Ever since the dawn of hip hop, library music has proved a source of inspiration for sample-hungry hip hop producers and crate-digging DJs alike. Library music has also proven popular with music lovers with discerning musical tastes. Little did the founders of Chappell, Bosworth and KPM Music realize the lasting effects the music of mainly anonymous, young composers would have. Whether it’s children growing up in the seventies, weaned on cartoons like Dangermouse, viewers of TV quizzes or current affair, hip hop producers Jay-Z, Doom and Guilty Simpson, film producers including Quentin Tarantino or cutting-edge DJs, library music has influenced their lives. Given how wide library music’s influence is, you’d think everyone would have of this musical secret? Well, if you answered yes, you’re wrong. However, that’s about to change. On 2nd of April 2013, Strut Records will rerelease a deluxe edition of Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library. This is the first installment of a series Strut Records successfully released back in 1999, but with the welcome addition of a bonus disc.

Unlike the 1999 edition of Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library, the Deluxe Edition is a double album. Disc One features twenty classic tracks from KPM’s back-catalogue. On Disc Two, which is an exclusive bonus disc, where many of KPM’s original composers and musicians were reunited and London’s prestigious Jazz Cafe, for a one-off concert. Fittingly, they were billed as The KPM All-Stars. That concert was recorded, with The KPM All-Stars revisiting fourteen KPM classics. During fourteen tracks, musical memories come flooding back, courtesy of The KPM All-Stars. For the first time in over forty years, they were reunited and roll back the years, unleashing fourteen performances. Soul Thing, Swamp Fever, That’s What Friends Are For, Second Thump and Crash Course, musical memories are rekindled and not one track disappoints. For anyone with even a passing interest in library music, especially KPM Music, then this will bring memories flooding back. However, for anyone yet to discover the delights of library music, and join a discerning and growing band of producers, DJs and music lovers, I’ll tell you about the history of KPM Music and the twenty tracks on Disc One of Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library.

The origins of KPM Music can be traced back over two centuries. Robert Keith founded a copmany in 1780, to make of musical instruments. Fifty years later, in 1830, he entered in a partnership with William Prowse, a music publisher. Their newly formed partnership was named Keith Prowse Music. Over the next hundred years, the company grew, and by the early twentieth century, included selling sheet music and concert tickets. The invention of the gramophone proved to be a game-changer. Demand for sheet music and concert tickets grew. However, in 1955, Keith Prowse Music was decided to diversify, into one of the most profitable areas of music, music publishing.

One of the reasons behind the decision to diversify into music publishing, was to feed the demand for soundtracks for radio, television and film. Previously, music libraries supplied classical music. That was what the demand was for. By the mid-fifties, and the birth of television, the world and music were changing, and changing fast.

Four years later, in 1959, Associated Rediffusion bought another music publisher Peter Maurice and merged it with Keith Prowse Music. The newly merged company became Keith Prowse Maurice, which became known as KPM Music. Now the newly named KPM Music was a much bigger player. Then in the mid-sixties, a new name took the helm at KPM Music, and transformed the company into one of the biggest names in library music.

When Robin Phillips joined KPM Music in the mid-sixties, he proved to be an astute and visionary businessman. Two decisions Robin Phillips made demonstrated this. His first decision was that KPM Music should switch from the old 78 records to the LP. This made sense, as LPs were now what people were buying. They were less prone to breakage, which meant less returns and more profit. LPs could contain more music, and be released in limited editions of 1,000. The other decision he made was to hire the best young British composers and arrangers. 

Among the composers Robin Phillips hired were Keith Mansfield and Johnny Pearson. Robin spotted their potential, and hired them before they’d establish a reputation. Many were know within music publishing circles, but not as artists or producers. Later, Robin hired jazz musician John Cameron, Syd Clark, Alan Hawkshaw and Alan Parker. Their remit was to provide him with new music, which was referred to as production music. Many of their remits was to write music to match themes or moods. This isn’t easy, but they were able to do so. Almost seamlessly, they created themes for TV shows and films. For these composers and musicians, they were entering one of the most lucrative areas of music. EMI realizing that KPM Music had one of the best and most profitable music libraries, decided to buy KPM Music. While EMI spotted the profitability of library music and the consistency, quality and depth of KPM Music’s back catalogue, not everyone approved of library music.

Other songwriters looked down on writers of library music. Neither were the British Musician’s Union a fan of library music. They banned their members from working on recording sessions of library music. Somewhat shortsightedly, the Musician’s Union thought that eventually, there would come a time when there was no need for any further recordings. Their fear was that the sheer quantity of back-catalogue would mean no new recordings would be made, and their members would be without work. So, KPM Records would fly out composers, arrangers and musicians to Holland and Belgium, where local musicians would join them for recording sessions. This meant that often, the same musicians would play on tracks for several composers. It was only in the late seventies, that the Musician’s Union lifted their ban on new recordings of library music. 

Once these tracks were recorded, KPM Music would release albums of library music. Again, KPM Music were innovators. They’d release limited editions of albums. Often, only 1,000 albums were released. By now, the interest in library music had grown. Music fans would buy each release. Now these albums have become rarities and copies change hands for huge sums of money. Little did the writers of the music and musicians that played on them, realize the effect they’d have in years to come.

During the hip hop era, producers would “borrow” from old KPM Music’s back-catalogue. These songs would provide the producers with their “inspiration.” For lovers of library music, a new game was born, spot the sample. During this period, interest in library music grew. DJs and discerning music lovers sampled the many delights of library music companies. The favorites were Chappell, Bosworth and KPM Music. Sadly, there was a problem. Many of these tracks were almost impossible to find, unless you had deep pockets or the time, patience and persistence to head out on crate-digging expeditions. Thankfully, in 1999, Strut Records came to the rescue, releasing the first of three compilations of library music. This was Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library, which contained twenty trips into the back-catalogue of KPM Music. For lovers of library music, this was a lifeline. Now fourteen years later, Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library has been rereleased, complete with a bonus disc, where The KPM All-Stars make their memorable live debut. Equally memorable is the music on Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library, which I’ll tell you about.

Nineteen of the twenty tracks on Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library are instrumentals. The exception is That’s What Friends Are For, which opens the compilation. It’s one of two tracks penned by Alan Parker, and featured onthe 1976 compilation Voice Of Soul, released on the Themes International imprint. What makes this one of the hidden-gems of KPM Music’s illustrious back-catalogue is a vocal masterclass from Madeline Bell, where she fuses soul and gospel. Alan Parker’s other contribution is the Unlimited Love, which was the theme for Top Of The Pops. Released in 1976, on the Pan-American Travelogue compilation on his Themes International imprint, this track has been inspired by Philly Soul, which in my book, is no bad thing.

Keith Mansfield is another composers who has two tracks on Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library. They demonstrate two sides to Keith’s music. His first contribution is the slow, subtle and atmospheric, bass-driven, cool, cocktail jazz of Incidental Backcloth No. 3. It featured on the 1968 album Underscore, which contained the music of Johnny Pearson, David Lindup and Keith. This is one of my favorite tracks on Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library. Crash Course, which featured on Vivid Underscores is quite different. While Incidental Backcloth No. 3 is understated, Crash Course is dramatic, as the music moves in the direction of fusion. Although just a few years separate both recordings, the Keith’s music is quite different, but the quality remains

Belgian pianist, Francis Coppieters’ two tracks on Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library,  explode into life. Both featured on the 1975 album Piano Vibrations. Cross Talk bursts into life. Upbeat and joyful, vibes and piano are at the heart of Francis’ arrangement. Things get even better on Piano In Transit. It’s an explosive musical gem. Francis’ piano drives the track along, with the vibes for company. Soon, a delicious swinging slice of jazz unfolds and an upright bass and percussion join the fun. These two tracks are a tantalizing introduction to one of Belgium’s best kept musical secrets.

Three tracks on Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library have been reedited. One is Duncan Lamont’s Funky Express, which featured on the 1970 compilation Sound of The Times. It’s been reedited to just over three gloriously, funky minutes of music. A clavinet, wah-wah guitar and stabs of blazing horns, take you on an uber funky musical journey, reminiscent of Weather Report circa Headhunters. Another reedit is James Clarke’s Second Cut, a slice of jazz-funk is taken from the 1974 compilation The Trendsetters. The final reedit is Peter Xanten’s In Advance, from The Pierre Lavin Pop Band/The Motion Explosion. Although In Advance lasts just over two minutes, they’re two unforgettable minutes of hard-driving music, where funk and jazz collide head-on.

One of the moodiest, dramatic tracks on Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library is Johnny Pearson’s Assault Course. It featured on the 1970 compilation Underscore Voume 2. Johnny Pearson’s music provided the theme to many a television show, including seventies cartoon Captain Pugwash. Here, he uses Lalo Schifrin as part of his inspiration, mixing Latin percussion, a prowling bass and stabs of blazing horns and a melancholy flute, to create a drama-laden track.

Several of the tracks on Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library are a musical worldwide journey through KPM Music’s back-catalogue. First stop is Brazil, Barry Morgan and Ray Cooper’s uplifting and joyous Samba Street, was from the 1974 Percussion Spectrum compilation. Les Baxter’s Freeway To Rio continues the Latin flavour. Taken from 1970s Bugaloo In Brazil, this pulsating, Latin gem features a peerless piano riff that sample-hungry producers will adore. Just when you think things can’t get any better, along comes the percussive driven delights of Hans Ehrlinger’s Jungle Baby. Performed by Juan Erlando and His Latin Band and released on the Studio One imprint, a myriad of blazing horns, Latin percussion and woodwind create a celebratory call to dance.

From Latin America, next stop in the tour through KPM Music’s exotic back catalogue are Africa, India, Jamaica and Japan. First up and equally exotic is John Cameron’s Swamp Fever, from the 1973 album Afro Rock. It’s a funky introduction to the music of a British jazz musician and film composer, whose credits include Kes and A Touch Of Class, which saw John nominated for an Academy Award. Nascimbene’s Interlude Witchdoctor might only last eighty-seconds, but it’s a compelling and authentic field recording of chants and percussion. It’s taken from the Ethnic Songs and Dances/India-A Theme Set compilation. Next we climb onboard William Farley & Dennis Bovell’s Reggae Train, which featured on 1980s The Reggae Album. This dubby track was Dennis Bovell’s only composition for KPM Music. His other work included producing The Slits and Edwyn Collins‘ Orange Juice. What Reggae Train demonstrates, is just how eclectic KPM Music’s back catalogue is. The final destination on this musical journey is Japan, thanks to Alan Moorhouse’s Expo In Tokyo, which is taken from 1970s The Big Beat Volume 2. Slow, funky and atmospheric, featuring a meandering bass and Hammond organ, this is funk with an oriental influence.

Alan Hawkshaw is one of the most prolific British composers. What many people don’t know, is that he worked as a session musician. Dusty Springfield, Cerrone and Donna Summer are just a few of the artists he’s worked with. As a composer, he’s written the themes to many a British television show, including the quiz show Countdown. The mid-tempo Senior Thump, is one of Alan’s compositions. This blues infused track has a real sixties sound. So, it’s no surprise to discover that it featured on 1969 compilation, The Big Beat.

The reason I’ve not mentioned Klaus Weiss’ Morning 1 /Morning 2 is that I’m keeping the best to last. Four majestic minutes of pulsating, moody and dramatic music. Performed by Klaus Weiss Sounds and Percussion, which was the title of their 1975, jazz, funk and rock are fused, creating a Magnus Opus of a track, that’s the best on Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library.

The twenty tracks that feature on Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library, are a tantalizing taste of KPM Music’s illustrious back-catalogue. These tracks will take you on a voyage of discovery. Quite simply, after hearing these track, you’re bound to want to dig deeper into the KPM Music Library. What a treat is in store for the newcomer to KPM Musics’s back-catalogue. There’s so much music that is just awaiting discovery. Much of this music is from composers and musicians who many people won’t yet be aware of. Granted they’ll maybe have heard some of the music on television shows or sampled by hip hop producers. However, they may not be aware of John Cameron, Alan Hawkshaw, Keith Mansfield or Francis Coppieters. After hearing the twenty tracks on Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library, you’ll want to hear more of the music. Regardless of what type of music you love, there will music that suits your tastes. Whether it’s jazz, funk, Latin, pop or something a bit more leftfield, there’s just so many hidden gems awaiting discovery. Discovering much of this music won’t be easy.

Back in the sixties and seventies, the original KPM Music compilations were released in limited quantities. Most people who own them, love, cherish and treasure them. Unless you’re really lucky, and strike gold in a second hand store, record shop or car boot sale, then your pursuit of musical treasure could be a long and fruitless. Often, when copies of the original albums change hands, it’s for large sums of money. Nowadays, in these recession hit times, not everyone has the budget to buy these albums. At least come 2nd of April 2013, you’ll be able to enjoy the Deluxe Edition of Music For Dancefloors-The KPM Music Library, complete with the bonus disc of The KPM All-Stars reunited at the Jazz Cafe. Standout Tracks: Madeline Bell and Alan Parker That’s What Friends Are For, Johnny Pearson Assault Course, John Cameron Swamp Fever and Klaus Weiss’ Morning 1 /Morning 2. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: