Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Rudi The Red Nosed Reindeer

Heck, it's nearly December so let's start popping up some suitably festive musical fare eh? 

November 15th marked the 45th anniversary of the Birmingham recording company Big Bear Records, now probably the longest-established independent recording company in the UK. Forty five years ago to the day, the first ever Big Bear 45 was released, and the same recording kicks off their series of Revived Forty Fives from the Big Bear Archives.

Here’s the back story from the label itself...

“November 15th 1968 saw the release of the first Big Bear single and not without a whiff of controversy and a touch of skulduggery.

Back then, Big Bear managed Rock Steady Ska band The Locomotive who were flying high with their “Rudi’s In Love” hit on EMI Parlophone. The crucial follow-up was under discussion and band manager Jim Simpson believed that the next single should follow on in similar vein to the dance floor hit, and had already produced a zany Ska 45 version of “Rudi the Red Nosed Reindeer” in readiness.

The suits at EMI were unamused and had other ideas. Hoping to pick up on the emerging Progressive Music trend, they opted instead for the moody “Mr Armageddon”, which inevitably alienated the band’s new-found Ska audience.

Simpson, finding himself with a now-redundant 45 on his hands, did the obvious thing - he set up a record label. Island Records supremo Chris Blackwell offered distribution, and Big Bear Records came into being.
The next hurdle was the band’s name.

Simpson had signed The Locomotive to EMI as a band, so the “Rudi the Red Nosed Reindeer” single was released as by The Steam Shovel, a thinly disguised Locomotive. It clocked up a decent 7000 sales that first Christmas, enjoying several subsequent Christmas re-releases, reaching a total of around 18,000 units.

But it didn’t end there.

Simpson had commissioned the Big Bear logo, which he liked, but wondered if it reminded him of Walt Disney’s Baloo the Bear. Unfortunately, the multi-national Walt Disney company thought similarly [i.e. it was identical] and sent their lawyers into action. Suitably chastened, the Bear was re-invented, Walt was appeased, and Big Bear Records were in business with a logo that has served until today.”

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