TVD Radar: BMG’s “RPM Series” on influential record labels, launches with titles on both Sub Pop and Excello labels

VIA PRESS RELEASE | From Seattle grunge to swamp blues and all points in between, BMG Books’ new RPM series gives fans an inside look at the independent record labels that made their mark on music history. The series debuts on November 20, 2018 with the first two volumes: World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story and Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story. Each is sized at 7″x7″to mimic the dimensions of a 45 RPM record, and each features a photo insert that helps brings the story to life with rare and unseen photographs.

“We want to honor the truly special independent labels,” says BMG’s Kate Hyman, who originally conceived of the project. “We want to celebrate the days when fans would buy records based on the logo alone. Let’s hope there will continue to be more of them that take the big risks and break the mold of the majors.” Future volumes will cover Chrysalis Records (Procol Harum, Jethro Tull, Blondie, Pat Benatar, Billy Idol) and the Cold Chillin’ label (Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, Marley Marl, Biz Markie, Roxanne Shante).

“As a self-proclaimed music geek, I’ve always been a big fan of the 33 1/3 series,” explains Scott B. Bomar, Publisher and Senior Director of BMG Books. “We wanted to take that concept and build upon it. Instead of focusing on a single album, each volume in the series covers a label that made an important splash in one way or another. We’ve given ourselves space to dive into some of these stories in ways that maybe haven’t been explored in the past.”

About World Domination: The Sub Pop Records Story | Founded in the late 1980s by Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman, Seattle-based Sub Pop Records released early recordings by then-upstart regional bands such as Green River, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Tad, Nirvana, Flaming Lips, Afghan Whigs, and Screaming Trees. When the world went grunge crazy in the 1990s, Sub Pop was suddenly the epicenter of Seattle cool.

Emerging organically from Bruce Pavitt’s Subterranean Pop fanzine, Sub Pop Records was the brainchild of a couple of irreverent music lovers who stumbled into the record business because they simply loved working with bands they wanted to listen to themselves. From barely paying the bills to the trappings of major music industry success to the inevitable fallout, this is the inside story of the musicians, producers, staffers, and stars who built Sub Pop into an independent powerhouse.

World Domination takes readers deep inside the chaotic early days of the label’s founding, all the way to the present. It’s a fascinating snapshot of a label that has promoted Death Cab for Cutie, the White Stripes, the Shins, Iron & Wine, the Postal Service, Sleater-Kinney, Band of Horses, Flight of the Conchords, Fleet Foxes, Sunny Day Real Estate, Shabazz Palaces, the Head and the Heart, Father John Misty, and many others.

Author Gillian G. Gaar, a longtime Seattle-based writer, draws on firsthand interviews, deep research, and her years of covering that city’s scene as a music journalist to bring together the first in-depth historical narrative of one of America’s most influential independent record labels. Gaar is the author of more than 15 books, including She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll, Return of the King: Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback, and Entertain Us: The Rise of Nirvana. She was a senior editor at the Seattle music paper The Rocket and has also written for Mojo, Rolling Stone, Goldmine, and Seattle’s Museum of Popular Culture, among many other publications and organizations. Gaar served as a project consultant on Nirvana’s With the Lights Out box set.

About Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story | The electrifying sounds of groovin’ jump blues, Southern-fried rock ’n’ roll, fervent black gospel, and the simmering sounds of the Louisiana swamp came bursting out of Nashville, Tennessee in the early 1950s courtesy of Excello Records and its sister Nashboro label. Operating out of Ernie Young’s Record Mart (“the Record Center of the South!”), Excello forged a partnership with 50,000-watt clear-channel radio station WLAC-AM. The influential station’s dusk-to-dawn broadcasts of rhythm & blues boomed through the stratosphere, captivating millions of teenagers and crossing racial boundary lines.

The unusual partnership paid huge dividends as Ernie transformed his shop into one of the largest mail-order record retailers in the world. With a built-in distribution network, his own label releases — by Slim Harpo, Arthur Gunter, Lightnin’ Slim, and Lazy Lester, among others — landed in record collections across the U.S. By the early 1960s, Excello recordings were reaching the shores of the U.K., where they inspired young Brits such as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, and Eric Clapton to launch their own R&B combos.

Through extensive research and interviews, Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story chronicles the tale of one of the most unusual labels to emerge from the 1950s. Shedding new light on Nashville’s rich history as much more than a country-music town, the book takes readers deep behind the scenes of the rise and fall of an inimitable label whose contributions to blues and R&B continue to reverberate today.

Author Randy Fox grew up in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, and now lives in Nashville, Tennessee. His writing on music has appeared in Vintage Rock, Country Music, The East Nashvillian, Nashville Scene, Record Collector, The Journal of Country Music, and other publications. He is a co-founder of independent, free-form radio station WXNA-FM in Nashville and hosts Hipbilly Jamboree, a weekly program of classic country, rockabilly, and Western swing.

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