To celebrate Record Store Day on Saturday 19th April Topic Records have two limited edition vinyl releases. We’ve mentioned one already: the brand new 7″ single from MARTIN & ELIZA CARTHY. ‘Happiness’ features on their forthcoming album (read about it here) and was written by Molly Drake, the mother of Nick Drake.
The other release which is the focus of this post is a 50th anniversary facsimile edition of ANNE BRIGGS’s seminal debut EP – The Hazards of Love.
The Hazards of Love is a jewel in Topic’s extensive catalogue, the influence of this record on myriad singers, songwriters and performers is incalculable; on a visit to London, June Tabor was bought a copy by her older sister: “She took me to Dobell’s and said she’d buy me a record. I got that Anne Briggs EP, Hazards of Love… I was captivated by this woman’s voice and what she did with it…”
Anne Briggs was and still is one of the most enigmatic figures of the ‘60‘s and ‘70s folk scene, perceived by many as a reclusive-genius and as a rebel for shunning commercial success. Her decision to leave the folk scene in the 70’s for a life in Scotland as conservation worker and market trader have if anything increased her mythical status, something she was pretty much unaware of when she was interviewed by The Guardian for the reissue of her 1971 album The Time Has Come. Even her two children grew up unaware she had been a singer.*
There are many stories about Anne but some you maybe hope are true such as Richard Thompson being inspired by Anne to write ‘Beeswing’….”She was a lost child, oh she was running wild“.
Anne was born in 1944 in Toton, Beeston, Nottinghamshire. Her mother died of TB when she was young and her father was severely injured during WWII. She was brought up by her aunt and uncle who also lived in Toton. In 1959 Anne and a friend cycled to Edinburgh staying overnight with the famous Scottish folk singer and songwriter Archie Fisher through whom they were introduced to Bert Jansch. Anne and Bert remained close for many years, later living together in Somali Road London for a while. As well as being strong influences on each-others music they were also often mistaken for being brother and sister.
she had developed an attitude she describes as “pretty unconventional for the time”. “The role of women was very defined and very restrictive, but right through my teenage years, I’d just been shedding everything as I went, you know: I can do without that, I’m not doing that, why can’t I do that if blokes can do it? In fact, I’m going to do it, so try and stop me and see what happens.”*
In 1962 a pressure group called ‘Centre 42’ was born via Trade Union Congress delegates…a sort of Theatre Workshop cultural warfare that rallied against the purveyors of mass entertainment. Key figures included folk singer and activist Ewan MacColl. The height of their action was a series of six one-week festivals, a sort of cultural road show that were held in various parts of the country including Nottingham. Folk-singing guerillas** were sent to pubs, clubs and bingo halls with the aim of re-introducing the peoples music, not all were met with a welcome reception. MacColl heard Anne singing “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme” and “She Moves Through the Fair” whilst in Nottingham and persuaded her to join them. Although Anne was sent on her way from the Raleigh bicycle factory canteen where she sang during their tea break there was also some surprising positive reactions. Roy Bailey recalls with fondness his “first blooding with Centre 42” in Ben Harker’s biography on MacColl ‘Class Act’ when he performed ‘Four Loom Weaver’ with Cyril Tawney, Belle Stewart and Ray Fisher in The Rocket pub to a completely silent and attentive audience. It was from here that Anne’s folk singing career took off.
In 1963 Anne made her recording debut on Topic Records when she provided two songs for The Iron Muse, an album that proved to be one of the most influential records of the early British folk revival which featured songs from “the mine, mill and factory.” It was programmed by A.L. Lloyd and included performances from Bob Davenport, Louis Killen, Ray Fisher and more. Most of the singers were involved in ‘Centre 42’.
Anne’s seminal debut EP The Hazards of Love followed later although there was nearly a year between recording and publication due to the limited financial resources at Topic Records.
Anne’s EP became the calling card for one of the most influential figures in the English folk revival, with Bert Jansch, Jimmy Page, The Watersons and Sandy Denny all acknowledging that influence, and it continues years after its original release, with The Decemberists 2009 album title directly taken from the EP which inspired it.
A2 My Bonny Boy
B1 Polly Vaughan
B2 Rosemary Lane
All participating Stores can be found here: www.recordstoreday.co.uk