❉ Wesley Doyle’s history of the unique post-punk indie label, reviewed by Ange Chan.
“This is a book for anyone who is a fan of music and is interested in the bands which Some Bizzare produced and the unorthodox way in which they operated within the cut-throat realms of the music industry.”
In the late throes of the 1970s, a teenager named Steve Pearce (aka Stevo) decided to launch a record label, with no experience of the music industry or indeed of launching a record label. His chaotic Dagenham wide-boy approach spawned many successful artists via the label’s first release, the Some Bizzare album, which showcased the artists on the label. This included many acts who went on to have commercial success including Soft Cell (their greatest success story), Depeche Mode (who transferred to Mute via Daniel Miller as part of a deal), The The, Blancmange, Naked Lunch and B-Movie, to name but a few. The album was later released on CD format in 1992, and later still in 2008 re-released in 2008 with additional bonus tracks from The Normal and Fad Gadget.
Conform To Deform: The Weird And Wonderful World Of Some Bizzare is written by Wesley Doyle in a conversational style whereby the dramatis personae associated with Some Bizzare comment on the period in which they were involved with the label. This includes journalists and as well as musicians and artists, not to mention Stevo himself, who seems quite proud of his demanding and often somewhat dangerous approach to dealing with the larger more established record companies.
However, the main thread throughout the book is the camaraderie and the warm glow of the loyalty between the bands. Equipment, time and expertise was often swapped, lent and offered by whoever was on the label despite the ownership, given willingly and with love. Of course, when Soft Cell had their global smash hit record with Tainted Love, the riches of that success benefited the label and all its artists. It was most definitely a symbiotic arrangement, as well as an incestuous one, which seemed to work for them.
On the back of this success came greater confidence, higher demands and cheekier requests by label boss Stevo. These were often not well received by the larger labels he was dealing with at the time, but his demands were often met, albeit grudgingly. From Stevo’s perspective he wanted to push the envelope to see how far he could go. When his oft ridiculous requests were met, the demands became more and more ludicrous.
The glue that held all these characters together was Jane Rolink, the office matriarch who later went on to become a DJ under the moniker Mrs Woods. She was a firm but fair Northerner with a sparkling personality, although you crossed her at your peril!
The label also progressed the career of Val Denham, an art student at Leeds Polytechnic whose artwork was used by Marc Almond for his Marc and the Mambas side project, and was commissioned by Stevo to design the sleeve for the second Some Bizarre album, If You Can’t Please Yourself, You Can’t Please Your Soul, which has a somewhat surrealist feel.
This is a book for anyone who is a fan of music and is interested in the bands which Some Bizzare produced and the unorthodox way in which they operated within the cut-throat realms of the music industry. In many ways you can be impressed by Stevo’s laissez faire approach, in other ways you may feel some admiration for his sheer chutzpah, or you may feel affronted at his bizarre behaviour. Whatever the case may be, the record label Some Bizzare will have a special place in music history and in this book, you can read all about it from the inside, from the musicians and innovators who made the label what it was and secured its place in the music industry.
❉ ‘Conform To Deform: The Weird And Wonderful World Of Some Bizzare’ by Wesley Doyle published by Jawbone Press, RRP £14.95. ISBN 9781911036951
❉ A lifelong lover of music and prominent contributor to Me and the Starman (now available by Cult Ink on Amazon), Ange Chan is a Freelance Writer, having produced two novels and six volumes of poetry.
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