The Celebration Kicks off in London: Virgin Records Turns 40!
Virgin Records, Virgin Airlines, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Media…it’s a veritable Richard Branson empire and no one can deny hehas made this level of success look second nature. For me, besides one very long and unpleasant flight on Virgin Atlantic when I was a child, I associate the brand Virgin with some of Rock’s major music legends…a record label that has signed the likes of the Sex Pistols, Boy George, Simple Minds, Massive Attack, The Verve, Chemical Brothers, and Daft Punk (to name only a few) since it launched in 1973.
I can’t say I am a huge follower of the record label. If I like a band I could care less who they are signed under. I imagine that means a great deal more to the artists themselves who are often at the mercy of their label or are seeking to establish their own rights to music publication for complete artistic freedom. But a record label IS defined by the artists they choose to sign. Those bands come to embody the label, and, like a brand, collectively create its image. Which is why, when Virgin Records celebrates its 40th anniversary this October, I have to take my hat off to them for allowing, at least the aforementioned bands, for being sponsored, produced, and disseminated.
Back in 1977, Virgin Records (aka Richard Branson) signed famed Punk Rock Legends The Sex Pistols. After a notoriously ugly divorce from their original label, EMI, The Sex Pistols were quickly nabbed up by Virgin, seeing an opportunity to capitalize on the media frenzy that had blown up around the band on account of their “fuck you” attitude, shock-antics, and politically “offensive” and “anarchistic” message. In fact, Branson and Virgin were very clever to do this, as it was under their label that Never Mind the Bollocks (and the ever-controversial single God Save the Queen) were released.
Flash forward to the present and Virgin Records still holds an iconic place in British Music History – well in music history in general. And so London, home to the Branson empire, and to many of the bands who have been so successful under its umbrella, will dedicate a month of concerts in venues across the city. Alongside the performances, the Virgin 40 Exhibition will showcase photographs, memorabilia, and videos from the 4 decades of artistic collaboration. And to top it all off, proceeds will go to charity! Could it be planned more perfectly? It’s a celebration of music, culture, the city of London, and well…probably Branson himself.
Though you may not be in London for the festivities, you could take October and November to dust off your old record collection, unearth your Simple Minds and Sex Pistols records or revisit some of the classic or more recent bands that have thrived under Virgin. I would like to believe that many of these bands would have found their way into the public without Virgin’s mega-bucks but I am happy that they are present.