by Benjy Mudie
Editor’s forward :
Benjy Mudie is a South African music industry legend! His passion and drive for great music has made him a pioneer and a force for good. He was the Director of A&R of WEA Records (Tusk) as well as the founder of Fresh Music, and is still a very prominent DJ on the SA radio airwaves!
For years I’ve seen collectors literally claw and stab their away around each other to get their hands on one of these infamous “purple AC/DC” LP’s and thought it was time that the horses mouth shared his version of events.
We are honoured to have Benjy tell this amazing story of his responsibility for this gem on Needles From The Haystack. And so, make sure to tell your eyes to be honoured to be reading it.
It was 1977, I was just 23 and was into my second year at WEA Records, South Africa. I had just been appointed as Junior A&R and Label Manger for the company where I was responsible for Warner Brother, Elektra/Asylum and Atlantic Records.
In addition to rolling copious amounts of joints for the Head of A&R, Richard Sassoon, my function was to sift through the tons of new releases and to suggest records for release locally. The hard rock explosion was just beginning with bands like Van Halen and, of course, AC/DC. I had been introduced to the band through 2 albums in the `discard` pile; “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and “High Voltage”, and was already a committed fan. I had tried in vain to convince Richard to release these album but he told me that they were shit and quite frankly to fuck off.
How A&R worked in those days was that the international labels would ship piles of advance white label releases (white cardboard sleeves with typed track listings) to the local affiliates who would then, after listening, decide what to release. You would then order the production parts (1/4 inch analog copy masters and sleeve film seps). Later, they would send you import copies of the finished album.
In the case of “Let there be rock” I begged, pleaded, cajoled and finally convinced Richard that (a) this was the sound that the kids wanted (b) that I would get it played on radio (a tough call!) and (c) that it was a fucking great album. So he relented and let me order the parts with the veiled threat that my budding A&R career hinged on delivering my promises.
I ordered the parts from Atlantic Records U.S and when they arrived, put it into production on vinyl and limited cassette. With new artists you had to order a chromalin proof of the sleeve; this was a flat printout of the artwork which you had to sign off as approved.
When the chromalin arrived there was this fantastic green and purple cover which I thought was amazing so I signed it off.
As I recall I ordered 500 LPs which was the minimum order for new releases then. The stock was pressed and I released it with great fanfare to radio and retail. A week later, the finished U.S import arrived and lo and fucking behold the cover was a reddish orange and blue sleeve and not green and purple! What had happened was that the printers had somehow got the seps mixed up and reverse-printed the cover. It was too late to pull back the stock so we just left it and reprinted the album with the correct cover on the next run.
I thought I was toast but Richard just shrugged it off and said to check more carefully. Thankfully, the album broke out and became a huge hit with all the rockers out there.
If I knew then what I know now, I’d have kept a bunch of them and I`d be raking in the moola!