Saturday, January 21, 2017

Dark - Round the Edges - Review by Pete Clemons

Dark - Round the Edges - Review by Pete Clemons

A Kenilworth record shop recently acquired a copy of one of the rarest pieces of vinyl currently out there. I must stress however that the 12 inch L.P. in question is not being stored in the shop. And I assume it will be up for sale at a specialised auction house.

The L.P. in question was originally titled ‘Dark Round the Edges’ and was recorded at SIS Studios Northampton by a local rock band called Dark between July 9th and 13th 1972. It was released slightly later that same year.

Dark Round the Edges’ was never actually released officially. It was produced as a private pressing which was recorded by a band that had been trying to get that all important deal for around 4 years but to no avail. Such was the quality of the music around at the time a lot of extraordinary talent went under the radar.

But Dark were a very good band and all involved knew it. They had a large local following and rather than run the risk of splitting with nothing to show for it they wanted something to remember for all their efforts.

The original LP was issued as limited pressing of around 32 copies. A further run of 32 copies was pressed and released early 1973. Breaking those numbers down I believe that 12 copies came with gatefold colour sleeve and booklet, 8 copies with black & white gatefold sleeve and the remainder with single black & white sleeve. They were handed out to band members and their then girlfriends. Any remaining records were sent on to record companies or sold on for around £3 per copy.

Putting to one side for a while, the value of an original copy of what is today referred to as ‘Round the Edges’, the album itself is a genuinely glorious example of the adventurous style of rock music that was freely available during the early 1970s. And, given the status of the record, I think makes the Dark story a curious one.

Dark were formed by guitarist Steve Giles and school friend Bruce Duncan who also played guitar. As the band formed they settled on Charlie Hiams as the drummer with Bruce moving to bass and vocals. This would have been around 1968.

1970 saw Dark introduce keyboard player Martin Moloney. Soon after, Bruce Duncan left, and Steve Giles took on the vocals. Carl Bush was brought in on bass.

Sometime later drummer Charlie Hiams left and he was replaced by Clive Thorneycroft. Soon after that both Martin Moloney and Carl Bush left Ron Johnson came in on bass and band reverted back to a three piece once more. And that’s how it remained till mid-1972.

Martin Weaver, who appears on the album, only joined Dark in May 1972 just prior to the recording sessions. Martin had previously been with another Northampton band called Wicked Lady. Dark would eventually split during November 1972

Apart from the ‘Round the Edges’ album, studio recordings exist of most of the various line up’s mentioned above. The results vary dramatically in quality but a lot of what is listenable is very good and gives the listener a real taste of what Dark were all about,

After going their own ways and getting involved in other projects the ‘Round the Edges’ line up would reconvene when, out of the blue, interest in their album started kicking off during the 1990s.

A specialist record company got in touch with the Dark in 1991 to tell them that their 1972 private release was now worth a small fortune to collectors of rare vinyl. After negotiations, the record company subsequently reissued ‘Round the Edges’ on vinyl and CD. All of a sudden a new generation of music listeners, including myself, were introduced to the band.
Buoyed on by the records relative new found success the band members decided to get back together to see if they could still play. Not only could they still play but they found themselves writing new material. And this activity gave rise to a second album.

Casting his mind back to the early 1990s Steve Giles remembers ‘We had amassed a tidy sum from licensing the rights to several entrepreneurs around the world to release ‘Round the Edges’ in various formats, so the obvious thing to do with the proceeds was to record another album. Some of the tracks for this new project were recorded first at Outrider Studios in Northampton, but it closed down before we got any further, so we then went too Far Heath in Guilsborough to do the rest’.

The songs themselves, for the second album, titled ‘Anonymous Days’, had, as mentioned, been written specifically for the new album. Some were written during the intervening years between the first and second albums. And some of them actually dated right back to just after the ‘Round the Edges’ sessions.

The band was, understandably and justifiably, proud of ‘Anonymous Days’. It was yet another fantastic release. Particularly when you consider that there is 20 years between these albums.

Live gigs, during the last 40 odd years, have been less common than coming across an original copy of the album. Dark did gig around the Northamptonshire area, and sometimes beyond, in the very early days but over the last 40 years there has only been a handful of dates.

If I was to attempt to describe the music of Dark I would say it is like a patchwork quilt of guitar playing. A single Dark track does not contain just one guitar piece. You quite often get several all different and all tastefully woven together into the fabric of the song. It really is unique stuff.

For those who cannot afford to bid on the original L.P. excellent CD copies of both ‘Round the Edges’ which contains some extra tracks and a re-mastered version of ‘Anonymous Days’ can be purchased for the more modest sum of almost £7 each, which includes postage, via the following website:

Dark's Steve Giles talking about the sale....

The £25,000 Album A little over 44 years ago, I was sitting at the dining table in my parents' lounge, gluing a 12"x12" piece of white card to the inside of the back of a plain white record sleeve. These had mounted on to them 4 photographs - 2 colour and 2 black & white - which I had printed myself. I had also printed 9 8"x8" black and white photos on to Lightweight paper that I had copied from photographs I had printed previously and hand written on them the lyrics to 6 of my compositions. The copied photos each had a ½" white strip down the left hand side, except the last one which was back to front compared to the rest. This one had its white strip on the right hand side. The white strips gave me space to staple all 9 photos together to create a booklet. I then took my pride and joy, a 12" black vinyl LP, which contained recordings of those songs - 3 per side, not banded - on which were red labels with black type, and carefully, with it in its polylined inner sleeve, placed it into the card sleeve along with the booklet. I closed the gatefold cover and gazed, with not an insignificant amount of pride, at the package I had created. My Band DARK's first album - Dark Round The Edges. I had absolutely no inkling that some 44 years later that same album would sell for £25,000. Over this weekend, Peter Hassan of Kenilworth Records, who had acquired that album about 2 months ago, messaged me to tell me it had been sold. Ever since it had been announced that it was for sale, Peter would wake up each morning to dozens of emails from all over the World asking for details of the album and how much it was selling for.

He hadn't put a price on it but very soon he was getting offers of over £20,000. I went to see the album and was not surprised at those offers. It was in immaculate condition with virtually no wear & tear on either the LP, Inner, Booklet or Sleeve. Apart from a little bit of ageing of the photos, it was very much as I had last seen it. I found it quite emotional! Peter had decided that he wasn't going to auction it until the New Year. Still the offers came in and started to approach £30,000. Then one day last week, a private collector with whom they had dealt in the past, came in to their shop having arranged for the record to be there so he could examine it. So impressed with the quality was he that he offered them £25,000 there and then. Peter had to discuss this with his business partners. With so much at stake it wasn't a decision he wanted to make on his own. He knew that, with time, he could send out countless emails to all the other interested parties and start some kind of auction. They all knew that if they did this the offers could rise much further. But here was a guy they knew and liked, who could pay for it immediately and take it away with him, making it a much easier transaction than Peter had anticipated, and so, as both he and his partners were desperate for the album to remain in the UK, without too much hesitation, they agreed the sale. Don't ask me who bought it - I don't know! The buyer wishes to remain anonymous - and I, for one, don't blame him! The photo is of this month's Record Collector magazine which includes an article about how I created the sleeves for this album. To see photos of the actual £25,000 album - click the link below.

The original rear cover - now universally recognised as the fron cover — at Kenilworth Records.

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