Sounds, June 25, 1977

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Stiff steps backwards into the future


When Jake Riviera opens his mouth to speak, everybody stops to listen, It's part of his Style. Catch him in the right mood, when his eyes sparkle mischievously and he shoots one liners like bullets, Jake will have you laughing all the way to the hospital.

Without Jake Riviera Stiff would be just A.N. Other independent record label. Whatever was on the vinyl. It's his energy, his zany humour and his sheer talent as a raconteur that has kept the Stiff jerking for the last nine months.

When he re-appeared at the Nashville recently, bronzed after a month's vacation in the United States, he was lavishing his art on the tale of how he'd just dumped Island records (since February, Stiff's foster parents).

"I tore up the contract and threw it down the bog" was the least colourful comment he made all night. The others were not only unprintable but libellous too.

But although the Stiff offices in West London fervently insist that they have returned to fully independent status, the real story is somewhat different, (although coloured by rumour and conjecture).

This much though IS true.

Since Jubilee weekend Island have ceased to work on Stiff's behalf. No press, no promotion and no product in the shops. Rumour even has it that all Stiff personnel have been barred from Island's Hammersmith offices.

If Jake Riviera has been grossly dissatisfied with the way Island have been taking care of his business, his company's avowed anarchic and illogical approach has obviously won them few friends in the major's offices.

Read personality clashes into it all should you so wish, but if the party is over after only a few short months...there's still the shouting to come.

And the horny old question of money. Island paid just over £17,000 for their stake of the rights of the Stiff catalogue and, naturally enough, they want it back. Sounds has heard, though, that Island are also demanding the same sum again in compensation for the internal machinery they set up to deal with Stiff's product. And with only the Damned's album Damned Damned Damned making the charts, they almost certainly have yet to re-coup their costs on that one.

Trouble is, it seems, Island want their dues in hard cash, and unless Stiff are wealthier than their poky little offices suggest, they just ain't got it.

Sounds has spoken to Jake Riviera on several occasions over the last three weeks, only to find him uncharacteristically in control of his tongue.

"I really can't say anything until we've finished negotiations." he says each time we contact him. "But I should be seeing Tim Clark (one of Island's directors) next week. It should all be settled then."

But next week stretches into next week, nothing is settled and the last we heard Jake was planning to fly to the Bahamas to deal with Island supremo Chris Blackwell direct.

Are Island stringing Jake along, holding him over a barrel, in the hope that time and the devil will bring Riviera into line? Or is he simply acting the spoilt schoolboy in the big man's world of business?

Who's to tell.

Every man's reasonable offer is another man's rip-off.

But informed sources claim that Island's hardheaded determination is only further evidence that they need an urgent injection of cash. After all there have been few Island hits in the last couple of years. Neither the Hot Rods nor Bob Marley have grossed as much cash as they have newsprint and publicity. And what with the news that they have drastically reduced the number of salesmen out on the road, one might suspect Island is heading for the red, or amber gambling at the very least.

Yet Stiff would seem to be coffin bound too, whichever way the negotiations go. Even if Jake is successful in his discussions with Clark and Blackwell, his company will still be left severely out of pocket, with lotsa product hot to trot into your shops but with no means of financing, manufacturing or distributing the little gems.

Nevertheless, Jake Riviera foresees no problems in going independent again. In fact he admits to being involved in a pilot scheme to link all Britain's independent labels in a nationwide distribution system. He insists that there would be no need for Stiff to deal with a major company again.

"I could go straight back to work tomorrow, if I could get my records back. Apart from the Elvis Costello album My Aim Is True we have lots of material already in the can. But we've run out of everything in the office. That means we can't sell anymore from here, although we were never signed an exclusive marketing deal with Island they still have control of the plastic. And until we sort all this out no more Stiff stuff will be pressed."

What will happen if the two parties fall to come to an agreement?

Well you could be looking in the Financial Times court case column for the economic details and in Sounds for the extra judice scam.

"We might even have to wind everything up completely until our contract runs out," reckons Jake ruefully.

Island Records refuse to comment on the matter while negotiations are still underway.

Tags: Stiff RecordsJake RivieraMy Aim Is TrueIsland RecordsThe NashvilleThe Damned

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Sounds, June 25, 1977

My Aim Is True is mentioned in a report on Stiff Records' dispute with Island.


1977-06-25 Sounds page 13 clipping 01.jpg

Cover and page scan.
1977-06-25 Sounds cover.jpg 1977-06-25 Sounds page 13.jpg


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