Friday, 10 March 2017

A brief account of the record labels that were run by Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs of the band St Etienne


Active between 1989 and 1992, Caff records released 7-inch singles by The Field Mice, Galaxie 500, Manic Street Preachers, and Jean Acorn, among others.

The name of the label was a reference to Sherie's Cafe, which, during its 44 year history, occupied three premises along the Commercial Road in Limehouse, East London. Bob Stanley worked there on a part-time basis between 1988 and 1992.

Cafe regular, Colin Grey, recalls: “Bob was obsessed by the singer May Mills*. There was a large framed black and white photograph of her hanging above the cash register. She was standing in the middle of her parent's cafe in Liverpool, in her stage costume, serving tea to the dockers who were about to clock on for their 4am shift. I think Bob liked the photo because there was no artifice about it. These were the people that May grew up with. After performing, usually in Blackpool, she would be driven back home, where she would help out her mum and dad, at what was a busy time of the working day for them.

Many of the bands who released singles on Caff recorded at Sherie's after it closed for the night.

It was a throwback to a bygone era where the The New Seekers still reigned supreme on the jukebox,” says Nicky Wire of Manic Street Preachers.

Despite the success of St Etienne, Bob continued he continued to work at Sherie's up until 1992 when owners retired and moved to Spain, and the cafe closed its doors for good. The premises briefly reopened as a ladies boutique called Rabbit before standing derelict for several years. In 1997, the row of shops that it occupied was demolished to make way for flats.

* May Mills was popular during the late 1940s and early 1950s and sold out theatres across northern England. Her unwillingness to be away from home, even for a night, prevented her from gaining wider success in her lifetime. She died in a car accident on April 4th, 1956, while returning home from a show in Salford.

Icerink records

In 1992, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs signed the lease on a small studio adjacent to the New Era Ice Rink, in Hackney, East London. It was here that artists such as Earl Brutus, Shampoo and The Colins would all record early works.

Joan Guy, who interned at the label recalls: “As soon as we had a new pressing, either Bob or Pete would rush it next door where they would gauge the reaction of the music on the skaters.”

In this way, Supermarket by Supermarket was judged “an ice filler”. Early white label copies of the single came adorned with a sticker that read 'Guaranteed ice filler'.

For a while Icerink also sold a range of ice-creams that were named after the label's co-founders. The Orange Stanley was an ice lolly 'flavoured with the juice of three different types of orange.' The Wiggs Bar, was a wafer and ice-cream concoction rippled with a berry sauce.

The exact flavour of the sauce depended upon the time of year and the fruit that was available,” recalls Wiggs.

Orange Stanley was the title of a St Etienne B-side that was ear-marked to appear on the How We Used To Live EP, but was dropped in favour of a remix of the title track.

In 2015, limited quantities of Orange Stanleys and Wiggs Bars were sold at independent record shops as part of record store day. Inevitably the wrappers appeared on Ebay not long after. 

Royal Mint

A relic of Bob Stanley's brief collaboration with the Bank of England.

Sarah Cracknell (lead singer of St Etienne) remembers: “Somehow Bob found out about a vinyl pressing plant in the Bank of England. It was used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to write cheques in the form of seven-inch acetates.

One night at the Daynes Wood Folk Festival, Richard James (the Aphex Twin) was telling us how he had perfected the art of recording music onto water. He was going to bombard a nearby reservoir with an album that he had written specially for the occasion and then watch the chaos unfold as people drank his tunes.

Bob mentioned that he was recording in the Bank of England. James began wondering out loud whether it would be possible to sample the chancellor's speeches and use them to write your own vinyl cheques. Fortunately, Evan Dando from The Lemonheads began playing acoustic covers of Oasis songs, and we all dozed off before we could become hardened criminals.”

Only a few records were pressed by Royal Mint. These vinyl releases were classified as currency and were not eligible for inclusion in the singles chart.


Absent from the London skyline since 2001, the EMI Disc is periodically the subject of dewy-eyed campaigns calling for its return.

Colin Britchfield (Bass player in The Colins – 'We were like the Ramones, but from Hammersmith') said: “You could stand on Primrose Hill with a pair of binoculars and, from a certain angle, you could make it look like the EMI disc was a UFO that had embedded itself in the side of the Centrepoint tower.”

The disc, which balanced atop a 183 foot tall ground spike, housed a small recording studio that was accessible via a cramped staircase.

You really couldn't get anything larger than a guitar up to the top,” recalls Stanley.

They had to bring the studio up in small pieces and construct it on site. There were also some instruments that they built from scratch in the studio: A baby grand piano and a unique instrument that could function as a double bass or a cello.”

Many visitors to the studio found the stairs a challenge.

The stairs almost killed me,” says Stanley. “There were times when I slept in the studio because I couldn't face the thought of having to climb them the following morning.”

Another peculiarity of the studio was the ever-present vibration caused by wind circulating around the disc.

You couldn't edit the vibration out, so you had to make it a part of whatever it was you were recording,” remembers Wiggs. “Sometimes I wake up and I can still feel it. I have spoken to a few other people who worked in the studio and they tell me exactly the same thing. We are thinking of setting up a support group.”

The EMI Disc was hastily demolished in 2001 when the disc began to shift and tilt on its axis.

One evening the girls from Kenickie were running from one side of the studio to the other. It felt like the disc was moving back and forth. I'm pretty certain that's what did it in,” says Stanley.  


Named after an adjacent building development plunged the record company headquarters into perpetual darkness.

We were forced to listen in the gloom with no visual distractions and actually that proved to be beneficial,” says Stanley.

All Eclipse vinyl releases came with the message 'Draw the curtains, turn off the lights' scratched into the run-out groove.

Eclipse is probably best known for its reissues of the Winchester-based funk diva - Floss Cotgrove - and the album Ring the Bells by Beryl Belle, which was named in MOJO magazine as one of the best reissues of 2006.

Croydon Municpal

Part of Croydon Council's ambitious global outreach programme, this label explores the vibrant culture that has made the south London borough a hub for music that draws upon influences from across the world.

Although we are often seen as a label focused on releasing compilations of vintage exotica, in reality all of these songs are contemporary recordings by local Croydon artists.” explains Stanley.

The drive to export Croydon to the farthest corners of the world sees Stanley and Wiggs making regular journeys to the nearby Tilbury Docks, where boxes of the latest Croydon Municipal releases are handed out to the crews of visiting container ships. 

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