Year of Release: 1966
Apocryphal statements in pop music are par for the course, but some tend to get challenged when they're trotted out rather less than others. The sheer volume of Tin Pan Alley bigwigs who claim to have set up "the first ever indie label, before there were such a thing as a DIY punk ethic" is impressive, and perhaps it's time somebody got them all in a room somewhere, asked them to wear some boxing gloves, and left them to sort it out amongst themselves.
I suspect that plucky (or foolish) individuals setting up their own small labels have been around in some shape or form since the music industry began, mostly with appalling rates of success. Joe Meek set up Triumph Records in 1960 to large financial losses, and even when he had hits on his hands found the distribution network of the time unsympathetic. Clive Selwood ran Salvo Records in the early sixties to even greater levels of failure - that particular venture was bankrolled by an anonymous industry donor, and Selwood has since claimed it was probably a tax-loss exercise. Then there's Immediate Records, Island Records, and the list drags on and on, although many of these were distributed by major labels.
Strike Records (run by Lionel Segal and Adrian Jacobs) is cited as being the "first UK independent label" online in several places, and I'd argue this statement is off-beam by at least six years, if not more. What cannot be disputed is the fact that they were a rather brave business venture for the time, being run out of a flat off the Edgware Road in London, and occasionally recording some of its material in converted garage spaces. Major labels still had a stranglehold over the charts, and such self-determination was pretty rare and quite impressive (or ridiculous, depending upon your point of view). The contents of their records may not quite have been punk before its time, but the cottage industry approach definitely was.
This particular single was penned by Pierre Tubbs, a jobbing songwriter employed by their publishing arm Millwick Music, who would later go on to pen tracks such as "Come See Me" by The Pretty Things (one of my favourite singles by the band) and also write material for Huey Lewis and The News, Francoise Hardy, and - erm - Joan Collins. The Jeeps were his attempt at forming his own surfing band, and they manage to approximate The Beach Boys style to a neat enough effect. "He Saw Eesaw" is a rather berserk single which, with a much better and more psychedelic production, actually wouldn't have sounded out of place on "Smiley Smile", being a meaningless, high tempo ramble through children's nursery rhymes and daft harmonies.
It wasn't a hit, naturally - nothing on Strike Records ever was - and apparently Pierre ended his time with the company receiving endless bounced cheques, and eventually issuing writs in order to retain copyright over his own songs. The Jeeps were abandoned after only a couple of singles, and that, it would seem, was that for both parties.
Records on the label aren't easy to come by these days, so I was quite staggered to find this (the first example I'd ever seen) available in a second hand store relatively cheaply.