Holyground Records - one of the most collectable labels in the world

dates and times
BACK TO HISTORY PAGE   potted history year by year 1966 to date dates and events from diaries

Holyground Records, almost certainly the first independent recording studio and record label in the UK if not the world, was formed by Mike Levon and a group of friends in Wakefield in 1966. In 1967 it released its first LP Number Nine Bread Street blazing a trail to be followed by countless other alternative and indie labels.

In 1969 A to Austr was released. This has become a classic: a holy grail for many collectors. The Penguin Price Guide of Record and CD Collectors (by Nick Hamlyn) has as its first entry:

A-AUSTR It is appropriate that the first record listed in this guide should be one that typifies exactly what collecting rare records is all about. Produced as a labour of love on an independent label created for the purpose, the record came complete with lavish packaging and sold hardly at all! The music which is thoughtful and pastoral, is interesting enough to give the record a cult reputation, and the mystique is enhanced for record collectors today by the album being reissued in a very limited facsimile edition, itself being sold at something of a collectors' price.

Guided by producer / engineer, Mike Levon, Holyground released a range of albums, variously described as folk, rock, progressive, but all capturing the psychedelic mood of the time. During this period Mike recorded a wide variety of musicians including Bill Nelson who appeared with Chris Coombs on many Holyground tracks. Bill's signature first solo LP Northern Dream was recorded at Holyground.

The problem of being an independent record label manifested itself in difficulties with distribution. This resulted in Holyground only producing relatively short runs of records.By the mid seventies, this was almost terminal. Overwhelmed by these difficulties, and Mike and Shirley's desire to start a family, in 1975 Holyground went into hibernation.

There it stayed until 1989 when a distributor, Magic Mixture riding on the interest for 'real music' approached the studio to re-release some of the albums on vinyl. The relationship with the wonderful Hugo Chavez of Magic Mixture blossomed and an LP of previously unreleased material was pressed under the title Gagalactyca and a double compilation LP, Loose Routes, was also released.

Hugo also suggested to Mike that it was time for Holyground start recording again. And Strangeness And Charm is the result of this suggestion. In the early 1990's, with CDs replacing vinyl, almost all the Holyground titles were released on this new format, either on the Background or original Kissing Spell labels. The later Kissing Spell label collaborated with Holyground in releasing all the early albums, and as bonus tracks, just about every existing Holyground recording made in and around these times. This was the series Holyground, The Works.


1966 Holyground set up - work started on Number Nine Bread Street.

1967 Number Nine Bread Street released.

1968 A to Austr started, songs eventually released on Gagalactyca were recorded.

1969 Jumble Lane started. Bill Nelson's Global Village recorded live in Wakefield's Thornes Park.

1970 A to Austr released. Astral Navigations started

1971 The rest of Astral Navigations was recorded. Jumble Lane released. Bill Nelson's Northern Dream recorded.

1972 to 1974 Gygafo's Legend Of The Kingfisher, and Ode recorded. Many local bands were recorded.

1975 Tears On The Console released. Holyground sleeps till 1988.


pre 1965

Mike Levon had been interested in sound all his life and remembers seeing an early tape recorder and being fascinated by it. He formed a Shadows (!) covers band in Grantham, Lincolnshire, England with two friends and recorded several tracks which were cut onto a handful of acetate discs.

Whilst at college in Yorkshire, 1965-66, he recorded and released a folk LPs and EPs, including Last Thing On My Mind.

In 1966, Mike and Dave Wood set up Holyground, recording Number Nine Bread Street during 1966-67.
1965 to 1966 Whilst at college Mike Levon recorded and released a live folk LP, Bar-One, followed by the Cross-section EP (1965), Last Thing On My Mind LP (January-March 1966), and Where It's At EP (1st May 1966). All were released in editions of 99. In June 1966, Mike and Dave Wood met for the first time and it was Dave who encouraged Mike to set up Holyground and record Number Nine Bread Street. The original team included Bob Hart and work started at Moodie's Bar, 9, Bread Street, Wakefield, on November 27th 1966.


Number Nine Bread Street was released in May. 250 copies were made and sold locally and in nearby Bretton Hall college. In September, having shared a flat with Clive CoIling, Brian Wilson, and Norfolk Jim of Throb Assosiation rock and soul band, Mike moved into Cass Yard, and he, with Dave in support, set up the studio: a bedroom 12 feet square, and a control room on the landing outside. All Holyground recordings till 1975 were made in this small room.
1968 Bob Hart had left the area by this time, and plans for A to Austr were made. Mike was always the leading figure behind these and other Holyground recordings. Musicians varied from track to track - whoever was around basically, and if a new musician arrived on the scene or had an unusual instrument Mike was soon at work trying to fit it in to the next recording, something he still does!

Some commercial work led to registering the name Holyground Enterprises in July 1968, the same month Brian Calvert arrived - in response to an advert in the local papers. By September the original version of Grail Search was recorded, and Dave & Mike had developed links with the Preston rock scene. Mike's first electric session, with Bill Nelson and Global Village, was in September, following Mike and Dave visiting them in the drummer's flat, and inviting them down to the studio: for Billl's recollections of this meeting see press articles by Bill. Original versions of It's Alright (November 29th) and Super Judy were recorded by the year end, along with Hawaiian War Chant (December 19th - Mike's birthday!).

1969 Work continued on A to Austr: Thumbquake and Earthscrew starting the year off well on January 27th. By this time Mike was unhappy at the recording quality on the original versions of some tracks, at which point Brian Calvert, frustrated, walked out and the whole project nearly collapsed. Urgent talks brought Brian back, the inspiration for Mike's song with Brian: Aren't You Glad You Stayed? later released on Gagalactyca. With nearly thirty years hindsight, Mike's a lot happier with the quality - the reason for these early versions appearing on the A to Austr CD through Kissing Spell, in the case of Grail Search, is it musically better?

By June A to Austr was finished and work had already begun on Astral Navigations. Mike and Dave had been to Preston in April and May and met Thundermother who came to record that Autumn. By the end of the summer Cold Tired and Hungry, and That is What We Need were recorded, and were originally intended for Astral. Global Village were recorded live in Wakefield's Thornes Park and in the studio; and Jumble Lane was started. A to Austr was released in September 1970.

1970 and 1971
Holyground's seminal years

These years were Holyground's coming of age. January-February 1970 saw Thundermother recording tracks destined for Astral and Gagalactyca, as well as recording live at Bretton Hall. The rest of Astral was recorded by November 1971.

Some of the work was captured on film by Mike's brother, Kevin, and released as the Astral Windows video in 1991. Jumble Lane was released around July 1971, and in August Starsongs Music was registered to publish Holyground songs.

Mike suggested to Bill Nelson they should record some of Bill's new songs and recorded the beginning of what was to be Northern Dream in November 1971. £15 was paid for the tapes, nothing for the recording time or production! Mike, like Bill, has had no money for this work, despite producing and recording the whole album.



This period saw the recording of Gygafo's Legend of the Kingfisher, Northern Dream, and the start of the Ode LP. Many local bands were recorded, including Biffo The Storm, later to become Lazy Days and play on Tears On The Console as the Last Exit Band. Lazy Days recorded their EP on 23rd / 26th October 1973, and Mike then started to build a new mixer, and bought a Teac 4 track machine.

In 1975 Mike closed Holyground (temorarily as it turned out!), recording Tears On The Console as its swansong.

1988 onwards
new music
and re-releases
In 1988 Mike started to reissue Holyground records, with this soon turning into writing and recording new music. Music from the 1990's was released on And Strangeness And Charm.
1966 January - March Last Thing On My Mind recorded
  April 1st Last Thing On My Mind released
May 1st Where It's At EP released
June 1st Motley Crew EP released
July Mike left college, met Dave Wood and set up Holyground Records
November 27th The Travelling People recorded in Moodies (9, Bread Street)
December 4th Stroke 2 (Aside) recorded in Moodies
1967 March Number Nine Bread Street released
  Summer Mike moved to Jacob's Well Lane (into Clive Colling's old room)
various demos recorded for local artists : Paul Reed, the Phil Langton group LP for the Lucky Seven Bingo chain, Joanna Starr, the Method
  September Mike moved into Cass Yard and set up a studio in his bedroom and the landing outside

February-March Mike still setting up the studio, Cath and Linda arrived on the scene. Early work on A to Austr as 'Chief Crazy Horse'.
  June first contacts with Preston Rock Scene, acoustic recordings of David John Smith and Doug Pyle..
  early July Brian Calvert arrived
  July Holyground Enterprises registered as a business
  September Grail Search, version one, was recorded by this time.
recorded Bill Nelson with Global Village 'Mr Fantasy' EP (5 acetates cut)
  November 29th recorded It's Alright
  December 19th recorded Hawaiian War Chant
1969 January 27th Thumbquake and Earthscrew recorded
  February Mike wrote Aren't You Glad You Stayed?
  April-May in Preston to meet Thundermother
  June A-Austr completed.
Various blues by Doug and Miff recorded.
  July Global Village concert in Thornes Park, Wakefield
Recording Global Village and Bill Nelson material
  August Cold Tired and Hungry and That is What We Need recorded
  Autumn Astral Navigations started
1970 January Thundermother recording Rock Me Babe
  February Thundermother recording other tracks
  March commercial EP Winston Sings
  April 1st A-Austr released
Gagalactyca tracks being recorded
  June Thundermother live at Bretton Hall College
  October recording Jumble Lane
1971 January recording Northern Dream
  May 15th Astral Navigations released.
  April Mike and Dave spent the summer looking for King Arthur and magic on Alderley Edge, Cheshire
  8 May recording at Bretton (probably Thundermother)
  Wed/Thur 12/13 May Bill Nelson recording
  Sat 22 May Jumble Lane label details agreed
  June Chris Coombs recorded Face My Foot.
  July Jumble Lane released
  July 31st Horse record one track, (unfinished)
  August Starsongs Music registered
  21, 22, 23 Sept Bill Nelson recording
  October 3rd Northern Dream completed
  25, 26, 27 Oct Mike & Dave in London seeing DJs Pete Drummond, and the late great John Peel
  November Northern Dream released
1972 Sun 9 Jan John Paul Jones, from 1 am to 9 am : "The Miner's Song" recorded in aid of the first Miner's strike.
  January 10th-13th After The Storm sessions. (This group were later called Biffo, then Lazy Days).
  11 Feb After The Storm played at Wakefield Tech.
  March 26th Spiral Highway session photographed by local press
  April 18th - 20th Biffo The Storm sessions
  May 21st Simon Frith writes about Holyground in the book 'Rockfile'
  May 23rd Chris Coombs recorded King John's Christmas and The Friend with Bill Nelson
  June 16th concert in Greenhead Park, Huddersfield, Henry Cow performed
  Wed 6 Karl Dallas visited
  September 17th first Gygafo sessions for Legend of the Kingfisher
  September 25th-26th Lazy Days EP recorded
  October 24th - 25th first sessions with Jossylyne
  November 3rd Ode by Blue Epitaph recordings start
1973 Thur Mar 15th Yorkshire Evening Post interviewed us
Sat Jun 16th free concert Huddersfield in Greenhead Park
Fri Aug 24th Ferrograph tape recorder serviced
Fri Aug 31st phaser built
Sat Sep 8th Steve Channing recorded
Mon, Thur Sep 17, 20th Gygafo recorded
Tues, Wed Sep 25, 26th Lazy Days recorded
Sun Sep 30th Gygafo recorded
Tue Oct 2nd Gygafo recorded
Sat, Sun 6, 7th Lazy Days recorded
Tue Oct 9th Gygafo recorded
Wed Oct 10th Lazy Days recorded
Sun Oct 14 Gygafo recorded
Tues, Wed Oct 16, 17th Lazy Days recorded
Thur, Fri Oct 18, 19th Quo Vardis (local band now well known as Vardis).
Mon, Tue Oct 22, 23rd Lazy Days recorded
Wed, Thur Oct 24, 25th Andy Diggle & Loz Laurence (Jossylyne) "Shabby Tiger" session
Mon Oct 29th Lazy Days recorded
Thur Nov 1st Andy Diggle & Loz Laurence recording
Sat, Sun Nov 3, 4th Blue Epitaph start of Ode LP
Sat, Sun Nov 10,11th Blue Epitaph recording Ode
Sat, Sun Nov 17, 18th Blue Epitaph recording Ode
Tues Nov 4th Blue Epitaph recording Ode (using Ted Hepworth's drums)
Mon Dec 10th Blue Epitaph recording Ode (using Ted Hepworth's drums)
  Wed Dec 12th Blue Epitaph recording Ode
1974 Mon 7th Jan Advert in Yorkshire Evening Post :Gygafo, 3rd "Search for a Star"
  Fri 18th Jan Blue Epitaph - final tapes auditioned for Ode
  Sun 10th Feb Jossylyne recorded
  Sun 15th-17th Jossylyne recorded
  Sat 22nd, 23rd Feb Neville Barker recorded
  Wed, Thur 27th, 28th Feb Jossylyne recorded
  Mon 4th Mar Renegade Angel recorded
  Wed 13th Mar Dave Wood moved (and effectively left Holyground)
  Wed 7th Aug new mixer and Tascam 4 track tested with Skybird
  Thur 8th - 12th Aug Skybird: Summer of Seventy Three LP
  Tues 27th Aug Skybird: Summer of Seventy Three LP, HGS 118 to be pressed, our first stereo release.
  Sat 2nd Nov re-cut Skybird at the Beatles' Apple studio on Savile Row
  Sun Dec 1st Mother's Pride recorded
1975 Mon - Wed 6th - 8th Gygafo recorded : note in diary says :"about the time the doorknob broke"
Sat 11th Jan Gygafo played Bretton Hall
Mon, Tue 13th, 15th Jan Gygafo remixing
Wed 12th Feb ordered Revox and amp
Sat 15th Feb HG 4 track sticker designed
Fri 21st Feb Revox, amp delivered
Starsongs registered
Sat 22nd Feb Warlord (Lincoln) Pete Benney
Thur 6th Mar Jeff Noble start of Junction 32 LP
Thur 13th Mar Jeff Noble John Leydon / Vincent McGuire recorded
Thur 20th Mar Jeff Noble LP complete: Junction 32, HGS 119
Tue 25th Mar Bill Nelson visited and played masters of Futurama LP
Sun 6th April Gygafo recording
Mon 7th April abortive attempt to cut "Junction 32" in Yarmouth - the cutting motor was on bricks and wowed lots!
Sat 12th Apr Junction 32 cut at Apple
Sun 13 April Steve Channing recording
Sat 3rd May Gygafo played at Bretton
Fri 9th May Steve Channing signed recording contract as Chick Shannon
Fri 23rd May Junction 32 delivered literally hot off the press! As they were warm, the records dished.
Sat 24th May Be-Bop-De-Luxe played Leeds University
Tue 27th May start of recording Tears ... album tracks
Wed 28th May Tears backing tracks
Thurs 29th May Tears backings complete
Thur 12th June Jeff Noble recording
Sun 15th June Sidewinder, Ade Wilson, recorded
Fri 20th June Sidewinder remixed
Mon 23rd June Mike decided to join ill fated AIM studio on 26th June
Mon 30th June remix Mysty Gynn
Thur 10th July Tears recording
Fri, Mon 11th, 14th July Vardis recording
Tues - Thur 15th - 17th July Tears recording
Mon, Tue 21st, 22nd July Tears recording
Mon 4th Aug Tears Tears recording
Wed 6th Aug famous ladder-and-drinking-instead-of-recording session
Thur 7th Aug Tears - vocals finished
Fri 8th Aug remixing Tears
Thurs 28th Aug Alan Robinson, Dave Wilson listened to Tears
Mon 1st Sep remixed most of Tears
last session!
Wed 24th Sep party for Tears "the end of Holyground"
Sun 19th Oct artwork for Tears designed
Tue, Wed 28th, 29th Oct cutting Tears at MasterRoom in London