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Making the Archives

There came a time when we had moved house too often. Once was enough, twice was annoying. The culprit was a tower of 2" multitrack tapes that had initially formed a crack in Mary's bedroom ceiling, resting as they were in the loft.

Of course these tapes had been hanging around for a long time, one of those things where you think "One day we'll figure out what to do with these."

In 2005 I finally decided that we could do something with these recordings, made by Mary and Tony so many years before and mostly unheard. Mary had asked a friend, Mike Silverston, to run off copies of the multitrack tapes and make CDs.

The tracks of course had been beautifully recorded by Tony Visconti (my dad) and so only needed a quick check. One however was ready-made. Someone, we don't know who, had recorded Mary's gig at the Festival Hall in 1972, when she supported Ralph McTell. I think there was only a 1/4" tape, which couldn't be remixed anyway, so I thought that would be a good start.
Boxes of Mary Hopkin master tapes

I knew that with the burgeoning internet, it was possible for artists to take control of their own releases, and since Mary was adamant about not touring or promoting, I thought we'd just put out an album to see what happened.

I was pretty green on the subject of being a label, but I figured out artwork, CD replication, PPL and PRS registrations, MCPS licences.
One of the best favours anyone has ever done for me (a publisher in fact) was to tell me to do it all myself. I didn't really know what publishers did but I found that I could certainly get the basics done.

I built a basic website, emailed Pat Richmond who ran the Mary Hopkin fan site, and instantly I got 15 orders! It might not seem much but I was thrilled! People were out there. Soon other orders rolled in and we could start breaking down the tower of boxes that lined our hallway.

Later that year Chris and I moved into Space Studios and we could take all those boxes with us. The Festival Hall CDs we made, and also those 2" tapes. Eventually it was time for another album. Mary's Artwork for Valentine

From Mike's CDs Mary chose her favourites and we came up with "Valentine". The artwork that ended up on the cover had been a motif of Mary's for some time (an actual Valentine she'd painted). Again, the fans were eager for unheard music and we were so grateful for their support.

It was soon time to do something about those tapes, now sat in one of the editing suites in the studio. Because they were so old, they had to be "baked", treated to ensure they could be played long enough to make a copy.

Six boxes went off to FX Copy, and one hard drive came back. And the empty tape boxes. At least they're lighter to cart around!

We'll let you know what happened in forthcoming weeks when we feature more of the Archive Albums.

Jessica Lee Morgan is Mary's daughter and runs Mary Hopkin Music.

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