Beggars Banquet began in 1974 as a record store founded by London disc jockeys
Martin Mills and Nick Austin in the Earl’s Court district. Selling both
new and used recordings, the outlet’s success led to the opening of branches
in Fulham and Ealing. By 1976 the company had moved into tour promotion, handling
the Commodores, the Crusaders, Southside Johnny, and other artists reflecting
the stores’ specialties.
The rise of punk in the second half of the 1970s led to a change of emphasis; the stores began stocking the vast array of seven-inch singles being released by domestic and foreign labels, and the promotions firm focused on booking bands such as the Damned, the Stranglers, and Graham Parker. The central facility even provided rehearsal space for emerging acts.
A request by the Lurkers, a London-based punk band strongly influenced by the Ramones, for management support, led to a record label search. Failing in this regard, Beggars Banquet decided to start its own recording company. Following the debut single release, the Lurkers’ “Shadow” (Beggars Banquet BEG 1; 1977), the label developed a reputation as a shrewd judge of underground talent. As the punk movement moved closer to the pop mainstream, Beggars Banquet found commercial success. Ivor Biggun’s “The Winker’s Song (Misprint)” (Beggard Banquet BOP 1) brought the company its first U.K. Top Thirty hit in September 1978. Finances were placed on solid footing for good with the emergence of Doll and Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army in early 1979. Numan would go on to top the British singles and album charts twice within a year—“Cars” (Beggars Banquet BEG 23/Atco 7211; 1979), “Complex” (Beggars Banquet BEG 29; 1979), Replicas (Beggars Banquet/Atco 117; 1979, and The Pleasure Principle (Beggars Banquet/Atco 120; 1980)
Success led to further expansion, most notably the launching of two subsidiary labels, 4AD in 1980, and Situation 2 in 1983. The former label, in particular, developed its own easily identifiable sound, a moody impressionistic sound characterized by colliding minor chords, swirling guitars, and swooping vocals. Key singings would include the Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, X-Mal Deutschland, This Mortal Coil, Modern English, Colourbox, Wolfgang Press, and Lush. In the meantime, the parent company would maintain its own successful track record with Bauhaus, the Associates, Icicle Works, and Wah! all releasing British hits during 1982-1984. The international popularity of the Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary” (Beggars Banquet U.K./Sire 0-20407 12-inch U.S. single; 1985) helped establish Beggars Banquet as a worldwide commercial force. A long run of chart hits—both in America and Great Britain—by the likes of Bauhaus spin-off Love and Rockets, the Charlatans UK, Loop, Buffalo Tom, Mercury Rev, and Luna further cemented the label’s market viability as well as its aesthetic reputation. [Thompson. 2000.]
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