And this week's word is: Edsel. The original Ethel, made by Ford in the '50s, was the car that Americans refused to buy. Launched in a blaze of publicity in 1957, its sales were so spectacularly poor that it was withdrawn less than two years later having cost Ford $250-$350m. "Edsel" came to mean "disaster."
And no, you have not wandered into Hugh Hunston's motoring column by mistake. Edsel in 1983 means highly desirable golden goodies from a bygone age and the motto: "We don't bury artists — we dig them up."
Edsel Records is the ever-expanding hobby of Elvis Costello's manager, Andrew Lauder, and is the home for the essential old discs which everyone missed the first time round — and it's far from being a disaster. Edsel records will probably never sell enough fast enough to top the charts, but they do sell away for ever.
The reasons? Quality and tender loving care. Edsel releases (or more correctly, re-releases) have spanned '60s British beat — the Action, the Creation, and the Yardbirds among others — '60s hippy exotic — Kaleidoscope — '50s r'n'b/soul — Little Richard, the Treniers — and '50s big ballad — two LPs by Julie London — and they are all uniformly wonderful.
What's more, now that these records have been unearthed, they are going to stay unearthed. Lauder's intention is to retain the entire Edsel catalogue rather than, as the big companies do, delete them if they do not become immediate bestsellers.
"The big companies concentrate on the biggest sellers, the easiest ones. As a small concern we have a lower break-even point and an Ethel LP can survive on sales of 2000.
"They're not fashion items. They keep on going, selling as much each week or month as they did to begin with. It's basically a salvage job for which the big companies can't afford the time or personnel."
The freshest fruits of this hard labour will appear shortly in the form of a Sam and Dave LP of rare singles and B-sides "when Atlantic find four tapes-worth of material. they've lost," said Lauder. Another 10 compilation LPs of Atlantic recordings will be unleashed near Christmas.
Lauders Demon label, which handles contemporary material which might not find a home elsewhere, will issue a new LP by Elvis Costello keyboardsman Steve Nieve to coincide with the start of Costello's British tour next month.
The Costello crew are currently on tour in the US whence Lauder recently returned bearing more treasures old and new. While Elvis was singing on TV with Count Basie and Tony Bennett, Lauder was having dinner with Lamont Dozier.
Dozier is one-third of the most successful songwriting partnership in black music history. With Eddie and Brian Holland he gave Motown the hits that were the basis of the company's success in the '60s. The trio left 'Motown amid much acrimony in 1968 and set up the Invictus and Hot Wax labels, the rights to which — and thus such notables as Chairmen of the Board and Freda Payne — have now been acquired by Ethel.
In addition Demon will soon be releasing Dozier's latest LP and his new single, "Scarlet O'Hara." Plus — and this is a scoop, folks — Holland-Dozier-Holland and the Four Tops are back with Motown and working on an LP. Order your copy now and remember where you read about it first and all that jive.
Meanwhile, Kaleidoscope (Bacon From Mars), Julie London (Calendar Girl) and The Treniers (Rockin' Is Our Bizness) are never off my turntable. Step on the gas and let's go. The Ethel: no home is complete without one (or seven or eight).