Saturday, October 15, 2016

Bill Wellings - did he start his own label??

A short while ago, we were contacted by Clive Hetherington about an album he had chanced upon, called "Top Hits of '72". here are some images of the LP in question:





If the model on the sleeve looks vaguely familiar, it's because we've seen her before, on the Deacon label's "Top Hits of the Year" for 1971:


So what have we here? Initially, this looks to be a typical LP of soundalike cover versions on some obscure label - International Hits Series London - so maybe this is an overseas release? The tracks on the album look familiar to us, even if the label does not - all of them were also included in the "Hot Hits" series - ranging across volumes 9 (January 1972) to 12 (July 1972).

Clive kindly did some sound checks to compare, and was able to confirm that these are the very same recordings. Of course, we didn't realise at first, but this could be one of our most significant finds for a long while.

What Clive has found is a previously unknown compilation from mfp's "Hot Hits" series, which appears in fact to be a UK release, as we shall see. This is amazing enough to a seasoned collector like myself, but is just the tip of an iceberg or two, which we need to explore in more detail.

First of all, there is a Canadian edition of this in existence too. This was released on the Arc label:





Highlighted above is the small print on the back of the sleeve (not stated on the UK edition) - "A BWD Production". This is the more obvious clue that these recordings are from the mfp stable. So is Clive's LP really a hitherto unknown UK album? I think so!

The International Hits Series London released several others which look very much like editions or compilations of Bill Wellings' mfp material. Here are some more examples:




"Soul Hits", "Million Seller Hits", "Smash Hits Presley Style" and so on - this could be mfp itself, in some parallel universe! More significantly, Clive's album is catalogue-numbered BW 012 - while the other six examples above are numbered BW 004; BW 005; BW 016; BW 018; BW 023; BW 027.

These are clearly Bill Wellings' recordings - and the catalogue numbers starting BW, his initials, surely point to this being Bill's very own label! This being so, how has it escaped our attention for so long???

If I have convinced you, I'm about to throw a spanner in the works. This is bothering me, and I would like to know the whole story...

Check out the last of the images above. "Smash Hits Presley Style" was almost issued on mfp in the UK, but the last three tracks are different. Here's the standard edition we know and love:


The trouble is, Bill Wellings' own edition (if that's what it is) was issued in Italy on the Broadway label:



Why does this matter? Because Broadway issued a long run of albums, many of them nothing to do with Bill Wellings, or mfp for that matter. In fact, we featured one on this blog just a few days ago (here). Broadway, and Broadway International, used the same catalogue prefix BW (presumable short for "BroadWay")... so perhaps BW does not stand for Bill Wellings, and the albums on the International Hits Series London label are just re-issues of Italian albums?

It's impossible to be sure, but my hunch is that they are the creation of Bill himself, and the coincidence of the "BW" catalogue numbers is just that - a coincidence.

Looking at the Italian album above, it has the Broadway logo on the front, but also that of the International Hits Series London label - what's that doing there if Broadway were the original issuers? Surely it implies International Hits Series London were the creators of the album? And similar logic applies to that Canadian press of "Top Hits of '72" - it mentions BWD, but nowhere does it mention Broadway. So in both cases, the overseas editions point back to the UK for their source, and not at each other.

So, we can cautiously conclude that Bill was indeed behind the International Hits Series London label - his own outlet, with his initials given in the catalogue numbers!! Clive's discovery is not just a hitherto unknown compilation, but a hitherto unknown label and whole series of albums containing our celebrated cover versions.

As a point of interest, here is mfp's year round-up for 1972. Only a couple of tracks duplicate Bill's selection (and in fact half of mfp's album is all-new, rather than being compiled from the usual albums - which is perhaps a clue to the fact that two labels were going at once in the UK).


One final thing to note - Clive's album was pressed on the same nearly black vinyl we have covered several times lately, which is in fact coloured when held up to a strong light. Here's an image:


What an amazing new find. Moments like this make me realise how little I really know about all this! Despite the confusion of the Broadway label, I do believe we have documented a Bill Wellings UK label for the first time. Please help us with any info you may have, so we can get to the bottom of it all!

Thanks to Clive for flagging this all up to us.


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