THE SCENE IS a functional Italian restaurant situated off one of West London's busiest traffic routes. Three men from a local record company specialising in back catalogue have arrived for a working lunch. The maitre d' immediately recognises one of them as 'Mr Churchill' and falls upon him with the exaggerated deference of Basil Fawlty greeting a food inspector. They are directed to a quiet corner away from fellow patrons and before long a team of waiters is heading towards them bearing trays of delicacies.
Presiding over the repertoire meet" is John Broven. He has the glossy well-fed look of a retired banker combined with the debonair charm of a Cary Grant. He is flanked by two colleagues. Rob Finnis is tall, saturnine and incredibly intense. He appears to be bent on reforming the entire re-issue industry single-handedly. Trevor Churchill is a director of the company. No less intense, he is keen on preserving the status quo. No boats are to be rocked in his little pond.
There they sit, notepads at the ready, the Three Keepers of the Sacred Flame of the Golden Age, determined to compile - Something.
A year down the line, we are in the West London offices of Ace Records. Pausing to admire a magnificent bronze bust of company founder Ted Carroll, we go through the outer door into a beehive of activity. Couriers, PAs and consultants scurry past. Beneath a giant frieze of the famous Ace logo, a portrait in oils of MD Roger Armstrong glares forbiddingly from the wall. We now find ourselves in Trevor Churchill's office. It is exquisite: the drapes, the furniture, the paintings are magnificent. In a corner beside a CD system encased in hand-carved teak, Messrs. Broven, Finnis and Churchill are huddled over a small, spherical silver-coated object. It is a Special Edition of the "Golden Age Of Rock'N'Roll" devoted exclusively to doo wop, the great American vocal group tradition of the 1950s and 1960s. They are deep in discussion. Is the EQ comfortable on the ear? Are the gaps between tracks too long or too short? Should a certain track have more bass? They have worked themselves into a state of pre-natal anxiety. Even the producers of the original records didn't care this much.
Much of the inspiration behind this project has come from Trevor Churchill. He grew up surrounded by manicured croquet lawns in genteel Sussex but wishes he'd been born and bred in a rough, tough Bronx tenement with a brown stoop and a fire hydrant outside his door just like his idols Dion & The Belmonts. At 17 he was subscribing to Billboard, bible of the US music industry, and methodically logging the names and addresses of American record companies in notebooks. He bought copies of virtually every US vocal group hit that found its way to Britain on long-forsaken labels such as London and Top Rank - unusual at the time, as doo wop was a peculiarly American phenomenon with very little foreign appeal. He'd hunt down pictures of the artists on the rare occasions they were published and snip them out in silhouette, carefully negotiating the scissor strokes around pompadours, earlobes and manly chins before pasting the picture onto the appropriate record sleeve with the delicate precision of a butterfly collector.
He carried his love of doo wop into adulthood and beyond. As far as he was concerned, the Day The Music Died was the day the Beatles cut their first hit. Trevor joined the record industry as head of Bell Records (way back in the EMI days) and later worked for the Rolling Stones record label. Even while hob-nobbing with Mick Jagger over canap?©s, he'd be daydreaming of landing an unpaid gig as Dion's golfing caddy. That is the degree of Trevor's personal commitment to this new "Golden Age" CD.
There's very little we can add to your existing knowledge of an institution such as the "Golden Age" line. The aim of the series was to reflect the rich diversity of early rock without creating preponderance in favour of any particular genre. Difficult decisions had to be made in the selection process and inevitably some titles originally scheduled for the main series had to be held back in order to create the right balance between the various musical strands. This was especially true of doo wop, which dominated the charts within our given time frame. In some cases we were unable to acquire the rights to a doo wop title in time for a particular volume. These tracks have now been compiled into this supplementary doo wop edition that will go to make the "Golden Age" range even more comprehensive. The sound sources and the trimmings are as good as you have come to expect, including a booklet so full-bodied that it has to be packed by hand. Any bigger and we'd have to call ourselves book publishers.
Trevor will be very pleased if you buy this CD. You will also earn the undying gratitude of co-compilers John Broven and Rob Finnis. For every thousand sold, the sales people will bake a cake. We may even invite you to the party!
By Rob Finnis"