AUGUST 2018, VOCALION BOOKS, The Mood Modern,
– 486 pages, Foreword by Keith Mansfield, Hardback and paperback editions –
ISBNs: 978-1-9996796-0-6 (hardback) / 978-1-9996796-1-3 (paperback) – Fully
indexed – Two sixteen-page photo sections, one in b/w, one in colour, both
containing many never-before-published images: from the Phillips family
archive, and of composers, musicians, recording sessions, catalogues, music
scores and studio brochures.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with Oliver
Lomax for well over a decade. His superbly produced Dutton Vocalion CD’s have regularly
graced the pages of Cinema Retro. So when he hinted to me some months ago that
he had been working on a book, I knew that it would materialise as something
very special. After reading Oliver’s meticulously detailed liner notes which
had accompanied many of his KPM and Bruton re-releases, it was perhaps no
surprise that he had chosen the history of these legendary labels as the
subject of Vocalion’s publishing debut.
Also known as mood, stock, background or
production music, for decades library music has made an important though
anonymous contribution to the broadcast media, supplying film, radio and
television with innumerable themes and underscores.
The Mood Modern is three books in one,
weaving together the separate strands of company history, biography and
critical assessment of some of the most important music collectively produced
by the KPM and Bruton libraries during the course of a quarter century,
spanning the years from 1956 to 1980. At the heart of the book, however, is the
Phillips family, one of Britain’s great music publishing dynasties, but in
particular Robin Phillips (1939-2006).
The mid-1960s through the ’70s have come to
be regarded as library music’s golden age. In Britain, it was when this
somewhat mysterious branch of the music industry emerged from the chrysalis of
its light music heritage, into a vibrant new era of modern, colourful sounds.
Robin Phillips played a fundamental role in this transformation when, in 1966,
he established a new library – the KPM 1000 Series. Robin would also introduce
several new composers who would quickly become some of the best-known and most
successful names in the library music field: Keith Mansfield, Johnny Pearson,
Syd Dale, Alan Hawkshaw, James Clarke, David Lindup, Brian Bennett and Steve
Gray among others. And thanks to Robin’s guidance, by the early ’70s the 1000
Series had become one of the world’s foremost libraries, its music a ubiquitous
presence in countless films, documentaries, radio programmes and television
But in 1977, at the height of his success,
Robin left KPM for ATV Music – taking with him his right-hand man, Aaron Harry,
and the major composers – where he formed the Bruton Library under the auspices
of his brother Peter (who by now was ATV Music’s managing director) and show
business mogul Lew Grade’s financial adviser, Jack Gill.
Drawing on interviews with members of the
Phillips family (including Peter Phillips) and many of the composers, recording
engineers, musicians and staff of both libraries, The Mood Modern tells the
remarkable inside story of how KPM and, subsequently, Bruton came to be
dominant forces in library music, both in Britain and internationally.
In addition to charting the origin and history
of the music publishing firms – Keith Prowse and Peter Maurice – that merged to
form KPM, The Mood Modern covers numerous related areas. These include the
birth of Britain’s library music industry; the early British libraries and
their inseparable link to the English light music tradition; how the arrival of
commercial television in Britain led to the formation of the Keith Prowse
library in 1956 under the aegis of its manager, Patrick Howgill, which paved
the way for the KPM library; KPM’s legacy as a famous popular music publisher
and its place in the history of Denmark Street (London’s Tin Pan Alley);
Robin’s father, legendary music publisher Jimmy Phillips; the corporate
manoeuvring that saw Keith Prowse, Peter Maurice and KPM bought and sold; and
the clash with management that eventually caused Peter and Robin Phillips to
leave KPM for ATV Music.
The importance of the recording engineer is
acknowledged in The Mood Modern, and those who largely shaped the “sound” of
the KPM and Bruton libraries are featured: Ted Fletcher, Adrian Kerridge, Mike
Clements, Richard Elen (KPM) and Chris Dibble (Bruton Music). There’s detailed
coverage of all the KPM 1000 Series’ overseas sessions – including personnel,
dates, locations and what was recorded – and chapters respectively devoted to
the sessions in Bickendorf, Cologne (along with the stellar lineup of
international jazz talent that played on them) and in KPM’s two in-house
studios. The Musicians’ Union embargo, which had forced British libraries to
record much of their material on the Continent, is also scrutinised, as are the
negotiations with the MU of the late ’70s that finally allowed British
libraries to resume recording in British studios with British musicians.
As well as delineating the setting up of the
Bruton Library, its struggle to get established and the background of the
parent company, ATV Music (itself a division of entertainment conglomerate
Associated Television [ATV]), Bruton’s recording sessions and early output are
placed under the spotlight.
Another aspect of The Mood Modern is the
chapter-length biographical portraits of five of the KPM 1000 Series’ principal
composers: Syd Dale, Johnny Pearson, Keith Mansfield, James Clarke and David
Lindup. This is the first time that any of them have been the subject of an
in-depth portrait, and these chapters take in many associated areas: KPM
library offshoots Aristocrat, Radio Program Music and the KPM International
series; the litany of famous and not-so-famous TV and radio themes within the
KPM library; Lansdowne Studios; British jazz and pop; classical music;
commissioned film and TV scores; BBC Television and Radio; Independent
Television (ITV); the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society; the Performing
Right Society; Phonographic Performance Ltd. and so much more.
A host of other composers also feature in The
Mood Modern. These include KPM and Bruton stalwarts Laurie Johnson, Neil
Richardson, Steve Gray, Dave Gold, Francis Monkman, Brian Bennett, Alan
Hawkshaw, John Dankworth, John Scott, Duncan Lamont, John Fiddy and John
Cameron as well as the KPM 1000 Series’ house bands, WASP and SHARKS.
Putting everything into further perspective
is a thorough examination of the pre-1000 Series KPM library, and a chapter
that focuses on a leading music editor of the ’70s, who describes the processes
and equipment that were used in transferring library music onto the soundtracks
of films, documentaries and television programmes.
The Mood Modern is arguably the most
fascinating and in-depth study of an essential genre within the music industry
and a must for anyone with an intent interest in the history of soundtrack