Sunday, 15 September 2013
Between 1976 and 1978 major record labels took advantage of a tax loophole in which they could claim huge losses on subsidiary labels, which in turn allowed them to offset the taxable earnings of the parent imprint. This technicality led to the overnight proliferation of hundreds of virtually non-existent "tax scam labels."
Here's how the operation worked. The major labels - occasionally under the advisement of their silent partners in organized crime - pilfered their stock of unreleased demo tapes, b-sides, and out-takes to produce fodder for disposable records, usually without the knowledge or consent of the artists. And in some instances, the labels took music by artists already represented by the parent label and repressed the work for the smaller label under a pseudonymous band name. The sub-par music for these LPs - often a bootless brand of California acid rock - remained unmastered and was sleeved in no frills album art.
The reason for the haphazard approach being that the "releases," produced in limited number yet grossly inflated on paper, were destined from inception to sit crated in warehouses, or if lucky cast away as promos to college radio stations. These labels were about cooking books not pressing records.
As Aaron Milenski at Shit-Fi recounts, "There is also one [label] called “Album World,” which pulled the neat trick of giving every release a different 'label' name, though they all had catalogue numbers that started with AW and all had the Album World address on the back cover."
Which brings us to today's post.
I recently picked up the following mysterious record: Shamrock by Shamrock, featuring the track "Shamrock." It's the only release by said band, pressed as the sole offering by Blake Company Records, dressed in banal monocromatic album art, labeled with a hallmark Album World catalogue number: AW#14049.
If it looks like a tax scam record and walks like a tax scam record, it's probably a tax scam record. The unique feature of this album is that it doesn't quack like a tax scam record. Whereas most of these oversized coasters are coveted for their rarity rather than their musical achievements, this album of five instrumental tracks lays down some righteous guitar funk reminiscent of Betty Davis, coupled with some feel good Ramsey Lewis-esque soul jazz.
I can't imagine how this record escaped the confines of its forgotten storage locker, or how and why it was recently bootlegged...again. Even the luck of the Irish dictates that this record should have disappeared over the rainbow. But someone found this lucky charm and had the wherewithal to share it.
No more shamrock puns. Promise.
Shamrock – Shamrock, Blake Company Records, 1977
In the interest of giving credit where it's due, the gents at Bad Cat Records first identified this disc as a tax scam when they came across an original press on GEMM.