Introducing: Cherry Red Records

I bought my very first Cherry Red Records release in 1980, when San Francisco punk legends, Dead Kennedys, released their second single, the seminal “Holidays In Cambodia”, their first of four 7” records for the label.

Celebrating their 45th year with a slew of anniversary releases, formed in 1978, Cherry Red Records is a British independent record label founded in Malvern, Worcestershire by Iain McNay, with two friends Richard Jones and Will Atkinson. The journey had started 7 years before that when the threesome formed Cherry Red Promotions, named after a Groundhogs track, to promote gigs and Malvern Winter Gardens. After turning a profit from their first gig featuring the legendary Hawkwind, with over 600 punters turning up, they never looked back.

Ian takes up the story, “in 1977 Punk music was happening, and the three of us loved it. We promoted all the punk bands we could at Malvern; The Damned, The Stranglers, The Jam, Generation X to name a few. And then there were The Tights, Malvern’s own answer to the punk explosion. It was Richard again who persuaded me in the Malvern wine bar, on New Year’s Eve 1977, that we should start a record label to release a Tights record. On 2nd June 1978 The Tights first single was released. The following week it was record of the week in the now defunct Record Mirror, the week after that John Peel played it, and before we knew where we were we had sold our initial pressing of 2,000 records. Meanwhile I had secured proper distribution for the single as a friend, David Thomas, had just started the first proper distribution service for independent records; Spartan Records.

Now, however I had an important decision to make – I had to decide whether to leave the relative security of my day job so that I could devote all my time and energies to Cherry Red. While I made up my mind The Tights went back into the studio with Malvern based produced John Acock to record their second single, ‘Howard Hughes’. After I heard it, I decided, ‘that was it’, I would leave my job and try my best to turn Cherry Red into a self sufficient independent record label. I had the advantage of having had experience of working at record companies. I had spent the previous year at Magnet records, and the three preceding years at Bell/Arista records. I knew how record companies worked, but could I do it myself?”

The rest as they say is history!

As well as releasing those 4 Dead Kennedys singles and their debut LP, Fresh Fruit For Rotting Vegetables, the label also released early material by the likes of The Nightingales, Everything But The Girl, the Monochrome Set, Atilla The Stockbroker, and Felt, among others, as well as the compilation album Pillows & Prayers. In addition to releasing new music, Cherry Red also acts as an umbrella for individual imprints and catalogue specialists.

Cherry Red was listed by Music Week as one of the UK’s top ten record companies in Q1 2015 for sales of artist albums.

Today the label still releases new albums, this month sees the release of Pere Ubu’s 19th studio LP, Trouble On Big Beat Street, but is probably better known for releasing Best Of.. anthologies and box set collections and reissues of classic albums that they have manged to secure the rights to, through one of their 50+ imprints. One minute it could be an unreleased jazz session from 1963 by the Fat John Sextet, the next, a Hanoi Rocks 5CD box set!

Check out their full-page adverts in each months edition of Vive Le Rock magazine, and you’ll see what I mean. Alternatively simply head over to Cherry Red Records website here.

They are also the stadium sponsor of AFC Wimbledon!

The pick of May’s punk and post-punk releases are;

  • Toyah – Live At Drury Lane (CD/DVD Set) featuring her 1981 Christmas concert (also available as double pink vinyl Ltd Edition.
  • The Residents – Duck Stab/Buster Glen (Double Vinyl with Ltd Ed White Label 7” of Duck Komische
  • Chapterhouse – Chronology Albums, Singles, B-Sides, Remixes & Demos, 6CD Deluxe Box Set
  • The Fall – O-Mit 10” Red Vinyl EP (featuring 4 previously unreleased out takes from the bands Re-Mit Album sessions.
  • Various Artists – Keeping Control: Independent Music From Manchester 1977-1981, 3CD Box Set
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