Bristol Archive Records Blog

Archive for August, 2010

Avon Calling 2 – Album Review

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010



-  Genre: ‘Punk/New Wave’ –  Release Date: ’23rd August 2010′-  Catalogue No: ‘ARC160′

-       Release date moved back to September 14th 2010

Our Rating:


We could argue the toss all day about what Punk did or didn’t bequeath us, but we can surely agree that the period 1976 to 1981 threw up some blinding label compilations. This financially-beleaguered young music fan can attest to this personally, having spent many a happy hour absorbing any number of them, from Stiff’s ‘If It Ain’t Stiff, It Ain’t Worth a Fuck’ to Virgin’s ‘Cash Cows’ or Polydor’s ‘Twenty of the Best’.

West of the M32, Bristol’s music scene was going supernova from 1977 to 1980. The city’s first independent label Heartbeat Records had been formed early on by Simon Edwards and a combination of his enthusiasm and the sheer diversity of talent at his disposal resulted in a series of influential 7” singles, followed by a compilation LP featuring 15 local Bristol bands. That resulting album, ‘Avon Calling’ would soon be hailed by no less than the great John Peel as “truly superb, the compilation that all others should be judged by.” High praise indeed, but entirely justified.

The downside of this accolade was that Simon Edwards was inundated by demos from a load more great local hopefuls, though he hadn’t a hope of keeping pace with them all. As a result, he could do little but shelve many of them, hoping one day to finally get around to a sequel. Three decades on, enter Mike Darby’s magnificent Bristol Archive label and at long last we have ‘Avon Calling 2′, the sequel that almost never was.

The great news is that Simon Edwards was, of course, right all along. Virtually all the 20 tracks here (pretty much entirely culled from 1979/1980) are more than worthy of their belated places in the sun. Some of the bands (Social Security, Private Dicks, the X-Certs) have already scuffed their shoes on Rock’s footnotes with tracks on BA’S previous ‘Bristol: The Punk Explosion’ compilation, but all the tracks submitted for inclusion here are of the ‘previously unreleased’ variety.

The album is subtitled ‘forgotten gems and unknown curios’, though to these ears the emphasis is firmly on the former. Things get off to a rip-roaring start with SOCIAL SECURITY’S hedonistic classic ‘Self-Confession’, full of itchy chords and weedy Buzzcocks-y guitars, before PRIVATE DICKS weigh in with the unassailable Power Pop energy of ‘You Got It’ and X-CERTS’ ‘People of Today’ makes like boredom and alienation are actually a whole lot of fun.

As it turns out, these bands are only the tip of a very substantial creative iceberg. Several outfits also offer variations on ye olde wholesome Power Pop, though always with individual twists such as the proto-Morrissey vocal mannerisms of THE EUROPEANS’ ‘The Only One’ or the well-crafted intelligence of JOE PUBLIC’S ‘Letters In My Desk’ ( a harder edged Any Trouble, anyone?). 48 HOURS, meanwhile, could have nicked their moniker from The Clash’s song of the same name, but the nagging cool of their ‘Train To Brighton’ is a lot closer to Penetration or Subway Sect.

This being Bristol, the spirit of sonic exploration is as strong as ever. SNEAK PREVIEW’S brilliant, organ-laced ‘Mr. Magoo’ could almost be the product of a less pissed-off Attractions, while their second tune ‘I Can’t Get Out’ is a dub-tinged cross-dressing scenario. APARTMENT dole out lashings of Magazine-style intensity on their epic ‘Broken Glass’ and the quirky, yet spot-on DIRECTORS could easily have given XTC a run for their money. Hell, even the disposable ‘forgoten curios’ – like SEAN RYAN’S cork-popping classic ‘Suicide Man’ – are worth their weight in gold.

It’s been thirty years in the making, but now ‘Avon Calling 2′ is finally in our midst it really should be cherished. The only sadness comes with the realisation that Peely won’t be able to lend an approving ear this time round.


Bristol Archive Records online :




author: Tim Peacock

Avon Calling 2

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Release date has been pushed back to September 13th

Sorry about that…



Monday, August 9th, 2010

Reissues can be a tricky affair: as Captain Oi! founder Mark Brennan once observed, it’s far easier to get a bad name than a good one. This isn’t the case with Mike Darby and his operation, Bristol Archive Records, which aims to document the city’s leading punk and post-punk lights from 1977 onwards. Having interviewed and/or spoken to guitarist Nick Sheppard, and drummer Daniel Swan, I naturally had to inquire a bit more closely after eyeballing the Cortinas’ “MK I” release on the label’s website,

For ’77 buffs, the Cortinas definitely rank among the archetypal “Here today, gone next year” bands. Formed in 1976, the boys were barely out of their mid-teens before catching the proverbial big break in January 1977 as the Stranglers’ support at London’s famed Roxy Club. By June, they’d issued their first classic 45 (“Fascist Dictator”/”Television Families”), with the second (“Defiant Pose”/”Independence”) capping a triumphant year in December.

Of course, that’s exactly when things started coming unglued. On joining the Clash at CBS Records, the band released its only album, TRUE ROMANCES (1978), which tamped down the original unbounded energy for a poppier, more R&B-ish approach (though it’s not an unbridled disaster, at least to these ears). Disillusioned with the outcome, the band broke up before the album appeared that fall (though not without the boys dutifully doing a couple of “last hurrah” shows to pay bills).

That’s how the party line usually runs, but Bristol Archive’s release of the live album, “FOR FUCK’S SAKE PLYMOUTH” — taped in November ’77 — confirmed long-held sneaking suspicions that was more to the story, and “MK. I” affirms that notion. Of course, both singles are included on this 14-track release, along with seven TRUE ROMANCE demos that show a rougher edge that could have captured adequately…if only the songs had been left alone!

Other highlights include two songs that never got on vinyl, “Justice,” and the self-explanatory “I Don’t Want To Compromise” — which would have made an ideal third single — and rawer-than-raw takes of “Slow Down,” and an echo-laden version of “Television Families,” hailing from Bristol’s own GBH Studios (more on that momentarily).

Boasting stunning black ‘n’ white back cover shots by Stephen Swan (especially the back cover, snapped during “Fascist Dictator”‘s March 1977 recording at Polydor Studios), this 500-copy limited edition will definitely hit all the right notes with anyone remotely interested in that era. Suitably fired up, I emailed two batches of questions to Mike, and these are his replies (7/22 and 8/2/10), presented in the same spirit of his releases.

CHAIRMAN RALPH (CR): For those of us who know about Nick Sheppard and company, it’s exciting to see so much unheard material tumble out (as “For Fuck’s Sake, Plymouth” showed). What was the major impetus for putting out this particular record?

MIKE DARBY (DB): Bristol Archive Records was launched to re-release hidden gems, forgotten classics, previously unreleased demos from people who have made up the music scene over the years and should never be forgotten. The label is about the people as much as the music — THE CORTINAS were the leaders, the first, the trendsetters, the role models the Bristol gods if you like of the 1976/77 scene — they paved the way for others, including me, to follow, so it’s only right and correct that their album should be the first Vinyl release from the Archive. We are very proud to have been given permission to rerelease their music.

CR: What was the source material for the demos, and did they require any special restorative processes (e.g., “baking ‘em in the oven,” as we’ve heard done with so many tapes?)

MD: The tracks from Step Forward came directly off the vinyl and were then remastered. The live tracks came from a dodgy old cassette found in Steve Street’s attic.

The demo album tracks came from a 1/4-inch Ampex tape that Dexter gave Steve Street at a family party, it didn’t need baking in the transfer stage but it did get ruined when going through the process and the tape unwound ( fortunately the tracks transferred OK). The three previously unreleased tunes came from a 1/4-inch copy of the original 1/4-inch kept by Simon Edwards and copied in 1977 from GBH Studios.

CR: Who is Stephen Street, and what role did he play in the Cortinas’ history? I think his tracks are among the most interesting and/or revelatory on this record…is he still active behind the boards today?

MD: Steve Street started GBH Studios with Andrew Peters in 1977, took it over in 1979 and then recorded virtually every Bristol band from then until the late ’80s. Then sold the studio and went to work as the in-house engineer at the Woolhall — Tears For Fears’ studio. Steve was probably the most influential person in the whole history of early Bristol Punk and post-punk.

CR: The Cortinas also did a Peel session between those great early singles and the TRUE ROMANCES album: I imagine that getting it out of Auntie Beeb’s hands might be tough, but was any thought given to that scenario?

MD: This session will appear on a Cherry red Anthology CD later in the year. the sleeve notes are being worked at the moment, Shane Baldwin is writting them.

CR: Is there any other unreleased material that might see the light of day (especially since the Peel session contains at least one other title I haven’t run across before, “Having It”)?

MD: There is one other demo that I have copies of but the tunes arn’t probably played well enough to be included on anything

CR: As we all know, TRUE ROMANCES came across as a bit of a shock to the fans back home — what accounts for the reception?

MD: I only bought the two singles so can’t comment. The impression I get from Nick is that CBS tried to do the usual major label thing and change the band to make them more pop.

CR: A bit speculative, I suppose, but take a stab, if you like — what do you think the Cortinas would have done, had their recording experience been a bit more productive for them?

MD: Not sure, but dealing with them can be like dealing with a band that is still active. They appear very close, very much a gang, very cynical about everything.

CR: A lot of bands were filmed during the original ’77 explosion. Does anything exist from the Cortinas?

MD: No footage that I know about.

CR: Seems like we had a pretty supportive local (TV) station, as well, in RPM — who’s that blond frizzy-haired guy seen doing the painstaking interviews on Youtube (such as the Spics?

MD: Andy Batten Foster, who later became a BBC 1 DJ. Nice guy, recently retired, I’ve had a couple of meetings with him. At the time he wasn’t thought of as especially cool or popular, but when you look back, he did an enormous amount for the local bands and should deserve special recognition.

CR: As I recall from your own interview, you played in a band yourself — did you find the Cortinas an influence, in terms of, “Wow, they’ve done it, so can I”? How did Bristol fare, compared to the bigger scenes of London, and Manchester?

MD: My band started in 1980 so, no, The Cortinas weren’t an influence as The Rimshots was a Mod band…but me my brother had bought “Fascist Dictator” and “Defiant Pose” in 1977, so we were aware of the brilliance of the Cortinas.

The Bristol scene is and was completely different than everywhere else in the country. More Art than Punk, more laid back than anywhere on the planet, more lazy and secretive, more middle class and more money. A great place to live, a great place to hang out. A great place to talk about world domination and artistic creativity.

Back in 1977 and right through to the mid-’80s there was no infrastructure, no management, no music business. If the kids or the bands wanted to take it seriously they had to move to London, London would never come to Bristol! The only thing that came to Bristol was drugs. The Cortinas were the odd exception – thats probably why they were and are so important to the history of Bristol music.

CR: Has the city of Bristol itself done anything to officially acknowledge the ’77 era, and — in particular — the Cortinas’ contribution to it, given how well-known they are among punk and non-punk collectors’ circles?

MD: No and there is no chance — Bristol is all about Trip-Hop (it’s almost as if the early punk stuff didnt exist or have any value except for The Pop Group, who have just reformed – of course, they were mates with The Cortinas.

CR: From your perspective, what does this release say about the Cortinas’ legacy? A lot of people have written that the band helped put Bristol on the map during the ’77 era — true?

MD: Completely 110% true. Loads of other bands would have started by seeing The Cortinas, The Pigs are a 1977 example ( their album will be released in October 2010).

Nick Sheppard in particular paved the way, made the grade, had the balls but always supported the Bristol scene and his Bristol mates. Nick was in the following bands, all of which were brilliant and can be found at

HEAD…and, of course, THE CLASH.

Check this quote from Mark Stewart – (The Pop Group) as it think it says it all:

“Bristol’s famous for many things like Chatterton the poet, Cary Grant and now the Archive can be added to fellow locals ‘Blackbeard’s the Pirate’s chest’, as a true treasure trove of wonders.

“Bristol Boys make more noise…”

Interview live today and taken from: MANCHESTER – OCTOBER 2010

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Mike Darby has been asked to speak on this panel at Unconvention, a great industry platform for to be recognised and celebrated for its achievements to date

Check out the site for further details at

Panel 1: Music, Heritage and Cities: Digital Archives (on a barge – Friday 1st October, 10am)

Venue: The Barge

Led by Jez Collins – Birmingham City University

Popular music heritage is becoming an increasingly important marketing tool for cities as they seek to move away from their traditional manufacturing and industrial past. In Manchester there is the Manchester District Music Archive, Salford has the Quiffs, Riffs and Tiffs exhibition and the Salford Music Map, and Birmingham has the Birmingham Popular Music Archive and the Home of Metal project. In America cities such as New Orleans, Memphis, Chicago and others recognise the value of their musical heritage to aid cultural tourism and their global profile as ‘music cities’.

For citizens of these cities, recognising and celebrating their musical heritage is a way of expressing civic pride in their hometown. For many, music is one way of expressing and making meaning of their lives and the opportunity to share those memories and experiences via the projects mentioned above is evidently clear in the responses to the archives.

In this panel we discuss with some of the founders of the archives why digital archives are important and not simply a nostalgia trip, of what use they are for cities, why musicians and bands should know their history and find out some interesting facts you may not know!  Oh, and watch a film!!


Interview with Dark Entries Music Site in Belgium

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Hello Mike…

Well, for those who don’t know please present Bristol Archive….


Bristol Archive Records is a record label dealing in Bristol post punk 1977 onwards.

We aim to showcase music from the diverse Bristol Music scene and provide a historical account / document of all things Bristol that should never be forgotten. Many of the artists and releases are rare, unknown or never before released. The material has been lovingly digitally remastered from vinyl, ¼ inch tape, dat or cassette. The original vinyl releases would generally have been limited to runs of 1000 copies or less.

We would like to thank the original label owners and/or the artists for allowing us to share with you their forgotten works and provide a statement of how brilliant bands have always been from the city of Bristol and the surrounding areas.

Enjoy and never forget the talented ones from the past, they deserve to be recognised & remembered.


I am a musicfanatic myself but with exploring the archive of the Bristol scene, I guess it’s like playing Indiana Jones in musicland, not?


No not really, everything is interwoven, interlinked if you know where to look and who to speak to. Lots of musicians played in various bands throughout the 70’s and 80’s. It might be different now but before computer games and mobile phones lots of kids wanted to be Rock Stars


How did this idea started anyway?


I thought of it in 2000 released Western Stars which didn’t sell very well although it was obvious it was a good idea. A friend of mine Dave Bateman dropped dead suddenly in 2008 and it got me thinking. Dave had been the original guitarist in Vice Squad, I just felt as we all get older more people will disappear and we should remember them for what they once were and what they achieved large or small, they were part of the Bristol music scene.


I know someone has to do the job but if you were not around I guess all those releases landed up in some dusty attic to disappear later in the dustbin, not?


For sure, all destroyed and forgotten, lost forever, dosn’t bear thinking about does it!


You choose a specific decade, I mean it’s only mid 70’s till the 80’s, not?


No we start there and touch on the early 90’s. As the years go on I’m sure we’ll move through the decades, but everyone has to start somewhere and I know alot about late 70’s and early 80’s so it seemed the perfect place


How do you work? Ringing from door to door? I mean, Mike, there’s no info on the net about such bands at all…


Luck, chance, fate, a contact or two, a friend of a friend, no plan just make it happen. Most if not all people are keen to be involved and pleased I’ve phoned them – they understand the historical importance without me having to spell it out


I guess it must keep you busy day after day, not?


Independent Financial Advisor

Chairman of Chipping Sodbury Golf Club for 8 years

Immediate Past Presidnet of The Gloucestershire Golf Union

Captain Elect of the Gloucestershire Golf Union


You could say I’m busy busy busy


If you hear these releases they can all be reduced to some sad stories : I mean they could have been, if only….well if only…


Yea I know – I blame most of the non success on the infrastructure in Bristol through the ages, no managers, music accountants, lawyers most of our talented kids left and went to London to seek fame and fortune ( or Heroin)


I guess one Mr. John Peel played its part in it too….


Sure did certainly for Simon Edwards at Heartbeat Records, Avon Calling 2 is released on August 23rd, if Mr Peel was still alive he’d be playing it all the time as its the follow up to Avon Calling released in 1980


I thought the day Mr. Peel died, music died a bit as well.


Maybe – he gave people more of a chance and a hope that anyone could get on Radio 1


Look, Mike, you are exploring an area from singles and tapes and the sad truth is that outside Bristol no one knows about these bands (well not many….).

How do you react if you see in 2010 that there are 1.000.000 bands on My Space?


Don’t understand this question – sorry


What’s your opinion about the current musicscene itself?


Ok- big bands are making fortunes playing live shows, small bands still have no one coming to see them play. No one is selling records. Its tough but there will always be great bands


Sometimes I think everything in this world has so mellowed…I mean we have everything now but the voice inside has gone too…


Kids have to much opportunity – we’ll never see Punk Rock again – lets all have a go!


Are there any bands around who decide to reform after the re-releases?



The Pigs

The Stingrays

The Untouchables

The Fans


The Fans have toured Japan this year and released material over there via 1977 Records


I ask this to everyone : what’s your fave record of all time and please tell why….


Dancing With Myself – Generation x ( Billy Idol is my hero!!!)


The last words are yours…..


Give Bristol a chance its not all about Massive Attack, Portishead and Roni Size if you look behind these bands you’ll find musicians from the late 70’s in their lineups – Punk Rock lives on in a very quiet way


Mike Darby

August 2010



Thanks a lot!!!



Can be found at