At their sixth annual Honours List ceremony on this day in 2009, Mojo Magazine chose to mark the 70th anniversary of the UK’s oldest record label, Topic, by awarding them their Roots Award.
Rubbing shoulders in the winner’s enclosure with the likes of Blur, Fleet Foxes and Paul Weller were Topic MD Tony Engel, plus folk legends Shirley Collins MBE and Martin Carthy MBE.
The trio had earlier taken to the stage and receive the Mojo award from Judy Collins (whose introductory piece included a rendition of “Where Have All The Flowers Gone?”).
Formed in 1939 as part of the Workers’ Music Association (an offshoot of the British Marxist Party, Topic first existed to issue “gramophone records of historical and social interest”.
Often unconventional – with initial sales by subscription only and issuing 8 inch vinyl records at one stage in order to reduce costs – Topic’s repertoire now includes thousands of traditional songs from the British Isles. In doing so, they have preserved the working class musical heritage of what Shirley Collins called, “music from people of ‘no consequence’; farm labourers, shepherds, miners, fishermen, gypsies and tinkers.”
That back catalogue was celebrated with the “Three Score Years and Ten” 7 CD box set. Although predominantly featuring British performers, the inclusion of Pete Seeger acknowledges Topic’s role in popularising overseas protest singers in the UK. Other tracks meanwhile reflect a broadening of range that now includes music from as far away as Mongolia.
PS: The awards ceremony was staged at The Brewery conference centre in East London – the former 18th century Whitbread Porter Brewery. Whether Topic’s maiden release in 1939 concerning the “fat man who waters the worker’s beer” was based on drinking ale brewed there isn’t known…
Check out and purchase Topic CDs from our e-shop, Propermusic.com by clicking on the logo below:
And here’s some footage from the Awards Ceremony: