Monday, 6 August 2018
Reach For Love
One of the best things about Factory Records was that in the early years of its existence the label put no pressure on artists to conform or play the industry game. Commercial considerations were way down the list of essential requirements for a release. Art came first. Not to say they didn't want a hit every now and then to pay the bills but the musicians were more or less given the freedom to record anything they wanted to, to experiment and to explore.
The other side of this, which was probably just as important as the one above theoretically (and Factory's directors especially Tony Wilson were very into their theory), is that in attempting to prove that an independent record label could stand alone outside the majors, they also refused to play the game. To Wilson this meant, certainly in the first half of the 80s, that there would be no promotion, no pluggers, no advertising (apart from bill posters). The records would sell themselves because they were brilliant and because they packaged inside beautiful sleeves.
This worked fine for New Order. New Order could release a single, a work of art on 12 inches of vinyl housed in a Peter Saville sleeve, and know that a fanbase of 60- 80, 000 people would buy it within a week of it being released. However, as Stephen Morris pointed out to Wilson in what became a heated debate 'while sitting in the studio for hours waiting for Bernard to redo his guitar for the umpteenth time', this policy of no promotion (or anti-promotion) was letting the bands down. Wilson replied that 'the trouble with you is that you're too money- minded'.
If ever there was a record that came out on Factory that should have been a massive hit and wasn't it was Reach For Love by Marcel King. It was produced by Be Music, the catch all name for New Order band members producing other artists. In this case, the producer was Bernard Sumner along with ACR's Donald Johnson (who played many of the instruments as well). Released in 1984 Reach For Love is a fantastic piece of dancefloor soul, a tough, urban sounding record packed with electronic rhythms and a pulsing bassline and topped with a beautiful vocal from Marcel. It should have been number 1. It wasn't. Marcel had been at the top of the charts ten years earlier with the group Sweet Sensation and according to legend was found by Rob Gretton sleeping in a car and offered the opportunity to make a record on the spot. He died of a brain haemorrhage in 1995 aged just 38. Factory made many of the greatest pieces of pop culture of the late 20th century but they also fucked it up many times. Maybe they fucked it up for the right reasons but not selling a million copies of this single is a fuck up however you slice it. Your Monday however will be immeasurably improved by pressing play.
Reach For Love