Magazine article The Spectator

Music: Annie Nightingale on Compilations

Magazine article The Spectator

Music: Annie Nightingale on Compilations

Article excerpt

Compilation schompilation. Having been in music for as long as I have you would think I had a good idea how record companies work. I've made two compilations before. But it's a whole new thing now, big in the music world. Ministry of Sound have offices of people whose full-time jobs are about clearing tracks and licencing them for compilations. These are usually for dance music albums, very expertly mixed by specialist DJs. Mine was to be a bit different, spanning 50 years of music. We'd agreed on a three CD release. Ministry said just give us a wish list of around 100 or 150 tracks, and we'll check on what can clear. They expected many tracks would be refused -- permission declined. But actually a surprising number were yeses.

I wanted to include 'Oh Well' (part 1) by Fleetwood Mac, the first tune I ever played on Radio 1. I know Christine McVie's manager. I used to know her. Christine and I once did an interview on a boat in the Serpentine, miked up and electronically tethered to a film crew in a different boat on the other side of the lake. They filled our boat with champagne. We drank it, forgot about the crew, committed mild indiscretions, as had been intended by the director. But that was then. Now each member of Fleetwood Mac has their own manager. It would have taken months, years, if ever, to clear that track.

One minute I seemed not to have enough cleared material, then far too much. Each of the three playlists was now pending and unpending on several spreadsheets. It was turning into an A level maths nightmare.

Somewhat to my surprise the Rolling Stones agreed to licence 'Miss You', the first time, to my knowledge, that they had ever allowed a track on a compilation that was not their own. I wanted Paul McCartney's 'Maybe I'm Amazed', and that got a yes. I also got affirmatives from The Who, Joy Division, Scott Walker, London Grammar.

I had to write the sleeve notes in the hairdressers. I didn't have any headphones with me so I couldn't play the tracks off my laptop, out loud, while I typed away. The hairdresser likes The XX. On repeat. All hairdressers seem to like The XX on repeat. The XX have had 40 million hits on YouTube and won the Mercury Music Prize. …

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