Finding my first library LP was a strange epiphany. It was in a second hand shop in Soho, and the LP was called Dramatics Background. For a start the title had the singular and plural all mixed up. Then the track listing was on the front, with titles like Amoebae, Undersea and Mechanised Electrons. Floating behind the track listing were some very average drawings of a trumpet, cello and a clarinet, there was no artist’s picture. It was all very odd – like a bad education record or something. But the sound was exactly what I was after – a kind of science meets pleasant music.
I needed to find out more, so I phoned Bosworths, the company that produced it, and asked if I could see them. They were based in Heddon Street, just off Regents Street. Howard Friend (the old man in charge) welcomed me into their very dusty world, giving me a potted history of library music and its usage. Its origins go back to the turn of the 20th Century, but its golden age really began in the 1960s when a handful of established London-based companies regularly produced albums of light orchestral and classically influenced music, supplying the BBC and its competitors.
As television expanded and got more exciting throughout the 1960s, so did library music, venturing into more experimental sounds: jazz, electronics, the avant-garde – even the occasional pop-based instrumental. This blossomed further, as tastes and studio technology developed over the next two decades. Then CDs arrived – for anyone into vinyl, that was the end.