Topic Records is a British folk music label which played a major role in the British folk revival.
It began as an offshoot of the Workers’ Music Association in 1939, making it the oldest independent record label in the world. The label believed that music could be used as a tool for cultural and educational revolution and that folk music passed down the generations gave a voice to the people.
The first title in Topic Record’s catalogue was “The Man That Waters Down The Beer” by Paddy Ryan. As well as aiming to present British industrial and urban folksong, they played an important role in disseminating the work of American folk singers such as Paul Robeson and Woody Guthrie.
Throughout the 50s and 60s their reputation became firmly established and a blossoming audience for folk music surfaced.
Notable performers who recorded for Topic include The Spinners, Vanessa Redgrave, Jeannie Robertson and The Watersons. However the label was not exclusively focused on British and American Music, and also released collections from Bulgaria, Albania, Greece and Turkey.
Current director Tony Engle oversaw a rich period of releases by seminal artists in the 70s including Martin Carthy, widely acknowledged to have influenced the work of Bob Dylan and Paul Simon and one of the forerunners of the contemporary folk revival.
In recent years Topic has continued to release new recordings as well as reissuing the very best of its back catalogue, including a 20 volume anthology of traditional music from the UK entitled The Voice of The People.
In the labels early days some of their releases were on 8inch vinyl rather than the more usual 12inch. The story goes that this was because they picked up a free job lot of 8inch vinyl blanks and a machine that would press them
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