BBC4 produced an excellent 90 minute documentary on Rough Trade from its shop origins, through its growth as a revolutionary distribution business (The Cartel) and label and subsequent implosion and rebirth.
With dozens of RT discs in my collection, believing the label to be synonymous with indie music, it served as a reminder as to just how the landscape of this country was changed by Geoff Travis and his clan of visionary misfits. Their egalitarian ethics and ideals, the revolt against the corporate monopoly, smashing the major label stranglehold over musicians and enabling the music of hundreds of no-hope but worthy bands to be heard.
The interviewees, those who were there at the beginning, particularly Mayo Thompson and Richard Scott, proved an engaging and lucid bunch. Their bewilderment (with Travis) as first the business faced bankruptcy, then began to play ‘the game’ of the enemy, the majors, was well documented and rather disillusioning.
You have six days left to see it online. It really is worth watching. I can’t exactly say the same for Rough Trade at the BBC, an hour long comp of acts from the Young Marble Giants to Anthony and the Johnsons, including the likes of Robert Wyatt, Raincoats, Delta 5, Aztec Camera, The Smiths, Pulp and The Libertines. It was okay, but no better. Where were The Fall, Spizz, Subway Sect, Monochrome Set, Pere Ubu? My highlight was Weekend, a band I had long ago forgotten about.
Here’s a couple of RT classics that prove ‘indie’ comes in many disparate and wonderful guises.