|MILESAGO: Australasian Music & Popular Culture 1964-1975||Record Labels|
DU MONDE RECORDS
Category: Australian independent record label
Location: Sydney, NSW
Ownership: World of Sound Productions (Martin Erdman)
Distributor: RCA (1969-1970), then Festival from April 1970 -1973, except for period May-Oct 1970 when the label was self-distributed due to the 1970 Radio Ban)
Martin Erdman's Du Monde label and his World of Sound studio at Ramsgate played an important part on the Sydney music scene in the transitional years 1969 - 1973. As Glenn A. Baker noted in his comments published in Martin's recent Du Monde compilation:
"... The music we love -- pop music, chart music -- was built by people like Martin Erdman; people of talent and energy, with good ears, strong instincts and dedication to an idea or an ideal."
Martin Erdman (b. Liverpool UK, 1937) is one of Australia's pioneering independent record producers. He was bitten by the music bug as a teenager, developed a wide-ranging interest in music and spent all his pocket money on 78rpm records. In his early teens, with a loan of ten pounds from his father, he purchased a Green Flyer disc cutting machine, bought some blank discs from EMI, connected the cutter to his family radiogram and experimented with cutting discs of radio broacasts.
He spent two years working for a radio manufacturer in Bondi Junction then, hoping to qualify as a radio operator, he undertook an eighteen-month course at the Marconi School of Wireless, and although he did well in electronics he couldn't achieve the 20 words per minute speed in Morse Code that was required. He then spent several years working in service and quality control at the Astor company.
Around this time Martin purchased a DIY reel-to-reel tape recorder kit from the Sydney company Nova Electronics; he assembled it with a friend, and he still has some of the tapes he made with this machine. After buying a "gold ball" crystal microphone and boldly approached the Latin band playing at the Bourbon & Beefsteak Bar in Kings Cross and made his first live tape.
Martin's next acquisition was a Presto disc cutting lathe; he soon found that he obtained a cleaner sound if he heated the cutting stylus by wrapping it with wire connected to a six volt transformer, but he quickly discovered that the 'swarf' (residue) that the stylus cut away from the laquer disc was highly flammable and easily caught fire, so he had to constantly sweep it away with a small brush while the disc was being cut. He eventually solved this problem whe a friend suggested using a vaccum cleaner, with a small hose and metal pipe to suck away the debris.
In the late 1950s Martin established Eastern Suburbs Car Radio at the back of his parents radio and electrical shop in Old South Head Road, Rose Bay. It was here that Martin set up his first recording studio. He remembers that when Festival released Bill Haley's "Rock Around The Clock", very few people were able to play the new 7" 45rpm single, and he sold and installed hundreds of 3-speed record players so that people could play the new records. One of Martin's first pop recordings was by local band led by a young man who worked at the bank next door to Martin's shop -- the singer later became famous as Sandy Scott.
In mid-1965 Martin moved to a new location in Rocky Point Rd, Ramsgate, opening his new "World of Sound" new record shop and studio. By this time he had two Revox tape recorders, several microphones and a good mixing desk. A young Donnie Sutherland often came to the studio to record voice demos as he tried to get work in radio, and indeed he was successful, going straight into a job with Sydney's 2UW.
In 1969 Donnie made a pop recording at United Sound Studio in Pyrmont; Martin had already released an EP by Nev Nicholls which was distributed by RCA Records, and they agreed to release Donnie's single "Fairyland". Donnie suggested that the label should have a different title to the studio, and Martin hit upon the name Du Monde. To promote the new label, Martin wrote to 2UW with the idea of a talent quest, with Martin recording bands at his studio and sending the tapes to 2UW, who could select tapes they liked to play on air. After several meetings, the "New 'UW Sounds of 69" competition commenced, with 2UW promoting it heavily. Martin was soon being deluged with calls and 2UW decided to play the best recordings every Friday on Ward 'Pally' Austin's drivetime show.
In all nearly 150 local bands were recorded at Martin's studio over a twelve month period. The original prize was to have been a recording contract for the best group, but in all twenty-six groups were selected for airplay on 2UW. The finalists then took part in an all-day "Battle of the Bands" at the Sydney Showground and the top four bands were offered a single deal -- the results were King Fox's "Unforgotten Dreams", The 69ers' "On The Road Again", Samael Lilith's version of The Moody Blues' "Nights In Whilte Satin" and Clapham Junction's "Emily on Sunday". All these singles were hits for Du Monde on various stations around Australia. King Fox -- who were all still 15-17 year old schoolboys at the time of their debut single -- had a Top 10 hit in Sydney with their classic debut "Unforgotten Dreams", which peaked at #7 and charting for 17 weeks, and is regarded as one of the classics of Australian progressive rock. The band is of course also notable as the first musical outing for musician-composer-producer Billy Field, who scored a major hit in the late 1970s with "Bad Habits" and founded the renowned (and now sadly defunct) Paradise Studios in Sydney.
Up to this time Martin was still using his trusty Revox 2-track recorders, but he was able to completely update his studio facilities with excellent second-hand equipment. He purchased a valve 4-track recorder from a city studio which was upgrading its gear, and early in 1970 he was able to buy the entire contents of the recording room from radio station 2GB, which was used to record live broadcasts from the Macquarie Auditorium, which were cut direct to disc. The lot included three racks of valve ampifiers, limiters and equalisers, two disc-cutting lathes and two huge speaker cabinets fitted with Goodman drivers. Since he was short of cash, Martin made a "ridiculously low" bid of $500, but as it turned out his was the only offer, and he acquired the whole lot.
Sydney band Flake was one of the first to use Martin's newly refitted studio, and Du Monde's next big hit was Flake's fine rendition of Dylan's "This Wheel's On Fire", which went to #1 in Sydney and became a national Top 40 hit, reaching #20 on the Go-Set Top 40. Its success was greatly assisted by the fact that Martin switched distributors from RCA to Festival in April 1970.
Just as the Flake single was becoming a hit, however, Du Monde's fortunes were significantly affected by the infamous 1970 Radio Ban, which was imposed in May and ran until October 1970. This controversial a "pay for play" dispute saw a group of major labels place an embargo on the supply of promotional records to commercial radio stations, who in refused to list major-label records on their Top 40 charts. The Ban had a major impact on Australian and UK labels, including Festival, but significantly, it did not affect American labels. Like Ron Tudor's Fable label in Melbourne, Martin decided not take part in the Ban and to distribute his own records, so only a month after signing his new distribution deal, Festival had notify all its dealers that they no longer distributed Du Monde. Festival were not allowed to press Du Monde's records, so Martin located a 'backyard' record pressing operation in Kings Cross to manufacture his records for the six months of the Ban.
When the Ban was lifted in November 1970 Festival resumed distribution for Du Monde, and the label scored further successes with acts such as Harry Young & Sabbath and The 69ers. He also released a number of recordings on Du Monde's sister label, Violet's Holiday. These labels went into abeyance in 1973, when Martin was hired as a staff producer with Festival Records. Among his many successful recordings for Festival was one of the biggest Australian-made hits of the Seventies, the million-selling 'pop' version of "The Lord's Prayer" by Sister Janet Mead.
In 2004 Martin Erdman released a comprehensive 4CD anthology The Du Monde Years, a 66-track compilation of the best of the World of Sound recordings, which included a CD-ROM component authored by Martin himself. Despite some health problem in recent years, Martin is still going strong, and celebrated his 70th birthday in 2007.
|SDM-302||1969||Donnie Sutherland||"Fairyland" / "Little Girl"|
|SDM-304||1969||The 69ers||"On the road again" / "Cup of Tea Take Three"|
|SDM-305||1969||Nev Nicholls & The Country Playboys||"FLower of Love" / "My heart skips a beat"|
|SDM-307||Oct. 1969||King Fox||"Unforgotten Dreams" / "Alone, so alone"|
|SDM-309||date||Clapham Junction||"Emily on Sunday" / "Good Time Music"|
|SDM-310||Feb. 1970||Samael Lilith with the Egginton Strings||"Nights in white satin" / "Sitting in the park"|
|SDM-312||James Daemar||"These things" / "What a wonderful world"|
|SDM-315||1970||Nev Nicholls||"Wheels of progress" / "Love Bug"|
|SDM-316||July 1970||Flake||"This Wheel's On Fire" / "You've Got Me Thinking"|
|SDM-317||1970||King Fox||"Timepiece" / "Will you love me tomorrow"|
|SDM-319||Oct. 1970||Toby Jug||"If paradise is half as nice" / "Dawn"|
|SDM-321||1970||1957 Stadium Rockers||"Yackety Yak" / "Felicity"|
|SDM-322||1970||The Perfection||"Goodbye Sam, Hello Samantha" / "Andrea"|
|SDM-323||1970||Christine Roberts||"Across The Universe" / "Melody Man"|
|SDM-324||1970||Elm Tree||"Rainbow" / "Lonely Nights"|
|SDM-325||Nov. 1970||Pyramid||"Can't wait for September" / "Let me be yours until tomorrow"|
|SDM-328||Dec. 1970||Harry Young & Sabbath||"San Bernadino" / "The sand, the sea and the sky"|
|DMK-4076||1971||Ben Turpin||"What could I do" / "Green Cheese"|
|DMK-4077||1970||Flake||"Reflections of my life" / "Teach me how to fly"|
|DMK-4110||1971||Galadriel||"A girl of seventeen" / "The lady was a thief"|
|DMK-4201||1971||Nev Nicholls||"Nashville Piper" / "Sweet Thang"|
|DMK-4314||1971||The Contry Playboys||"Cotton Pickin' Guitar" / "I Want One"|
|DMK-4452||Dec. 1971||The 69ers||"Morning Blues" / "Push Bike Hood"|
|DMK-4794||Aug. 1972||The 69ers||"Harry Rag" / "Happiness is just for me"|
|DMK-5168||1973||Famous Peter Miller Jug Band||"Flat Foot Boogie" / "Putting that woman down"|
References / Links
Du Monde Records - The Real Story (Du Monde, 2004)
OzSongs website - The Du Monde Years
Hank B. Facer
The Du Monde label, Discography No. 28 (Museum of Indigenous Recording Labels, 1982)