Name Duggie Fields Comment: I worked there too ..started Saturdays...college Holidays....full-time between Architecture and Arts School...1962-67 or thereabouts...for Nat Joseph. ( July 21, 2017).
Hampstead Record Centre, was it in Heath St NW3? If so, I went there in 1965 a few times aged 14.
Bill Leader: The Man Who Paid The Pipers
Recently returned from a post-university year in America, Nat had come up with the idea of using 90 day credit to import various spoken-word recordings into Britain, including a language tuition series, while using 30 day credit to sell the records on to retailers. Based on the notion that the British public would be hugely interested in three subjects – the Queen (not known to be looking for a record deal), money (not an easy concept on record) and sex – he had settled on the third of these as a winning idea to kick off a record label. He had, in fact, not licensed but recorded Live With Love, with one Dr Eustace Chesser, using a pseudonym, to become the first three albums on his own label, Transatlantic Records.
Nat Joseph: Sure enough it worked. We got a tremendous amount of publicity, including the front page of the News Of The World. Really, we got about a million pounds of publicity for nothing. There were discussions on the radio about sex records and how evil they were and, actually, it was so tame it was unbelievable. I mean, today it wouldn’t cause a ripple in Woman’s Own but it sold what in those days was an enormous amount – nearly 100,000 records – and that enabled me then to do a number of things, like [buying] a record shop in Hampstead… The record company’s offices were [initially above the shop] and all sorts of people used to sleep there including, I remember, Bert Jansch when he first came to London and Paul Simon on more than one occasion. Soon after we moved to offices in Marylebone High Street.
Bill Leader was installed as the manager of Nat’s new premises, Hampstead Record Centre on 72 Heath Street. It would be the start of a winning relationship and one that would be crucial to the careers of numerous folk and traditional musicians from the British Isles. While Topic had gradually moved into folk music from deeply worthy, Communistic and commercially hopeless beginnings over many years, Transatlantic began with an entirely money-making, pragmatic agenda before moving into the folk revival field, albeit a slightly more commercially-focused, or commercially-feasible, end of it, with singer-songwriters a speciality.
Nat had his own quality control ethos, whatever his detractors might say:
I think I probably always had a very healthy contempt for the pop scene. We were often accused by people who were very ethnic of being pop orientated – and, I suppose, from their point of view we were – but as I saw it we weren’t. I have always been a believer in quality and I think one of the things that 90% of pop music lacks is quality. Most of the lyrics are an insult to the intelligence.
For all his entrepreneurial bent, Nat Joseph would describe himself as ‘on the left-wing of the Labour Party’. He had a love of words especially and was drawn to the personalities and fun to be had in the folk world of the early ‘60s in Britain, fast approaching what the Melody Maker would term (endlessly between 1963-65) a ‘folk boom’.