Beggars Hill logo
Welcome to Beggars' Hill
The Group
Planning and Rehearsals
Recording the Album
Producing the Records
Songs
Photos
Reviews
After Beggars' Hill
Before Beggars' Hill:
.......... Flyntlocke
.......... King Bill Folk Club
What's new on the website?
Acknowledgements
Contact us by email
Interesting emails
Wrong website? If you are looking for the other Beggars Hill group, which started in 2001 at Gdynia in Poland, click here.

Front cover
Front cover

Back cover
Back cover

Label side 1
Label side 1

Label side 2
Label side 2

BEGGARS' HILL

This is the story of the Beggars' Hill folk-rock album from 1976 which is now much sought-after by collectors of vinyl records. In 2010 it was professionally restored and officially released on CD for the first time by Talking Elephant Records.


Producing the Records

You remember that famous quote from Kenneth Wolstenholme when England won the World Cup in 1966? You know the one - "They think it's all over ................... It is now!!!"

Well, it was a bit like that with our record. We'd been in the recording studio and recorded our songs, so that's it finished, isn't it? Er no, actually - there's still quite a lot more to do to get a finished record. And even when you've taken delivery of your records, that's still not the end of it, you have to try to sell them!

For a D.I.Y. project like ours, that meant I had to get it all done. More importantly, I had to find the money to pay for all the things that needed doing. By that time I was working for the G.L.C. as a Trainee Building Surveyor, attending the Polytechnic of the South Bank one day a week, and working the other four weekdays. I was not earning a great deal, but after deducting my living expenses and the housekeeping money I was proud to be able to pay my parents, whatever was left over went towards our album. Looking back over my accounts more than thirty years later, the costs involved don't look very high, but at the time I only had about £80 per month left from my salary. It took about a year to pay for the project, starting on 28th July 1975 with £120 for the hire of the recording studio, and ending on 17th June 1976 with the final payment for the delivery of the records.

So what exactly did I have to do after the songs were recorded and mixed?

November and December 1975 - The Record Sleeve

Apart from the boring financial tasks, like notifying the Taxman and registering for VAT (so I could reclaim the VAT I paid on goods and services related to the business venture), the main task at this time was to produce the artwork for the record sleeve.

From initial enquiries to printers and advice from Martin Maynard at Sun Recording Services, it was clear that the use of colour photographs would be prohibitively expensive for this project. Fortunately, that led me naturally to produce the "striking" cover which has been remarked upon many times over the years. The bird logo was drawn for me by Jayne, an art student whose surname I never knew, for the King Bill Folk Club. For that venture, it was simply printed in black on white paper, and used as multi-purpose posters which we filled in by hand (remember, no personal computers, printers or graphics software had been invented yet). For the record sleeve, I felt that would be a bit too bright, so I had the obvious idea of making the background sky blue.

To produce the front cover, first I had to enlarge the bird to a suitable size for an L.P. sleeve. With no modern photocopiers or graphics software to help me, I had to resort to a very slow and fiddly old-fashioned method - the pantograph. For those of you who have never seen or even heard of a pantograph, it was a drawing instrument for copying diagrams to any scale. It worked on the principle of similar triangles, with one point fixed, another following the outline of the drawing being copied, and the third drawing the outline to the required size. Being a Trainee Building Surveyor, I was experienced in technical drawing, so I drew the enlarged copy of the bird on tracing paper, and for the album title I used Letraset (self-adhesive type-face letters which were pressed from the front of the mounting sheet onto the artwork).

Now for the back cover, I obviously needed to list the tracks and credit those who had contributed to the album, but I also wanted to explain the name of the group and album, Beggars' Hill. Apart from the connotations with folk music and social history, it is the name of a road in Ewell, Surrey, which had been part of my life for many years:

  • It was on my bus route to Glyn Grammar School, Epsom, from 1964 to 1971,
  • It was on my walking route home from school or Bourne Hall Library via the scenic rural route, along the banks of the River Hogsmill,
  • My favourite pub, The Eight Bells, was just round the corner at the bottom of the hill,
  • It was on my walking route (in good weather) with my guitar to the King Bill Folk Club every Sunday evening during 1973-1974.
Having fairly legible handwriting, I wrote the rear sleeve notes in drawing ink on tracing paper, then mounted the tracing paper on L.P. sized card, and then the draft artwork was ready for the printers.

January and February 1976 - Final Adjustments

Behind the scenes, Martin Maynard and Rob Boughton at Sun Recording Services, Reading, had mastered the tapes and taken them to Sound Manufacturing (Hayes) Ltd. at High Wycombe, who had created the plates for pressing the vinyl discs. On 15th January, I received a test pressing of the album, with a note from Martin that he and the manufacturer were aware of a fault in the plate for side one, but that apart from that the quality was satisfactory.

As you can imagine, this was an exciting time and we listened to it intently several times. Although generally we were really pleased with it, we did notice a couple of musical flaws on two of the tracks where we didn't quite keep time - either we slowed down or speeded up, I can't remember which. This was probably due to the disjointed way we had to record some of the songs, to accommodate the times when some of the performers would not be available at the recording sessions.

I asked Martin to delay the rectification of the faulty plate, so that we could cover up our musical faults. At this stage, there was no chance of re-recording the whole of the two songs (due to cost, logistics and unavailability of some performers), and it would be equally unacceptable to leave the two songs out of the album, so our solution was to hide the faults. Fortunately, with the 8-track recording we could omit the faulty part and record something else in its place. So on 19th February, JM and I returned to the recording studio. We used JM's 12-string guitar to mask the timing problems on "Let It Be Me" and "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?" - in fact I think we double-tracked his guitar, just to make really sure it sounded OK. We also felt that the vocal harmonies at the end of "Who Knows Where The Time Goes?" sounded rough and were spoiling Jo's terrific vocals, so we cut out the harmonies and Rob added a string synthesizer to fill out the sound.

During February, I also served the necessary Statutory Notice on M.C.P.S., the Mechanical Copyright Protection Society Ltd., at Elgar House, 380 Streatham High Road, London SW16.

A more pleasant task was a visit to Errey's Printers, in Heathfield, East Sussex, to deliver the artwork and confirm the details of the order for 500 record sleeves. Peter Sharp and I travelled there in his car, and we decided to break the journey by visiting the nearby Bluebell Railway (where coincidentally my brother Melvyn Frohnsdorff would spend many years working as a volunteer, repairing and servicing the old steam locomotives).

March to May 1976 - Delivery of Records and Sleeves

On 3rd March, M.C.P.S. informed me of the appropriate copyright royalties to pay and the names of the publishers to be noted on the record labels, so I passed these details to Sun Recording Services as they needed this for the record manufacturer.

The next exciting event occurred on 16th March, when 500 record sleeves were delivered to my parents' house, taking up a large space in the lounge.

Our second test pressing arrived on 8th April. I'm glad to say that the previous faults had been rectified, so I asked Sun Recording Services to proceed with an order for 500 copies of the record, and these were delivered on 28th May.

All that was stopping us from selling the records was the Royalty Stamps to confirm that the copyright fees had been paid, so I travelled up to M.C.P.S. at Streatham by train to pay the fee and collect the stamps.

June to August 1976 - Sales and Marketing

My first pleasant duty was to give a copy of the record to each of the performers. Many of them also asked for a supply of the albums for sale to friends and family.

Then I embarked on a marketing campaign. This was made considerably easier due to the good contacts which we had made over the years with the local papers. Pam Warner and Ian Elvin in particular had been very supportive during our previous activities with Flyntlocke and the King Bill Folk Club. Sure enough, having given a copy of the album and information on all the local performers to several of the local papers, we had an excellent response. There were reviews and articles in the Surrey Comet, Epsom & Ewell Herald, Epsom & Ewell Advertiser, as well as local folk music newsletters, the Kingston Folk Newsletter and the Penny Dreadful, and the national magazine, Folk Review. If you follow the link to the reviews, you will see that it seemed to be a positive advantage with the local papers in having performers who lived in several different local towns, so they wrote a few words about each of us. I can't imagine where they got their information from! ............... Well, yes, I can actually. .............. In fact I can remember several of us visiting Pam Warner at her home to give her the background information.

For the third part of the sales and marketing strategy, having generated some local publicity, I wanted to ensure that copies of the record were available in local record shops for people to buy. This would also ensure that they would be reminded of our album when they were browsing in their shop, even if they didn't buy it - a free form of advertising. So I spent a couple of days visiting all the record shops I could find in Ewell, Epsom, Kingston, Sutton, Banstead, Stoneleigh, Surbiton, Tolworth, New Malden, Worcester Park and Wimbledon. I asked the proprietors or managers if they would take a few copies on a sale or return basis, so that they could not lose. As far as I can recall, they all agreed. I also had copies for sale in the excellent specialist folk music shop, Dobell's Jazz & Folk Record Shop at 77 Charing Cross Road in London, which I used to visit to look for some of the rarer records (from a recent internet search, I've learnt that the shop closed in 1981, when the site was redeveloped - what a shame!). I cannot recall now whether or not I had copies for sale in the shop at Cecil Sharp House, the headquarters of the English Folk Dance and Song Society, between Camden Town, Regents Park and Primrose Hill, but if I didn't, then I certainly should have!

Although this may have been rather hit or miss, I was pleasantly surprised that sales were actually made at several of these shops, when I did the tour again in February 1977 to collect any money from sales.


Back to top of this page


Vinyl record
Vinyl record on the Moonshine label

Cover & inner sleeve
Cover & inner sleeve

MCPS copyright form
MCPS copyright form
Click here & maximise for larger image

Copyright stamps
Copyright stamps

Surrey Comet review
Surrey Comet review
See larger images