All the major record conglomerates have divisions dedicated to reissuing their catalogue material. Those lavish boxed sets, best-of compilations and expanded editions constitute a major profit center for the industry. But an album or act must have achieved a level of critical or, more important, commercial status to merit reissue. Obvious case in point: Thriller, 25th Anniversary Edition.
A decade ago, Jeff Calder set out to get The Swimming Pool Q’s’ two estimable A&M LPs — Swimming Pool Q’s (1984) and Blue Tomorrow (’86) — re-released. One of the main rubs was that the label had declined to issue the two titles on compact disc, limiting them to LP and cassettes, which have been long out of print.
Because of the rampant consolidation of record labels in the ensuing decades, the band’s material ended up in the possession of Universal Music. For several years, Calder worked with various company execs to get the Q’s music reissued via Universal. “Every time I got close, something would happen, like a person I was working with at the label would vanish,” he said.
Despite the fits and starts, Calder started the project on his own, remastering the two original A&M albums and compiling bonus material: demos, outtakes, remixes, and songs that didn’t make the cut. Additionally, he amassed a cache of videos for a bonus DVD.
He still lacked an avenue to bring his project to market. Then, Calder recalled, “I finally got to the right person at Universal who said, ‘Look, this is the way it is now.’”
Calder discovered that he would have to take the reins. The band was required to pay a fee to license its own material from Universal. The good news was that over the years it had become considerably less expensive to do so. “Basically, my contact said, ‘you pay us this much money and you can put out the albums,’” Calder, who declined to reveal the amount, recounts. “But [Universal has] to manufacture the CDs.”
The band launched a 45-day Kickstarter campaign in August 2012 to finance the project. The Q’s camp was pleased that the endeavor raised $21,000, which exceeded their goal of $15,000. Universal delivered a few thousand compact discs in spools. The band was responsible for packaging.
For that they turned to Ash Arnett, a designer and head of Cipher Bureau, a new record label that released The A&M Years. Arnett had created the packaging for the 2001 reissue of The Deep End, the Q’s 1981 debut album, as well as the band’s 2003 disc Royal Academy of Reality.
Bar None, a respected independent label that had released Royal Academy, is distributing the reissue. “It was the perfect label to get the product into smaller indie stores,” Calder says.
The A&M Years: 1984-1986 comes in two versions: a double disc set of the original albums; and a deluxe version that also includes Pow Wow Hour, a 17-track disc of bonus material, and Auto Zoom, a DVD collection of 13 videos — stage, TV and promo clips — from that period. The expanded edition was limited to a run of 500, which, as it turns out, was too few. Calder and Arnett are scrambling to do another run to meet back orders.
“From the original conception, The A&M Years took almost 10 years to make a reality,” Calder said in a follow-up email. “There were many setbacks — but it has worked out in the end because we had almost complete control over the presentation. This was very important to me, as someone who has wanted to consolidate the band's catalog and legacy, to deliver a fuller understanding of The Swimming Pool Q's to those who are interested.”