Various Artists \ A Young Person's Guide To Compact [LTMCD 2488]
Remastered CD and digital edition of the highly collectible label compilation A Young Person's Guide to Compact, originally released by The Compact Organisation in 1982.
Founded in London in 1981, Compact was the brainchild of composer-svengali Tot Taylor. Chic, cheerful and redolent of hip New York label Ze, its stylish and stylized roster included ice-cool Swedish model agent Virna Lindt, Neasden soul queen Mari Wilson, funk contenders Shake/Shake, American retro diva Miss Cynthia Scott, and ironic pop artists The Beautiful Americans.
All these and more are featured on this wonderful label compilation, originally issued as a double album in a bespoke limited edition box, rounding up early singles on the label as well as key album tracks. Rarities include the non-album singles Model Agent and Young & Hip by Virna Lindt, and a live version of Rave by Mari Wilson, recorded at a Compact showcase in London in October 1981.
CD also features a deluxe 12 page booklet featuring original artwork and Compact ephemera from the box set, as well as detailed liner notes by Tot.
1 VIRNA LINDT Attention Stockholm (single version)
2. THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS Sparkletones
3 THE POPHEADS Headpop
4 MARI WILSON Beat the Beat
5 SHAKE/SHAKE Shuttle Service
6 MARI WILSON Ectasy
7 SHAKE/SHAKE Shake/Shake
8 CYNTHIA SCOTT Dancing With You
9 MARI WILSON Rave (Live)
10. VIRNA LINDT The Dossier on Virna Lindt
11. THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS Beautiful Americans (Pt 1)
12. VIRNA LINDT Model Agent
13. THE POPHEADS Popheads In Space
14. TOT TAYLOR AND HIS ORCHESTRA Living in Legoland
15. VIRNA LINDT Young and Hip
16. CYNTHIA SCOTT The X-Boy
17. SHAKE/SHAKE Yellow Ditty
18. VIRNA LINDT Man Talk
19. MARI WILSON Dance Card
20. MARI WILSON Stop and Start
21. THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICANS Beautiful Americans (Pt 2)
Available on CD and download.
Sleevenote by Tot Taylor
This reissue of A Young Person's Guide to Compact will be the first time that this collection of artefacts has been available since its debut as a double-album boxed-set, clothed by Kristina Lindell in a powder-pink chocolate box in the summer of 1982.
This reissue shouts "this was a label", "this was a band" etc. lt also highlights the many differences between the state of contemporary now, then and in other famous summers - 1967 and 1977.
After the punk revolution of the late Seventies it seemed the time was right in early 1981 for a label specializing in novelty. The trend of the major record labels being to supply more copycat varieties of what is already there was not for The Compact Organisation. We tried to create what was not there. We were very serious about being funny.
The time was right for Virna Lindt, a Swedish cold war spy-type singing about her missing partner, Agent 'Stockholm', and it was right for Mari Wilson (Miss Beehive) all the way from Neasden with her Marines, her Marionettes and her Wilsations with their Detroit-adroit Dance Card and sub-Bernstein Beat the Beat, and maybe it would never have been right for some of the other many who flowered in their careers after being launched on Compact.
While we were making Attention Stockholm at the Music Works studio in North London, the house engineer played me a tape of his own band, Shake/Shake. Impressed as I was, this soon become the second single to be adorned with the Compact label. people kept telling me it was like the B52s, but having not really heard them I thought it reminded me of Weather Report. Next came Virna Lindt's anthem about herself, the send-up Young and Hip, and Cynthia Scott's jungly The X-Boy, on which hard plastic studio chairs were used as drums. While Shake/Shake ended up producing Transvision Vamp, former sculptress Cynthia also sang Blue Aria on The Sound Barrier's album The Suburbia Suite, and ended up with a one-line bit part in Alien 2!
Beautiful Americans Part 1 was a song we spent a lot of tirne recording (for Compact) - at least a day and a half. The orchestral sections had to bept together piece by piece as we only had one violin, one cello and synthesizer French Horn. lt still remains a firm favourite around Compact homes, mainly due to Dale Hargreaves' beautiful vocal. I guess this was probably our stab at an Eighties version of the Walker Brothers. The Popheads headpopped their way from obscurity and back again on Headpop and Popheads In Space by using a Pro One (the prototype Linndrum), a Revox and Blair Cunningham's ideas. He ended up drumming in Haircut One Hundred and Thepetenders.
My own Living in Legoland - a little family history about an ideal home - was extracted from the just-released Playtime album. You can also hear a brief excerpt from our six hour extravaganza at the Screen on the Hill cinema in London in October 1981, where we launched the label and where all of the acts appeared. It was rather like Eurovision with good songs. And there's Mari Wilson's demo for Ecstasy which appeared on the Show People album. All that, and of course much more besides...
An important area of The Compact Organization was its design-conscience. Taking over from where the 1951 Festival Of Britain style left off, and using its leftovers, we favoured bright colours over the omnipresent 'designer-black' of the time, and we prided ourselves on our attention to detail, like the 45rpm clock which had the hands pointing to 45 minutes past the hour, and the ridiculous sleeve notes bv Rex Luxore which accompanied every release (I can't hope to match that eloquence).
We also ran a Compact Membership scheme where members would receive a regular newsletter rush-released every three months (or when we felt like it). Our little office behind Oxford Circus was a hive of hyperactivity long into the night, as myself and my partner Paul Kinder would pack records, dream up ideas and set masterplans into action. But that was from the second era of Compact, the era of chart success, competition and nightmares. This little gem comes from the first era, a time for euphoria at actually getting the records released, naiveté and ideals. Because this is a sweet record. It is not tainted by studio trickery or the availability of very much money, but it has integrity and purpose, and most of all charm.
If Compact wasn't called Compact it should have been called 'Charm'. Charm you cannot buy. Sometimes people with bad art have it, but it beats technique anyday and it is an indefinable and priceless asset. Compact had charm and that still shines on A Young Person's Guide to Compact.
In the golden era of the independent label circa 1979-83, with labels such as Rough Trade, Mute and Factory, The Compact Organization never really fitted in with thepilosophy of despairing youth anthems and xerox-sleeved hell-noise. Most of that stuff sounded harsh to our ears. They appeared to be fostering a plot to overthrow the world, but really they just wanted a piece of the record business. Their idea of 'pop' was to make everything real and to be opposed to 'image' and packaging. We loved 'image', were totally opposed to anything 'real' and wanted everything to be make pretend. In the early years everything was invented, created, discovered and developed by us, and that was the way it worked best.
The Compact set-up lasted for four exciting but stressful years, during which time we managed to release about sixty records. Afterwards I began a new venture (London Popular Arts) on which to release my own records, and Paul Kinder now has his own label, The Ghetto Recording Company. Doubtless in little ways sorne of the Compact beliefs will creep into some of our future releases - yes, we'll always incorporate some silly ideas! But what of the artists? Well, Virna, Mari, The Popheads, Shake/Shake, The Beautiful Americans and all those that came after went back to their own little islands in the sky, a bit like Peter Pan or Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, and maybe one day they'll all come out again. Who knows!
Every effort has been made to present this CD release close to its original form, and all those ex-Compact people and the Compact members around the world will be delighted to see and hear this marvellous package from the era of haute-coiffure. Once again, this is 'the ready-to-hear collection'.
Muswell Hill, London, Spring 1989.