MUSIC FOR MISFITS: THE STORY OF INDIE - THREE EPISODE BBC MUSIC DOCUMENTARY FILM

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A look at the development of British indie music, born in the 1970s when the music industry was controlled by the major record labels and releasing a record independently seemed an impossible dream. The story of British indie over three musically diverse episodes. Much more than a genre of music, it is a spirit, an attitude and an ethos.

 

The DIY Movement
Episode 1 of 3
In the 1970s, the music industry was controlled by the major record labels, and the notion of releasing a record independently seemed like an impossible dream. At a time when even the Sex Pistols were on a major label, the true act of rebellion was would be to do it yourself.

It took an independent release from Buzzcocks in 1976 with the Spiral Scratch EP to begin a change in the game. The initial pressing of 1,000 copies was funded by family and friends and sold out immediately. The notion of independently releasing your own music was compelling, and it became a call to action.

Independent record labels began to pop up all over the UK, each one with its own subculture and sound - from Factory in Manchester to Zoo in Liverpool, Postcard in Glasgow and London labels such as Mute, Beggars Banquet and Rough Trade. They were founded by people with no business experience, just a passion for music and a commitment to helping others achieve creative autonomy. These labels were cutting, releasing and distributing the music themselves. Bedsits became offices and basements became studios. This was DIY, and it felt like a countercultural movement set against all that the mainstream had to offer.

These labels were pivotal in getting the new sounds to a generation hungry for change. Queues of hopeful bands waited to drop off demo tapes, and the first wave of indie bands emerged from the newly formed labels. It was a fantastically creative, if somewhat hand-to-mouth time, yet bands also had the freedom to make all the decisions about their image and musical direction themselves. Pioneering music from bands such as Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle, Echo and the Bunnymen, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera is featured in this episode.

These new indie sounds offered a defiantly oppositional stance to prevailing trends in popular culture. With new music exploding out of cities everywhere, it was indie label founder Iain McNay, from Cherry Red, who had the idea for an indie chart - its music spoke to a generation of kids who did not identify with the mainstream sounds on the radio.

 

The Alternative 80's
Episode 2 of 3
The story of British indie over three musically diverse episodes. Much more than a genre of music, it is a spirit, an attitude and an ethos.

Episode two explores a time when the independent labels transformed from cottage industries into real businesses that could compete with the majors. It examines the evolution of 'indie' - a guitar-based genre of music with its own sound, fashion and culture.

Independent record labels provided a platform for some of Britain's most groundbreaking artists at this time, including the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Smiths, who would burst onto the scene in 1983 staging a mainstream intervention and starting a small revolution.

In the midst of shiny 80s sounds and shoulder-padded fashion, indie was anti-image and anti-flamboyance. Through many of the indie bands in this period, everyday life was repackaged in melody and poetic lyrics. It's not hard to see why a generation of youth, disaffected from the times they were living in, sought refuge in the poetic haze of early indie. The bands were accessible too, and aspiring music journalists could meet their favourite indie stars at the small and intimate gigs where they performed.

The programme concludes in the late 80s with the Madchester scene, as alternative music crossed over into the mainstream chart. This breakthrough was inspired by a merging of indie rock and the burgeoning acid house culture, and it was led by a new crop of bands such as the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays.

The series is presented by BBC Radio 6 Music's Mark Radcliffe and this episode features exclusive interviews with performers including James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers, New Order's Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert, Shaun Ryder, Suede's Bernard Butler, the KLF's Bill Drummond, Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian, Cocteau Twins' Simon Raymonde, the Jesus and Mary Chain's Jim Reid, and Talulah Gosh's Amelia Fletcher.

It also includes interviews with a number of influential music industry figures such as former Happy Mondays manager Nathan McGough, Pete Waterman, Factory Records' designer Peter Saville and journalists Alexis Petridis and Sian Pattenden.

 

Into the Mainstream
Episode 3 of 3
The story of British indie over three musically diverse episodes. Much more than a genre of music, it is a spirit, an attitude and an ethos.

It's 1989 and a new grassroots music craze is sweeping across Britain. Despite the authorities railing against 'the zombification of a nation', acid house and its bed partner ecstasy are influencing a wave of indie bands. On the eve of a new decade while original independent labels struggle in the wake of acid, young indie labels Heavenly and Creation are thriving, signing both Manic Street Preachers and Primal Scream respectively.

By the mid-90s, in a bid to break the stranglehold of American grunge bands, the music press construct Britpop and push two bands, Oasis and Blur, to the top of the pile. The key thing that separates Britpop bands from the previous generation is the mindset. These bands, who grew up in the Thatcher era, want to sell (and make) a million. Bands with an old indie ethos, such as Suede, are still breaking through, but will switch from independent labels to majors, thus guaranteeing international recognition.

Indie truly goes mainstream when Noel Gallagher shakes hands with Tony Blair and Oasis fill Knebworth. The spirit of the DIY boom had all but gone and indie becomes a genre rather than an alternative approach to making and releasing music. The late 90s are dark days for indie, but as Rough Trade rises from the ashes with two fresh signings- the Strokes and the Libertines - it feels like a new dawn.
More new completely independent labels emerge. They've learnt from the mistakes of old and are excellent at artist development -labels such Domino, who manage the Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand. We hear why these two bands - who had the majors tripping over themselves to sign them - choose Domino instead.

These bands also heralded a new way in which music was being discovered. It's the fans at a grassroots level, sharing their favourite band via clips on social media, who would be the new A&R - alerting the record labels to new talent.

We finally come full circle to discover just what constitutes indie music now, if there still a need for independent labels and, finally, whether the spirit of rebellion that inspired the DIY movement of the 1970s still exists today.

The series is presented by BBC Radio 6 Music's Mark Radcliffe and this episode features exclusive interviews with performers including Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, Shaun Ryder of Happy Mondays, the Libertines' Carl Barat, Stuart Murdoch from Belle & Sebastian and Bob Stanley of Saint Etienne. It also includes interviews with a number of influential music industry figures such as James Endeacott, formerly of Rough Trade Records and founder of Sony BMG subsidiary record label 1965 Records, Heavenly Recordings' Jeff Barrett, Creation Records' Alan McGee and indie music author Richard King.


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