What days and nights
Though' rocking out of Ham Yard
Oh skip that fandango,
Bring the blues back down hard
Though Chuck would never admit it
At the door of the jail
There stood Guy Stevens
It's the least he deserved, to be immortalised in song. The man who offered so much to the UK music industry, and more importantly the UK music fan, was given this treatment by Mick Jones and Joe Strummer in 1981, the year of Guy Stevens' death, in a song that showed tender regard for his maverick genius, whose unique production skills had brought out the best of them on the album "London's Calling".
2004 is the year in which Guy will at last be recognised rather than forgotten, and in this respect it is apt that our final volume of the UK Sue Records label story THE SOUL OF SUE should appear in the same month that the 25th Anniversary of "London Calling" Stevens' most notable mainstream success - is being celebrated. Yet, while rock fans will fawn over that fine album, we would argue that Guy Stevens made his greatest contribution to music a decade or so earlier that, at the helm of the first modern soul label in the UK, Island's Sue Records subsidiary.
In the first two volumes released on our Ace label earlier in the year we saw how Stevens' expertise in rock'n'roll, and rhythm and blues had led him to an influential dejaying slot at the Scene club in Ham Yard; and working for various record companies, advising them what to do with the US records from labels such as Chess and Excello. We then learnt how Island's Chris Blackwell employed him to run the UK Sue label had been set up to release Charlie and Inez Foxx's Mockingbird. Guy used his knowledge to turn the label into a haven for all sorts of records released from his myriad of contacts at labels across the US. In the process he would have the first club-based record label, responding to what was popular there, and specifically working scams to draw club success in. In this respect he was both setting the mark for all future labels in this field, and also became in his own right a precursor of the celebrity club DJ. On top of this his records provided the source material for many of London's R&B groups, and he suggested tunes they should cover.
Our first two volumes consist of a Sue's Greatest Hits story, and a look at the wealth of blues and rock'n'roll that was introduced to the UK's music fan by the label. Volume 3 concentrates on Sue's amazing soul records. In the mid-60s soul was the new sound of black America, a cutting edge sort of thing, and while labels such as London and Stateside also released soul records, Guy's knowledge was deep enough to bring out some fantastic recordings, both on 45 and across an incredible range of LPs such as "Soul 66", and "Dr Soul" that are now very difficult to find.
On this CD we go from the well known: records that were in effect broken by Sue's persistence such as Hurt By Love, Night Train and Harlem Shuffle, through to all shades of soul. To me seeing a mix that goes from OV Wright on past Jackie Day, taking in the Lamp Sisters, Bobby Bland and the Kelly Brothers shows some serious dedication to the music. And while we're about it, who can resist some screaming monsters as the Anglos (definitively not Steve Winwood, whatever anyone tells you), or the sheer beauty of Baby Washington's I Can't Wait Until I See My Baby's Face. Not me for one.
So if you need further proof of what a wonder Sue Records is, or if you just feel it's right to complete the trilogy this is the one for you.
By Dean Rudland
When Guy was producing the Clash on "London's Calling", I was next door in Studio 2 at Wessex finishing off the Damned's "Machine Gun Etiquette" album. Guy was forever in-and-out of our studio having a whinge. Around this time we put out the Huey Piano Smith LP on Ace and on the back dedicated it to Guy. He had notoriously issued a Huey Piano Smith LP on Sue with a totally incongruous Breugel painting as the cover. I brought in a copy of our release to give him and it scuzzed around under my feet for the next few days until Guy finally collapsed through the door, as he did, and flopped down on the sofa behind me. I was in the middle of a mix so I grabbed the LP from under the desk and handed it to him. I got on with the mix. A few minutes later we took a break and I turned and asked what he thought. He was sitting there with tears rolling down his face, overwhelmed by the fact that we had given him the dedication.