THE LARRIKIN LABEL
Larrikin Records was established by Warren Fahey in 1974. Folkways Music, the retail outlet, had been established the year earlier and both were small cottage ventures sharing a small Paddington shop front at 38a Oxford Street. It was never intended that the label would develop into a large business and the first release of Australian mining songs ÎMan of the Earthâ (Larrikin LRF001) probably set the labelâs fate.
Fahey ran the label, and its offshoot labels Rissole, Jarrah Hill and Green, for twenty-two years until selling the company to Festival Records in 1995.
Essentially the label was funded by Folkways which had a daily cash-flow ö a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul and visa versa. In retrospect Fahey admits he should never released many of the albums released on the labels but Îbecame consumed with the project and the need to issue Australian music when no one else appeared to careâ. Financially it was always a struggle and this eventually spurred the desire to sell ö it was also Faheyâs 50th birthday and he had other challenges.
The two businesses moved from the original small two-room shop to a larger premises a block away at 82 Oxford Street. This was a three level building and provided room for the third area of the business which was the distribution of imported labels like Rounder, Folkways USA, Topic, Shanachie etc. The businesses moved a third and final time when premises in the main area of Paddington became available in the early 1980s ay 282 Oxford Street, where the retail store still operates.
Fahey saw Larrikin as a Îsmall label for interesting musicâ however it continued to pump out a flow of releases. The first few releases are a good indication that the label was not headed for financial glory!
* LRF001 – Man of the Earth
* LRF002 – Traditional Music of Papua New Guinea – Toloi
* LRF003 – Traditional Music of Papua New Guinea – Enga
* LRF005 – Traditional Music of PGG – Chimbu
* LRF007 – Bush Traditions ö field recordings by WF
* LRF009 – Navvy on the Line ö Australian railway songs
* LRF012 – Jim Jarvis ö original songwriter
* LRF013 – David Blanasi ö didgeridoo virtuoso
* LRF014 – Wandjuk Marika ö didgeridoo cycle
* LRF015 – On The Steps Of The Dole Office Door ö Depression songs
The label went on to release nearly 500 albums, mostly Australian and included releases by (in no particular order): Eric Bogle, Bushwackers, Phyl Lobl, Chris Duffy, Margret RoadKnight, Jeannie Lewis, Frances Paterson, John Kane, Danny Spooner, Gordon McIntyre, John Morris, Clem Parkinson, Lyell Sayer, John Dengate, Robyn Archer, Bernard Bolan, Redgum, Mike & Michelle Jackson, Mulga Bill, Mucky Duck etc. There was a jazz archive label which released music by Bob Sedergreen, Marie Wilson, Kerrie Biddell, Brian Brown, Serge Ermel, Bruce Cale, and many others. Country music was an active part of the catalogue and an early collaboration with country historian Eric Watson saw over 25 albums of historic country released including the double ÎCountry Music in Australiaâ and ÎCountry Radio Requestâ series. There were also classical releases from Capelli Corelli, Flederman and others.
Eric Bogle, Sirocco, Mike Jackson, Kev Carmody, Flying Emus, Robyn Archer and Redgum were the successful elements of the label and, in many ways, their success paid for the Îmiserable but glorious failuresâ like the field recordings of Sally Sloan and the many Indigenous releases.
Green Records was the rock label formed in partnership with Roger Grierson (now head of Festival Mushroom) and journalist Stuart Coupe (Now head of Laughing Outlaw Records). Green issued some terrific material including Tactics, Saints, SpySpy, Naughty Rhythms, and Do Re Me. The partnership was dissolved when we realised that rock needed more money than we had.
The Larrikin label was distributed by small indie distributors starting with Missing Link, then M7, then Crest ö all three went out of business owing Larrikin considerable monies. A case of two steps forward two steps back. After these disasters Fahey did a label deal with EMI where he had originally produced three early Lps (Wild Colonial Boys and two recordings of his own Larrikins group). This was a successful relationship for three years when EMI had a change in management. Fahey then decided to handle his own distribution. It was at this stage Larrikin grew at a fast rate. They had good international labels, a reputation for paying their accounts and there was a growing interest in Australian music. An approach to Virgin gave Larrikin distribution of their specialist labels, including Peter Gabrielâs Real World, a relationship that eventually lasted over a decade including Virginâs sale to EMI. The largest selling album was Michael Nymanâs soundtrack to The Piano which Larrikin sold over 120,000 copies in two years.
In 1993 Fahey sold Folkways to its present owners, and in 1995, Larrikin to Festival. The label overheads had started to threaten the viability of the company and, besides, Fahey needed new challenges. Unfortunately the new owners have not reissued the label and it sits in their master tape vault awaiting re-discovery.
Larrikin certainly had an influence on Australiaâs musical landscape. Its idiosyncratic stance had seen the release of many genres that would never had normally been released ö Australian bird song, indigenous traditional and contemporary music, bush sounds, folk songs, field recordings, vintage jazz, blues and, of course, a massive catalogue of singer songwriters. There were many other Australian labels who used Larrikin for distribution and marketing ö Move, Candle, Grevillea, AIAIS, Eureka, Walsingham, Score etc.
Fahey has never regretted a day of Larrikin but says he would never do it again. (He did.)