History of Immediate Records

History of Immediate Records
Authored By Johnny Blogger

Set up during maybe the single most inventive and groundbreaking year in the history of rock music, Immediate Records was dead by the end of the 1960s as rows over money and dodgy dealings killed the dream. The label's rise and fall (1965 - 1970) was a snapshot of London in the second half of the 1960s.

The Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham and his impresario business partner Tony Calder founded the label in 1965 as an imprint for artists on the burgeoning British blues scene.

Throughout its short life it would be the home of Small Faces, The Nice, John Mayall, Humble Pie and, briefly, Rod Stewart and Fleetwood Mac. Of the independent labels of that era maybe only Track Records, Pete Townshend's project that put out records by Jimi and The Who, could claim a more illustrious roster.

Small Faces were Immediate Records' major seller, so it is doubly ironic and unfortunate that the band fought a bitter and long-running legal campaign with the management over unpaid royalties - the courts finally finding in the Faces' favour this millennium!

Small Faces had enjoyed a rapid rise to the top, signed by Decca in 1965 thanks to their formidable manager Don Arden. By August 1966, their fifth single 'All Or Nothing' was top of the charts and they were one of the biggest bands in Britain. But they weren't seeing any money from it. They had it out with Arden, who hit them back with a low blow - telling the parents of each band member that their son was a smackhead. They were only 21 or so, cant have been pleasant. They split with Decca and Arden.

Oldham and Calder saw an opportunity and signed them up at once, promptly sticking them in the Olympic Studios in Barnes with the great engineer and producer Glyn Johns, whose career credits include producing Who's Next, working with Dylan, the Stones, Zep, being brought in to rescue Let It Be...

In harness with Johns, and with no expense spared, The Faces made their first single on the label 'Here Come The Nice', about speed, but strangely not banned. 'Itchycoo Park' followed the same year, as did 'Tin Soldier', which Steve Marriott had written for labelmate P.P. Arnold - the Californian soul singer who can be heard on backing vocals.

The label released an LP entitled Small Faces in 1967, a different record to the 1966 LP Small Faces on Decca and then in 1968 released the single 'Lazy Sunday', the success of which annoyed Marriott, who disparaged it as a novelty record. It formed the template for much of Blur's Parklife and other lesser Britpop acts.

However, it was the next LP that has assured Small Faces' place in history: 1968's Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, along with Sergeant Pepper, <I>the</I> definitive pop psychedelic record from this side of the Atlantic and hugely influential on pretty much every British pop band since from Weller to Blur to The Arctic Monkeys. Maybe it just had too British a sensibility, but it never really took in America.

Although the LP was a huge success here, recreating the sound on stage was another matter, and Marriot was concurrently becoming increasingly frustrated with being pigeonholed as a pop band. With drug problems also starting to bite, the band disbanded at the start of 1969. And they left a huge hole in the label: Immediate was spending money hand over fist and without their biggest selling act, it liquidated the following year, with bitterness and money recriminations all around.

Aside from Small Faces, Immediate Records released records by Humble Pie - who really did hit in America. Marriott and Peter Frampton's supergroup had three LPs on Immediate, including 1968's As Safe As Yesterday Is - claimed to be the first record described as 'heavy metal'.

Pre-Colosseum, Chris Farlowe, the blues singer from North London, had some success with Stones' covers on the label, including a number one with 'Out Of Time'. He also had a hit with 'Handbags and Gladrags' before Rod took it on. He had several albums on Immediate - try 14 Things To Think About, a really excellent white soul record.

Immediate was also the home of The Nice, putting out the classic proto-prog album The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjack in 1967 that set the template for ELP and indeed the whole genre. In fact, their origins were rather more humble - Oldham put them together as a backing band for P.P. Arnold. Their eponymous 1969 LP is probably the highlight of a short but immensely promising career.

Amen Corner left Deram to join Immediate in 1968 and had a number one with 'If Paradise Is Half As Nice' but disbanded the flowing year. Other fleeting members of Oldham's stable included an early John Mayall cut 'I'm Your Witchdoctor', his only song on the label, and one of Immediate's first few singles. It was later released on Immediate with Eric Clapton's presence flagged up for the American market.

Other one-offs included Rod Stewart's Little Miss Understood and a release of Fleetwood Mac's 'Man Of The World', backed with 'Somebody's Gonna Get Their Head Kicked In Tonite' by Earl Vince and the Valiants.

Other curiosities on the label included Keith Richards conducting the Aranbee Pop Symphony Orchestra; Jimmy Page as a frequent session musician - including on a single by Nico called 'I'm Not Sayin'; and even, weirdly, a single by comedian Jimmy Tarbuck.

For five years the label's constant output of high quality, inventive - in fact, totally revolutionary - music and diversity was a triumph. It was a testament not only to the hothouse atmosphere of music in London at the time, but also the drive and vision of Oldham and Calder. That the label then fell apart spectacularly at the end of the decade could be said to reflect the way that hard drugs and money and greed came more to the fore. But what a glorious five years they had.

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