Sunday, March 19, 2017

VFM label cassettes - a hint of more undiscovered sets

Last week, a cassette appeared on Ebay which I'd not seen before (thanks to Ian Byrne for the heads up). I'll show some scans first, then take a look at what it might be...






As you can see, this cassette goes by the name, "Hit Parade '77 vol. 6" - and it's that "vol. 6" part which makes you wonder... were there others issued as well? I did some digging around, and basically drew a blank. The VFM label is featured on Discogs as a minor budget outlet, but none of the other cassettes are of soundalike chart hits like this one (not that the listing is anywhere near complete).

Checking through the tracks on this one reveals something else - all ten were hits in August/September 1977, so this is more of a topical selection than a yearly retrospective. Like the other budget series, it has a snapshot of the charts at a particular point in time. So, volume 6 of a regular series, running through 1977 then?

Maybe not. One important note in the packaging is the date of issue - given as 1978. So if this is a selective collection, my hunch was that it was issued the following year as part of a box-set. The other volumes presumably covered different parts of 1977... and yet even this theory doesn't quite add up - look at the cover. It shows a price point of 99p - so it was probably on sale individually.

Strange that absolutely no info seems to exist about this! Let me do my bit to get VFM and "Hit Parade '77" on the map, with this blog post, and here, a track from the album - a version of Bob Marley's "Waiting In Vain":



Finding this tape set something off in the back of my mind. It looked strangely familiar but I couldn't place it. The cover art reminded me vaguely of the "Smash Tracks" tapes from Artisty, but it's clearly not a part of that set. A dig through my pile of unknowns, oddities and mystery tapes resulted in my finding another cassette from VFM - one I'd cast aside as unidentifiable, but which now sits alongside the above.

This one is "Hit Parade 79 vol. 1". The artwork is different yet similar (see the starburst lines around the edges):






Not having had a clue about this one before, I hadn't attached any significance to the "vol. 1" designation, but now of course it looks like part of a second set (or should we say, third, considering 1978 came between them).

The tracks on this cassette were mostly hits in March/April 1979, although a couple are a bit older. At the point these were released, Coombe Music had cornered the UK covers market, supplying recordings to both of the main series in production at the time - "Parade of Pops" and "Top of the Pops". The dozen tracks on this cassette are Coombe recordings, and many of them can therefore be heard on those albums as well (mostly, Parade of Pops volume 8, and Top of the Pops volume 72).

Again, that "vol. 1" nags at me. There are probably more - and as this covers an early part of 1979 - say, the first quarter - there's every chance that further volumes extend through the rest of that year. Were they released sequentially, or all at once? I'd love to know!

As before, I have copied over one of the tracks, a cover of Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now", and you can feast your ears on it here:


I get tired of saying it, but here it comes again: please help us if you know anything more about these tapes. Drop us a line - we'll be most grateful and you will help us with one of the dark corners of UK cover version history.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting....thanks for your detective work!

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