9 January 2009

Second Hand Record Dip Part 23 - Peer Gynt Suite No. 1

Spark Classical seven inch

Who: Hamburg Symphony Orchestra/ Royal Danish Symphony Orchestra
What: Morning - Peer Gynt Suite No. 1/ Welcome - Symphony No. 4 4th Movement
Label: Spark
When: 1972
Where: Music and Video Exchange, Camden
Cost: 50p

Whatever interest you may or may not have in the contents of this disc, it is something of an oddity. Spark were a small label owned by the operators of Southern Studios in London who, when they first cranked into gear in the sixties, put out a lot of psychedelic pop which was largely ignored. The sight of their logo sitting amongst second hand racks is enough to get the hearts of psych lovers everywhere pounding.

In this case, however, clearly a change of tack was underway. Somebody within the label clearly hit upon the idea of using classical music from popular television advertisements to raid the singles charts - in this case, the A side was originally used to promote Nescafe, with the B side promoting an ad for Bass Charrington. This is an unorthodox approach to generating revenue to say the least. It's generally accepted that classical music singles do not sell unless there is astonishing demand for the piece in question, normally when it becomes tied in with a national sporting event. Otherwise, they're considered a complete white elephant - although it should be noted that the format was tried and tested for this purpose. Some of the first ever seven inch singles to be issued by RCA were classical ones.

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, however, and perhaps somebody had statistics from the companies in question which proved that a possible hit could arrive were the two excerpts bundled together in seven inch form. In effect, this kind of marketing of classical music due to its associations with television soundtracks or adverts predates many of the "Best Classical Music Album in the World... Ever!" compilations, and as such can perhaps be viewed as slightly ahead of its time. That it didn't pay off just meant that the timing was slightly wrong, and also that you're never going to convince many members of the public that sticking an excerpt from a longer classical piece on a three minute 45rpm spin is worth their while.

Spark would go on to greater success in the seventies, however, focussing much more on the pop and Northern Soul markets, even issuing records by Wigan's Chosen Few. What a rum little label they were.

The download of this single is available below, if you feel the need to experience it. Please don't ask me my opinion on the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra's delivery of this work. I wouldn't have the first clue whether it was better or worse than any of the alternative versions available, and nor would I have any strong views about whether listening to an excerpt rather than the full piece would be a complete disgrace.


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