As Dave McCabe & the Ramifications release their debut record, Getintothis’ James Sullivan looks at the label behind it, and the beating heart of 1965 Records: the man they call the Fat White Duke.
Back in 2005, an excitable forty-year old, red-headed man from Halifax – sometimes referring to himself as The Fat White Duke – was offered the chance to fulfil his dreams: His own record label. Named after the year he was born, 1965 Records was to be an old fashioned affair. A slew of vinyl-only one-off singles in wildly varying styles; he could sign the bands he wanted, he’d call the shots, he could have a cosy office in Soho and pile it full of records by bands he loved, with his label’s logo stamped on the front. A label to cherish, to belong to, to trust.
James Endeacott came to prominence as A&R tastemaker extraordinaire at Rough Trade Records. He signed The Libertines, and charmed The Strokes into letting Rough Trade handle their business in the UK. In truth, there was a whole lot more than that. He’d played guitar in Loop, dabbled in stand-up comedy, and managed Tindersticks for five years.
1965 Records came out of the traps quickly. Dundee indie-scruffs The View went straight to number one with their debut album Hats Off to the Buskers. The still-relevant NME stuck a special 1965-curated CD to the front of the mag, something which now seems so outdated, they may as well have printed the sheet music.
A sublimely ridiculous amount of great music bolted out of the door of that little Soho office. Sparks-meets-Small Faces pagan-glam from Seattle in the form of Holy Ghost Revival. Peckham’s Blockheads-obsessed teens The Metros (later to evolve into Fat White Family). Anglo-Argentine Muswell Hillbillies The Draytones. Georgia country legend Larry Jon Wilson. Jamaican dancehall via Sheffield from Toddla T – now a fixture on Radio One. Sugar-fuelled buzz-pop from Ripchord. Portland slackers The Hugs. Motion Pictures, The Monks Kitchen…Oddball singles came and went, all as electric and excitable as the label owner himself.
Then the music industry woke up. It pulled the curtains on another grinding hangover and realised nobody had bought a CD for about three years, and that expense account really should have been curtailed after the last Christmas party. Was the third vodka ice statue really necessary? Why are we putting out all these records from bands nobody knows (yet)? Give the masses what they want. People like Kings of Leon, so give them Kings of Leon.
1965 was forced into hiatus. The world just wasn’t ready for it yet. Or rather, it was born in the wrong era.
Endeacott puts it best himself: “I started 1965 Records almost ten years ago and was bankrolled by a major record label… despite having a number one album with The View within 12 months the label folded after three years as I’d spent a stupid amount of money and, guess what, not sold enough records. I kept the name of the label and went into a corner to listen to jazz records and to contemplate middle age, teenage kids and hangovers that last at least 48 hours.”
Now it’s back, and once again off at a canter. We’ve already had singles from Warrington Northern Soul kings Man & the Echo and skyscraping Echo & the Bunnymen synth-pop from Lusts. A more familiar face is on board too, as Dave McCabe launches his new band (Dave McCabe and the Ramifications) through 1965.
Spend any time with Endeacott and certain themes shine through. He talks – sometimes stutters – non-stop about new bands he’s seen, the David Bowie costumes he’s donned at fancy dress parties, the beating heart he longs for in music.
The return of 1965 Records can only be a good thing. Major labels lost faith in people like James Endeacott, people with the ability to spot that beating heart when it’s barely started fluttering. It’s a hell of a lot safer to count YouTube hits, after all.
But, thank god, the rest of us don’t have to play by those rules. That same ball of energy, that same absolute faith in the power of a pop record, this time supported by more sustainable, more independent foundations. 1965 Records can thrive, and we’re lucky to have it back.