Sleeve and centre designs:
This Wheel’s On Fire: Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity, 1968 (UK #5). Push out centre
I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight: Blossom Toes, March 1968. Reverse of sleeve. Record has closed centre which fits the design better. Note the curves had been designed so as to fit a push-out centre
Peace Loving Man: Blossom Toes, 1969. Polydor pressed Marmalade discs, and had switched to large centre holes with fitted spiders in 1969, ruining the centre design
Open: Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity, LP 1967. LP centre design has the full unbroken semi-circle in the design
With colours and aura reminiscent of a Chelsea boutique, Marmalade’s psychedelic/ art nouveau design immediately dates it to the latter end of the 1960s. ‘Marmalade’ was an In-word in the late 60s/ early 70s and should not be confused with the group called Marmalade who also had a number of hits at this time (but not on Marmalade) nor with the Labelle single Lady Marmalade (Voulez-vous coucher avec moi, ce soir?) a few years later (but again not on Marmalade).
Marmalade were one of a number of manager and producer led independents, encouraged and part-financed by Polydor, who pressed and distributed the records. It was a case of If you can’t beat the major label groups (EMI, Decca, Pye, Philips, CBS) , finance someone who can.
Marmalade was founded by club owner /rock band manager Giorgio Gomelsky (1934-2016), who owned the Crawdaddy Club where The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds started out. He promoted the Stones in their early days. managed and also produced The Yardbirds until 1966, when he was replaced by Simon Napier-Bell. With The Yardbirds, he’s credited with the first use of creative feedback on You Got To Hurry, a B-side he wrote on the spot as O. Rasputin. He also gave Eric Clapton the nickname, ‘Slowhand.’ He set up Paragon, a promotion and management company which was also funded by Polydor, and he produced the first Soft Machine single.
Daevid Allen of Soft Machine and Gong described him:
Daevid Allen: He was an incredible oiler of wheels, Giorgio. Extraordinary social genius who could sort of like really connect people up, one of the great connectors. He got me involved with doing some kind of loop project with Paul McCartney that never really finished up getting anywhere, but still it was interesting to talk to him about it. So I saw Giorgio as this marvelous, somewhat devious, brilliant, witty, charming, middle European gentleman of the type I’ve always loved all my life. [I’ve] always liked this kind of strange hybrid cultural being that seem to be able to move easily in any circumstance, and get the best out of any circumstance.
Although Gomelsky’s independent label only lasted a few years (1966-69) and released fewer than a couple of dozen singles, those times encompassed a fair amount of prestige and a big hit single by Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger (This Wheel’s On Fire).
The first release (598001) in the autumn of 1966 came in two versions and was We Love The Pirates by The Roaring 60s. This was also issued as We Love The Pirates by Ssshhh! implying that the sentiment of loving pirate radio was so dodgy that it could only be expressed anonymously … but by whom? It got a lot of pirate radio play but failed to reach the official BBC chart. You don’t have to wonder why.
This Wheel’s On Fire was only the second cover of a Basement Tapes song, the first hit, and the credits on the Marmalade single are wrong … it was co-written by Bob Dylan and Rick Danko of The Band in the basement of Big Pink. Rick Danko said:
Rick Danko: We would come together every day and work and Dylan would come over. He gave me the typewritten lyrics to ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’. At that time I was teaching myself to play the piano. … Some music I had written on the piano the day before just seemed to fit with Dylan’s lyrics. I worked on the phrasing and the melody. Then Dylan and I wrote the chorus together.
Rick Danko: Those first royalty checks we got almost killed some of us. ‘This Wheel’s On Fire’ was never really a hit, but it had been recorded by a few people, and all of a sudden I got a couple of hundred thousand dollars out of left field. This was half the writer’s royalty from one song. We were all shocked at these windfalls we never dreamed existed. Dealin’ with this wasn’t in the fucking manual, man! If you’ve never made a million dollars overnight, like we did. You have no concept of what it can do.
A later version in the same style with Julie Driscoll and Adrian Edmondson became the theme tune of Absolutely Fabulous. Rick Danko said the TV version provided six-figure royalty checks and his living for the last few years of his life. I love versions by The Band, The Byrds and Dylan, but if I want to hear the song, it has to be Driscoll’s icy voice and Auger’s swirling organ. Siouxsie & The Banshees later had a hit cover (and didn’t even realize it was a Dylan song).
So much about music is context and memory. This Wheel’s On Fire by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity was released in March 1968. The charts of Spring 1968 were not as spectacular as those of Summer 1967, but nevertheless it shared the lists with Jumping Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones, Hurdy Gurdy Man by Donovan, Lazy Sunday by The Small Faces, My Name Is Jack by Manfred Mann, Rainbow Valley by The Monkees. It peaked at number five in June, but often the stuff above it was MoR … Des O’Connor, Don Partridge, Englebert Humperdink, so in generational terms, for the student age group, it was one of the two most popular songs of that Spring (with Jumpin’ Jack Flash).
To continue the context, March 1968 saw the Vietnam War demo at the US Embassy which resulted in the police on horses baton charging unarmed protestors and arresting 200 in one of those 1960s orgies of police violence. It was far worse in Paris, where the military police were clubbing protestors and throwing them over bridges into the Seine. By May and June, many universities were occupied by sit-in protestors. Among all that, This Wheel’s On Fire whirled and swirled. That context is why it was chosen as the theme to Absolutely Fabulous, and why in the UK it has the equivalent weight of history as Buffalo Springfield’s For What it’s Worth in the USA, written about a club curfew in 1966, released in 1967, but with a shift of interpretation by listeners, it became the great political song of the era.
The two Driscoll / Auger follow ups, The Road to Cairo and Indian Rope Man / Take Me To The Water failed to chart. If you see a Marmalade sleeve in a shop, it will almost certainly be This Wheel’s On Fire, and if not, The Road to Cairo, which must have been pressed in optimistic quantities.
Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity were the most successful album artists with Open and the double album Streetnoise which sported a Ralph Steadman cartoon across the spread. The album track Season of The Witch is virtually the best-known version of the song.
Streetnoise: Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity, double album. Canadian copy
An early release was Don’t Send Me No Flowers by Sonny Boy Williamson, which Giorgio Gomelsky had produced. To add interest, Jimmy Page plays guitar, Brian Auger plays organ, Micky Waller is on drums, and Alan Skidmore and Joe Harriot play saxes. Gomelsky knew Sonny Boy from 1963 when Sonny Boy Williamson & The Yardbirds was recorded at the Crawdaddy Club. It wasn’t released until 1966. Sonny Boy Williamson was a house guest of Gomelsky’s for six months, and heard the Louis Jordan title track from Gomelsky’s copy.
Don’t Send Me No Flowers: Sonny Boy Williamson, 1968
Brian Auger’s sleeve note dates the session as 1966 (though it says Produced in 1965 on the centre label). It was finally reissued for Record Store Day 2019 by Reel records on pristine clear vinyl. Like so many legendary and unobtainable albums, it’s rather less than fantastic. The interest is hearing Sonny Boy focussing on 1940s Louis Jordan style jump blues on most tracks.
Whenever one hears Sonny Boy with English musicians, Robbie Robertson’s memory of Sonny Boy’s quote in The Last Waltz comes to mind:
Sonny Boy Williamson: Those English guys want to play the blues so bad. And they do.
This album is definitely not the culprit – Sonny Boy loved playing with Brian Auger. It’s also an uncharacteristic album. He had recorded with the very raw and young Yardbirds and with the Animals. Paul Jones has raised his hand and admitted it might be Manfred Mann, who backed him on TV and fell into a major altercation with him.
Cat Call by Chris Barber’s Band (he dropped the “Jazz” for Marmalade) was a Paul McCartney composition, with Paul himself on piano and adding vocals at the end. It was a revival of a Beatles 1962 era live piece, Catwalk. The B-side was a cover of Joe Zawinul’s Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.
If Only For A Moment: Blossom Toes, Marmalade 1969. I bought it new after seeing them live. Rare Record Guide 2020 rates a Mint copy at £800. Discogs highest price for a copy was £271.42, and copies listed online run from £299.90 to a swingeing £2694.00.
The most prolific band on Marmalade were Blossom Toes, who issued five singles and two LPs. Gomelsky was convinced they would become a major band, and changed their name from The Ingoes. He chose their new name and set them up in Fulham on £10 a week retainer each.
Their first single What On Earth in September 1967 got a whole front page NME advert, a cartoon strip drawn by Ralph Steadman. In a particularly hip fashion the cartoon failed to mention the title of the single, nor for shops hoping to order it, its catalogue number. It also had two tracks on side one, and one on side two. It has the only Marmalade picture sleeve too, not that they bothered to put the title on it. As is the way with collecting, an intact picture sleeve raises its mint value from £30 to £70. I think the generic company sleeve is more attractive.
What On Earth: Blossom Toes 1967
In Melody Maker their first LP, We Are Ever So Clean was advertised as Giorgio Gomelsky’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Gomelsky commissioned elaborate orchestrations.
Guitarist Brian Godding said of the album:
Brian Godding: At the risk of raining on Blossie’s fans’ parades, who see the first album as ‘ a quirky look at British life in the late 60’s with garden parties, tea and cakes on the lawn in the summer, budgerigars and balloons wafting in a warm breeze’, I’m sorry to say it was not like that at all. I’m not saying that I don’t like the record as I actually am quite proud of it now, but at the time, we were getting constant grief from the mother company Polydor UK who thought we were shit and a waste of space, having to play with complete strangers (session musicians), having to accept other people’s versions of ‘moonlight’, (arrangers) and generally being pushed around.
In spite of a reputation as one of the best live bands in the country (which they were), some of the lyrics on If Only For A Moment, their second LP, (all we need is a love bomb …) may have hampered them.
Not so on I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight. Dylan covers had been good for Marmalade, and this time Blossom Toes captured the raucous laid-back feel of the basement tapes (on a post-basement song) as well as anyone, complete with playful Dooby-doo-wah fade out, which is exactly the sort of thing that emerged twenty years later when basement material like I’m Your Teenage Prayer surfaced. John Wesley Harding was released in February, and this demo is stamped 8 March 1968, suggesting that Marmalade were given first call following the sales of This Wheel’s On Fire. Brian Godding said in a later interview:
Brian Godding: It was crap! I’d put it in a league with Herman’s Hermits. It was a joke. We were a quirky sort of English band and trying to do cover versions of Bob Dylan was really stupid in retrospect. We were good at what we did, but not good enough to go round covering people’s material like that.
Well, I like it. Brian Godding is Julie Driscoll’s brother-in-law, and went on to spend many years with Mike Westbrook. Jim Cregan, the lead guitarist, went on to join Family, then was the stalwart behind Rod Stewart’s band for years. Drummer Barry Reeves married Madeleine Bell, then became James Last’s drummer for years. It may seem an odd destination for a psych drummer, but James Last was a high-prestige and well-paid gig, and he was very choosey.
Extrapolation: John McLaughlin 1969
There were side excursions. Extrapolation by John McLaughlin was his debut jazz LP recorded with the John Surman Trio (and which came #52 in a 100 Best Jazz Records of All Time poll).
100% Proof – The Sound That Intoxicates. Marmalade sampler LP
Marmalade put out the requisite budget-priced sampler LP in 1969: 100 Proof: The Sound That Intoxicates. The rear label declares:
A taste of Marmalade. The sound that spreads.
Samplers tell a lot about a label’s intentions. The cover says:
Music – or Art is both an entertainment and an education. Until the experience is felt, it cannot be imagined. Marmalade commits itself. It is not afraid to believe that people’s tastes can be influenced and even changed. This album isa representation of our commitment at this time. Marmalade Records is the creation of Georgio Gomelsky and a few faithful friends. Friends who believe in his vision; friends who like working with him; friends who back him. All are risking something and that’s half the fun.
This focussed on albums, as samplers do (unless they’re Reggae) . The sampler had three tracks from one album … Streetnoise by Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity and two otherwise unreleased “experimental” tracks, one by Graham Gouldman, the other by Kevin Godley. It also includes Dis-Toi-Bien by La Lievre (the Hare). According to the liner notes, while putting out the song in French, an English version was being worked on. It never emerged. The other examples were Blossom Toes, Gordon Jackson, Ottilie Patterson and (separately) Chris Barber. Both the Patterson (Bitterness of Death) and Barber (Battersea Rain Dance) were also issued as singles. The Bitterness of Death is truly weird, in Marianne Faithful meets Celtic traditional dirge. Not a sign of trad jazz about it.
Gordon Jackson’s LP and two singles were produced by Dave Mason. Jackson had been in Deep Feeling with Jim Capaldi, and Gomelsky said ‘most of the boys (in Traffic) including Steve Winwood and Chris Wood play on these records.’ So do Julie Driscoll, Luther Grosvenor of Spooky Tooth and members of Family.
The sampler LP turns up reasonably often, at reasonable prices, which is not true of virtually any other Marmalade LP.
The label ended in a satisfyingly 60s style. Gomelsky is alleged to have shut the doors and disappeared without informing either the artists or the distributors, Polydor, who had financed the operation. He had had a falling out with Polydor / Deutsche Gramophone and went off to France.
With most labels a complete list would be between impossible and undesirable … and we won’t be doing it. As Marmalade has such a short list (and it was online), we’ll make an exception.
Cat Call: Chris Barber’s Band, 1967. The sleeve still looks good when well-worn and battered.
- The Roaring 60’s – “We Love The Pirates” / “I’m Leaving Town” (1966, Marmalade 598001)
- Blossom Toes – “What On Earth” / “Mrs. Murphy’s Budgerigar” / “Look At Me I’m You” (October 1967, Marmalade 598002)
- Brian Auger & The Trinity – “Red Beans And Rice” / “Part 2” (1967, Marmalade 598003)
- Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – “Save Me” / “Part 2” (1967, Marmalade 598004)
- Chris Barber’s Band – “Cat Call” / “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” (1967, Marmalade 598005)
- Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – This Wheel’s On Fire / “A Kind Of Love-In” (No. 5 UK, October 1967, Marmalade 598006)
- Kevin Westlake & Gary Farr – “Everyday” / “Green” (1968, Marmalade 598007)
- Blossom Toes – I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight / “Love Is” (March 1968, Marmalade 598009)
- Gordon Jackson – “Me Am My Zoo” / “A Day at the Cottage” (1968, Marmalade 598010)
- Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – “Road to Cairo” / “Shadows of You” (1968, Marmalade 598011)
- Blossom Toes – “Postcard” / “Everybody’s Leaving Me Now” (October 1968, Marmalade 598012)
- Chris Barber & His Jazzband – “Battersea Rain Dance” / “Sleepy John” (1969, Marmalade 598013)
- Blossom Toes – “Peace Loving Man” / “Above My Hobby Horses Head” (April 1969, Marmalade 598014)
- Brian Auger & The Trinity – “What You Gonna Do?” / “Bumpin’ On Sunset” (1969, Marmalade 598015)
- Keith Meehan – “Darkness of My Life” / “Hooker Street” (1969, Marmalade 598016)
- Gary Farr – “Hey Daddy” / “The Vicar & The Pope” (1969, Marmalade 598017)
- Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – “Take Me to The Water” / “Indian Rope Man” (1969, Marmalade 598018)
- Frabjoy And Runcible Spoon – “I’m Beside Myself” / “Animal Song” (1969, Marmalade 598019)
- Ottilie Patterson – “Bitterness of Death” / “Spring Song” (1969, Marmalade 598020)
- Gordon Jackson – “Song For Freedom” / “Sing To Me Woman” (1969, Marmalade 598021)
- Blossom Toes – “New Day” / “Love Bomb” (October 1969, Marmalade 598022). The final single. It was withdrawn as the label collapsed. White label test-pressings exist and were sold on eBay in 2008.
Open: Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity, LP 1967
- Blossom Toes: We Are Ever So Clean (October 1967, Marmalade 607001 (mono) 608001 (stereo))
- Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – Open (1967, Marmalade 608002)
- Brian Auger – Definitely What (1968, Marmalade 608003)
- Sonny Boy Williamson – Don’t Send Me No Flowers (1968, Marmalade 608004)
- Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity – Streetnoise (Double Album 1968, Marmalade 608005/6)
- John McLaughlin – iExtrapolation (1969) Marmalade 608007
- Chris Barber – Battersea Rain Dance (1969, Marmalade 608009)
- Blossom Toes – If Only For A Moment (1969, Marmalade 608010)
- Ottillie Patterson – 3000 Years With Ottilie (1969, Marmalade 608011)
- Gordon Jackson – Thinking Back (July 1969, Marmalade 608012)
- Gary Farr – Take Something With You (1969, Marmalade 608013)
- Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity – Streetnoise Volume 1 (1969, Marmalade 608014)
- Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger and the Trinity – Streetnoise Volume 2 (1969, Marmalade 608015)
- Various Artists – 100° Proof (Sampler Marmalade 643314)