Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bill Wellings - did he start his own label??

A short while ago, we were contacted by Clive Hetherington about an album he had chanced upon, called "Top Hits of '72". here are some images of the LP in question:

If the model on the sleeve looks vaguely familiar, it's because we've seen her before, on the Deacon label's "Top Hits of the Year" for 1971:

So what have we here? Initially, this looks to be a typical LP of soundalike cover versions on some obscure label - International Hits Series London - so maybe this is an overseas release? The tracks on the album look familiar to us, even if the label does not - all of them were also included in the "Hot Hits" series - ranging across volumes 9 (January 1972) to 12 (July 1972).

Clive kindly did some sound checks to compare, and was able to confirm that these are the very same recordings. Of course, we didn't realise at first, but this could be one of our most significant finds for a long while.

What Clive has found is a previously unknown compilation from mfp's "Hot Hits" series, which appears in fact to be a UK release, as we shall see. This is amazing enough to a seasoned collector like myself, but is just the tip of an iceberg or two, which we need to explore in more detail.

First of all, there is a Canadian edition of this in existence too. This was released on the Arc label:

Highlighted above is the small print on the back of the sleeve (not stated on the UK edition) - "A BWD Production". This is the more obvious clue that these recordings are from the mfp stable. So is Clive's LP really a hitherto unknown UK album? I think so!

The International Hits Series London released several others which look very much like editions or compilations of Bill Wellings' mfp material. Here are some more examples:

"Soul Hits", "Million Seller Hits", "Smash Hits Presley Style" and so on - this could be mfp itself, in some parallel universe! More significantly, Clive's album is catalogue-numbered BW 012 - while the other six examples above are numbered BW 004; BW 005; BW 016; BW 018; BW 023; BW 027.

These are clearly Bill Wellings' recordings - and the catalogue numbers starting BW, his initials, surely point to this being Bill's very own label! This being so, how has it escaped our attention for so long???

If I have convinced you, I'm about to throw a spanner in the works. This is bothering me, and I would like to know the whole story...

Check out the last of the images above. "Smash Hits Presley Style" was almost issued on mfp in the UK, but the last three tracks are different. Here's the standard edition we know and love:

The trouble is, Bill Wellings' own edition (if that's what it is) was issued in Italy on the Broadway label:

Why does this matter? Because Broadway issued a long run of albums, many of them nothing to do with Bill Wellings, or mfp for that matter. In fact, we featured one on this blog just a few days ago (here). Broadway, and Broadway International, used the same catalogue prefix BW (presumable short for "BroadWay")... so perhaps BW does not stand for Bill Wellings, and the albums on the International Hits Series London label are just re-issues of Italian albums?

It's impossible to be sure, but my hunch is that they are the creation of Bill himself, and the coincidence of the "BW" catalogue numbers is just that - a coincidence.

Looking at the Italian album above, it has the Broadway logo on the front, but also that of the International Hits Series London label - what's that doing there if Broadway were the original issuers? Surely it implies International Hits Series London were the creators of the album? And similar logic applies to that Canadian press of "Top Hits of '72" - it mentions BWD, but nowhere does it mention Broadway. So in both cases, the overseas editions point back to the UK for their source, and not at each other.

So, we can cautiously conclude that Bill was indeed behind the International Hits Series London label - his own outlet, with his initials given in the catalogue numbers!! Clive's discovery is not just a hitherto unknown compilation, but a hitherto unknown label and whole series of albums containing our celebrated cover versions.

As a point of interest, here is mfp's year round-up for 1972. Only a couple of tracks duplicate Bill's selection (and in fact half of mfp's album is all-new, rather than being compiled from the usual albums - which is perhaps a clue to the fact that two labels were going at once in the UK).

One final thing to note - Clive's album was pressed on the same nearly black vinyl we have covered several times lately, which is in fact coloured when held up to a strong light. Here's an image:

What an amazing new find. Moments like this make me realise how little I really know about all this! Despite the confusion of the Broadway label, I do believe we have documented a Bill Wellings UK label for the first time. Please help us with any info you may have, so we can get to the bottom of it all!

Thanks to Clive for flagging this all up to us.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Those coloured vinyl EPs from Avenue - new images

A week ago we featured some info on coloured vinyl Forest and Avenue EPs from Holger Schoeler (see here). Holger has kindly sent us some scans - quite striking they are, too.

So without further comment, here they are:

6 Top Hits (EVA 2001):

6 Top Hits (EVA 2013):

Tribute to Beatlemania:

The World Top Hits - Six:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Today's Smash Hits - Italian pressing

One of the lesser-noted UK covers series was "Today's Smash Hits", issued on the London-based Enterprise label. In fact, it was the last of the regular series to start up, not counting those with a back-history of some sort (eg mfp's "Chart Choice" which has "Hot Hits" as a direct predecessor).

The series began in Autumn 1972, with installment four appearing just under a year on, and thereby ending the set. Here is the UK edition:

Thanks to the fab site, Discogs, I have now discovered that this relatively small series found its way over to Italy - this same installment number 4 (there were no actual volume numbers) was issued there. Here's a cover image:

Note the little badge in the bottom corner - it's the logo of Broadway International, the Italian label which hosted all sorts of obscure goodies, from Jimi Hendrix tributes to an edition of "Hot Hits 18", about which we'd like to know more! 

It's not known whether there are more Italian editions of "Today's Smash Hits" - but if we see any, expect them to be posted on here in due course.

To be going on with, here's the same label's edition of "Hot Hits 18" - you'd hardly recognise if, if you didn't know!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Sounds Like Hits - White Label Promo!

White label promos are almost unknown in the world of the budget cover version. So much so, this is the first I've seen - I'm not counting this white label test pressing.

I was lucky enough to pick up this LP from Ebay for a couple of quid, and although it didn't come with a sleeve, it is a worthy addition to my collection:

It is, of course, Fontana's "Sounds Like Hits No. 5" from early 1969. Presumably this was not the only one from the series to be put out in promo form, but none other has so far surfaced. Here are the commercial copy labels and front cover:

Nice find!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Sounds-Like Hits - Kenyan cover versions?

A week or two ago I chanced upon an unusual-looking album on Ebay - "Sounds-Like Hits volume 2". The listing had just ended, so I missed my chance to bag it for 99p, and the would-be seller decided he wouldn't re-list it. So, it's one which got away from me...

Further research proved a little fruitful but not much! There was, not surprisingly, a volume 1 as well, as listed on Discogs. Here are both albums, with song titles printed on the front:

Both albums appear to have come out in 1975. Whether they really are soundalikes is hard to know, but the vintage of the tracks suggests as much - the contents of volume 1 were practically all UK hits in 1974-75, giving it a topical twist, while those visible on the front of volume 2 follow suit (except "Loving Arms", which is unknown to us). This selecting of recent hit material is one of the trademarks of the budget covers LP.

The full track listing for volume 1, incidentally, is as follows:

  • When Will I See You Again     
  • Can't Get Enough Of Your Love Baby     
  • You're My First My Last My Everything     
  • Shame Shame Shame     
  • Rock The Boat     
  • Rock Your Baby     
  • I Can't Leave You Alone     
  • Let's Get It On     
  • Kung Fu Fighting     
  • Dance The Kung Fu     
  • Doctor's Orders     
  • Drift Away

And the album title? It's tempting to link it to the UK "Sounds Like Hits" series from Fontana/Rediffusion, but they'd stopped appearing by the end of 1970. Consequently there are no direct links, and cover version equivalents of tracks like "Shame Shame Shame" and "Rock The Boat" are obscure - not least because few regular LP series were still appearing come 1975.

We do know that AIT was the label here, which was operating out of Kenya. Again from Discogs: "A.I.T. Records, run by the Kenyan politician and music producer, P. Oluoch Kanindo, was an important player in the Kenyan music industry with a publishing wing, EIT Pub."

Not many budget cover versions are known from Africa (apart from those issued in South Africa). I have just one in my collection, an East African edition of "Top of the Pops volume 20". Wish I'd stumbled upon "Sounds-Like Hits volume 2" a little earlier, and it would be in my collection right now! Instead, I'll keep my eyes peeled for more info...

Monday, October 10, 2016

Super Hits from Brazil

It's well-known that "Top of the Pops" exported their wares around the world, but so far as the States goes, they barely dipped a toe in the water. Over there, Pickwick had their own ideas, and among other things, ran ten installments of a cover version series called "Super Hits", billed as being by the group, King's Road. Sometimes, these albums would borrow a track or three from the UK "Top of the Pops" (we assume it was that way around!) and in the case of the last three in the set, the sleeve photos too!

Which brings us to this latest virtual find: a copy of "Super Hits" volume 8 - not from the US, but from Brazil. All we have is the front cover, but that's enough to tell what's afoot -

The tell-tale sign here is the label logo. The US series was issued by Pickwick and has the appropriate branding on the front (see below); this Brazilian edition was on the little-known Itamaraty label.

The sleeve art is instantly recognisable to Poppers' fans. It's Nicola Austin in her red whatever-it's-called, as seen on UK volume 22. Cover photo aside, there are no crossovers between the US - and Brazilian - albums and the UK "Top of the Pops" series. 

This is the first Brazilian pressing of "Super Hits" we have seen, but it seems likely there are more. Perhaps not all ten, but probably others beyond just this volume 8. 

While we're on the subject, we may as well look at the American volumes 9 and 10. Volume 9 only shares a cover photo with "Top of the Pops", but volume 10 has the added bonus of three Poppers' recordings: "Daniel", "The Twelfth of Never" and "Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree" - all much later than the UK albums, demonstrating that the UK had their hands on these photos first!