You never know what’s going to be in the post. Today we received this time capsule courtesy of Wojtek aka Bertie from Białystok Poland. Bertie recently bought a copy of Culture Shock’s Onwards And Upwards LP on Discogs, and inside he found this “reaction sheet”. Back in the dark ages of 1988, before there were things like CDs and the internet, we used to send out promos of vinyl LPs. Inside we’d include what we called a “reaction sheet”, for the journalists and DJs to fill in and send back to us (in the post! as a letter!). This one appears to have been created by hand by Kent Jolly who used to work here (I was obviously away and Kent couldn’t figure out how to use the typewriter, ha ha).
Bertie obviously has a good sense of humour and was impressed enough by the ancient technology that he found inside his copy of the album to fill in the reaction sheet and send it back to us. Thank you Bertie, for the window to the past!
Perhaps in response to the Disney-brand shirts “inspired by” Joy Divisions’s album sleeve, some clever clogs fashion hacker has devised a mash-up of Mickey Mouse via the Crass symbol and infiltrated Disney retail outlets by depositing stacks of folded shirts on the shelves. Bravo. Or as Crass said in Smash The Mac…. Mickey Mouse, fuck off.
First reported by Tara McGinley on Dangerous Minds.
For anyone who follows these things, we’ve been trying to get all of the Crass vinyl back into print for about a year now. Our mission has been to (a) Restore the original vinyl mix tapes (the quarter inch analogue tapes that were originally used to cut the vinyl on initial release) (b) Create new metalwork (from which the vinyl is stamped) and (c) Reproduce the original poster sleeves and inserts (minus the “Pay No More Than”, which was actually removed over a decade ago when these were last printed).
Part (a) was pretty easy – we have the set-up to bake tapes right here at Southern Studios. The thing with magnetic tapes is that during the late 70’s and through much of the 80’s, some tape manufacturers started using new (aka cheaper) technologies to produce tape which resulted in an unstable binder material. This causes the tape to oxidize over time and shed particles when you attempt to play the tape. Tapes in this state can be temporarily fused by a process known as baking – a long exposure to very low heat in a special oven. Once this is done you can transfer the programme to another digital or analogue storage device. Harvey Birrell, who runs our studio, is very accomplished at restoring and mastering and has handled all of our reissue projects. Harvey did a faithful ‘flat’ transfer of the recordings (no changes to the mix or levels) and these were checked by original producer and band member Penny Rimbaud once done. So far, so easy.
Equally part (c) was straightforward enough as we have kept all of the original artwork files and have some excellent printers that we work with regularly. We’ve had the print ready to go for some time now.
It was part (b) that was giving us a real headache. Despite the popular niche that vinyl has found with the public over the years, there are very few plants who press vinyl (and do it well and in any kind of a timely fashion). Probably about 90% of the independent labels we know work with a well-known plant in the Czech Republic, who are generally great people to work with. Until something goes wrong, when you are thrust through a time-warp back to the 1950’s and customer complaints are ‘reviewed’ by committees whose job is to determine the ‘validity’ of your dissatisfaction. We have, and still do, use DMM for a lot of mastering jobs, but despite several tries at doing the Crass titles this way, we only managed to get good results on two titles – Feeding of the 5000 and Penis Envy. These two were repressed earlier this year (and have since sold out, so we need to do more). Eventually we were forced to concede defeat on DMM and take our lumps and start over.
We had no other option but to go back to the three-step process of cutting a lacquer master (or father) from which a metal mother is made, which is then used to make the stampers used to imprint the grooves on the vinyl. We have used many vinyl cutting rooms in London in the past, and most of them are gone now! So we went back to John Loder’s favourite haunt, Abbey Road. Penny and Harvey attended and were very pleased with the results – which you can see above! So the remaining albums – that’s Stations of the Crass, Yes Sir I Will, Christ The Album and Ten Notes On A Summer’s Day have all gone off to to the pressing plant (in France this time). Fingers crossed everything will go smoothly and we’ll have vinyl back by the end of November – just the things for putting under your Crassmas trees.