Back in September 2020, in issue 101 of The Collector’s Companion magazine, DJ/designer Rose Daly was interviewed about her 7” vinyl collection with 20 of their labels showcased in a feature by this magazine’s new editor, Kara Lines. (Click here to read it.)
Fast forward a few years with Rose’s music platform Hale London firmly established and Kara having several issues of CC under her belt, both felt it was time to collaborate with a range of merchandise inspired by music, collecting and ownership. We sat down together to talk about it.
RD: Remind us, where did this project start?
KL: It was my first issue, it was during Covid and it was a bit tricky to seek out content and there you were, with your record collection handy, and we were initially looking at the different label designs. I was looking at them with zero knowledge of records really. I guess the thing that surprised me most was all the graffiti on it, all the scribblings all over them, because I was looking at it from the angle of collecting. I suppose I found it odd that so many were ‘defaced’ with it. It’s funny, because normally collecting records, tell me if I’m wrong, but if you’re collecting Beatles records or Elvis, you’re looking for mint aren’t you?
KL: Whereas with these records it seems to be more about the music – the collection of the music rather than the collection of a catalogue.
RD: Yes. But that’s also because with this particular genre, reggae, it really was to do with sound system culture as well, whereby some of the labels would be blanked out because the DJ didn’t want the opponent to see what they were putting on the deck next, so there’s this competition element, that side of it. But then with the way we are as record collectors, there’s this sense of ownership. Again, going back in time, if someone who’s into collecting music pops round your house or vice versa, “oh look I’ve brought some new records, you’ve got to hear this one,” you don’t want to get your vinyls mixed up, so therefore my dad’s thing was the ’73. He said, “you know I’ve played at so many parties, I’ve lost so many records, I thought if I just labelled them in some way then they wouldn’t get confused with other people’s collections.” If you had your family house party, dad came round with his records, your uncle came round with his records, maybe mum, maybe auntie, or cousin, and nobody wants their records to get confused so let’s label them in some way, whether that’s a tick, your name, a signature of some form, it could be a scratch.
With Collectors in reggae, and with soul actually as well, there’s the catalogue numbers and where they were produced, so as mentioned in the article, your JA, US, UK pressings. If you’ve got the original JA pressing, where they were originally produced, then this is the one which is going to be more valuable.
KL: Yeah, so that’s more collecting in a traditional box ticking sense, I want the rarest, I want the original, whereas there’s a lot of stuff now that’s not about the pristine. People are selling old boxes, old signs and it’s all about patina isn’t it? People love to see evidence of use, and I suppose these records are that in the truest sense, those marks are representative of the entire activity of listening to music and the whole cultural scene.
RD: Absolutely. As you’ve seen in my collection, because they’ve changed hands and ownership – remember some of these are dating back to before I was born – over a period of time there’s layers of marks and initials, lots of textures in other words. Rather like the ‘Yes’ t-shirt design has these layers of people’s handwriting, different owners over periods of time. We have dissected them and I think a lot of collectors can identify with this because of it – some people are looking for mint of course, but that’s very difficult and very expensive.
KL: That was what interested me about these records when it came to doing the t-shirt designs. When I did my Masters in Graphic Design my whole project was about objects and their owners and how we tell the stories of objects, instead of just saying “this is an example of 17th century pottery”, who used it, what did they do with it, what is its life? So that was definitely the immediate thing I was drawn to with these records, was going, let’s tell their story.
RD: It’s all about, certainly the provenance of any object or collection, whether its records or fridge magnets you know, it’s about where did they come from, what made you purchase them. Reggae is a huge part of what I grew up with, both my parents are from the Caribbean, my dad was also into soul, soca, calypso, country and western, and pop music, we had the commercial stations on and it was me and my brothers who’d have the pirate stations on – a bit more rebellious, and actually, that’s where the real music was played. If you wanted to hear some really cool music you listened to pirate radio stations, that’s where you were going to hear the jazz music, the funk and soul, house, hip hop and reggae etc., I discovered great artists on pirate stations, I recorded many cassette tapes too, which I’d listen back to, some of the shows were simply fantastic and this inspired me to search for the vinyl releases, many took years to find and I’m still searching for some!
KL: So with the records and music we’ve looked at in the magazine, would any of that be getting mainstream play or was it predominantly pirate?
RD: Yes, there was Tony Williams who had a show on the BBC and later a collective called Dread Broadcasting Corporation formed by Ranking Miss P and her brother Lepke who broke into the mainstream from pirate roots, with a show on the BBC London. To get on the BBC then was incredible, it was revolutionary – in fact there’s a podcast out right now about DBC – she played all the roots, reggae, rock steady, all of the stuff we present on these t-shirts. I actually worked on one of her artworks when I worked at Trojan.
KL: I’m just thinking, the Specials and Madness –
RD: Two-tone era, yeah.
KL: Yeah, all of that, which was much more mainstream, where we see groups like the Specials with people of both colours in the same band creating these sounds. I wondered if those changes would have been welcomed.
RD: Yes, I think the younger generation embraced it because it was this idea of “let’s bring some unity, let’s not be fighting against one another.” There was an openness and if you look at one of the interviews that Terry Hall did at the time, he talks about how two of the band members were black, the rest were white, but it is what we had grown up with… I think from his point of view, he says it wasn’t about colour it was about the music.
KL: And I guess class?
RD: Yes, class as well.
KL: About the communities that were listening to music together.
RD: That’s why this project has been so enlightening. Whilst I’m a collector, it has certainly made me look at my own collection from a different viewpoint, certainly form more connections with some of the individual 7” records, because of the markings and because you purchase them but don’t necessarily analyse them in that sort of detail. So I think that’s what’s been really special about this project, to look at it in real detail, and even my father’s marking, the 73, to bring that alive Kara, on this collection and to see people wearing his handwriting, is quite special I think, in his memory. So I think working together, because we both come from design backgrounds, it’s been a great partnership.
KL: I like the names. I feel like they’re from a certain period of time, we’ve got Angela, Des, Derek, good names – they’re good names aren’t they? I’ve got visions of this group of kids, young people at their party, their house party, just enjoying life. With shitty Thatcherism beginning on the outside, but in this house it’s where good times take place.
RD: Oh yeah, music certainly brings people together, definitely sharing experiences. I think from before the Thatcher times to present times it’s quite nice to see younger people interested in DJing right now, whereas 10 years ago it was still quite specialist, and now DJ equipment is more attainable, it is nice to see that. And I’ve noticed some young people are purchasing physical releases, they’re going for the analogue stuff, with reggae they’re not so interested in digital format. They’re collecting the 7” records. In fact, they’ve increased in price since our last conversation, they’ve increased even more because of this new interest in rare records, which is sad for me as a collector!
KL: We have to mention the chap that we came across when we were in Eldica. There we are with Sophelia [the model] and a t-shirt all about handwriting on records and a customer there comes across a record for sale that once belonged to his father. He’s a DJ?
RD: Yes, and he’s a huge collector, with an impressive collection of music that many people have experienced listening to. You can hear through the way he plays alongside being an avid collector, it’s also a collection of records passed down, a part of his heritage, you can hear the difference between someone who was brought up with this genre of music as a part of their everyday life, at a particular time and learned from it, compared to someone who has just recently come across it, yet still loves it.
There’s quite a difference, I’ll tell you why, it’s because the records these early collectors have, many you just can’t get, they can become very pricey, although of late there seems to be alot of represses of rare records circulating, but this is another conversation.
KL: And then for him to be just flicking through the records and he sees the handwriting…
RD: That was an incredible moment I think, him turning around and going, “look, look at this.” It belonged to his father, and he came across it in Eldica Records – imagine that!