The Hot Lead Story

Hot Lead Records first release on its own label was in 1971, but its first productions were released the year before on two other labels, SHADES and NEWBEAT.

Ian R. Smith (of THE INNER MIND) started Hot Lead Records, as a solely Reggae label,& its music publishing arm, Castle Hill Music, in 1970, but the first productions by him of "THE INNER MIND" (“the greatest White Reggae Band on Earth”said PAMA RECORDS`Apollo Club in Harlesden, London)
were released on Shades Records – a joint-owned label set up by Smith & Max Omare from the Shades Club at Sheffield.

The first instrumental “DREAMS OF YESTERDAY” [SHA 11] was released & got extensive radio plays, including Radio One (a rare event for Reggae back in those days). As was usual then, the distribution & promotion of the records was atrocious…. basically `word of mouth`& amateur posters etc, so the record didn`t get to the larger audiences, but that was a general state of affairs, back then.

 Incidentally, believe it or not, STAX Records in Memphis, U.S.A. wanted to buy the tune “DREAMS OF YESTERDAY” outright, to use with one of their acts at the time…..probably the Staple Singers, who`d already taken the Harry J. “Liquidator” riff for their “If You`re Ready” hit;

SHADES Records refused & the rest is written-off history!!

The next productions ran at the same time, both by THE INNER MIND.

A track called “JESSE JAMES HITS BACK” [SHA 12]
was released by SHADES b/w “LET ME IN”, written by Laurel Aitken. The band had backed another singer on the ORIGINAL version, produced by Laurel, but their version was the finally-released rendition and ended up with as many plays as the `A` side…. which seems to be the history of several Hot Lead releases!!

At the same time, PAMA released“WITCHCRAFT MAN”by the band on the NEW BEAT label, rapidly followed by another Ian Smith production & composition (wrongly credited to Laurel) “PUM PUM GIRL”, again on NEW BEAT.

The first two releases on Hot Lead itself were MR. T. BONES & THE MAZE “RUBY” [HL 2]– not the Country song – and “WARM & TENDER LOVE” [HL 3] by THE GROOVERS – a Reggae version of the Percy Sledge track.

THE INNER MIND`s first releases on Hot Lead were “RUNAWAY” b/w “WHAT A NIGHT” [HL 4] followed by “SING MY SONG” b/w “REGGAE LIMITS” [HL 5]… another `B` side-preferred disc, whilst they were still getting releases on Pama`s SUPREME label with a naughty unauthorised release called“BREAKDOWN ROCK" (which just happened to be “Dreams of Yesterday””!!!) under the name of HARLESDEN MONKS. Also two more authorised releases on their BULLET label“ARAWAK VERSION” and later
“DEVIL WOMAN”– both Hot Lead productions, whilst R & B Records released “WITCHFINDER GENERAL”/ ”DESERTED”on their HILLCREST logo, again the `B` side getting most attention.

By now, Hot Lead was releasing a steady flow of singles by several artistes, including LAUREL AITKEN and OWEN GRAY,but it was back to THE INNER MIND to score Hot Lead`s biggest seller (under the name of SMITHY ALL STARS), “DOGGIE BITE POSTMAN” – that one sold faster than the discs could be pressed!!
And it was scheduled to be re-released on ANU RECORDS but the label folded just before the release date.

Most of Hot Lead`s recording were done at a small 2-track studio, which even back then was pretty basic, to put it mildly! Yes, the late night / early morning sessions at MAT MATHIAS` King Street studio in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, were memorable for the excessive drinking, MAT`s incessant cigar smoke & the constant music emanating from the tiny two-room back-alley studio in the late evenings and wee small hours.

Due to a certain number of shops & a distributor failing to pay Hot Lead money owed, Ian Smith decided to close the label & by l975, the company had become a Production outfit & in fact wound down operations
for quite a number of years, but still managed to get
releases on other labels – KR RECORDS with THE SPINSTAR (i.e. Ian Smith & a couple of Inner Mind members) “NO, I CAN`T STAND IT”& KICK RECORDS with LIZZY LEE ANNE`s “WHISPERING ON THE PHONE”.

One more release came out on Hot Lead itself in the mid-80s but that was a Pop/Disco re-hash of “RUNNING BEAR” [HL 21], the old Johnny Preston Number One, by BURNETTE.

In the 90s, Hot Lead sprung back into production with an array of new material including the ever-faithful Reggae, Soul & Country Rock Music (with the occasional release of Commercial Pop songs through its BAF label). So with a new list of artistes & musical styles and a back catalgue of Reggae material, the Hot Lead story continues...

Releases On Hot Lead records