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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Happy 80th Birthday, Topic Records!

With its origins in the Workers’ Music Association, through the mid-20th-century folk revival to the present day, Topic Records has established itself as not only the pre-eminent British folk music label but one widely respected throughout the world.  Remarkably, 2019 heralds this, the oldest independent label in the world’s, 80th anniversary.
The new year will see the label release a flurry of new releases and deluxe re-issues under the Topic Treasures banner – classic Topic albums re-mastered, re-packaged with exclusive new artist sleeve notes and rarely seen photos.   At the end of May, Topic will release a spectacular album of eminent artists from the folk world covering tracks they’ve chosen from the vast back catalogue.  Participating artists include Richard ThompsonMartin SimpsonJohn SmithSam LeeLankumJosienne Clark & Ben Walker and many more.  Further special events, live performances, exhibitions, documentaries, podcasts will pepper the whole year.
During the past 80 years, Topic Records has built a deserved reputation for not compromising the nature of its work or that of the independent spirit of the artists it represents. Irrespective of fads or fashions, Topic has not simply survived, but it has grown and flourished too – proof, if any were needed, that “grass roots” interest in traditional music, the artists and the label itself, has remained constant and strong.  Topic has released some of the most influential folk recordings of modern times by a host of revered artists, from Anne Briggs (see interview) to Peggy Seeger (interviewed here) to June Tabor to Ewan MacColl to Martin Simpson (see interview) to Nic Jones to Shirley Collins (interviewed here) and many, many more.

Shirley and Dolly Collins
Not content to merely rely on the undeniable splendours of the past, Topic Records continues to look forward to the future with considerable optimism for both itself and the genre to which it has long been central.  The label has recently released acclaimed new albums by Eliza Carthy & The Wayward Band (‘Big Machine’), Martin Simpson (‘Trails & Tribulations’), new signing Rachael McShane & The Cartographers (‘When All Is Still’) and Norma Waterson & Eliza Carthy With The Gift Band (‘Anchor‘).   Its new ‘An Introduction To…’ series, launched in 2017 has so far compiled 14 definitive primers of the likes of Topic artists Anne Briggs, Shirley Collins, Nic Jones, Norma Waterson, Martin Simpson, June Tabor, John Tams, Martin Carthy and more.

Topic Records Playlist

Listen to a selection of classic Topic Records songs here

The Official Topic Calendar 2019

Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy
Norma Waterson and Martin Carthy (Photo by John Harrison)
To celebrate their 2019 Anniversary Topic have published a 2019 calendar limited edition A3 size calendar, the first ever of its kind for Topic. It includes 28 pages of classic photographs of Anne Briggs, Shirley and Dolly Collins, The Watersons, Eliza Carthy, Martin Simpson, Ewan and Peggy MacColl, Davy Graham and June Tabor to name a few.
Photographs used in the calendar were taken by Brian Shuel, Tom Howard, John Harrison and from the Peter Kennedy archive. The calendar also includes important Topic Records birthday information and is limited to only 500 copies worldwide.
Available at Topic's site shop, while supplies last.
This release marks the start of the 80th Anniversary celebrations in 2019 of the oldest independent record label in the world.

“I’ve been buying and scrounging Topic Records since 1954. It feels like Topic has always been there, quietly doing good work. Like a backbone.” – John Peel, 1999.

I humbly agree: a personal fave of mine, a label which hosted the very best folk music, ever.

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