Phoenix Future was one of the first Independent Labels of the 70’s. It was set up by myself and Printer Michael Tickner, who owned and ran Dawes Press in Fulham, London. Our first release was a set of songs we had recorded on our travels through the Carmargue in France. Mike recorded me live in various places using his old Grundig Tape Recorder.
World renown illustrator Ralph Steadman had some of his works printed at Dawes Press and he agreed to design the LP Covers for me. He was enjoying great success at the time for his work with Hunter S.Thompson ” Fear and loathing in LA” and many other works. Ralph came up with his unique interpretation of a screaming Phoenix for the cover. We released this ourselves with a numbered pressing of 1000 with a lyric insert. The second LP was my 12 string suite “Earth Birth”. Ralph also produced this LP of again an issue of 1000 copies.
I have always flown in the face of current trends and Earth Birth was no exception. This was the era of Punk Music and it ruled supreme. People said we were mad to put out an acoustic 12 string instrumental LP and that it would be a waste of money. Fuck em, we said and did it.
I did lots of gigs as a soloist to promote the Phoenix Future LP and leased the LP to Arcane Records in France. Mike and I toured France to promote the album and it was there I teamed up with drummer Gerard Jelsch, who joined me for dates on percussion. Gerard was the former drummer with Ange. Likened as the French Genesis at the time and a massive band over there. Gerard is now playing with an outfit called Gens de la lune.
Back in the UK later, Lawrence Brough ( an old school mate of mine ) had taken over Dawes Press from Mike Tickner. Mike having sold up, left his wife, found a new lady on one of my gigs and set up a new life in Cumbria making bespoke kitchens. He later left the lady and moved to France. I heard he stepped in front of a train. Sad ending to a really intelligent man.
He told me a great story about Winston Churchill. Mike was a member of the Communist Party in his younger days and he waited all night, in the pissing rain, to confront Churchill about an issue he felt strongly about. I think he said he waited outside either the Ritz or the Strand Hotel from about 7pm till 11pm. When Churchill finally appeared, having sank a few brandies, Mike waved his poster and shouted his protest. Churchill simply waddled over to him and said ” Fuck Off ! “. Mike gave up being a communist a few days later !
We booted all the doubters into touch with Earth Birth because it was getting some fantastic reviews in the UK Press. Probably it was so different and bucked the trend. Reviewers actually found it refreshing amidst all the thrash and spew from Punk bands. So much so that RCA Records rang up and wanted to re-record and release Earth Birth plus another 3 LP’s over the following years. So we decided to take them up on their offer.
I must admit, that those few years were really interesting and exciting times. It’s great when a few people put something together without much money and all pull together to make it successful. Both Mike Tickner and Lawrie Brough are now deceased but Ralph Steadman continues to create wonders.