Reflections

By John Schroeder  

1963 certainly proved to be one of the most significant and exciting years as far as my career was concerned, for in the early part of it I won the Ivor Novello Award for composing Helen Shapiro's 'Walkin' Back To Happiness' and at the same time took over the independent Oriole label as A&R manager. Oriole was a great challenge and it was this that brought me into direct contact with the Beatles, Brian Epstein, Jim Capaldi, Dave Mason, Cilla Black and many other talented people.

Oriole had to compete with the majors and to do this I strongly felt it needed to have American product. I kept a close watch on the American charts and noticed that a certain label named Tamla Motown was enjoying incredible success with no less than three or four chart entries each week.

After meeting Berry Gordy and Barney Ales, who flew over here specially, the distribution rights for this country were negotiated. I created a new label with its own black and white logo and called it Oriole-American.

The releases began to flow - fantastic records by such artists as the Marvellettes, the Miracles, Mary Wells etc...all American hits but - the reaction here was virtually negative.

While all this was going on, I was making frequent visits to Liverpool, a city which suddenly erupted with an inexhaustible amount of talent. I became very caught up with the whole atmosphere of intense creative and artistic excitement and circulated around the Iron Door, the Cavern and Blue Angel clubs where I met anybody who was anybody and many who were to become very big names in the forthcoming years.

Many hours were spent talking the night away with Brian Epstein and the Beatles. I found we had one thing in common and that was the Oriole-American label. They were very knocked out with the records, artistes, songs and sounds and I think it true to say that the Tamla Motown success influenced the Beatles greatly.

Ringo was perhaps the most 'emotional' about it and we arranged that I sent a copy of every release to him personally. I remember him saying in one of our discussions "there's only one label that matters and that's the black and white one."

Unfortunately, all the hard work, belief and effort we put into the label did not see any success for two years and it was not until I released Stevie Wonder's 'Fingertips' that anything happened at all. The record broke and it was the start of the whole Motown success story in this country. I was not to see the benefit of it for soon after Stevie's release the distribution rights went to E.M.I. Mary Wells' 'My Guy' was released and the rest is history.

For me, Liverpool, the recording of the two albums 'This is Mersey Beat Volumes 1 & 2', the Oriole-American label and the meeting of so many talented people who are now part of today's record industry, was a period of my life and career I shall never forget and one which could never be repeated.

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