Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Cult Heroes: Mike Alway

To fully “get” él Records, the label founded by Londoner Mike Alway in 1985, it probably helps to be British, which I’m not. I’ve always loved él’s dreamworld of carousing viscounts and sardonic schoolgirls, brought to life by artists who were often signed just because they shared Alway’s quirky aesthetic. But even years after the original él folded (it returned in 2005 as a reissue label), I suspect I only grasp half the picture.

The roster was packed with singers and groups whose very names – Anthony Adverse, the Would-Be-Goods, Marden Hill – evoked garden parties where the only drink is Pimm’s. And the songs! The Hanging Gardens of Reigate, Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook, Whoops! What a Palaver!: the titles were pointedly English, despite the music itself often inclining toward a south-of-France sunniness. (French in-house writer/producer Louis Philippe was responsible for a good deal of that.) If I were English, I’d probably understand why Alway decided that Choirboys Gas would be the title of the debut album by female duo Bad Dream Fancy Dress. Was “choirboys gas” a Brit pun, or a reference to a forgotten moment on kids’ TV? I’ll never know...

Can't tell if she's quite grasped that most of the artistes on él were basically Mike.

PS 1998 interview with How Soon Is Now.

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