Facing the Other Way: The Story of 4AD – Martin Aston
I’ve talked on here a bit about my love for the incredible 4AD Records.
I bought their records in the 80’s sound unheard, simply because they were on 4AD. But as someone with limited amounts of money to spend on imported music, I didn’t get many of the magazines that may have talked about the music. I read bits here and there, heard stuff on the radio, friends imparted what little they knew. So there was a lot about the bands and the label that was a mystery.
So when I saw this book mentioned in an Exclaim review, I
was overcome with excitement and ordered it. Wasn’t sure what to expect,
but I was pleasantly surprised to see that it is a massive 650 page tome.
Covers mainly the first 20 years, with a more cursory look at the last 15 years. It’s very complete, with a lot of minutiae that non fans might not care for, but I ate it up. Perhaps only
interesting for the obsessive 4AD fan. (Although...is there any other
kind of 4AD fan?)
Getting to read the stories behind the music, of what
were often bands who shunned the limelight, is both edifying and kind of
depressing. When it was a guy who loved music and had a very developed
sense of what to release and operated on instinct, things went well.
When it became about running a record company, and having to break bands
big in America, and “move units” in order to make it all financially
viable, and babysit prima donna cokeheads, it stopped being fun.
There was quite a bit in this book that made me sad. Fragile egos, inflated egos, mental illness, drug addiction, domestic relationships, creative relationships, domestic and creative relationships intertwined, dysfunctional relationships, relationships torn asunder.
To read how Vaughn Oliver and Nigel Grierson, or Mick Allen and Mark Cox haven’t spoken to one another in years, just made me sad. Reading how Robin Guthrie was an insufferable asshole just disappointed me.
like the old adage that one shouldn’t see how sausages are made, maybe
it’s best if one doesn’t learn too much about the inner workings of a
revered record label.
I noted the parallel between my waning interest in the label, and Ivo Watts-Russell’s waning interest in the label, which seemed to coincide. It began to taper off for me from the early 90’s, and by the mid 90’s, when Wolfgang Press put out their last record, that was it for me, and shortly after, he sold his interest.
4AD went through quite a lull, but they are again on the upswing. After being in the doldrums for years, they are again signing an eclectic mix of acts.
The limited edition version is something else.