Posted by Kevin Boyd, 29 January 2018.
In the first of what I hope may develop into a series, I’m posting this infographic telling the story of Martin Carthy’s first solo album. Click on the image to view in full size.
Posted by Kevin Boyd, 30 May 2017
This isn’t a post about bootleg or pirate releases – that may provide an interesting subject for a future post but this is something altogether different. This concerns the kind of fake single I recently posted about on this site’s Facebook page. I speculated as to what, in an imaginary parallel universe where 7-inch singles were part of Martin’s standard output in the pre-CD era, would have been the perfect single from his 1960s to 1980s output. To illustrate my post, and just for a bit of fun, I mocked up some artwork to show what my initial choice – Three Jolly Sneaksmen – might have looked like on 7-inch vinyl.
Having thought a little more I concluded that it would also have been totally remiss to have not released Scarborough Fair in 1965 had singles rather than albums been the common currency in folk music. I mocked up another illustration before it occurred to me that it might have been interesting if all five labels that issued solo albums by Martin during this period had also released accompanying singles. It was a short step from there to me attempting to put together a further three illustrations to complete the set.
This project – if you can call it that – has just been a bit of fun so below are my five fake Martin Carthy singles with some brief thoughts on why I think they would have made great releases and notes on the sources used to replicate the period label and cover artworks. Production and publishing credits would have all been correct at the time of original release and where catalogue number prefixes are used they are true to the various labels (although the actual catalogue numbers are invented).
‘Scarborough Fair’ (1965) Fontana Records
Taken from the album ‘Martin Carthy’ TL5269
The archetypal 60s Carthy track from his first album would surely have been an obvious choice as a single. It might have also provided the perfect foil for Simon & Garfunkel’s version that Simon famously learned/borrowed/stole (delete as applicable) directly from Martin. Simon’s version may be much better known now but in 1965 it wouldn’t appear on record for another year and took three years to emerge as a single.
The label is based on existing Fontana labels from the period. The sleeve is fairly closely based on an existing Fontana sleeve from around this time (or possibly slightly earlier) with a change of colour to match the label and a couple of additions to heighten the period feel. The ‘sample record’ sticker is standard for promo/non-sale Fontana and Philips items from this period.
Cold Haily Windy Night (1971) Philips Records
Taken from the album ‘Landfall’ 6308 048There are several unaccompanied songs amongst the 10 tracks on ‘Landfall’, which is perhaps not the most appropriate material for single release. Of the guitar-based songs this is a strong standout that Martin would also perform at around the same time during his first period with Steeleye Span. This has always been a favourite and was an obvious choice from this album for me.
The label is the standard Philips Records promo type and based on the ‘PHILIPS’ typography is from around this period but could also be a little earlier. The sleeve is not based on any known design although the ‘PHILIPS’ logo is about the same size and placed in roughly the same place as it appears on a number of known sleeves. The text ‘The Records of the Century’ and ‘PRODUCTS OF PHILIPS RECORDS LIMITED’ appear on some existing sleeves, in the case of ‘The Records of the Century’ in a slightly different typeface.
Famous Flower of Serving Men (1972) Peg Records
Taken from the album ‘Shearwater’ PEG 12This iconic track from the underrated (and currently unavailable) ‘Shearwater’ album would have been well deserving of the single treatment, if only to test the patience of DJs across the country! When this track appeared on Peg Records’ 8-track tape version of the album it was so long it had to be split across two of the available tracks. On my imaginary version I’ve avoided this by making it play at 33⅓ rpm.
The label is based on existing contemporaneous Peg singles. The sleeve is designed from scratch using a simple inverted repeat of the ‘PEG’ logo to give a period effect.
Three Jolly Sneaksmen (1974) Deram Records
Taken from the album ‘Sweet Wivelsfield’ SML1111Taken from what is perhaps another underrated album – certainly Martin has been less than complimentary about it at various times – this is one of several standout tracks for me and one that would remain lurking in Martin’s live repertoire for at least the next two decades. The rhythmic, percussive guitar and incessant chorus would have made a striking single if released at the time.
The label and sleeve are both based closely on known Deram Records examples from around the period, with just a couple of embellishments to the sleeve for the sake of detail. The Gama Records logo appears for the first time on one of these labels.
The Devil and the Feathery Wife (1982) Topic Records
Taken from the album ‘Out Of The Cut’ 12TS426There is an actual Martin Carthy solo single between the last example and this. ‘The Bonny Lass of Anglesey’ was released in limited numbers in 1976 to promote his first album for Topic Records so there’s a bit of a gap before we get to this final ‘fake’ example from Martin’s final solo album of the pre-CD era. This is a song that’s light-hearted yet hides a sobering maxim and there’s rarely a solo gig to this day that doesn’t end with it still.
The label is very closely based on the existing Topic label used for ‘The Bonny Lass of Anglesey’ in 1976 at least one other single release by Topic in the mid-70s. The sleeve is created from scratch and is loosely based on the colours, layout and typeface used on the rear cover of the original vinyl issue of the ‘Out Of The Cut’ album.
I hope you have as much fun scrutinising these as I had making them. I’ve tried to remain true to known releases from the relevant times on the respective labels but where this has not been feasibly I wanted to at least retain some of the period feel. As I said earlier in this post, this has just been a bit of fun so please don’t waste too much time trawling through eBay for copies of these or scouring YouTube for those elusive Top Of The Pops performances. Having said that, if anyone knows where I can pick up a copy of the fake singles box set will you give me the nod…? 😀
Posted by Kevin Boyd, 1 January 2015
2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Carthy’s debut solo album, the imaginatively-titled Martin Carthy. It’s probably fair to say that it was one of the most influential folk albums of the 1960s and in terms of repertoire it had an enormous impact on the British folk scene for many years.
Scarborough Fair may well be the best known song on the album, not least because of the subsequent controversy surrounding Paul Simon’s ‘borrowing’ of Carthy’s arrangement. Perhaps for this reason it has been largely absent from his repertoire since the mid-60s whereas several other songs from his debut album have regularly re-appeared in his live sets.
It hasn’t been entirely absent however, and in the 1990s he was persuaded to record the song with Wood Wilson Carthy and also dueted on a version with Bert Jansch (under the title ‘The Elfin Knight‘). More recently he’s recorded two versions for BBC radio and within the last month a new recording appeared over the closing credits of the BBC TV drama ‘Remember Me‘.
As part of a new project #MC50 I’m creating a new YouTube video every month during 2015. Each video will includes rare, unique or unreleased tracks from Martin’s career – radio sessions, live tracks, TV recordings. January’s offering features Martin’s new recording of Scarborough Fair with some stills from the BBC show. Here is:
Posted by Kevin Boyd, 10 March 2013
(edited: 16 March 2013, 17 April 2017)
This is the first of a series of posts describing what to look for when buying rare Martin Carthy records, CDs and memorabilia. The posts are designed to give you a better idea of how to identify harder to find examples and what you should expect to pay. The valuations I suggest are purely subjective so it’s worth shopping around and remembering that any item is only worth what you are prepared to pay.
This first post concentrates on Carthy’s 1960s albums on the Fontana label. To avoid complicated explanations and in common with the standard across this entire site I consider ‘solo’ releases to include both Carthy’s purely solo issues and his duo albums with Dave Swarbrick. In terms of collectibility these releases can broadly be grouped together as they share a number of common characteristics which I’ll discuss here but there are also a handful of less common variations which distinguish the original issues from later pressings.
Packaging design and construction
The standard packaging method for vinyl albums from roughly the mid-1950s onwards was the ‘wrap-around’ (or ‘flipback’) sleeve. The front cover is printed in colour and laminated but the back cover is unlaminated with black text on a white background. The laminated front section wraps around the printed back panel which tucks under and fixes to three exposed ‘flaps’. In some cases the back card panel is blank and a single printed paper sheet is pasted over the entire back section, partly covering the laminated flaps. By the late ’60s fully laminated sleeves were more prominent, consisting of a single component part, printed in full colour and completely laminated. The back section was fixed outside the flaps allowing the use of seamless full-colour printing across the entire sleeve. This was the method generally used for all subsequent releases in the vinyl age.
Identifying original pressings
Examples of Carthy’s 1960s releases utilising all these construction methods exist and understanding them can be useful in determining when a particular pressing was produced. Carthy’s first album, Martin Carthy, issued by Fontana in 1965, was pressed in both mono and stereo versions and original examples have the wrap-around sleeve with a single paper sheet pasted over the back cover. Second Album (1966), Byker Hill (1967) and But Two Came By… (1968) were all originally issued with wrap-around sleeves without the pasted paper section (i.e. with the back cover info printed directly onto the card sleeve) and Prince Heathen (1969) was the only example to have originally been issued in a fully laminated sleeve.
I discussed matrix numbers in a previous post and all original Fontana releases have the first section of the matrix number printed under the catalogue number on the back sleeve. The number also appears on the record label under the 33⅓ and stereo (or mono) symbols and the labels themselves are all printed in black and silver on original pressings. Matrix numbers for the stereo releases all begin with 886 whereas my 1965 mono copy of Martin Carthy has a number beginning with 687 as does the mono copy of Second Album in Reinhard Zierke’s collection (see the relevant scans on Reinhard’s website).
In my collection I have what I take to be a later pressing of Second Album with a fully laminated sleeve and blue and silver Fontana labels. The matrix number doesn’t appear on the back sleeve but it is on the printed label. Fully-laminated versions of Byker Hill and Martin Carthy can also be found and although I’ve never examined copies in detail I do know that the labels on Byker Hill are black and silver. I don’t know when these versions were issued but I guess they date from the later ’60s or very early ’70s. Two other distinguishing features of these issues is the lighter vinyl which again suggests a pressing date some time after their original 1965/66 releases and somewhat lighter card used in the sleeve construction but these difference may only be apparent when compared directly with an original pressing.
As a general rule the value of collectable records, as with any collectables, is dictated by a combination of rarity and availability. A number of years ago it would have taken some effort, and the occasional stroke of luck, to track down decent copies of Carthy’s Fontana output and prices reflected this. With the recent ubiquity of eBay, Amazon and other online retailers these releases are now much more widely available to the average collector despite being technically no less scarce, but prices remain relatively high. Personally I would be reluctant to pay more than £25 for a mint condition stereo copy of any of the Fontana albums, with the value decreasing by degrees in line with the condition of the specific copy. A cursory review of eBay on any given week reveals prices for original pressings (rarely in mint condition) ranging from around £15 up to £50 or more with the majority sitting at the upper end of this scale. This general overpricing seems to be most common with Carthy’s first album, which is rarely offered for less than £25 and often starts at twice this price, which seems odd as its constant availability on eBay suggests that it is the least scarce of the Fontana releases.
Perhaps the rarest of the Fontana releases is the mono version of the first album so if any release warrants a value at the higher end of the scale it is this. The highest price I’ve seen quoted for this release is €100 (around £85) which seems excessively high and I’d suggest a more realistic value would be somewhere between £35 and £50. It may also be worth pointing out here that mono copies of the first album differ from stereo in that they have a greenish tint to the front cover photograph, whereas stereo copies have a more distinctive blue tint.
The later reissues with laminated sleeves and blue/silver labels may in fact be scarcer than the original black/silver label releases with wrap-around sleeves. But a combination of the laminated sleeve, the ‘wrong’ colour label in some cases, lighter vinyl and (most crucially) the simple fact that they are not the original pressings are likely to make them less desirable for most collectors. This will be reflected in the price, which I would expect to be anything up to 40% less than the original pressings.
Prices quoted are for mint condition copies only. The industry standard Record Collector grading system describes mint as follows: “The record itself is in brand new condition with no surface marks or deterioration in sound quality. The cover and any extra items such as the lyric sheet, booklet or poster are in perfect condition”. Lower quality copies will clearly warrant lower prices by relative degrees and since Carthy’s Fontana releases are now over 40 years old you’re unlikely to find many mint copies so this should be borne in mind when considering how much to pay.
Here’s a checklist of characteristics to look out for on original 1960s Fontana pressings.
Martin Carthy (1965)
Second Album (1966)
Byker Hill (1967)
But Two Came By… (1968)
Prince Heathen (1969)