Bookshelf: Discover the story of Immediate Records, check out ‘Notable Moments of Women in Music’ and more

“Immediate Records — Labels Unlimited”: As Immediate owner Andrew Loog Oldham himself once said, “There’s your truth, there’s my truth, and there’s the truth.”

All of which is true. But few people would deny that, with a five-year lifespan, 84 singles, and a roster of artists and in-house producers that included (deep breath) Oldham, Mick Jagger, Jimmy Page, The Small Faces, The Nice, Chris Farlowe and Fleetwood Mac, Immediate Records long ago ascended into vinyl Valhalla. If not the most collected British label of its late-1960s peak, it is certainly the most collectible, and the Sequel label did us all a favor back in 2000 when it bundled up all of the label’s A’s and B’s into one mighty CD box set.

 Oldham, however, was no better served by his baby’s latest step-parent than he was by any of the other caretakers who assumed what we mockingly call “responsibility” for the catalog in the years since the original label closed in 1970.

The tail end of the Immediate story reads like the ultimate ironic comedown for a label that once styled itself “happy to be a part of the industry of human happiness.” 
Rarely have so many vultures squabbled over the same little corpse, and the fact that Oldham barely mentions Immediate in either volume of his “Stoned/2Stoned” autobiography speaks volumes for his distaste for the entire affair. 

Simon Spence, who acted as one of Andy’s little helpers across the gestation of those two volumes, is markedly less squeamish.  Immediate, as the Nice almost said, was “pregnant with promises and anticipation, but was murdered by the hand of the inevitable,” and so the story unfolds in the words (and, occasionally, weary prejudices) of a host of past participants, impregnators and murderers alike. True, Spence’s own contributions to the saga are oft-times diabolically pedestrian, but sheer brilliance flashes from many of his interviewees, and, when they fail, there’s a scrapbook’s worth of record sleeves, newspaper cuttings, old ads and photographs to moon over… so many that you can almost forgive the author’s gloatingly self-serving postscript to the book, outlining his personal experiences with the legend that is the Loog. Thank you. Very enlightening. Now piss off and feel sorry for yourself somewhere else.

Though it is certainly fact-packed enough to satisfy the most demanding collector, and sufficiently thrill-filled for the average voyeur, this is not the book that Immediate truly deserves. If music were literature (and much of Immediate’s output could have been), Oldham gave us Shakespeare rewired through Shock-Headed Peter; the swinging ’60s offspring of Don Quixote and Don Juan. The result flew by the seat of its pants across a landscape peopled with dragons and demons, but here it merely lumbers through the same shabby suburbia as every other record company in the world, as pedestrian as the pedestrians who walked past the label’s London HQ everyday. At times, it’s even grim, which is one thing the music never was.

For all that, though, it’s an intriguing tale; a worthy addition to the Labels Unlimited series, and, if you should have any of the original records (or, failing that, the box set), play them while you browse. Those five years will just fly by.

— Dave Thompson

(Paperback, 192 pages, $29.95. Black Dog Publishing,  http://blackdogonline.com/music/)

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“Notable Moments of Women in Music:” Fans of music history and trivia will delight in “Notable Moments of Women in Music” from author Jay Warner.

Warner traces the evolution of women in music from vaudeville to today’s pop music stars. Billie Holiday, Patsy Cline, Bessie Smith, Joni Mitchell, Chrissie Hynde, Pat Benatar, Dusty Springfield, The Supremes, The Dixie Chicks, Cher, Dolly Parton, Madonna, Carrie Underwood, Amy Winehouse… you’ll find all of them, and plenty of others, here.

Largely a “this day in history” type of book, “Notable Moments” offers up historical milestones, little-known biographical facts, trivia, artists’ birthdays and more on every page while it illustrates how these artists have influenced music, culture and each other. Don’t know who Sharon Sheeley is? Chances are pretty good you’re familiar with her work: She wrote the Ricky Nelson hit “Poor Little Fool.” And what did Mae Axton contribute to the music industry, besides the obvious role of giving birth to country singer Hoyt Axton? Two words: “Heartbreak Hotel.”

Melissa Etheridge serves up the foreword, and a host of other artists are quoted talking about their heroines, their stories and themselves, all of which makes this a fun read rather than a boring exercise in history.

 The only shortfalls? The birthday listings, especially, don’t always explain someone’s connection to the business. Choosing April 2008 as an ending date for entries, while current, also seems like an odd place to stop recording history.

— Susan Sliwicki

(Paperback, 456 pages, $19.95. Hal Leonard, http://www.halleonard.com/)

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