11 August 2008

Bob Morgan - Marguerite

Bob Morgan - Marguerite

Label: Gem
Year of Release: 1979

I've mentioned this one on here before, of course, except until a few days ago I had no idea anybody had tried to release it as a single. "Marguerite" is probably best known to most people as being the music which accompanied the gallery section of the children's TV programme "Vision On" in the seventies. Tony Hart's hushed and delicate tones would introduce a selection of children's drawings from around the UK, and then the slow reggae beat of this track would kick in, as we were given the treat of observing a young Billy Childish's drawing of his Dad reprimanding the family dog with a stern gesture (or something - I'd like to think that some future major artists sent their work into the programme. The images this conjures up in my mind are pleasing).

"Marguerite" has worked its way on to numerous chill out compilations and DJ mixes in the last five years, where it sounds completely at home - in fact, elements of it sound not dis-similar to the KLF's more reggae tinged output on "The White Room", which is shocking considering the date this was released (I could mention at this point that both Morgan and Bill Drummond have worked with Ken Campbell on his theatre productions, but I can't find any evidence that the pair worked on them simultaenously, unfortunately).

Some may attach romantic nostalgia to this track - I just happen to think it's a beautiful piece of work. Apparently recorded as the sun rose in the sky, it's a gentle, blissful track which loops its way around a central theme, slowly bringing in new elements as the song progresses. It is equal parts reggae and muzak, but because that's such a rare concept in the first place it causes the song to exist in a rather unique world of its own. I doubt Lee "Scratch" Perry incorporated many clarinets into his work, for example, but hearing this makes you wish he had.

The B-side "Steppin' Out" is rather less interesting, and sounds as if it might have been meant for use on something like an ITV drama - once again, I've included it for the sake of interest, but don't expect to be bowled over.

Around about this time, Bob Morgan also seemingly completed a large commission of "reggae library music", which eventually found its way into the offices of KPM and ended up on the Channel Four Testcard. I've already done a blog post about this, and you can find it on the "Best of LOTB" links to the left of this entry - to be honest, I consider it to be amongst the finest library material of the period, irrespective of where it ended up being used, or whether it was commercially released. You certainly should expect wonders from the cheeky bonus MP3 I've included from those sessions, a dub version of a piece of library music entitled "Fool in Love", which I still find gobsmacking, and possibly even superior to "Marguerite". Early synthesisers burble, bubble and screech to reggae rhythms, a voice crying "Oh!" comes out of nowhere, and a threatening, sinister riff underpins the entire thing. It's unsettling and utterly brilliant - somewhere in Scotland, the ears of Boards of Canada must have pricked up to this one (especially as it was, unbelievably, a testcard feature for some of the eighties). Mine certainly did.

None of these recordings are taken from the original vinyl, I am afraid - which will upset the purists who like to hear the pops and crackles, and probably please others who would prefer digital quality. Whatever, I hope this meets with your approval, and I'd be genuinely curious to see if I'm the only person who thinks "Fool in Love" has been wrongly ignored over the years.


Bob Morgan also has a website here: http://www.zoot.co.uk/


Unknown said...

Gem was a peculiar label. It didn't seem to have any identity of its own. Its main artists seemed to be the unlikely pairing of the UK Subs and ex Queen collaborator Eddie Howell. There was a smattering of reggae and disco thrown in for good measure.

Im not that convinced of the merits of this particular track either but keep up the good work. The Scott Walker and Microdisney downloads were most welcome.

23 Daves said...

The father of a friend of mine used to do most of the sleeve printing for Gem Records, and as a result picked up tons of promotional freebies he sometimes passed on to me - and at the time I posted this entry, I was thinking much the same thing. He had piles of flop disco records (marked "Gem Disco Dancer" in rather hideous sleeves featuring a picture of a blonde woman smiling and dancing in a club) a few rock oddities and some film soundtracks. I think it was even Gem who issued the Phantasm theme as a single "on blood splattered vinyl".

None of it is worth uploading to this blog, mind you, which is just as well because after I inherited it I think most of it ended up in London charity shops! I wonder why RCA bankrolled them for so long...

Unknown said...

Interesting ! I haven't given Gem a minutes thought in a long time until now. I wondered if they were a singles only label but I have suddenly remembered that they put out at least one LP - by gimp mask wearing HM combo Samson.
What a totally useless label. Im struggling to think of a worse one. Possibly Penny Farthing , Bradleys ( mind you , they had The Goodies) or maybe Pepper from this period.