Another album ‘sampler’, from another era. Virgin were selling this for the price of a 45rpm single, and it wasn’t the first time they’d tried a stunt like that – a few years earlier they’d done the same thing with The Faust Tapes, which sold quite well as a result. I believe it was Faust‘s idea originally, though you won’t find those krautrock legends on this record. Branson and Co. had already dropped them like the hot potato they were. But the marketing idea lived on. I paid 99p for it last week, which is roughly the price of a single mp3 download, so not much has changed, really.
The album covers most of Virgin’s 1980 roster, with big-hitters of the New Wave like OMD, Japan, XTC and The Human League nestling alongside less commercially visible acts like Nash The Slash, Valerie Lagrange and Fingerprinz. Not forgetting Magazine, Martha & The Muffins and The Flying Lizards. The old guard were represented by the future-blues of Captain Beefheart sitting uncomfortably next to the trad-blues of Gillan, plus the label’s flagship beardy synth-gods Tangerine Dream. The focus is on album tracks, rather than singles, so there’s actually quite a few tunes on here I’ve not heard before.
Great sleeve, I think. Each act is a ‘cut’ of beef on the side of the cow, whilst a fishnet-clad milkmaid lurks in the background, busily milking the cow for all it’s worth. Piles of money lie scattered in the field, even in the cow-pat – seems there was money to be made from shit, too. Were they making some sort of ironic comment, or just being extremely honest? This was afterall the beginning of Thatcher’s ’80s, when it was suddenly okay for everyone to aspire to being rich pop stars. And Virgin Records, born at the arse-end of the hippy years, was ready to ride the capitalist gravy train all the way.