for Top Of The Pops.
According to Waterman, the independent sector tried to have
Stock, Aitken and Waterman ejected from the indie charts.
Some independents were more ruthless
than the major record companies.
By far and away.
To the point where, obviously, we were the biggest problem they'd got.
They banned PWL records from the independent chart.
Only to be told that they couldn't, because, under European law,
because of what the word "independent" meant,
they had no choice. They had to put us in,
as an independent record company.
That's what we were.
# I should be so lucky
# So lucky
# I should be so lucky. #
Aesthetically and philosophically,
you could say that
PWL had as much right to be there as anyone else.
Geoff Travis or Tony Wilson, at the time, would probably have
been horrified if you told them,
"You're running your record company exactly the same way
"as Pete Waterman is running his."
But they were. But Pete was running his far more successfully.
Cos he wanted to make lots of money.
Independent music, for me, is when you're independent.
I mean, literally, it's not about the music,
it's about the state of the company, what your state of mind is.
One of our biggest hits was...
..actually written about our attitude to the record industry.
You can love us, you can hate us. You ain't ever going to change us.
Cos we ain't ever going to be respectable.
That went on to be number one.
# Take or leave us, only please believe us
# We ain't ever gonna be respectable. #
The indie sector might have hated Pete Waterman,
but he'd be instrumental in where independent music went next.
Hello. I'm Bill Drummond. I sometimes call myself King Boy D.
-I'm Rockman and that's what I'm going to be called today.
And we're the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu.
For it was the Coventry pop svengali who showed Bill Drummond
and Jimmy Cauty how to make a number one record.
They would form The KLF,
the most successful UK independent singles band of the 1980s.
The pair met whilst they were working
at the Stock, Aitken and Waterman studios.
We spent hours with those guys, while they were,
you know, navel gazing.
And we taught them to stop...stop bloody talking.
And focus, you know, focus on it.
We've got to find a bass drum beat on this record here
that we can sample, then clean up.
BASS DRUM BEAT
We had to get to the chorus, to the idea and not waffle.
ELECTRONIC MUSIC PLAYS
Can you hear the bass drum? Boom, boom, boom, boom.
We can't use it from that bit, cos there's too many other instruments.
We've got to find a bit where it's just the bass drum.
Usually at the beginning of the song.
DRUM BEAT PLAYS
Bill and Jimmy saw first hand how million-selling records
were produced on a budget, using new, cheap computer technology
that was completely changing how music was being created.
The scientists over in Japan in the past few years,
have been coming up with all of this. All the stuff we're using.
808, what's this, 808? This is the 909 drum machine.
MUSIC: Doctorin' the Tardis by The KLF
# Dr Who! Hey! The Tardis
# Dr Who! Hey! #
They built their own studio in a squat in Stockwell and then,
in true indie fashion, they had a go at writing their own hit record.
# Dr Who #
# Exterminate! #
They came up with Doctorin' The Tardis
and released it under the name The Timelords.
By June 1988, it was number one.
DOCTOR WHO THEME PLAYS
# Dr Who! Hey!
# Dr Who!
# Dr Who! Hey!
# The Tardis. #
Doctorin' The Tardis was produced by Jimmy and Bill
and released on their own label, KLF Communications.
It might have been a novelty dance record,
but it had the DIY independent ethos right at its heart.
# Who-ha! #
It was an indie spirit forged in the early part
of Bill Drummond's career, when, in the late '70s,
he founded the seminal record label Zoo,
home to the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen and Teardrop Explodes,
who all played here at Eric's.
But by the mid-80s, he'd left the indie world behind.
And he was working for the enemy -
the major label Warner's.
It took us all by surprise.
By this time, Bill had become a record company executive,
a despised record company executive, really.
In many ways, that's how we viewed them,
as "A & arseholes".
I don't suppose you're allowed to say that on BBC, are you?
Bloody A & arseholes!
KLF, to me, is Bill getting really fed up
of being an A&R man.
You know, it seemed like a good idea at the time,
to take that wage from Warner Brothers,
but it's really, really making me boil
and I'm ready to go.
So KLF was the kind of end result of all that.
And he threw himself in there, 100%.
# KLF, uh-huh, uh-huh
# Uh-huh, uh huh
# KLF is gonna rock ya!
# Are you ready? Ancients of Mu Mu
# Here we go Ancients of Mu Mu
# KLF is gonna rock ya!
# Are you ready?
# Ancients of Mu Mu Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh
# KLF, KLF is gonna rock ya!
# KLF! #
Over the next few years,
Bill and Jimmy would release records as The KLF.
With another number one, five more top tens, and a smash hit in America,
for an 18-month period,
The KLF were the biggest selling singles band in Europe.
# And you can catch it
# Down with the cool crew, talking about Mu Mu
# Justified ancient liberation, Zulu. #
With no manager,
They had a lock-up, where they kept their costumes that they
wore on Top Of The Pops, with the horns coming out of their heads.
And a squat and a phone.
And two visionary imaginations
in Bill and Jimmy.
And they sold millions and millions of singles.
# All aboard, all aboard, whoa-oh. #
Suddenly, there was a sense of cash from chaos again
rippling through the industry - that everything's possible.
# All aboard, all aboard, whoa-oh. #
It's got nothing to do with guitars, it's got nothing to do with people
in suede or leather jackets singing about their girlfriends.
# Ooh, ooh!
# Ooh, ooh!
It's people doing something truly extraordinary that hasn't been...
DANCE MUSIC PLAYS
The KLF had been inspired by acid house,
a grass-roots dance movement that had captured the nation's youth
in the late '80s.
When acid house and house and kind of Es
and rave culture started coming in,
I actually thought that was the end of indie music
and we stopped Talulah Gosh in 1988,
because I thought, you know, what's the point?
No one's going to be interested in this.
And it was really true, that, for a couple of years, no one was.
Everybody was into dance music.
DANCE MUSIC PLAYS
Acid house had made indie guitar music seem obsolete almost overnight.
But some guitar bands took it as a source of inspiration
and would use it to revitalise their sound.
I think the big thing that happened to indie music
was ecstasy and the kind of prim,
don't-eat-meat, got-to-wear-black people went,
"Ooh, OK. I'll have a cheeky half."
And it completely changed that musical landscape.
Dance culture and going to those places and seeing raves, suddenly,
hanging out with different people, they completely changed
the way of working and the musical output and their way of thinking.
And, so, there was a really big shift.
Here in Manchester, there was a nightclub called The Hacienda.
It used to be on this spot. It's flats now, like everywhere else.
But The Hacienda came to be at the centre of the acid house scene.
It was buzzing and amongst the legions of revellers here were
The Happy Mondays, who absolutely fell in love with the scene.
It was very full, loud, sweaty and...
and the coolest place to be on Earth, really. You know?
Obviously, you know,
it was that everyone in there was...
was on ecstasy, so it was great.
Well, I'd say about 97% of people in there, at times, was on E.
The Happy Mondays were under the balcony.
Flogging Es. That's what The Happy Mondays were doing.
Right underneath where I was playing.
They were part of that scene, everyone was part of that scene,
it was like a...it was like a huge secret society for two years.
MUSIC: Moving In With by Happy Mondays
The Happy Mondays had started off as an indie guitar band,
but, after a few years spent hanging around The Hacienda,
they mashed up their original sound with the dance grooves of acid house.
Ever the man with the feel for the zeitgeist,
Factory Records boss Tony Wilson signed them up.
# Through my window. #
I honestly don't think Happy Mondays
would have ever got signed by a major record label.
They just weren't the sort of band that a major label would have
even understood or comprehended.
MUSIC: Moving In With by Happy Mondays
# ..Goosey Loosey, Turkey Lurky
# Chicky Licky, Ducky Lucky. #
At the very first studio session,
which was to record demos for the Bummed album...
As we were packing the gear down, a fight broke out
between Shaun Ryder and Paul Ryder, the two brothers.
# The sound's falling in. #
And I remember Paul Ryder pulled a knife
on his brother in the studio.
And Shaun... I was like, "Oh, what the fuck's this?"
Shaun picked up a drum pedal and so the two of them
were going at it in the studio, with a drum pedal and a knife.
I mean, I was absolutely terrified and this spilled out into the street
and they were chasing each other round cars and I was just like,
"What the fuck have I let myself in for here?"
Factory was once again taking a risk,
signing a band that a major wouldn't have touched with a barge pole.
In an industry, where something you do can either sell 500,
or 5,000 or 50,000
or 500,000, or 5 million,
can sell any of those and you can have no idea,
except your artistic judgement that it's a good piece of work,
then, profit and loss forecasts...
are a joke.
Tony Wilson trusted his artistic judgement
and supported his bands in their creative efforts.
With The Happy Mondays, he was right to do so on both counts.
Well, he let us make music, you know?
I think everyone else thought we were pretty shit.
You know? So...
He let us, Tony let us make music.
You know, find ourselves. Your ideas counted.
You're coming out with an album and you turn around
to the guys at the record label and say,
"I want a guy who's a DJ in Ibiza to produce our flagship record."
He would go, "Not a chance!"
And independent record labels let you do things like that.
We were trying to build a cultural bridge between Happy Mondays,
as an indie or a rock band,
and the ecstasy generation that was happening
and that was becoming an absolute natural, cultural phenomenon.
And they weren't the only ones evolving this sound.
In 1989, Manchester - or Madchester, as it became known -
asserted itself as the birthplace of this new genre
of indie dance music, when both the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays
debuted on the same episode of Top Of The Pops.
MUSIC: Fools Gold by The Stone Roses
# The gold road's sure a long road
# Winds on through the hills for 15 days
# The pack on my back is aching
# The straps seem to cut me like a knife. #
'That first Top Of The Pops was with The Stone Roses.
'Nobody really had a clue who we was.'
I mean, you've got a few indie kids, you know, who knew who we was.
And NME readers, who knew who The Mondays and The Stone Roses was,
but, that bigger, out-there audience
didn't have a clue who The Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses was.
MUSIC: Hallelujah by Happy Mondays
# Hallelujah, hallelujah
# We're here to pull ya
# Back in to do it all the same
# Hallelujah, hallelujah
# Not sent to save ya
# Just here to spank ya and play a game. #
It seemed, to a lot of people, to be a seminal moment, at that time.
# Fine, fine, doin' fine. #
It was a...sort of indie dance music sort of genre
was born of that and then it became like a...
You know, a ton of records, which came behind those.
It started a whole new genre
and I think it really made it much more exciting.
MUSIC: Step On by Happy Mondays
# Hey rainmaker, come away from that man. #
By the time Happy Mondays crashed into the top five
with Step On the following year, alongside the Stone Roses,
they've were leading indie music into a new era.
# He'll never stop until he's... #
Indie became part... You know, we were never ashamed
of being, of saying, "We're a pop band".
That's what we wanted to be, you know? I mean...
growing up, with...David Bowie,
you know, it was in the pop charts, you know?
So, you know, pop music is great music.
I mean, there's a bit of stigma going about pop music, but...
or was. But, you know, it's popular music
and we wanted to make popular music.
MUSIC: There's No Other Way by Blur
# There's no other way. #
At the beginning of the 1980s, indie bands seemed to deliberately
set themselves apart from the mainstream.
But, by the end of the decade, indie wasn't just popular,
it had become pop music.
And next time, we'll see how indie music
is revolutionised by a new generation.
# There's no other way
# All that you can do is watch them play. #
Episode two explores a time when the independent labels transformed from cottage industries into real businesses that could compete with the majors. It examines the evolution of 'indie' - a guitar-based genre of music with its own sound, fashion and culture. Independent record labels provided a platform for some of Britain's most groundbreaking artists at this time, including The Jesus and Mary Chain and The Smiths, who would burst onto the scene in 1983 staging a mainstream intervention and starting a small revolution.
In the midst of shiny 80s sounds and shoulder-padded fashion, indie was anti-image and anti-flamboyance. Through many of the indie bands in this period, everyday life was repackaged in melody and poetic lyrics. It's not hard to see why a generation of youth, disaffected from the times they were living in, sought refuge in the poetic haze of early indie. The bands were accessible too, and aspiring music journalists could meet their favourite indie stars at the small and intimate gigs where they performed.
The programme concludes in the late 80s with the Madchester scene, as alternative music crossed over into the mainstream chart. This breakthrough was inspired by a merging of indie rock and the burgeoning acid house culture, and it was led by a new crop of bands such as The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays.
The series is presented by BBC Radio 6 Music's Mark Radcliffe and this episode features exclusive interviews with performers including James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers, New Order's Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert, Shaun Ryder, Suede's Bernard Butler, The KLF's Bill Drummond, Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, Cocteau Twins' Simon Raymonde, The Jesus and Mary Chain's Jim Reid, and Talulah Gosh's Amelia Fletcher. It also includes interviews with a number of influential music industry figures such as former Happy Mondays manager Nathan McGough, Pete Waterman, Factory Records' designer Peter Saville and journalists Alexis Petridis and Sian Pattenden.