Working at Cryptic Records

[This article is about my early business career: back in the 1980s…]

Other pages on this site explain how Cryptic Records came about…

Around 1985, with graphic designer Mike Ellis, I designed a poster with the headline “Waiting to hear about your band… Cryptic Records” which I put up all around Leeds and Manchester in record shops, rehearsal studios, and so on.

About 60 bands sent in demo tapes. A band called The Age Of Chance sent in a demo, as did The Railway Children. The Wedding Present guys dropped by with a demo cassette containing a few songs, and a band called The Cassandra Complex came by too. Some of these went on to great things, most notably The Wedding Present. I obviously wasn’t the best talent spotter!

I visited Offbeat Studios in Leeds and met the 2 owners. One was called Dave Stanford. They managed a band called Hipnomatix which had a very charismatic lead singer called Ray Lyons who dressed in black leather and wore dark sunglasses. They had financed the release of a single called Missing Persons. You can see Ray in the centre. Saxophonist Mark is on the right, and Jeff Smith, the bass player, is holding the camera on the left…

Hipnomatix Missing Persons

Dave gave me a demo cassette containing a number of songs. I thought the song Perfect Strangers was great. Richard Hanson and I decided to release it as our first single. We paid for the song to be properly recorded at Offbeat, and Dave and his colleague produced a 12-inch extended version of the song as well.

Another studio in Leeds was run by a guy who also made promotional videos. We got him to film and edit a video of the band miming this song. We paid £200 for this.

I loved mathematical puzzles at the time and had a book called Tangrams, published by Penguin, which came with plastic tiles in a wallet. I decided to include a card tangram with each single, and constructed the cover shot of the single so it would cut up into the 7 pieces elegantly. You’ll see that I used the tangram to create each of the letters of the song title running down the left-hand side and bottom. The final S is broken up slightly to make it really clear that each letter was created from the 7 pieces of the tangram.

I called the tangram inside a Hipnogram. This was simply a piece of card with the band photo as per the cover on one side and completely black on the other.

The ‘slanted rectangle’ shape, as seen below showing the guy in the middle I had to make all black, as this piece is different when it’s turned over: so it had to be black both sides if you wanted to make any tangram shape…

Hipnomatix Perfect Strangers

 

The rear of the single featured one of the hexagrams from the I Ching which I was fascinated by at the time, with an extract below it from the interpretation of that hexagram, along the lines of… “the fox dips its tail in the water as it crosses the stream”.

The label number was SPIRO 99, and my plan was that the next releases would be SPIRO 98, SPIRO 97, and so on!

We had 2 messages from Ray inscribed on the run-out section of the single, one being part of the main song’s lyrics.

We paid for about 1,000 enormous posters to go up around Leeds and London. We paid for a radio plugging company to promote the song to radio DJs and club DJs around the UK, but all we got out of this was one play on the national radio station BBC Radio One, on the Annie Nightingale Show.

(Dave Stanford and I became friends, lost contact, then we bumped into each other at a personal growth seminar years later. We kept in touch and my wife (at the time) and I had dinner at his home with his wife Jill in August 2010.)

You can get download an m4a (AAC) of the 7-inch version here. I have the 12-inch version and B-sides Nothing’s Wrong and Pascale, plus the original single Missing Persons / You Say in my iTunes library, so contact me if you want them.

A band called Leitmotiv came to see us. They played us a song called Say Remain. Richard and I liked it, so we released that as our second single on 7 and 12 inch. One of the band members wanted his artwork on the cover: 3 progressive sketches of an old man, making a triptych (an image divided up into 3 sections). I liked the idea as I liked the idea of “a triptych from Cryptic”. The sketches didn’t come out well…

Leitmotiv Say Remain

The label number was SPIRO 98, as explained above.

You can get download an m4a (AAC) version of the 7-inch version here. I have the 12-inch version and B-sides Nell and Out Of The Way in my iTunes library, so contact me if you want them.

Another band came to see us: Judy In Sin, who soon after changed their name to Judy’s Dream. They were all 16 years old, so they came with their friend, Carl Smallpage, who was 17 and had a car! They all lived in Cleckheaton, Yorkshire. They played me a studio demo of a song called It’s Intelligence She Lacks. I thought it was superb. (Some of their other songs were excellent too.) Richard and I paid for this to be recorded properly, but this new version didn’t have the energy of the original demo.

Sales of the first 2 singles hadn’t been good. We’d lost money. So we closed the business down, not releasing the Judy’s Dream single, so we could concentrate on Superior Software which was starting to do well again.

(Side note: In 2009, more than 20 years later, I bumped into Carl Smallpage at a personal development seminar. We had a blast remembering old times and doing a “Where are they now?” segment. Also, I had a brief email exchange with one of the Judy’s Dream band members, Simon Doran, in 2008 when he found me on the internet.)

You can contact me about this page here.