Beggars Banquet

By Eric Gremillion

The Beginning…

In 1974, disc jockeys Martin Mills and Nick Austin opened a record store named after the album Beggars Banquet by The Rolling Stones. The first Beggars Banquet record store was located in the Earl’s Court district in London where Mills and Austin decided to sell new and used records side by side. This worked out well for them because in the few years to follow, they opened other Beggars Banquet record stores. In 1975, Mills and Austin decided to dabble in the art of promotion.

Martin Mills

“We knew someone who worked at a booking agency and this idea came about because we believed we could see a market that was being ignored by the mainstream music business. So we brought in artists like The Crusaders, Southside Johnny and Dory Previn. The very first gig we promoted was by Tangerine Dream in the Royal Albert Hall which was very much jumping in at the deep end !”

– Martin Mills

When 1976 rolled around, punk exploded in London and everything seemed to have changed for the better. Record stores had to change what they were selling to include the new growth in punk music. DIY (do it yourself) became a popular techniqe of releasing punk music. Artist, in this new rising genre, found smaller record labels to promote and distribute their music then signing onto major labels. Besides punk music sparking interest into music lovers, so were singles!

“The record shops had been mainly selling albums by American west coast and funk artists, and so on. Then suddenly one night the world wasn’t interested in albums anymore, they were interested in singles. Suddenly the same people who had been listening to Deodato were buying the first single by the Sex Pistols. And it turned what we did upside down. We all started being interested in a completely different style of music. The kind of concerts we had been promoting suddenly became completely irrelevant because nobody was going to the concert halls anymore. So we started promoting punk gigs instead. It was an amazing, incredibly exciting sea change.”

-Martin Mills

From A Record Store To A Record Label

The year was 1976 and Beggars Banquet would make history! The Lurkers, a punk rock group from West London, rehearsed in the basement of one the Beggars Banquet record store’s basement. Mike Stone who was the manager of that store was also managing The Lurkers however, when the job became too much to handle for one person, Beggars Banquet took control and helped manage the band as well. Beggars Banquet worked hard to get The Lurkers a record deal but failed, so they decided to DIY.

“Then (1976) there was no road-map. There were no small independent record companies. So we worked out how to put a record out ourselves. We pressed it and got a very old-fashioned distributor called President to take it on.”

-Martin Mills

Beggars Banquet Records released their first single Shadow by The Lurkers and became one of the first independent punk labels!

Gary Numan…

Are 'Friends' Electric? single.

Beggars Banquet signed Gary Numan in 1978, who then started a band, Tubeway Army, that created chart topping #1 hits with Are ‘Friends’ Electric? (1979) and Cars (1979) that put Beggars Banquet Records on the map. Gary Numan had 3 albums in the top 20 and four #1s in the same year!

Beggars Group…

In 1980 Ivo Watts-Russell and Peter Kent, who were managers of two seperate Beggars Banquet record stores, wanted to start a label that Beggars Banquet would finance called 4AD.

“The whole point of 4AD was that it would be small and doing what Beggars had done when we first started. The original concept was that as acts became successful they would then move onto Beggars, the parent company. But the only act that actually did that was Bauhaus. After that point 4AD developed such a strong identity with artists like The Birthday Party, The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and so on, that it no longer needed to be a part of Beggars, but just grew in parallel.”

-Martin Mills

As of 2008, there are 4 main record labels that are part of Beggars Group. XL Recordings joined in 1989 along with Matador Records (2002) and Rough Trade Records (2007).

Beggars Banquet Records has released music from Biffy Clyro, Buffalo Tom, The Charlatans, The Cult, The Go-Betweens, Luna, The National, St. Vincent and Tindersticks. Today, Beggars Banquet Records have ceased in signing new artist and now releases back catalogue reissues.

Banquet Records…

Front View of Banquet Records

Banquet Records is a record store located in Kingston Upton Thames, Surrey. The record store was formally part of Beggars Banquet chain of stores but is now an independent shop. They have in-house shows where artist like Polar Bear Club, White Lies, Cancer Bats, Frank Turner and All Time Low have performed.

Sources…

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