Iain asked me to teach the Several Annies, Iain’s Library Apprentices, the proper way of constructing a discography. It’s trickier than it looks as it requires a lot of research in obscure corners of the internet and an willingness to ignore what the band thinks is the history of the band.
A discography is the study and cataloging of published sound recordings, often by specified artists or within identified musical genres. The exact information varies depending on the manner of the discography, but one for a recording will often list such details as the names of the artists involved, the time and place of the recording, the titles of the pieces performed, release dates, chart positions, and sales figures. What we’re doing is less about that sort of detail than where and when the recording was done, and who’s on the recording.
I started them off an easy project, that of Chasing Fireflies, the very local contradance band that plays here and in the region. They’ve got three recordings out, all on their own label, Falling Down Dancing Recordings. We had all of the recordings in the Music Library so they could go there for the actual recordings. And all of the musos themselves were all here, so they could ask them questions if need be.
(I suggested that for the purposes of this project that constructing a history of the band would also be good. A very nice oral history of Chasing Fireflies was done, good enough that Iain was very impressed.)
We also tackled the delicate question of EPs from bands that fell apart after releasing a one-off EP such as one from Cuillin, a Cape Breton group, that was sent to us as a favour. I insisted upon a cataloging note that the band never actually toured and that this EP was the only recording they did. Same holds true, or perhaps even truer, for a Celtic band by the name of The Windbags who cut an EP but never even existed outside of that one-off in the studio.
I made it much more complicated for the final project by choosing the Oysterband, a very long-running band. I told them that I want a full discography including any promotional releases and bootlegs of significance. Oh, that was fun.
When the band was the Oyster Band, they released a recording called Freedom And Rain with June Tabor as a guest artist. Officially that was the only recording released to the public. Dig a little deeper and you find a Ryko disc called Freedom and Rain Tour ’91 Sampler which includes splendid covers of ‘White Rabbit’ and ‘All Along the Watchtower’. Both are quite superb but the best recording is a bootleg catching them in full glory in Minneapolis during their American tour!
That exercise led the Annies to learn how a bootleg is cataloged, a tricky task as ofttimes the releasing party takes no credit for their frequently splendid work. Garry Freeman’s The Bootleg Guide (Scarecrow Press, 2005) is the gold standard for what a bootleg is and how to catalog it.
I think they learned a lot about both the difficulty of making a complete discography and the fun of discovering the hidden history of a long-running band. All in all, it was a entertaining week for them.