Hot Wax.

Label: Be With Records.

Recently, Be With Records have been reissuing a number of albums from the KPM 1000 Series, and this includes Hot Wax which features the dream team of Brian Bennett, Alan Hawkshaw and John Fiddy. They were responsible for some of the best library music that KPM released during the sixties, seventies and eighties. 

This was a golden period for library music, and KPM Music was one of the giants. KPM Music was old-established company whose history can be traced back over two centuries. 

KPM Music.

Robert Keith founded a comp[any in 1780, to make of musical instruments, and fifty years later, in 1830, entered into a partnership with William Prowse, a music publisher. The newly formed partnership was named Keith Prowse Music (KPM), and over the next hundred years, the company grew and expanded into other areas,

By the early twentieth century, Keith Prowse Music was selling sheet music and concert tickets, but it was  the invention of the gramophone proved to be a game-changer. Demand for sheet music and concert tickets grew, and 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, which was what was required.  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. The newly named KPM Music was a much bigger player in the world music publishing. However, 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 demonstrate why. His first decision was that KPM Music should switch from the old 78 records to the LP, which made sense, as LPs were what people were buying. They were less prone to breakage, which meant less returns and more profit. LPs could contain more music, and could 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, whose talent and  potential as composers he recognised.  Robin Phillips managed to hired them before they’ had established a reputation,  although they were known within music publishing circles.

Later, Robin Phillips managed to hire some of jazz musicians of the calibre of 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 which matched themes or moods, which initially, wasn’t isn’t easy, but soon, the composers were able to do so. Almost seamlessly, the composers created themes for many well known television shows and films.  

For the composers and musicians involved in writing and recording library music, they were part of what was one of the most lucrative areas of music. When EMI realised that KPM Music had one of the best and most profitable music libraries and decided to buy the company. Executives at EMI had spotted the profitability of library music and the consistency, quality and depth of KPM Music’s back catalogue. However,  not everyone within the music industry approved of library music.

Other songwriters looked down on writers of library music, and the British Musician’s Union wasn’t 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. Fortunately, KPM Records thought of a way to subvert the ban.

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 that were penned by several composers. For the musicians involved, this proved lucrative and some were reluctant to turn their back on session work for companies like KPM Records.

Still the Musician’s Union’s ban continued, and it wasn’t until the late seventies that the Musician’s Union lifted their ban on new recordings of library music. By then, the Musician’s Union realised that they were fighting a losing battle and had no option but to concede defeat.

Meanwhile, the music that was being recorded in Europe and once the ban was lifted in Britain, found its way onto albums of library music released by KPM Music. Again, KPM Music were innovators, and  released limited editions of library music. Sometimes, only 1,000 albums were released, and they were sent out to film studios, television and radio stations and advertising agencies. However, by then, interest in library music had grown. 

Although the albums of library music  were never meant to be commercially available, a coterie of musical connoisseurs had discovered KPM Music’s albums of library music and were determined to add each release to their collection. They weren’t alone.

Later, DJs and sample hungry hip hop and house producers discovered the world of library music. This was a boon for many of these producers who were musically illiterate, and could neither read music nor play an instrument. However, with some lots of practise the musically challenged ‘producers’ were eventually able to sample albums of library music for their latest ‘production’ and very occasionally, this resulted in a hit single for the musical pirates. However, most of the credit should’ve gone to those who made the music that had been sampled.

This included the musicians who made the library music which was a favourite of the pirate producers. At KPM Music the dream team of Brian Bennett, Alan Hawkshaw and John Fiddy were at the peak of their powers in 1976 when they recorded the twelve tracks on Hot Wax. It features a series of musical masterclasses from Brian Bennett, Alan Hawkshaw and John Fiddy as they explored the latest trends in production music in 1976.

Hot Wax opens with Capital City the first contribution from Brian Bennett. It’s full of excitement and sounds as if it should feature on the opening titles to a late-seventies television drama and film. The excitement continues on Full Throttle while Big Haul sounds like the soundtrack to a car chase on The Sweeney. Very different is Bop On The Rocks which is funky and tinged with humour. However, these tracks aren’t Brian Bennett’s only contributions.

Brian Bennett joins forces with Alan Hawkshaw on Wallop, an uplifting pounding rock track, while Dossier is a mixture of drama and tension. There’s a degree tension of tension  which is combined with machismo on the funky Name Of The Game. The album closer Corn Ball, shows Brian Bennett and Alan Hawkshaw’s versatility as they switch to boogie on a track that is bright and full of energy and humour. 

This leaves John Fiddy’s quartet of contributions. Taste For Living is bubbly and energetic while Fresh Star is lysergic and the piano steals the show in Hot Boppin.’Then to say that All Time Great is thrilling and intoxicating is an understatement. It’s one of John Fiddy’s finest tracks.

With the recent resurgence in interest in library music there’s been a number of compilations of library music released over the last few years. However, the reissue of Hot Wax from the KPM 100 series is a welcome reissue from Be With Records. It’s also a reminder of one of the three Masters At Work, Alan Hawkshaw, Brian Bennett and John Fiddy who were among the finest purveyors of library music and responsible for a flawless album of library music in 1976, Hot Wax.

Hot Wax.

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