Document and Eyewitness: An Intimate History of Rough Trade by Neil Taylor, which charts the various trials and tribulations that have afflicted Rough Trade over its 30 plus year history. I have always had a soft spot for Rough Trade, as a youth I used to buy a lot of Rough Trade singles and use their mail order, and when I first came to London in the late 1980s spent a lot of time in their Covent Garden branch especially. The book details not only all the financial and ownership problems with which they have been periodically affected, but also a spirit of adventure and a great ear for music by Geoff Travis and others. Given my work interests I found a lot of the material about the relationships with the artists particularly interesting, including the copy of the original hand written contract, written out in biro on a notepad which says:
1. We... agree to make records and sell them until either or both of the parties reasonably disagree with the arrangement.
2.We agree that once agreed recording, manufacturing and promotional costs have been deducted we will share the ensuing profit equally.
Great stuff - and a real two fingers to the more corporate financially oriented labels at the time. Of course such an approach does not necessarily mean a smooth ride and a happy artist, the ethos is refreshing and brings to mind a lot of the optimism and focus of lots of these early independent labels such as Factory, Fast Product, Postcard etc. A former PhD student of mine, Oxana Chiscenco, graduates with her PhD today at the Barbican. Oxana wrote a brilliant PhD thesis based around the need to protect independent record labels and it seems fitting to send her hearty congratulations today.