From the liner notes to "Friendly Society":
Friendly societies were groups of working-class people in 19th-century Britain and America who chipped in to help each other when they were too sick to work or when a family member died. They usually met at pubs, they often wore distinctive robes and sashes, and they sang special songs to celebrate the spirit of voluntarism. Much ale was often consumed at these meetings, which incurred the disfavor of the local authorities. As with many working-class clubs at the time, members sometimes needed to learn secret passwords or handshakes to gain admittance to a friendly society meeting. Once a year, members of all the local branches of a societythe Loyal Order of Shepherds, for instance, or the Manchester Unity of Oddfellowswould join together at an annual conference, where they would feast and argue about politics for days on end. When the 19th century turned into the 20th, insurance companies and the beginnings of a welfare state combined to make friendly societies a less popular place for workers to turn to in times of need. Rank-and-file members joined with their "grand masters" and "chief rangers" to lament the passing of an age-old tradition, and to shudder at the thought of a new world ruled by profit and red tape.
The world is still ruled by profit and red tape, but some people still chip in to help each other, and they still meet in pubs and sing special songs. Some of these people wear distinctive tee shirts to celebrate the spirit of voluntarism, and they exchange secret passwords like "low-fi" and "twee". Every now and then, members of the local branches converge on Olympia or Boston or Bristol to trade fanzines and listen to dozens of bands. Much ale is often consumed at their meetings, along with much great musicsome of which has been captured on this compilation CD.
Over the past nine years, Harriet Records has had the great good fortune to be part of this latter-day friendly society, and to work with all the bands on this compilation and then some. After 45 singles and nine CDs, this will be the last record adorned with Harriet's name and tennis shoes. But I love music too much to stay away from it for too very long, so keep your eyes open for future fanzines, CD compilations, and so forth. And the bands will, I trust, play on.
Tim Alborn, March 1998