Sunday, July 28, 2013

A Cold War, a covers LP and the greatest "Wodka" in the world!

It's funny really, but back in the 1970s, vinyl LPs were often "issued" as promotional items for a range of consumer products. I've included examples on this blog before, of cover version LPs plugging everything from petrol stations to roll-on deodorant. (Click the link "Commercial Branding" from the list on the right, for examples.)

Given that pop music appeals primarily to younger consumers, and given also that younger people tend to enjoy the odd tipple, it's no surprise to find that producers of booze were as keen as anyone to get their message onto the sleeves of otherwise irrelevant records. Charringtons Brewery issued their own covers album in 1972 (see here), while Babycham teamed up with mfp for the Sparkling Sounds LP a couple of years later. But the subject of this post is a curious album from 1975, put out by Vladivar Vodka:

As you will see, Vladivar did what Charringtons had done, and created their own label for the LP release, in this case Red Square Records. The connection is obvious - Vodka is associated with Russia, the Cold War was on - the front of the sleeve says it all: "Join the Party". Hmmm...

In fact, Vladivar was distilled in Warrington, final resting place of George Formby and about as Russian as a flat cap and braces. Still, the company's PR machine was keen to big-up the Soviet association, as illustrated by their adverts of the day which contained humorous faux-Russian diatribes. Several were recorded and included on this LP! You can hear them between certain tracks, and in fact, some kind fan has uploaded them to Youtube so you can hear them. Check them out here.

If it all seems a bit strange now, in the 1970s the whole issue of the USSR's supposed threat to the west was a serious matter - but bizarrely, there were other examples of the Cold War being lampooned on cover version LPs. Check this out, for example, from the back of one edition of Top of the Pops:

Of course, those of us who lived in the free world felt sorry for our Soviet cousins, deprived of popular music by the diktats of their authoritarian rulers. Mind you, that was probably bullshit. Here's a groovy four-track EP issued in the communist Soviet Union in the 1970s, containing four Top of the Pops songs:

Anyway, back to the vodka. Between the capitalist advertisements were several pretty cool tunes. All of them were recorded especially by Multiple Sound Distributors, they of (later) Chevron fame. The track listing reads as follows, and so far as I know, these recordings are not available elsewhere:
  • Crocodile Rock
  • A Walkin' Miracle
  • He's Misstra Know It All
  • Gonna Make You An Offer
  • Sad Sweet Dreamer
  • Shaft Theme
  • Dancing On A Saturday Night  
  • Devilgate Drive
  • Kung Fu Fighting
  • Daniel  
  • Backstabbers
  • You Aint' Seen Nothing Yet
Bottoms up!

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