HEAVY SCENE AT BRUTON LIBRARY

While scouring a local charity shop last year, I happened across a bunch of Library recordings. Though some were scuffed and careworn, I hoovered them up, knowing that sometimes these anonymous, often nondescript albums can be unexpectedly entertaining. It also occurred to me that they could be candidates for the occasional ‘Curiosity Corner’ category.

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First things first. What, I hear you ask, is a blinking library recording? A record you borrow from a Municipal Library perhaps?

Fair guess, but not accurate.

Library albums are discs recorded by contract musicians for a company—such as Bruton or KPM—who then licence use of the music by commercial entities such as television production houses, filmmakers, advertising companies, and so on. The composer/musicians are paid for the music and the recording, usually at a flat rate, and have no further claim for royalties or other payment. Rather like a surrogate pregnancy I imagine. The offspring lives in an institution and is loaned out for money. Hm. That’s sounding very distasteful indeed. Back to the music.

Some well-known artists have done library work at some point in their careers. Guitarist John Renbourn and Francis Monkman (Curved Air, Sky) are two examples. And occasionally a piece becomes famous in its own right. But mostly it is an anonymous way to make a living as a musician. Not much in the way of adoration or groupies if your main claim to fame was an early-80s toothpaste commercial soundtrack.

But music collectors will mine anywhere there is a whisper of something different, so library records are just a little bit collectible. Well, some of them anyway. The one we are featuring today is worth a few bob, apparently. The Dark Magus (Discogs) lists several for sale at around US$40, but it is interesting beyond the dollar value. I selected it for this post because I know a number of Vinyl Connection readers like the heavier end of the Periodic Table of Rock.

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Many of the LPs share the writing credits between multiple musician/composers, often one per side. On Heavy Rock [UK, 1978], side one has thirteen pieces by the team of Mika Antony and Tom Parker, ranging in length from 3:00 minutes down to 30 seconds. Side two has ten tracks by Irving Martin and Brian Dee and one by Norman Warren.

One fun aspect of most library recordings is the short slug line accompanying each piece. The goal is to describe the mood and feel of the track, giving the user a clue as to which piece might fit. Of course this can work the other way too. One could listen and see what pictures appear. Chase scene? Cooking catastrophe? Alien abduction?

Here are a couple of evocative track descriptions from side two.

“Electra Streak” [3:30] Slow ‘Tubular Bells’ type opening theme then edit point at 1:48 changing to rock tempo organ solo then original theme.

“Moving Scene” [0:43] Medium tempo moog feature with ‘Shaft’ guitar.

Got a scene or product these fit? You’re in business!

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Being unable to find enough Bruton’s Heavy Rock on-line, I bit the bullet and digitised the album, putting the whole of side one on youtube so you could sample before you buy.

1. “Guitar Freeway” — Heavy riff-laden piece featuring high piercing guitar solos.

2. “Portugalia” — Fast Afro-rock featuring drums & congas solo & very busy guitar.

3. “Musical Seasons” — Fast guitar and clock riff in 5/4 time alternating between 4/4 rhythm featuring clarinet and tambourine.

4. “Tension In The City” — 30 second drum solo, fast guitar solo and clavinet riff.

5. “Dirty Rat” — Medium tempo blues featuring guitar solo and clarinet solo.

6. “Electric Blitz” — Fast driving boogie featuring howling guitar.

7. “The Mysteries Of Mars” — Fast and very catchy.

8. “Jazz Man’s Jig” — Jazzy type jig in a 2/2 feel with guitar playing the melody.

9. “Dominique’s Blues” — Slow, heavy blues featuring guitar, then clarinet and finally a fast guitar solo.

10. “Coco de Mer” — Heavy guitar riffs in a 3/4 and 4/4 time.

11. “Get It While It’s Going” — Drum intro. Heavy guitar riffs.

12. “Two Light Years Away” — Fast. Exciting 4/4 feel.

13. “Sail With The Sound” — Fast with wailing guitar.

You may think these records are a strange analogue curiosity rightly belonging in charity shop bins. But Bruton Music still exists, as part of APM Music, and they are still producing library recordings for industry use.

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There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to the celebration of Bruton recordings. Hm. Here’s an uncomfortable thought. Will I get an invoice for publishing this? Or a visit from Heavy Rock Debt Collectors? Surely it’s part of ‘fair use’ for review and scholarship purposes. Isn’t it?

Why is the man at my door carrying a violin case and his thick-set friend a crowbar?

[Cue run away music]

 

 

42 comments

  1. Your answer might be on the disc you didn’t review, Bruce. The one marked “Interpol.” 🙂 – Marty

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are spies everywhere, Marty! 😎

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You’ll be fine with Fair Use, unless your YouTube channel is carrying ads. Then it becomes a little more foggy…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are hereby appointed Master of Copyright, Peter. I’ll give those heavy gentlemen your address, shall I?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve been round.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh dear. Cancel that lunch date. I’m of a nervous disposition.

          Liked by 1 person

      2. Haha! No, don’t worry. It’s almost impossible to work professionally in the music business and not have a run-in with copyright lawyers at one stage or another. I could tell you a raft of stories.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I believe you. Though I’m relieved to say that the closest I’ve ever come to that side of things is completing APRA logs when I was presenting on 3PBS. Even that was stressful!

          Liked by 1 person

      3. Those APRA logs help us poor musos buy toast. So well done you!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. From the descriptions, a lot of these songs seem to have random and opposing qualities. Do the songs sound cohesive or does it go from one thought to another?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are quite often sharp shifts in mood – perhaps imagining some rapid change in visual material – and some are quite consistent. Have a listen via the link!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bruce – please tell me you’ve started making the aforementioned periodic table of Rock, complete with atomic masses and classified by metal/non-metal types?!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Haven’t got far Geoff. Perhaps I need a more scientifically able collaborator…?

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Coincidence? Yesterday I listened to a BBC programme called ‘The wonderful weightless world of the flexidisc’. It mentions the Library musicians, who played on these wafer-thin records that were produced as give-away items in the 30’s and through to the CD era.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. With some relief I can report that I have never collected flexidiscs. But they are a fascinating oddity, that’s for sure.

      Like

  6. It’s hard for me to envision that day long ago when a marketing account manager would sift through a stack of albums looking for the correct cut to accompany his commercial. Probably not the worst job in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a great image, isn’t it? And some of the LPs show signs of significant sifting and stacking!

      Like

  7. Wow. I’m actually thinking I need this. Some really interesting stuff on here… fair enough I’ve flicked through it, but some of it is really top notch! This is exactly the kind of curio you need on the shelf. I’ll be bookmarking that for a proper listen later!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great! I’ve really enjoyed listening too, J.
      And thank you for dropping the word ‘curio’ in there. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I had no idea there was such a thing as a library recording…love it! I’ve always fantasized it would be fun to be the person assigned with the task of naming lipstick and nail polish colors: Glitter Gal, Plum Dream, etc. Now add to that the job assigning names to tracks on Bruton library recordings. There’s some good stuff on Side A. I’d love to hear Funko on Side B…never imagined that a Moog solo could be danceable…??! I’m also intrigued by the Interpol and Cocktail Time. Lastly, I second Geoff’s request for the periodic table of rock.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Funko’ is great! Really boppy organ (Farfisa, maybe) with the moog solo the final third.
      Love the connection with cosmetic names… selling the dream!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. You have created a monster – I third Geoff’s periodic table request. Also I think you may have hit upon a twitteresque approach to music criticism by reducing all classic rock to one sentence – “seemingly endless Tolkienian cobblers about rustling in hedgerows” for example.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The 160 character review? Fine idea. Sounds like you did English folk-rock in your sample. Neat.

      As for the Periodic Table of Rock, I think this is a retirement project.

      Like

      1. So much for my evocative prose – I was trying to do Stairway To Heaven. Should have said it gets a bit loud in the middle.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. And thanks for the plug by the way. It’s been my best month yet and has given me the opportunity to repeatedly remind my wife that I’m now big down under.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. It is a strange, strange world out there! I stumbled across the weird world of library music buying Art of Noise/Anne Dudley stuff … I backed away before anyone spotted me.

    I really love the covers here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love these odd, arcane corners of music collection. And I think you do too (in secret).

      Agree about the design – it’s thoughtful and effective while retaining a suitably anonymous simplicity.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup, clever stuff indeed.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. I knew there were compilations by unsung artists powering the musak in shops, etc. but not that they are called ‘library recordings’ nor the financial arrangements behind them. So thanks for filling in one more hole in my string vest of ignorance.

    Incidentally, Spotify has Bruton BRH titles 1 to 10, except 5, so Heavy Rock is out there, actually.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ah, thanks for the Spotty update. I just never think of it as a music option!

      Like

  12. CB is in Australia taking violin lessons along with changing flat tire lessons. That could have been me with my teacher. You have me listening to the above. Definitely worth the plunge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, if you’re in Melbourne, email!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. CB was just funin you. Maybe one day.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. All good. 😁 I’ll buy you a beer and take you record shopping!

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I see Carny on your recent spins and stuff. Have that record and seen the film. I will take you up on that offer one day Bruce.

          Liked by 1 person

  13. You’d be amazed at the composer’s names on many of these production library recordings.Songwriters with a taste of modest success,who don’t won’t to work a day job. And as a longtime production manager in radio-I’ve had the pleasure-and the pain-of trying to find the appropriate music for an advertiser. Finding a piece of music for Valentine’s
    Day is kid’s play. Finding music for a firm that power washes your house siding and driveway…good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True enough Ted!
      There’s a track on the Buggles album (visited a couple of posts ago) called ‘Clean Clean’. Perfect for house cleaning.
      Is my cheque in the mail?

      Like

  14. pinklightsabre · · Reply

    Wow, had no idea. New depths of geekdom. Like the surrogate pregnancy analogy and use of the word “offspring,” though coarse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. New depths indeed. Thanks for picking up on the coarseness; something nudged me not to edit out the questionable analogy on this occasion. At the back of my mind were things I’ve read about musicians who loathe and detest the exploitative nature of the music business…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. pinklightsabre · · Reply

        I can imagine the exploitation indeed. Which is why I admire all the more those DIY.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. If I got the right song “Dominique’s Blues” sure had a Roy Buchanan sound to it

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can hear that!

      Liked by 1 person

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