The label's primary aim was to record and capture a growing market of 'free-style' jazz-oriented artists and exponents of avant-garde music that were beginning to emerge at the close of the 1960's. Such artists as Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Dave Burrell and Gong featured on the BYG Records label. Recordings were usually achieved whilst such bands were on tour in Europe and the label's existence was an attraction for groups not on the radar of mainstream popularity.
To gain focus for their label BYG/Actuel initiated a five-day, 24-hour concert in Europe in the fall of 1969. Supported by the Ricard Foundation the concert was to be held at the ''Parc Saint Cloud'' in Paris. Billed, up to the eleventh-hour, as the "First Paris Music Festival" with over 55 acts, the event was banned for 'environmental reasons' by concerned lobbyists of the French capital. Undeterred, BYG/Actuel moved the event over the Belgium border, into a cold, damp, open field location in Amougies, reminiscent of early Glastonbury events.
The acts appeared on a hastily erected stage covered by a large makeshift tent, performing to an audience of over 18,000, mainly French, Belgian or German fans, sleeping and eating rough. To complicate matters, the groups were introduced in English by master of ceremonies Frank Zappa who was accompanying and promoting a Captain Beefheart tour of Europe. His co-host was Pierre Lattès, producer, DJ & music editor for Actuel Magazine, who was issuing live portions of the show out on LW French radio. Bootlegs, such as Zappa jamming with Pink Floyd (Inter-Zappa Overdrive), and a Jean-Nöel Roy and Jérôme Laperrousaz documentary film Music Power/European Music Revolution reflect the nature of this event, which was in its way successful but a financial disaster for BYG/Actuel.
In hindsight, the Parisian authorities were perhaps foolish in snubbing BYG/Actuel's vision. Many of the bands booked for this event were, or became, the cream of the rock and jazz scene at the time. If the event had occurred in the comfort of the Paris stadium it is likely that it would have become a regular European event similar to that of Glastonbury or other UK festivals. BYG/Actuel staged "60 hours of music for 60 Francs" between 24-28th Oct 1969 as follows: [See poster in 'images']
Introduced by Frank Zappa & Pierre Lattès
Friday Night: 24th Oct "Pop Music" Ten Years After, Colosseum, Aynsley Dunbar's Retaliation, Alan Jack Civilization. "Free Jazz" Art Ensemble Of Chicago, Sunny Murray, Burton Greene, 360 Degree Music Experience [Beaver Harris/Dave Burrell]. "New Music" Free Music Group [aka Udo Bergner Free Music Communion].
Saturday Night: 25th Oct "Pop Music'" Pink Floyd, Freedom, Keith Relf's Rennaisance, Alexis Korner & The New Church, Blues Convention [Alexis Korner]. '''Free Jazz''' Grachan Moncur III, Arthur Jones, Joachim Kühn, Don Cherry.
Sunday Afternoon: 26th Oct "French Pop Groups" Martin Circus, Alan Jack Civilization, Triangle, We Free, Cruciferius, Indescriptible Chaos Rampant.
(Interim Spectacle: Max Auer & Claudia Saumade) Amplification by Standel. Environmental Direction: Jacques Cherix. Coordination: Brigette Guichard.
Sunday Night: 26th Oct '"Pop Music" The Nice, Caravan, Blossom Toes, Ame Son. "Free Jazz" Archie Shepp, Kenneth Terroade, Anthony Braxton. "New Music" Germ (Pierre Mariétan).
Monday Night: 27th Oct "Pop Music" Yes, Pretty Things, Chicken Shack, Sam Apple Pie, Frogeaters, Daevid Allen Group, Keith Tippett Group. "Free Jazz" Pharoah Sanders, Dave Burrell, John Surman, Clifford Thornton, Sonny Sharrock. "New Music" Acting Trio.
Tuesday Night: 28th Oct "Pop Music'" Soft Machine, Captain Beefheart, East Of Eden, Fat Mattress, Zoo. "Free Jazz" Alan Silva, Robin Kenyatta, Chris McGregor, Steve Lacy, Dave Burrell Big Band. "New Music" Musica Elettronica Viva.
A number of the above artists were recorded on the BYG Records label. Beefheart's session can be found on Revenant's Grow Fins: Rarities (1965-1982). By 1972 BYG Actuel had all but disappeared as a label. Karakos set up his own label "Celluloid" and Young formed the "Charly Records" label. The latter has released a CD set of past BYG Actuel recordings, as has Italy's "Get Back Records".
Note: Jacques Bisceglia, the French producer, is often incorrectly quoted as being the "B" in BYG.
The BYG Records 'Actuel' series is denoted by the suffix catalog# 300. Thus the Don Cherry recording "Mu" First Part would be catalog suffix# .301 and, in most cases, the Actuel recordings were 180 gram vinyl.