Dandelion

Ballad of The Big Girl Now: And A Mere Boy: Principal Edward’s Magic Theatre 1969, |plain black stiff sleeve. Prod. ‘John Peel & Friends’ # 4405

ABOVE: The first Dandelion label, as distributed by CBS

The late John Peel was a national treasure, a radio institution, a promoter of aspiring musicians. While many of the artists whose career he helped were excellent musicians, it has to be said that complete and utter lack of technical proficiency was never a barrier for him, and the suspicion remains that he didn’t know the difference between the musicians and the incompetents. He had the widest taste imaginable too, embracing every variety of music. He wasn’t fond of commercial success.

Dandelion was his short-lived consciously ‘underground’ record label which operated from 1969 to 1972.

Peel formed it with Clive Selwood (see Salvo), who was the UK Sales Manager for Elektra; and Elektra, with its range from folk to psychedelia, was what they aspired to emulate. Selwood was also John Peel’s manager, and had got to know him because Peel was the only DJ who ever played any Elektra records. Peel was aware of how many of the bands he liked couldn’t get record deals, and so set up the label as an altruistic (and I think unprecedented) straight profit-share with the artists.

Clive Selwood John agreed (to set up the label) in principle and on the strict understanding that he was to have no financial involvement or participation since he feared that to do so might influence his artistic judgement and restrict his ability to play the records on his radio shows. The last was crucial since it was pretty obvious that any acts John liked were unlikely to be played by his colleagues. Somewhat miraculously, the mandarins at the Beeb agreed to allow him to go ahead … we decided that a fair division of royalties was an even split between artist and company, with the company share going towards future recordings … the recording costs were to be debited against any future royalties, as is standard practice in the industry.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

John Peel: The half-witted, idealistic notion behind Dandelion and our other violent, capitalist enterprise, Biscuit Music, is that any profits, if such there be, should go to the artists, not to Clive nor myself.
Sheila Ravenscroft John Peel Margrave of The Marshes, 2005

John Peel was revered by the late night listeners and would-be bands who sent in cassettes of their efforts, but professional musicians I’ve spoken to regarded him with derision. Liverpudlians in particular found his adopted accent (which led to his original success in America) fake. He had attended Shrewsbury public school, and his brother had a public school accent. He was sufficiently quoted on his sexual exploits to indicate he was a believer in the dreaded but BBC approved droit de seigneur DJ.

Dandelion ad. Online. It looks like Oz or International Times

Selwood describes the launch party, in collaboration with their first distributor, CBS. They decided to serve macrobiotic food accompanied by dandelion wine.

Clive Selwood: What a blunder. The food was diabolical. If the food was bad, the absence of regular booze was a disaster. Never separate a music journalist from a healthy supply of liquor. Insult them if you must, harangue them, starve them, but always keep them lubricated … so … what few column inches Dandelion received were both scathing and scornful. The music was barely mentioned and we were labelled ‘precious and earnest.’
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

Dandelion advertising was directed at the underground press IT, OZ, Zig-Zag, Friendz, Creem rather than the music weeklies. This is obvious looking through the reviews compiled in Galactic Ramble. All the best ones seem to be from underground papers. Peel wrote for both IT and OZ.

Selwood was a collaborator who was prepared to follow Peel’s instincts unreservedly. Some of his personal views on the label’s signings emerged in both his autobiography All The Moves (But None of the Licks) in 2003, then in a candid Record Collector interview by Jon Mills. They will be noted below. I’ve quoted hm a great deal, but his book is one of the very best on rock in the era, and gives an unusual insight from the label point of view.

Peel and Selwood cheerfully admit they rejected Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, failed to sign Roxy Music when offered (Island won a bidding war) and lurched from CBS distribution to Warner Bros to Polydor. They set out to make collectable records and did so. The words interesting and eclectic cover a multitude of sins, and the output is as bemusing as it is brave. Those who could play … Kevin Coyne, David Bedford, Clifford T. Ward, Bridget St. John … are counter-balanced by the downright incompetent (Stack Waddy) or ludicrously pretentious (Principal Edwards Magic Theatre). These two bands, sharing side one of the illustrated Dandelion EP were the polar opposites.

There were a few successes. Selwood had arranged decent distribution … first with Warner (via Elektra) then with CBS. Then finally with Polydor.

After CBS’s lack of interest, the moved to WEA seemed positive. This was the new label. Dandelion had been named after John Peel’s pet hamster who can be seen hiding in the top right quadrant of the centre label.

The Dandelion EP (DS7001) Stack Waddy, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, The Way We Live and Siren  
The WEA “new and beautiful label”

Clive Selwood A new and beautiful label was designed and the first releases through WEA were presented in magnificent presentation boxes that included artists’ biographies as well as bits and pieces like flowers and bags of dandelion tea. In fact just a few years ago, we were contacted by the Victoria and Albert Museum to ask if we had one of the originals they could put on display. We had, and they did Warners also provided a batch of expensively produced posters of Bridget and Medicine Head for display in stores, and it began to look as if we were rolling. John had no ambitions for the label beyond becoming an outlet for new, and in his opinion, interesting artists, but quite properly WEA were anxious to have a few hits to justify their faith and expenditure.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

John Peel Part of the reason Dandelion hasn’t sold enormously well is because the records which do sell are records which sound sufficiently like something else, so as not to tax people’s imaginations too much.
Interview by Michael Watts, Melody Maker, 24 April 1971

Michael Watts Dandelion records, I said, had always struck me as being high on worthiness and integrity, but low on artistic quality. For the first time in the interview (John Peel) looked upset, and yes, slightly angry. Reaction of course hadn’t been gratifying, but as far as the actual recording and music went, he was pleased.
Interview by Michael Watts, Melody Maker, 24 April 1971

John Peel I’m not saying the records are great and should leap to No. 1, but they all have an identity. There are no Dandelion records you can play and say they are by somebody else. Of course I think we have artistic quality! It’s just some of the records may not be artistically developed. We’re just trying to get the thing going. Some of the records have I think just been ‘knocked out,’ like the Gene Vincent, which incidentally happened to be the bestseller.
Interview by Michael Watts, Melody Maker, 24 April 1971

Principal Edwards Magic Theatre

Soundtrack: Principal Edwards Magic Theatre, 1969 # S63752 (CBS numbering system)

They were from Exeter University, and named themselves after the ‘principal’ (we called ours the Vice-Chancellor). I saw them twice. When they left, they lived in a communal farmhouse sponsored by John Peel, who contributed the cost of a van and some musical instruments.

Let us consider track titles:
Enigmatic Insomniac Machine
Sacrifice
Death of Don Quixote

Third Sonnet To Sundry Notes of Music
To A Broken Guitar
Ballad (of The Big Girl Now and the Mere Boy)
Weirdsong of Breaking Through At Last

It’s pushing the hippy-dippy, even by the standards of 1969

Clive Selwood I had enormous trouble relating to Principal Edwards’ Magic Theatre and tried to avoid any meetings or discussion with them as, perhaps unwittingly, they did my head in and I was unable to function after contact with any one of them.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

Clive Selwood:  I didn’t like their act. I didn’t like their recordings. I didn’t listen to them … I found them pretentious and not very good. Every time I met them they did my head in so much that I had to take a walk round the park afterwards to get over it.
John Mills: Record Collector interview

Sheila Ravenscroft was John Peel’s wife (his real name was Ravenscroft):

Sheila Ravenscroft: The quality of the artists who did record for Dandelion varied greatly … Then there was Principal Edward’s Magic Theatre, whom John’s producer, John Walters and I both loathed. However my dislike of them was not exclusively musical – though their twee compositions would have been reason enough to take against them, even if they hadn’t made a habit of borrowing John’s Dormobile when they lived with us and then refusing to give me a lift when I was struggling down to the launderette to wash their bedsheets. They were rarified rock stars. They were above such trifles as laundry.
John Peel & Sheila Ravenscoft: Margrave of The Marshes, 2005

Lest you think Mr Selwood and Mrs Peel harsh, they supported the band I was working for, and declined to clear their instruments and props from the stage after their dire performance at a Yorkshire Technical College until they had ‘chilled.’ My employers were waiting to go on. I had words with Principal Edwards. I admit, the words were harsh, obscene and threatening, but they were fully justified.

Lament for the Earth: Principal Edward’s Magic Theatre 1969, B-side

Principal Edwards wafted around the stage trailing coloured scarves while people made birds sounds, and did sub-Marcel Marceau mimes to the accompaniment of a distorted guitar. The howls of derision from college audiences were only muted because they had some good-looking hippie chicks doing the wafting about. They were the worst band of the era I saw.

If I were an ordinary straight guy who had never heard this group before, I would say this album is boring and a pretentious load of rubbish. This isn’t a record to take home and get your head into – rather it’s a pleasant memory of many most entertaining evenings. The group told me they felt the record had been under-produced. Frankly, I don’t think there’s anything they could have done to make it any different.
Top Pops & Music Now, 28 April 1970, quoted in ‘Galactic Ramble.’

I feared my memory was too negative, so I actually bought a secondhand copy when I saw one. The second album was produced by Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason. I was right.

Asamoto’s Running Band: Principal Edwards Magic Theate, #DAN 8002 1971

Being annoying was their thing. The second LP was a single album,. but labelled Side Three and Side Four. How many punters searched the gatefold sleeve, hoping to find the other LP? Once they’d heard it, they were probably relieved to find only one LP was there.

Often pretension clouds their work- there is a tendency to run words together in pseudo-poetic fashion and to garble the vocals with studio trickery.
Record Retailer, 30 January 1971, quoted in ‘Galactic Ramble.’

Stack Waddy

Clive Selwood: John loved their rough and ready enthusiasm …they got on the stage blind drunk …  A dirty unsavoury band
Interview by John Mills, Record Collector

Whole page advert in Zig Zag #15, September 1970

Stack Waddy, like so many bands Peel espoused over the years were proto-punk amateurs. He first saw them at the Buxton Festival in October 1970 and produced their album and single

John Peel: (Stack Waddy) turned everything up very, very trebly so the sound was almost unbearable… they emptied quite a big hall, and I thought, ‘That’s my kind of a band.

As it happens, the advert in Zig Zag was on the other side of an advert for Supertramp which you can see see peeping through the paper. Peel was dismissive of Supertramp when they played his BBC Session, and overtly unpleasant to them as a young, new band in 1970. Three years later he was proclaiming he’d been the first to play them on air when Crime of The Century was getting its initial rave reviews, then when they started selling lots of records, he decided he disliked them again.

Back to Stack Waddy / Stackwaddy (they used both).

Their aim is to produce a vast, orgasmic frenzy of sound and rhythm that carries you along like a tidal wave. Only when the audience is tearing up the floor boards and smashing light fittings in their excitement do they feel they have played wellThey have gained quite a reputation of being aggressive, not only musically, but physically towards promoters and agents. The band deny ever having caused grievous bodily harm to the aforementioned, but do admit to having often voiced the threat when the payment was looking doubtful.
Pippin and Lyn, Zig Zag #15, September 1970

The Zig Zag article was “paid for” by taking out the full page ad. It goes on to express this, which almost certainly dropped from Peel’s lips:

Again, due to large record companies treading on enterprising little labels’ toes, CBS deemed it necessary no to supply area representatives with copies, and ordering the singles seems to be a farcical waste of energy. Publicity has been non-existent and the only way of knowing of its existence seems to be listening to the Peel / Drummond programmes
Pippin and Lyn, Zig Zag #15, September 1970

This is the Discogs single.

Roadrunner: Stack Waddy, Promo Dandelion,
CBS distributed 24 July 1970

The date and PROMOTION NOT FOR SALE are printed in standard CBS promo style. But is that red “A” printed or drawn on?

Stack Waddy: Dandelion DAN 8003, 1971 (CBS distributed)
Bugger Off! Stackwaddy Dandelion 2310 231 (Polydor distributed and numbering)

Stackwaddy specialized in raucously inappropriate versions of well-known songs, like Girl From Ipanema. While they managed Roadrunner and You Really Got Me and my Bo Diddley fave, Hey Mama, Keep Your Big Mouth Shut, , others were well beyond their abilities, such as the 1972 cover of Willie The Pimp, the Frank Zappa / Captain Beefheart track from Hot Rats. (It was the B-side to You Really Got Me).

Willie The Pimp: Stack Waddy  B-side 1972
Polydor distributed

Sheila Ravenscroft: Another Dandelion band, Stackwaddy, a gang of Mancunians who John described as ‘punks before punk was invented,’ were no one’s idea of shrinking violets. Luckily, John was never on the receiving end of their raucous brand of merriment, since he was their benefactor and the only person willing to keep them in the drunken state to which they had become accustomed. But there are plenty of people who, if they were to hear the name Stackwaddy today, would have to reach for medication with a trembling hand.. Like the plugger they said could ride in the van with them back to Manchester, before kicking open the doors halfway up the M6 and shoving him out onto the motorway.
John Peel & Sheila Ravenscoft: Margrave of The Marshes, 2005

When Jim Morrison (Elektra) allegedly pointed Percy at the public, it was said to be a revolutionary act of priapic defiance. When Stack Waddy (Dandelion) did the same at a showpiece gig for Warner Bros executives, it was a case of drunken louts needing to piss on stage. In Morrison’s case, people in the front row didn’t even see him do it, the band didn’t see him do it. The only people who saw him were police officers at a distance. In Stack Waddy’s case everyone saw them do it.

Clive Selwood Stackwaddy may have sealed our fate with WEA. They certainly sealed their own fate later that night when they lost their way to another gig, stopped to ask a policeman the way, and the driver, who was still pissed threw up all over the copper’s boots, which brought another of many nights in the pokey. (Incidentally one member of the band was at one time hiding from two wives, the army, the police, the gas board, the electricity board, social security and several children.)
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

Their second album was called ‘Bugger off!’ in recognition of their response to Peel’s attempts at production.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

(Bugger Off) is rather a dreadful album … a mediocre band on an off day – no rehearsals, no retakes, no overdubs on the 5 hour session. So don’t expect much for your money.
Melody Maker, 18 November 1972

Worth hearing for hard rock and proto-punk fans – just about. Shortly after Dandelion folded in early 1973, the label’s co-founder John Walters (actually, the engineer on the Peel Sessions), said “There’s only two albums I’m not personally proud of, the two by Stack Waddy.
Richard Morton Jack, Galactic Ramble, 2020

(Sweet?) Gene Vincent

I’m Back and I’m Proud: Gene Vincent, LP 1969
rear sleeve
gatefold inside

The rare (only?) Dandelion album which was recorded by seasoned professional musicians in a top studio AND in the USA.

You’ve no doubt seen the Joe Meek biopic Telstar. Anything to do with Gene Vincent was a disaster waiting to happen. Selwood already knew Gene Vincent, and he was also one of Peel’s heroes.

John Peel I only met Gene Vincent once, although he did make a rather disappointing album for a company with which I was associated. He asked me, I remember, if I knew where there was a phone he could use. I did and was able to tell the lithe rocker so. He smiled and thanked me.’
Radio Times, quoted in John Collis Gene Vincent & Eddie Cochran: Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolutionaries 2004

Selwood and Peel had heard he was out of contract, and Selwood was in Los Angeles on Elektra business and arranged to meet him. Gene Vincent turned up with producer Kim Fowley. He asked for a $50 advance to free himself from eviction from the garage where he was living. Selwood set up the recording sessions at Elektra’s new state-of-the-art LA studio. Skip Battin of The Byrds was musical director. The basic backing group had Jim Gordon on drums, Red Rhodes on dobro and pedal steel guitar, and Skip Battin on bass guitar. Johnny Meeks from Vincent’s Blue Caps was on lead guitar. Mars Bonfire of Steppenwolf was on guitar too.

The Doors, John Sebastian, Linda Ronstadt are thanked in the liner notes. Others add that The Everly Brothers turned up at the sessions. A Michael Jackson is thanked but ‘that one’ would have been eleven. It’s likely to be a different one. The LP is dedicated to John Peel and Clive Selwood, and the sleeve notes are done by the Gene Vincent UK fan club, whose address is prominent.

Skip Battin Gene Vincent was a difficult artist in some ways. He was a bit of a perfectionist and Kim (Fowley) likes to move quickly. Gene tried very hard, but he was pretty sick at the time. His leg was bothering him and he was in constant pain … I was familiar with his Capitol Records with the Blue Caps, and I preferred them.’
Quoted in John Collis Gene Vincent & Eddie Cochran: Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolutionaries 2004

Selwood devotes a whole chapter to the ensuing debacle. Vincent would call continually in the early hours complaining about Kim Fowley, then from hospital where he claimed he only had hours to live. At last they finished. John Lennon offered to draw the cover, but withdrew the offer after he’d heard the album, I’m Back and I’m Proud. While tracks like Ruby Baby, Sexy Ways and Rockin’ Robin were in line with expectations, no one expected a duet with his wife on Scarlet Ribbons (For Her Hair).

Selwood then got a call from the terrifying manager, Don Arden, pointing out that Vincent was still under contract to him and indeed owed him an album.Selwood turned up at Arden’s office, literally fearing for his life.

Clive Selwood The most popular tale is of (Don Arden) dangling a very famous person (It was Robert Stigwood) from a fourth floor window by his ankles. I always believed the story to be apocryphal until I talked to the man who was holding the other leg.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

It was going badly until Selwood mentioned Shurl, his wife, who had toured with Don Arden in Arden’s touring days as a singer and impersonator. Result?

Clive Selwood Don placed an arm around my flinching shoulder, walked me to the door, ‘Give your wife my regards, and if the album sells well, you owe me a drink.’ And that was that.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

Trivia: The LP sleeve was designed by Dave Clague, of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, also a Dandelion recording artist.

Be Bop A Lu Lu ’69: Gene Vincent, in original “CBS marketing and distribution sleeve” October 1969. This sleeve was never used on CBS’s own productions.
Ruby Baby: Gene Vincent, B-side, sleeve reverse

Medicine Head

Clive Selwood John discovered Medicine Head, who were then employed as gravediggers somewhere in the Midlands. Together they produced a raw but beautiful album called Old Bottles, New Medicine. It received a few nice reviews but was only ever played on John’s radio shows and sold poorly – which was true of all our first releases. Oddly enough, those early Dandelion singles are now considered great rarities and change hands at high prices, which is rather at odds with CBS’s accounting system, which reported them all to have sold in minus quantities.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

I get the point, but records are rare precisely BECAUSE they sold so few copies. Dandelion records were only played on John Peel’s programme, but that was also because most people didn’t like them, perhaps.

(And the) Picture’s in the Sky: Medicine Head 1971 DAN 7003 catalogue number
Natural Sight: Medicine Head, B-side of DAN 7003. Dandelion pioneered putting all info on the B-side

Medicine Head had Dandelion’s only hit , (And The) Pictures In The Sky, produced by Keith Relf, ex-Yardbird.

Sheet music to (And THe) Pictures in the Sky 1971
(And the) Picture’s in the Sky: Medicine Head 1972 reissue
with WEA “K” catalogue number
white both sides

The three Medicine Heads neatly display the three LP centre designs. I’m not alone in preferring the WEA design.

New Bottles Old Medicines 1970 (CBS distributed)

This debut can only add to their reputations showing that you don’t have to be a great technical musician in order to excite the listeners’ emotions.
Record Buyer, July 1970, quoted in Galactic Ramble

Heavy On The Drum 1971 (WEA distributed)

Their debut album had both novelty and an appealing freshness. The only way to one-up that would have been to improve the songwriting or change the sound in some significant way. Despite a number of good songs, they don’t really do either. This isn’t to say fans of the first album won’t like this too, but it’s fair to say that a little Medicine Head can go a long way.
Austin Matthews, Galactic Ramble, 2020

Dark Side of The Moon 1972 (Polydor distributed)

The duo added Keith Relf as both a member and producer.

A disappointment. Apart from one track, the album’s a tedious dirge. Simplicity can be extremely effective, but it certainly ain’t here – it’s only a cover for bad musicianship.
Disc, 22 April 1972, quoted in Galactic Ramble

Beau

Clive Selwood Beau was the pseudonym of a gifted folk singer from Yorkshire who worked by day for the Halifax Building Society and was a committed communist. He wrote and recorded 1917 Revolution which became a Top Ten hit in of all places, Israel. We never saw any royalties for that. Beau was a joy to produce. He would always arrive perfectly rehearsed and dressed – as were all folkies – in dramatic black pants and sweater, eat only apples and cheese and be finished in time to catch the train home.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

Beau had two LPs and a single … Beau in 1969, and Creation with The Way We Live in 1971. The single, 1917 Revolution ended up as number one in the charts in Lebanon for three weeks.

Trevor Midgley Two recording sessions were set for the afternoons of the 14th and 18th April at CBS Studios in New Bond Street.  With the help of a wonderful house engineer called Mike Ross, fourteen useable tracks went down on the first date. The afternoon of the 18th was used to record a song called ‘A Nation’s Pride’ which I’d written between the sessions, and a shortened version of ‘1917 Revolution’.  Clive (Selwood) reckoned at that point that the full take of ‘Revolution’ was too long for a single, and that a shorter version would get us more airplay. In the end however, we weren’t too happy with chopping the song back, and the full record was put out as Dandelion’s first single release.

On the second album with The Way We Live:

Trevor Midgley Creation was recorded at Hollick & Taylor’s sound studio in Birmingham. John Taylor, the owner, was a nice man but did rather struggle to get the sound we wanted. You’ll understand our problem if I tell you that Hollick & Taylor’s main focus at the time was soundtrack recording for ‘Thunderbirds’.  The Way We Live were many things, they weren’t International Rescue! And I wasn’t Lady Penelope… So, ultimately we took the tapes back to London and mixed them at Marquee Studios.  ‘Creation’ came out in June 1971. It’s an unusual set. Part folk, part rock, it also contains more than a hint of the avant-garde. 
From trevormidgley.com

Trevor Midgley is a prolific songwriter with many albums under his belt since then.

Mike Hart

Mile Hart Bleeds: Mike Hart, LP 1969

My heart bleeds … it took me a while to get that.

Clive Selwood Mike Hart wrote the achingly beautiful ‘Almost Liverpool 8’ on his first Dandy album. Like so many of our acts, Mike drank too much, and spent a lot of time dossing or staying with friends. He also had a penchant for the telephone and would call at unsociable times to discuss his career at someone else’s expense.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

Largely a simple collection of dirges / ballads with too many effects trying to conceal bad vocals. Definitely a truthful attempt, but the result is incoherent musically.
Record Mirror, 21 February 1970

The Yamasukis

The Yamasukis were a pseudo-Japanese pop band with French producers. Selwood said Warners asked them to issue it as it had had success in some markets.

Clive Selwood It was pretty deadly, but in a spirit of cooperation we agreed. Neither John nor I cared for the record … I don’t think anybody ever played it on the radio, not even John.
Interview by John Mills, Record Collector

Yamasuki: The Yamasukis A side 1971 WEA distributed and catalogue K19003.
The Yamasukis B-side.

Bridget St John

John Peel: The new album by Bridget St. John (Songs For The Gentle Man) – I think it’s a new Sgt. Pepper. When I first heard it I thought it was a masterpiece.
Interview by Michael Watts, Melody Maker, 24 April 1971

Clive Selwood The first act John chose was Bridget St. John who was a very nice middle-class folk singer-songwriter. John “produced” her first album, which is to say he was there at most of the sessions and made the occasional suggestion. This was not laziness. We had decided early on that we would only record acts that needed minimal production.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

Clive Selwood: Her records were classy productions but her presentation at gigs was never very good.
Interview by John Mills, Record Collector

David Hepworth: It’s curious that most of the musicians who enjoyed the patronage of John Peel didn’t actually benefit from it at the time. That certainly applied to Marc Bolan, who only did well when he was no longer basking in Mr Peel’s approval, and also the artists on his Dandelion label. Bridget St. John, who is still playing, does have the satisfaction of knowing that fifty years later her records have stood up very well and her voice lost none of its charm.
Sleeve notes on ‘Early Morning Song’ on Dave Hepworth’s Deep 70s 4 CD box set, 2022

Ask Me No Questions Bridget St. John 1969
Songs For The Gentle Man: Bridget St. John 1971

Inner gatefold: Songs For The Gentle Man: Bridget St. John 1971

Thank You For … Bridget St. John 1972
Dandelion logo top right, but Polydor logo bottom left.

Tractor (previously The Way We Live) 

A Candle for Judith: The Way We Live, Dandelion 1971

This is the probable origin of the flood of tapes which later descended on John Peel. This took his attention because it had a Rochdale postmark and he’d worked there.

Clive Selwood I received a demo tape which purported to be from a couple of lads from Rochdale. It was not very well recorded but featured a singer and guitarist of supreme talent. Shurl (his wife) and I were fairly certain that it was the product of one of the many supergroups of the time and had been sent to us as a gag in the expectation that we would pass, and be left with egg on our faces. Peely agreed. It did not seem possible that these were the efforts of a couple of unknowns … we met The Way We Live who were indeed a couple of teenagers that had recorded a complete album in the attic.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

They changed their name to Tractor for the follow up at Peel’s behest. Peel funded their efforts with £2000 worth of equipment (£34,000 in 2022 money). That’s encouragement.

Unfortunately …

Clive Selwood: They didn’t play live and sounded awful on the radio
Interview by John Mills, Record Collector

Lol Coxhill

Selwood describes Lol Coxhill as the vainest man he’d ever met. He was a saxophone playing street musician, who made the album Ear of The Beholder  with help from David Bedford and Kevin Ayers. Selwood said that Warner were horrified when they heard the double album, so he decided to license it to Ampex in the USA. It attracted ecstatic reviews in the USA and had begun to sell ‘encouragingly’ when Ampex decided to drop their record division, and did so without paying any royalties on the record.

Occasional Word Ensemble

Occasional Word Ensemble were touted by John Peel in 1968, a year before the label started. 

Clive Selwood: “The Occasional Word Ensemble was a bunch of poets cast along the lines of The Scaffold.  I was once quoted in some journal or other as saying that ‘one of them was institutionalized, but it could have been all of them’, which, twenty-five years later, still seems a reasonable assessment. Their Dandy  album was an odd mix of poems, songs, sketches and rather awful jokes.”
Clive Selwood,  All Of The Moves (But None Of The Licks) 2003

John Peel: A group of superior Poets, minstrels, layabouts, singers, sportsmen and guitarists. Feature death-harp of Peter Roche.. Hire them soon.”
John Peel: Disc & Music Echo  2 November 1968

Siren / Kevin Coyne

Siren: Siren 1969
Strange Locomotion: Siren 1971

Kevin Coyne’s early band.

Kevin Coyne worked with David Clague (ex-Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) on two Dandelion 45s. They changed their name to Siren for two albums. Coyne’s solo album Case History came out just before the label folded. Selwood rates it as one of the two productions he’s most proud of (the other being the edit of Love’s Alone Again Or for Elektra).

David Bedford

Nurses Song With Elephants: David Bedford, LP 1972

Clive Selwood David Bedford is an extremely talented serious musician. He is however, not commercially inclined, so it was with some trepidation that I booked studio time for him at John’s request. They had agreed to complete an album of David’s work that would include the girls from the very smart school at which he worked: they would sing, and twirl plastic pipes. Oh, joy! Since David was the only professional musician we had yet recorded, John felt that we should leave him to get on with it without any input from us or supervision. … I collected the copy master tapes to take home and review in comfort … after a few bars I was disappointed to realize that the tape was running backwards … imagine our consternation after the recordings were rewound, they sounded to our ears, exactly the same. Again I reversed the tape and was horrified, but Peely was sanguine and assured me that it was indeed a work of artPolydor thought we had gone mad, and they had a point.
Clive Selwood All The Moves (And None of The Licks) 2003

There are half a dozen recent remasters on CD on Discogs, so someone must have rated it. The interest value includes the presence of Mike Oldfield and Kevin Ayers. It’s now classified as ‘avant-garde classical’.

Much of it is unclassifiable experimentation. There are backwards recorders, Derek Bailey-like anti-musical guitar sections, a girls’ choir edited into a nightmare (which is amazing) and strings and horns trying to out-weird each other. When an actual song springs into being in the last couple of minutes of the title track, you’ll be shocked. Oldfield’s guitar on it is nice, but the singing is every bit as pretentious as Bedford’s noodling. Recommended to jaded listeners. You haven’t herd anything quite like it.
Austin Matthews, Galactic Ramble, 2020

There Is Some Fun Going Forward

Only Dandelion would bring out their first sampler LP just as the label was about to collapse. The photos show John Peel’s pre-occupation with his self-image as some sort of sex bomb, with the naked girl in the bathtub.

It was reissued in 1995 as a See For Miles CD with several extra bonus tracks, expanding the over-view of the label. That is long out of print.

John Peel It’s rather disgraceful, but it was before we knew such things were kind of morally defective. It was a compilation LP, a sampler really for my fantastically unsuccessful Dandelion Records label. It was called – rather pretentiously, it was a line from Oliver Goldsmith – There Is Some Fun Going Forward. It was a teenage model and myself. I think she told me she was 17. We had to sit in a bath together stark naked for something like an hour and a half. She was completely unabashed by the entire process. Whenever she started to slip down the bath she used to brace herself by putting her foot against my groin and pushing herself upright. I’m trying to avoid too much medical detail here. I was very embarrassed throughout the entire proceedings and as I say, she wasn’t at all. 
11 April 2001, on air, quoted on peel.fandom.com

There Is some Fun Going Forward: Dandelion sampler LP with poster inset 1972
Oddly, the sampler was released just as the label was about to cease existing

The Dark Side …

Look away if you revere Peel. In recent years, people have objected to the’John Peel wing’ at BBC Broadcasting House and the ‘John Peel Stage’ at he Glastonbury Festival. John Peel fan sites blame the Daily Mail for the approbation. So instead I’ll quote The Guardian.

Julie Burchill: I’ve always loathed John Peel. It started in the Sixties when I was a child, still staggering under the first blow of benediction by black music. All day long on Radio 1 – most of all, on Tony Blackburn’s show – you could hear great creamy earfuls of it: Motown by the mile, Philly by the furlong. But at night Radio 1 became a white desert. It became ‘intelligent’. That is, it became male, hippy and smelly – it became John Peel.  I hated him in the Seventies, too, because he liked punk, long after punk – the whitest, malest, most asexual music ever – should have been left to die an unnatural death. I’d been a punk, and knew that the whole thing was, frankly, shit in safety pins. We came to bury the music industry; we ended up giving it one almighty shot in the arm. … Like many an ugly Englishman, he went to America, where that nation’s young women found a Limey accent so beguiling that they barely looked at the face it came out of: “All they wanted me to do was abuse them, sexually, which, of course, I was only too happy to do,”
Julie Burchill, The Guardian, ‘Rake’s Progress’ 23 January 1999

Other BBC colleagues, also now dead, such as the respected John Peel, are suspected of collusion (with exploitation by BBC DJs) Peel spoke openly about having sex with young girls, referring to it as a “perk” of being a DJ.
Mary Kenny, Belfast Telegraph, 9 October 2012

Many of you might not be aware of John Peel’s history with underage girls, but in 1989, he gave an interview which he described his time working for a local Radio station in Texas. According to Peel, “Girls used to queue up outside. By and large, not usually for shagging. Oral sex they were particularly keen on”. Sometimes these women were above the age of consent – around the age of 21 – but, judging from the way Peel describes the women he slept with, it would seem like they were the exception, not the rule. Seemingly, they were “extraordinarily older” than his usual clientele. For Peel, being in this position of power was like all of his “masturbation fantasies becoming fact. But with it came danger. One of my, er, regular customers, as it were, turned out to be 13,” Peel said.It would seem that the BBC’s enduring veneration of Peel – regardless of the validity of the allegations – is proof of how little they learned from the Jimmy Saville case. Moreover, it is an indication of just how willing the public is to shelve any notion that the personalities they grew up with have a darker side. 
Sam Kemp Far Out, 25 October 2021

I was reluctant to add those quotes, but they tie in with tales I heard from musicians who did Peel sessions. There was mention of him pawing girls in the control room in front of the musicians assembled in the studio – showing off.

On music, I concur with Julie Burchill. I used to drive 40 minutes to and from work, often returning late enough for Peel. I too greatly preferred Tony Blackburn’s mix of Motown and Rumors era Fleetwood Mac in the morning. I used to watch Tony Blackburn & The Rovers supporting Zoot Money at Bournemouth Pavilion. Blackburn could sing, and he could play guitar. He had singles on MGM. So he was a musician (though failed). John Peel wasn’t a musician in any way.

Here’s my bias. I used to tape Paul Gambaccini shows from the radio. In the punk era people persuaded me to listen to Peel again (I’d stopped). I couldn’t stand John Peel’s drone, nor his choice of music. I never contemplated taping his shows.

Collectability

In spite of the poor sales, or more likely because of that, collectability factor is cited for any of Dandelion’s twenty-seven albums, thirteen singles and one EP. Even the much reviled Yamasukis single got itself reissued in 1971 … on Jonathan King’s UK label. It’s always mentioned by Peel and Selwood as a ‘collectable label.’

To a degree it is. Amazingly, the ones rated at £175 in Rare Record Guide 2022 are Stackwaddy. However, that is in MINT condition. As if unplayed. What chances are there of a fifty year old proto-punk record having survived in that sort of nick? The unlikelihood of finding unscarred copies feeds the value for mint ones.

Bridget St. John comes in at £80 to £100, mint for all three albums, first pressings (NOT reissues). They’re probably the best thing on the label. Kevin Coyne’s Case History is rated at £150, on the strength of his later output. Medicine Head’s Heavy on The Drum rates at £125 (strictly first pressing with gatefolds and inserts). The other two are £60 and £35.

Otherwise? £30 to £50 (MINT!) covers most of the output. Both Siren rate at £60 for instance. Principal Edwards at £60 (1st album), £40 (2nd).

Then David Bedford’s album is rated a mere £30 mint. I’d guess you could find that in mint condition too, as few will have played it more than once, and most would never have played the whole thing through.

Lo Coxhill’s Ear of The Beholder is rated at £90 mint, but if you check Discogs, its highest sale yet is about £40, with a median of £19.50. That’s for a double album too. So how does Rare Record Guide get £90?

The label founders consoled themselves with the collectability of their efforts, but it’s not massive. As David Hepworth points out, artists tended to do better post-Peel than when he was promoting them.

Dandelion singles

Left to right: CBS label 1969-70/ WEA label 1970-71/ Polydor label 1972

Beau1917 Revolution1969
Bridget St JohnTo B Without A Hitch1970
Principal Edwards Magic TheatreBallad of The Big Girl Now1969
ClagueMandy Lee1970
Coyne – ClagueThe Stride1970
Gene VincentBe Bop A Lula 691970
Medicine HeadHis Guiding Hand1970
Mike HartYawney Morning Song1970
Bill OddieOn Illka Mooor Baht’at1970
Gene VincentWhite Lightning (For Her Hair)1970
Medicine HeadCoast To Coast1970
Stack WaddyRoadunner1970
Siren Strange Locomotion1971
Medicine Head(And The) Pictures in The Sky197122
YamasukisYamasuki1971
Clifford T. WardCarrie1972
Stack WaddyYou Really Got Me / Willie The Pimp1972
Clifford T. WardCoathanger1972
Medicine HeadOnly Do What Is True 1972
Medicine HeadKum On1972
TractorStoney Glory1972
Clifford T WardSidetrack1972
Kevin CoyneCheat Me1972
Medicine HeadHow Does It Feel1972
Lol Coxhill / David BedfordMood / Sonny Boy / Oh Mein Papa1972

Dandelion LPs

ARTISTTITLEcatalogueyear
BeauBeau(CBS)
S63571
1969
Bridget St. JohnAsk Me No QuestionsS635721969
Principal Edwards Magic TheatreSoundtrackS637521969
Occasional Word EnsembleThe Year of The Great Leap SidewaysS637531969
Gene VincentI’m Back and I’m ProudS637541969
SirenSirenS637551969
Mike HartMike Hart BleedsS637561969
Medicine HeadNew Bottles Old MedicineS637571969
SirenStrange Locomotion(WEA)
DAN 8001
1971
Principal Edwards Magic TheatreThe Asomoto Running BandDAN 80021971
Stack WaddyStack WaddyDAN 80031971
The Way We LiveA Candle for JudithDAN 80041971
Medicine HeadHeavy on The DrumDAN 80051971
Beau / The Way We LiveCreationDAN 80061971
Bridget St. JohnSongs For The Gentle ManDAN 80071971
Lol CoxhillEar of The BeholderDAN 80081971
Burnin’ Red IvanhoeWWW(Polydor)
2310145
1971
SupersisterTo The Highest Bidder23101461971
David BedfordNurse’s Song With Elephants23101651972
Medicine HeadDark Side of The Moon23101661972
Bridget St. JohnThank You For Me23101931972
Mike Hart & ComradesBasher Chalky Pongo & Me23102111972
Clifford T. WardSinger Songwriter23102161972
TractorTractor23102171972
Kevin CoyneCase History32102281972
Stack WaddyBugger Off23102311972
Various Artists samplerThere Is Some Fun Going Forward24850211972


Reissues

The catalogue eventually ended up with Cherry Red and much has been reissued on CD, with some on vinyl (e.g. Songs Of a Gentle Man by Bridget St. John is a new vinyl reissue).

3 thoughts on “Dandelion

  1. Paul Newman
    Very interesting article on Dandelion. Thanks Peter. Yes I for one was no fan of John Peel in his early days. I’m not surprised that many professional musicians thought little of him. He got better, probably through listening to more proper music, and he got wittier as he got older too I thought.

    Great article.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. David Hepworth was nice about her. Her albums are all available on a 4CD set- the three studio plus live Peel sessions. Generally, people seem to think her the best thing on Dandelion … I never saw her live myself.

      Like

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