As most of you know, I am still an inveterate record collector.
Although I don’t have a turntable…
I’m not one of these new fangled vinyl johnnies who believes everything sounds better on vinyl. It doesn’t and certainly not if it was recorded after punk. If you want to enjoy vinyl play an old Motown 45 on a Dansette or better still a jukebox because that’s how vinyl in its pomp was meant to be heard. Treble way up, bass way up and a needle that would plough a furrow through the thickest plastic.
But that’s not for my records… no indeed.
Inevitably they are lovingly removed from their packaging, catalogued and placed in some far more durable PVC protection and finally, boxed and stored within a bizarre coding system that would perhaps test even the greatest of minds at Bletchley Heath.
So I don’t play them and I very rarely sell them but I adore them. If I want to hear the music I undoubtedly have the CD versions and you, dear readers, already are well versed in my Remaster obsession, which is equally nurtured and indulged.
But the vinyl tells a story and so I often buy on the basis of that. Of course, I’m a great completist and have entire discographies and libraries of material by artist or label or genre etc but they all inevitably have some story that initially piqued my interest.
And here is one such…
In earlier pieces – especially about the truly divine Mel & Kim – I have been something of an apologist for Stock Aitken & Waterman who whilst they did inflict plenty of cookie cutter chart fodder that blighted the airwaves as the 80s turned into the 90s, were more pioneering and innovative than they have ever really been given credit for.
Pete Waterman is a man who truly knows his musical history and his Hit Factory at PWL was designed to mirror the success of its Detroit based predecessor in terms of its ambition and scope. But Pete was not just some fly by night chancer – he had worked with Motown in the US, had been instrumental in the burgeoning success of Northern Soul – not least the classic “Footsee” by Wigan’s Chosen Few, one of the first records ever commercially remixed to become a hit.
As if that wasn’t enough, he had also been one of the first managers for a band called the Coventry Automatics who would transform into the Special AKA and launch the whole 2 Tone movement.
Pete was no impostor and knew instinctively a great sound. Obviously, we know him more for his Italo-Disco Eurobeat concoctions but he was a student of many genres.
Hence at the height of his success, he was keen for SAW to showcase their talents and that they too could be the hippest and coolest and so created a Rare Groove classic called “Roadblock” which would eventually reach the top 20 in 1987. It was a tune so hip that sounded like it had come from the GoGo scene of Washington DC or a mid-70s Average White Band album. It was just so authentic – it didn’t sound like it came from South London that’s for sure.
So they released it on a 12″ Promo on Lynx Records and sent it to Club DJs where it was considered a lost classic and that one or two guilty parties would then swear they had been playing for years. All reference to its original source, were removed by Waterman himself to make sure that the ruse was foolproof.
1000 of these were released at the time but I suspect several were rather angrily disposed of by the duped hipsters because naturally enough there was frenetic backtracking when the truth was later revealed that it was none other than Kylie and Jason’s producers.
Of course they had known all along!
It then of course, had a regular release and went on to be a considerable success around the world.
Besides the now very rare Lynx pressing and the UK release, I have somehow accumulated three further copies of it – “No Block Til Deutschland” no less…
It may well be the genuinely beautiful cover design by John Warwick and Jeremy Pearce which mimicked space-age 50s American design with Wile. E. Coyote like lettering that makes it such a treat every time I come across a new copy in some long-lost crate.
Of course, the record would become even more notorious as they took on the huge #1 single from MARRS who had sampled part of the record for their own smash “Pump Up The Volume”, but without permission. That said, theirs was a record created wonderfully from many many different samples and that was the heart of its success.
Waterman, however, took a highly publicised stand against this as copyright theft and as such, “Roadblock” managed both to create mysteriously in one year and destroy utterly in the next, SAW’s underground credibility.
Inevitably, records with such interesting vinyl history really only trouble the archivists and anoraks if they’re any good and this record is still a belter, that’s for sure.