KPM Library and the ‘London sound’


 KPM Library and the ‘London sound’ – By Max Galli

Close your eyes.

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Few notes in the air: a Hammond organ is playing, along with a well assembled brass section. It sounds like the typical R&B riff, but with something more. Something you can’t explain.

The year is 1968.

The place is a low ceiling basement, somewhere in London’s West End.

There are few girls around, you can guess their steps on the wooden dancefloor. Low heels, overknee boots. Tick tock tick tock. If you could judge a girl’s beauty by the sound of her shoes, no doubt you’d think she’s very attractive.

You turn your head, just for a couple of seconds.

Yes they are.

They are really attractive, as they approach the dancefloor with their perfect moves.

And there’s this music, this sound: the London sound.

 When KPM, a London based recorded music library, begun to run the ‘1000’ series, it was 1966 and London was the centre of the Universe. Or – at least – of the young Universe. Some people renamed those records ‘greensleeves’, as they all had these monochromatic, olive-green covers with a bold ‘kpm’ white logo on the top right corner.

 “The Mood Modern” (KPM 1001) was the first record of the new series, and it was followed by many others, a collection of incidental music that was about to influence a good slice of all the pop and rock music of the 60s and 70s.

This music had a strong rhythmical appeal, as well as a captivating structure made of long established ‘pop’ sounds with a lot of new, exciting and exotic notes, added to the mix by instruments whose strange names were never heard before (well, at least in Europe): sitars, tablas and many other ones, and it was about to become very peculiar of most late Sixties London clubs.

As Psychedelia was sweeping away a lot of R&B based combos (or – maybe – leading them straight into the ‘new’ sound), London ravers found themselves much more involved with a ‘wide angled’ music, rather than the usual mid-60s Stones-Yardbirds groups based on the ‘classic’ rock guitar riff, whose talents and glories were now disputed by the likes of Jimi Hendrix. Obviously, KPM session musicians were already there to catch the new direction.

In 1968, few of those KPM session men united under a project called The Mohawks: organist Alan Hawkshaw, bassist Keith Mansfield, guitarist Alan Parker and drummer Brian Bennett launched a cover of mostly known Lowell Fulson’s hit “Tramp”, with a different, organ led arrangement and opportunely renamed “Champ”, that proved to be an instant success in the London club scene and it was followed shortly by an LP with the same name. The album included a few covers and some previously released KPM tracks, but with alternate arrangements and a brass section to add a more ‘soulful’ appeal. Alan Hawkshaw’s killer Hammond riff on Champ became immediately acknowledged as a new, funky way to play the organ and is still one of the most imitated styles to date.

 Between 1968 and 1973 KPM explored a lot of popular music genres, from jazz to r&b, from soul to funk, from beat to psychedelia, as well as orchestral, latin jazz and electronics (moog and other synthetizers). This wide spectrum of music can be traced from ‘Soul Organ Showcase’ (Alan Hawkshaw, Keith Mansfield and David Gold – KPM 1027 – 1968) to ‘Afro Rock’ (Alan Parker and John Cameron – KPM  1130 – 1973), going through the dancefloor-friendly ‘The Big Beat’ volume 1 and 2 (KPM 1044 – 1969 and KPM 1067 – 1970), the pop perfection of  ‘Flute For Moderns’ (KPM 1080 – 1971), the experimental, electronic space-age sounds of ‘Electrosonic’ (KPM 1104 – 1972) and many other albums, each one with its own personality.

KPM library, with its incredibly wide range of sounds, influenced many artists since the latter half of the Sixties. Versatile composers like Alan Hawkshaw and Keith Mansfield gave their contributions to pop music masterpieces like Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Melody Nelson’ (1971) and Love Affair’s ‘Everlasting Love’ (1968), to name but a very few.

KPM composers worked for television, cinema, advertising and mainstream music, and I believe it’s very difficult today not to come across some string of notes that wasn’t – in some way – influenced by KPM, even indirectly, often  hidden in records, 60s-70s TV series or even hip-hop sampled tunes.

No other music library was able to provide such a huge quantity and quality of sounds like KPM did, and with such a team of hardworking musicians and composers.

 It started all in London, in the mid 60s. What could be once called just ‘The London Sound’ went on to influence a variety of music and media situations – a proper, authentic heritage of British and European pop musical culture and a true, valued contribution to the ‘Swingin’ London’ phenomenon.

Today, many KPM tunes are regularly played in Mod-60s and funk clubs worldwide, by djs and collectors who know how these records sound incredibly modern, as they have the very same impact they used to have thirty or forty years ago.

Close your eyes.

Keep your ears listening and your legs moving on their own to the music.

There’s this music, this sound…

It’s the KPM sound.

*   *   *


Essential listening 1968-1973:

PAMA PMLP5          The Champ  1968

KPM 1001                  The Mood Modern – (VV.AA.)   1966

KPM 1002                  The Sound Of Syd Dale – (Syd Dale)  1966

KPM 1015                  The Sound Of  Pop – (VV.AA.)   1967

KPM 1027                  Soul Organ Showcase – (A.Hawkshaw, K.Mansfield, D.Gold)    1968

KPM 1029                  Colours In Rhythm – (VV.AA.)  1968

KPM 1043                  Beat Incidental – (A.Hawkshaw, K.Mansfield)  1969

KPM 1044                  The Big Beat – (A.Hawkshaw, K.Mansfield)  1969

KPM 1049                  Chorus And Orchestra – (K.Mansfield, S.Dale)  1969

KPM 1067                  The Big Beat Volume 2 – (Alan Moorhouse)  1970

KPM 1076                  Speed And Excitement – (J.Pearson, A.Hawkshaw, K.Mansfield)  1970

KPM 1077                  Progressive Pop – (VV.AA.)  1970

KPM 1080                  Flute For Moderns – (A.Parker, A.Hawkshaw, J.Haider)   1971

KPM 1086                  Music For A Young Generation – (A.Parker, A.Hawkshaw, R.Cameron)  1971

KPM 1096                  Music Pictorial – (James Clarke)  1972

KPM 1104                  Electrosonic – (D.Derbyshire, B.Hodgson, D.Harper) 1972

KPM 1111                  Brass Plus Moog – (Mike Vickers)   1972

KPM 1123                  Friendly Faces – (A.Hawkshaw, J.Clarke)  1972

KPM 1130                  Afro Rock – (A.Parker, J.Cameron)  1973


 KPM official website:                                    www.kpm.co.uk

Alan Hawkshaw official website:                   www.alanhawkshaw.com

KPM the ‘1000’ series on Myspace              www.myspace.com/kpm1000series

Max Galli

Max Galli was born in Rome in 1969, the son of a photographer and a housewife. Illustrator, graphic designer and writer, he embraced the culture and the aesthetics of the Sixties more than two decades ago. Max published three novels, an anthology of short stories and four comic books, and contributed to several magazines ( "Storie", "Vintage", "Blue" and "Misty Lane"). During the years he realized loads of cartoons, pin ups, record and cd covers and posters for Italian and European bands. He lived in London from 1998 to 2003, joining in the London Mod scene, from which he took inspiration for his work. His comic books “The Beatnix” and “The Adventures of Molly Jones” reached international success, especially in United Kingdom and USA.

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Originally posted 2011-09-30 11:13:11. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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