The problem with Sarah, of course – as the music press insisted on telling everyone every week – was that we had no ambition; we were just happy in our bedrooms, mailing out 50 copies of everything to people we knew personally. Sigh. This is a quarter-page ad from the NME, 9th Feb 1991. The thing below it is a quarter-page ad for My Bloody Valentine’s Tremolo EP on Creation. Ah, Creation – they wore leather trousers and did drugs and had a photocopier and everything, just like a proper label (James Brown – journalist, not Godfather of Soul – once mocked us, to our face, for not having our own photocopier). Is Tremolo one of the good ones? – I can’t remember.
Our bands didn’t often make the cover of Melody Maker or NME so, when they did, it was a moment to treasure (Heavenly, third down, small turquoise text, left-hand column). What’s also interesting here, of course, is the context: how awful are all these other people? And yet still Heavenly can’t get any better than third down, small turquoise text, left-hand column. Obviously it’s easy to say this with the benefit of hindsight, but we said it at the time too. The Farm! Ocean Colour Scene! Jane’s Addiction! The Sisters of Mercy! Actually, the Sisters’ Body Electric and Adrenochrome and Alice and Floorshow are great, but we shouldn’t let ourselves get sidetracked into early eighties Yorkshire goth. There’s a time and a place for that. Yorkshire. In the early eighties.
A night in Lausanne, Switzerland, where I’m not sure we’d ever sold a single record. We also didn’t know, till we saw the freebies on the door, that it was sponsored by Marlboro. “Le décor vous appartient” translates roughly as “the decor is owned by you” – I’ve no idea what that means, but I’m sure Alison from Brighter would love to know who owned the bit of decor that split her head open during soundcheck. She still played, after a trip to Lausanne A&E, but in a bit of a painkiller haze, so probably didn’t notice the mass pogo that broke out when Brighter started, and stopped seconds later when everyone realised they weren’t the Damned. All very peculiar. But probably what you’d expect from something that used the words “happening” and “jam session” on a flyer.
A photo of Keith and Paul watching Heavenly at the Harlow Square in July 1992 – I know it was at the Harlow Square because, if you look closely, you can see the T-shirt stall, on which I’ve stuck a rather forlorn note offering a free poster to anyone who can give me a lift back to either Epping or Loughton station afterwards. I presume somebody must have obliged, otherwise I’d have had to spend the night in Harlow, and if I’d done that I’d now be twice divorced with three kids and living in… Harlow. The poster would have been the one we did for Heavenly’s Le Jardin… tour. Though this one here advertises the gig itself.
I think we were quite excited to be offered the chance of doing our first Christmas party at a big London venue, the Powerhaus in Islington; the idea that big London venues might be on the lookout for gullible provincial labels who hadn’t quite grasped that a Sunday evening less than 48 hours before Christmas Day isn’t necessarily a good time to hold a party – especially if people have to get the Northern Line to Angel for it – never occurred to us. That would be the old Angel station, of course, with the really narrow island platform. The Powerhaus is now a branch of Halifax. Angel now has the longest escalators on the Underground. Don’t say we never tell you anything.
This is the handout that we handed out – that being the thing to do with handouts – at the end of the Thekla’s gangplank before the 1993 Sarah Christmas Party in order to let everyone know what they couldn’t expect. Having gone inside and read it, one person did (genuinely!) ask if he could be allowed back out again as a wet boxer short competition judged by Stewart Boyracer wasn’t really his sort of thing, but we just told him he should count himself lucky, as it wasn’t Stewart’s sort of thing either, and he’d be a lot closer. People are weird.
(NB this image is a bit bigger than most so you can read it – click more than once to bring it to maximum size!)
Well, it only took them 25 years… ahem. Not sure who reads the NME in 2015, or who writes for it, or why either of them do those things, but this still made us smile. In case you’re wondering, 4AD are Number One and XL Number Three. Creation, Rough Trade and Factory are all further down. Postcard and Crass don’t feature anywhere, which seems a bit remiss; I always saw us as a cross between the two. (Obviously this is a screen grab from their website, but I assume it’s in the tree-killing version too.)
With biggish gigs, the people who’d be doing the sound often asked for a “stage plan”. For most bands, this simply meant a list of which guitars they had, how many mikes they’d need and who’d be using them – that sort of thing. For Heavenly… it didn’t. Not sure who drew this, by the way, but Pete’s hair is spot on. (NB the gig was outside the UK, hence all the borrowed stuff: you can’t fit a drum kit in an overhead locker.)
These were the flexidiscs we released with our fanzines prior to setting up Sarah; the Sea Urchins appeared on two flexis, one with Kvatch (Cling Film), one with Sha-la-la (Summershine). The Orchids, Talulah Gosh and Poppyheads also had Sha-la-la releases (From This Day, I Told You So and the Postcard for Flossy EP respectively). It was important that all the flexis came in proper sleeves; they were throwaway, but weren’t meant to be thrown away. (In case you’re wondering, Sha-la-la was a flexdisc label, with the discs distributed via various fanzines, chiefly Are You Scared To Get Happy?, Simply Thrilled, Baby Honey and Trout Fishing in Leytonstone.)
Posted on 27th April, 2014
Next weekend (2nd-5th May), there’s a four-day exhibition at the Arnolfini Gallery in Bristol presenting various artefacts from our eight years running the label – artwork, posters, tapes, fanzines, records and so forth. It’s free, and runs 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. The Saturday will also feature a preview screening of My Secret World, Lucy Dawkins’ film about the label, and performances by The Orchids, Secret Shine and Amelia and Rob from Heavenly – tickets for that are £18. There’s also a Q&A with us, and Clare will be leading walking tours of various Sarah landmarks on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday – that’s all free, like the exhibition, and the whole thing is part of the Bristol Art Weekender, and you can find out more details here.