|Always had that je ne sais quoi||Irritating little combo with no plans to reform||The most fun you can have with your shoes on|
|Click here to buy the SMIRKOLOGY album|
That's what I like about Beserkley, not only do they continue to display a lemming-like perversity in bringing out records there's no earthly reason for anyone to buy, but when they do go over the top, they choose to do it together.
BESERKLEY, the British wing of the American label that tried to break oddball bands like Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers and the Greg Kihn Band ground to a halt this week with the resignation of the managing director and the dropping of Manchester band the Smirks.
The Smirks heard at the weekend that their contract was over - just at the point when their debut album was ready for pressing and distribution, the artwork was completed and a tour was lined up for March to promote the record. The group is now considering their legal position with Beserkley, and is urgently trying to find a new label.
A statement from Beserkley this week said: "Fred Cantrell, managing director of Beserkley UK, resigned this week. The Smirks have been informed and given the opportunity to decide how they feel about continuing with Beserkley in view of the close personal relationship with Fred.
"The inevitable changes in the company will reslt in an increased emphasis on the original US acts, and in the light of this, the Smirks are free to decide on ther own future."
The Smirks were in less than total agreement with the statement, saying that Beserkley owes them about £11,000, including an advance for delivering the master and artwork of their debut album, and manager Andrew Jaspan showed MM cheques from Beserkley for up to £1,500, totalling £2,500, that have bounced since Christmas. He also said that Beserkley owed Workhouse studios, in London, £12,000 for the group's recording time.
Jaspan described the band's relationship with Beserkley as less than amicable after a friendly start. "They have been inefficient, unhelpful and at times completely uninterested.
From Melody Maker, February 1979. I have corrected the article's incorrect spelling of the label ("Berserkley") and the manager ("Jaspar").
THE DEPARTURE of the Smirks from Beserkley Records, described in last week's MM, has led to a battle of words between the band and the label.
The group insist that when they were first contacted by Beserkley a fortnight ago with the news of the resignation of managing director Fred Cantrell, they were told their contract with the label had ended. Beserkley still say the group was merely offered the opportunity, and help, to find a new label
Beserkley have amplified their statement last week that "the nevitable changes in the company will result in an increased emphasismon the original US acts" to say "The company will continue in the UK with all its existing staff and artists. The implication that Matthew Kaufman, Beserkley president, intends to "wind up/down" the UK operation is totally without foundation. Speculation stemming from the resignation of UK md Fred Cantrell is understandable but the "inferences" of the Smirks management are uninformed, misguided and inappropriate.
Smirks manager Andrew Jaspan told MM this week that he wanted to clarify some points stated last week: the advance of £11,250 owed by Beserkley was payable only if the company accepted the masters and artwork. The company has turned these down, although an advance of £5,000 had already been paid; the amount owed by Beserkley to the Smirks following a series of bounced cheques is £2,240, not £2,500; the amount owed by Beserkley for studio time to the Workhouse studio is just under £10,000 with about £2,000 to the producer and arranger, and the album's artwork cost £530.
Jaspan added that there is a "substantial" amount of money owed to the Smirks by Beserkley, and a comprehensive claim against the company was currently being worked out by the band's solicitor.
A MYSTERY concerning the recording career of The Smirks and the future of the Beserkley label remained unsolved at press-time, due to conflicting statements from the two parties involved.
A spokesman for the Manchester-based band said they have ceased to have any connection with Beserkley, who has advised them to look for another deal. And this is particularly upsetting to them because they've virtually finished work on a new album, which can't now be released. It's b eing shelved until they find a new label. The Smirks claim that Mathew Kaufman, head of Beserkley USA, told them he'd decided to wind down operations in Britain.
But a Beserkley spokesman in London denied that The Smirks had been given the boot. he said that managing director Fred Cantrell esigned last week and, in the light of this, The Smirks had been given the opportunity of deciding how they felt about remaining with the label.
He added: "There will be inevitable changes, resulting in an increased emphasis on our American acts - including The Rubinoos, Greg Kihn and Jonathan Richman". But he declined to say how the other British act on the label, The Tyla Gang, would be affected.
Despite this setback, The Smirks are going ahead with a March tour, which was originally intended to promote their new album.
This interview is probably from BBC Radio 1. The interviewer is believed to have been Richard Skinner.
The Smirks became victims of the system when it seemed that everything was going right for them. They signed up with Beserkley UK, a label founded by American Matthew Kaufman. The American Beserkley label has got the reputation of caring for its acts. It's even got musicians on its board.
We liked the idea of Beserkley, because we thought it was a small family label. They had the financial backing. They also acted friendly towards us, and they offered us drinks! And it was just like a close-knit unit and we were worried about being swallowed up by a big company so we thought we'd go with Beserkley.
We actually negotiated the deal with the person who owned the company and that meant it was very much tied up with the company. When the company began to have problems, he, as the person who finally had to take the buck, got very involved in looking after the company as a whole, rather than looking after the group, which was one of the things that he was meant to be putting a lot of time and effort into. So as his time was spent more on other affairs and less on the group, things then began to wane, and that happened very soon after we signed to them, because we signed in March, and by about June, which is when our first single was released, and we played a concert at The Marquee, nobody actually turned up from Beserkley apart from the secretary at the office, so we realised even then that something radically wrong had happened.
I think they saw us as 1960s bubblegum, which we never really saw ourselves as, I mean, if I thought we were that, I wouldn't play in the band anyway, and I'm sure no-one else would but somehow they must have seen something in us to sign us up that they could twist round and make into bubblegum pop. I think they wanted us to be the English version of The Rubinoos but, you know, we could be seedy, you know, we came from the North, you know, we were allowed to have dirty jeans. The original single we did on Beserkley, OK-UK, we went in and recorded it and had no idea about what was happening and the producer sent us away and said "I'll send you a finished copy of it". About two weeks later, we get this copy, and there's organs and glockenspiels all the way through it and it's wishy-washy rubbish.
The producer was the keyboard player in Tommy James and the Shondells. It was that kind of bubblegum rubbish and, you know, we thought, oh, this is terrible and we can't have this. So we insisted on going back in. Even then when we were back in the studio remixing it and getting all this rubbish off it, all these glockenspiels and organs and tingling pianos and the actual tambourine, as he quoted to us, that was used on "Mony, Mony". Even when we were getting all that off, he wanted to keep us out of the control room, and still tried to maintain his own stamp on it. But we didn't use him again after that.
So far, the Smirks have been unsuccessful in their many legal attempts to get the money owed to them by Beserkley UK. Polydor, who were licensees of Beserkley in Britain, did pay ten thousand pounds. That was the bill for recording a Smirks album that Beserkley UK never released. But the band are still owed more than twelve and a half thousand pounds by Beserkley UK. And the man who signed them up appears to have disappeared. It's a cautionary tale, but one with a reasonably happy ending, because The Smirks have been back in the recording studios, and using their own cash, released this single, American Patriots...
Listen to this interview here.
ZANY Manchester rock and roll band The Smirks - the four lads who were arrested the night John Travolta arrived at the London premiere of the film Grease - have struck another controversial chord.
Engaged in a contract row with thei record company, which was due to release their debut LP on Friday, the ounk quartet simply set up their own record label.
And rather than cancel the tour designed to promote their ill-fated album, the lads have turned out an extended-play single in six days flat.
While the LP lay in the vault of a London studio as the protagonists decided who pays for the studio time, the band contacted a producer and within a week the three tracks on American Patriots were cut at Rochdale's Cargo Studios for release on the infant Smirk Songs label.
The record, as a 5,000 copy limited edition, is due for release on March 16 by which time the group will be well into its tour which includes a date at Manchester Poly on Saturday night.
Champions of live performances, The Smirks campaigned against Travolta because so many rock venues had changed virtually overnight into disco emporiums playing records.
The band, which played its first gig as support to a fire-eating stripper, referred to the Grease superstar as "only a million hit wonder".
Now they have dubbed their latest series of concerts "The Smirks seek employment tour".
Manchester Evening News, March 13th, 1979, by a staff reporter
Another short article published elsewhere in the Manchester Evening News on the same day...
MANCHESTER band Smirks, who have recently been involved in all kinds of words with the record company, Beserkley, go it their own way by releasing a three-track EP on their own Smirks Songs label.
Their long awaited LP still remains in music world quarantine as part of the recent problems the band has been facing. The tapes are apparently locked away from all and sundry!
Smirks keep right on smirking
JUST ONE YEAR ago the future of The Smirks seemed assured, A contract with a fashionable label was secured after only a few gigs, and a bundleof rave reviews echoed a busy word-of-mouth buzz on the streets of hometown Manchester.
What then happened could be the story of dozens of bands.
"Beserkley." says a rueful Simon Milner, "was supposed to be the 'fun, fun, fun' record company. It could have been fun, but they were really humourless about everything.
Like the 'Smirks Against Travolta' campaign - surely that was fun - they had to be forced into it. They wouldn't mention it on the adverts. When one of our fans wrote to them asking for information, they wrote back, giving our mailing address in Manchester and saying it was absolutely nothing to do with them. They seemed to think it would ruin their image."
When Milner was subsequently arrested for obstruction - at the premiere of Grease - and got saddled with the resultant legal costs, Fred Cantrell, then Beserkley UK boss, wrote to NME to state that "Simon hasn't asked us to pay his legal fees and if he does, we will."
He asked. The cheque bounced.
"When the band signed to Beserkley," comments Smirks manager Andrew Jaspan matter-of-factly, "it was just after Égyptian Reggae' had hit, and they seemed to be a small company who gave personal attention to their artists, who seemed to have the right ideas about marketing, and also seemed to have money. But when Richman stopped shifting units, the resultant cash shortage meant they were spending all their time wondering where the next penny was coming from and the creative side just seized up."
So in nearly a year with Beserkley, only two singles were released. 'OK UK' was an...
March 24th 1979
With luck, we'll get the end of the article one day.
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Page last updated by Ian on 8 September 2006