Album cover

Love and Poetry — Reflection Records, 1969-1971

Swingin’ London in 1968 was bright with the still-exploding plastic inevitable: street fighting students, underground art happenings, rock and roll circuses, Beatle-owned boutiques, and probably a clandestine LSD lab or two. But hidden in the paisley fog of new London, there still remained old London—old West End nightclubs, old showbiz, old media conglomerates. From somewhere between the two emerged Reflection Records, Andrew Cameron Miller’s on-again/off-again label and production company that put its imprint on LPs and singles between early 1969 and early 1971.

Originally connected with CBS before going indie in mid-1970, none of Reflection’s records would bust through any charts. A few, however, would live on as cherished second-hand finds for UK music heads, especially What A Beautiful Place by Catherine Howe, and the three full-lengths by Andwella/Andwella’s Dream, led by songwriter Dave Lewis. Beyond that remains a virtual thrift-store box of pop curiosities from far-away times, including (but not limited to) early prog-rockers Dogfeet, and the brief discography of future General Hospital star Stuart Damon.

Andrew Cameron Miller had arrived back in England at an opportune time for a would-be impresario. Born in 1946, Miller had skipped university, spending a few years after boarding school in Texas before returning to technicolor London at the moment when British major label outposts began making deals with indie start-ups left and right. It was perhaps the polite British equivalent of hiring a “company freak,” ala Elektra’s Danny Fields, all hoping to find the next fab thing.

Reflection was on the ground in the messy transition between underground and overground, psychedelia subdividing back into its jazz and blues and pop and rock components, slightly less neon but still aglow. Others headed to their nearest local Woodstock to work on their beards and their acoustic folk-craft. Reflection Records would mirror it all.

But Andrew Cameron Miller was no company freak. “He was a very English man,” observed songwriter Catherine Howe. “He was very well connected socially. He was a lovely man, was Andrew.” Her first encounter with Miller came sometime early in Reflection’s run, when Howe brought a pile of her written-out songs to CBS, and got no further than the lobby before encountering Miller and his partner, Reflection musical director John Hawkins. Hawkins—whose CV included musical director for Cliff Richard and a singing update of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales—glanced at Howe’s music and, after hearing Howe play them, Reflection had found its newest artist. Within weeks, they’d signed her to a publishing contract and recorded a set of demos.

Along with veteran club manager Jim Carter-Fea and Hawkins, Miller had first partnered to create Artist Musical Productions with the intent of providing a full-service production company that would include talent, songwriting, arrangement, and publishing services. Morphed into Reflection by the time they signed with CBS (with Carter-Fea exiting along the way), the new label was in full swing by the summer of ’69, debuting with Unauthorised Version’s layered choral take on “Hey Jude” and the choogling thunder of Steamhammer’s “Junior’s Wailing.”

Andrew Cameron Miller was also a busy man. Foremost in the growing Reflection stable was Andwella’s Dream, the Belfast-born trio formerly known as The Method, fresh from a summer season on the island of Jersey. Led by prolific teenage songwriter David Lewis, the band itself mostly dissolved by the time they recorded Love and Poetry, their 1969 debut. “My dad had to sign the contract because I was 17,” remembered Lewis fondly.

Lewis, too, had been happily charmed into the Reflection world. “Andrew taught me how to spend whatever money I had, and drink wine and eat food I couldn’t afford,” Lewis laughed. “He was wonderful. I loved him, I really did. He’d take me to all the flash restaurants, and it didn’t matter if you had money or not—which was all the same to me!—and figuring out how to pay for it later. He was lovely!”

David Lewis had only just begun to find himself as a songwriter, churning out at least four albums worth of material in the next two years, with sessions and dwellings and other hassles taken care of by the Reflection office. Released by CBS with the Reflection name on the inset sticker, Love and Poetry gleamed with late ‘60s sunshine. But Lewis’s songwriting evolved in swift parallel with the times, the band dropping “Dream” from their name and gliding from marmalade skies to an American countryside of the mind. Quite accidentally, with leftover studio time after Andwella sessions, Lewis even cut a songwriting demo acetate—now known as The Songs of David Lewis—in the then-recent tradition of Lewis’s heroes, Bob Dylan and The Band.

The Reflection generosity extended to musical director John Hawkins’s budget, too. “He had a lot of musicians at the time working for him, an orchestra and different people, giving them session fees and keeping them at work,” Lewis remembered of Reflection’s go-go early days.

Even in the ‘60s, though, the music business could be fickle. “The mini moguls are discontented with their lot... through distribution deals with the major companies, believing they come last every time when the major company salesmen do their spieling,” Cash Box wrote in the spring of 1970, reporting Reflection’s early split with CBS as part of a bigger trend. “They also suspect latent hostility on the part of major company executives where progressive product is concerned, and reckon there is a generation gap lack of communication between predominantly middle-aged major execs and predominantly youthful small label chiefs and disk producers.” Put another way, Reflection got dropped.

Andrew Cameron Miller kept at it, though, the trade papers reporting his various briefly lived endeavors, including Acclaim Records (responsible for the one-off 7-inch by future soap star Stuart Damon, then acting in London, penned by David Lewis). It was only in late 1970 that Reflection became a proper independent label, its own logo appearing on the center of its discs.

It was then that Catherine Howe heard from Andrew Cameron Miller, who had veritably ghosted her following her initial demos. “I didn’t hear from him for ages,” she says. “It must have been 18 months. And one day, the phone went, and it was Andrew saying, ‘Darling, where have you been?’--he used to call everybody darling--‘I’ve been trying to get you for days and days! And we’re going into the studio in two days’ time! Your producer’s coming over.’ So he’d arranged all this but seemed he’d forgotten to tell me about it.”

The producer was Bobby Scott, the American jazz/pop songwriter of hits including “A Taste of Honey” and “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother,” and a player in the last chapter of Reflection’s history. Along with business partner Phil Gillin, Scott had signed on to be the American wing of the label. Both Howe and David Lewis have nothing but fond memories of their work with Bobby Scott during this brief period, and especially his work on Howe’s What A Beautiful Place.

But, by the time Howe’s LP was ready for release later in 1971, Andrew Cameron Miller no longer had an ownership stake in Reflection and, soon, no stake at all. Howe’s album was swallowed and all but lost in the accompanying kerfuffle. Reflection wrapped its operations later that year. Andrew Cameron Miller would announce the existence of one more imprint, Dove, with partner David Lewis. But no records were released. Lewis has no memory of it.

“I think I had probably left London by then,” said Lewis. “I’d gone down to the country. Maybe he stashed me away for that reason, because Andrew found the place I ended up going to in Sussex, and I stayed there for nearly 10 years.” A few years later, in 1975, Miller would connect his old friend David’s song “Happy To Be On An Island in the Sun” with Greek pop star Demis Roussos, resulting in a #1 platinum hit across Europe for Lewis. In 1975, Catherine Howe would sign with RCA, continuing on with her own career.

For Miller, though, life as a failed progressive record mogul was merely a prologue to a long and legitimately successful career as a mainstream concert promoter. The same year as Lewis’s hit came the launch of Andrew Miller Productions, behind tours for the likes of Joan Armatrading, Mike Oldfield, Barry Manilow, and others. At the same time, Miller became one of the UK music scene’s most visible fundraisers, helping the Nordoff Robbins music therapy establish a permanent center in London. By 1990, he was helping to establish the BRIT School in Croydon by staging the star-studded globally telecast Knebworth ’90 concert starring Paul McCartney, Robert Plant reuniting with Jimmy Page, Genesis reuniting with Phil Collins, Pink Floyd not reuniting with Roger Waters, and many others.

It was a long way from the cozy Reflection Records office Catherine Howe visited in 1969. “It was bright and sunny and in good order, it didn’t exude opulence,” she remembers. “But it was busy and they seemed to be getting down to things.” Beautiful places had to come from somewhere.