Labels To Look For

VERTIGO

Vertigo Records was the late 60s progressive rock arm of the Philips Records empire. It is still in existence today as part of Mercury, but it is the early UK releases with "swirl" or "spiral" labels that are most sought after by collectors. Probably the most well known are the first four Black Sabbath LPs, but the list of artists who appeared on this label is long and varied including such diverse acts as Uriah Heep, Status Quo, Rod Stewart, Kraftwerk and lesser known acts such as Beggars Opera, Colosseum, Ben, Hokus Poke and the impossibly rare Dr. Z.

ISLAND

Island Records is the largest independant record label in the history of recorded music. Started in Jamaica in 1959 by Chris Blackwell and Graeme Goodall, it initially specialized in reggae but after they moved to the UK in the early 60s the releases became more and more diverse, with various subsiduaries being set up such as Black Swan and Sue. The Island label itself moved more towards a progressive and folk based catalogue in the late 60s, and the LPs listed below appeared with one of three varieties of the famous pink label. The earliest had an orange and black "eye" logo on a pink background. A short mid-period (starting at 9100) featured a black letter "i" as a logo, and the last stage (9107 on) a white letter "i". Nearly all these titles are collectable with some items (such as the Nick Drake) fetching very high prices indeed. "ILP" releases are mono only unless stated, "ILPS" stereo only.

SUE

Island Records R & B subsidiary. Formed December 1963 to release material licenced from Henry 'Juggy' Murray 's New York labels (Sue, Symbol, AFO, Crackerjack) including Ike & Tina Turner, Inez & Charlie Foxx, Elmore James etc. In later years Sue became predominently a soul label releasing tracks by Bob & Earl, Jerry Butler, Fascinations etc. The final release was in June 1968 when Sue becoming Action Records.

ATLANTIC

Over its first 20 years of operation Atlantic earned a reputation as one of the most important American independent recording labels, specializing in jazz, R&B and soul recordings by African-American artists, a position greatly enhanced by its distribution deal with Stax Records. In 1967 Atlantic became a wholly owned subsidiary of Warner Bros.-Seven Arts, now the Warner Music Group, expanding into rock and pop music, signing Cream, Led Zeppelin, Yes and Foreigner. In 2004 Atlantic Records and its sister label Elektra Records merged into Atlantic Records Group. Label co-founder Ahmet Ertegün served as Founding Chairman until his death on December 14, 2006 at age 83.

STAX

Founded in 1957 as Satellite Records, the name Stax Records was adopted in 1961. The label was a major factor in the creation of the Southern soul and Memphis soul music styles, also releasing gospel, funk, jazz, and blues recordings. While Stax is renowned for its output of African-American music, the label was founded by two white businesspeople, Jim Stewart and his sister Estelle Axton (STewart/AXton = Stax) and featured several popular ethnically-integrated bands, including the label's house band, Booker T. & the MG's. Following the death of Stax's biggest star, Otis Redding, in 1967 and the severance of the label's distribution deal with Atlantic Records in 1968, Stax continued primarily under the supervision of a new co-owner, Al Bell. Over the next five years, Bell expanded the label's operations significantly, in order to compete with Stax's main rival, Motown Records in Detroit. During the mid-1970s, a number of factors, including a problematic distribution deal with CBS Records, caused the label to slide into insolvency, resulting in its forced closure in late 1975.

REGAL ZONOPHONE

EMI revived the Regal Zonophone imprint in 1967 to handle the Essex Music/Straight Ahead producing account that had moved from Deram (after one Procol Harum single and two singles by The Move) and continued well into the early 1970s, with successful producers Denny Cordell and Tony Visconti both having production companies releasing records through the label. During this period the label had both album and single success with artists such as The Move, Joe Cocker, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Procol Harum. During the mid 1970s, many of these production deals ended and, despite a few sporadic releases by Blue Mink, Geordie and Dave Edmunds, eventually EMI ceased to use the imprint as a major pop label. Many of the label's artists moved to Fly Records or to the EMI imprint.

SOUL CITY

Soul City was a UK soul label run by David Nathan and Robert Blackmore from a record shop of the same name in London. The label released 19 singles, the biggest hit being Gene Chandler's "Nothing Can Stop Me" which reached Number 41 in the UK charts. Soul City records were initially distributed by Island. See also "Deep Soul".

RCA NEON

Sublabel of RCA from the seventies that made an attempt to link the British branch of this company to ''progressive'' music. It was modelled on the likes of Harvest (EMI), Vertigo (Phonogram) and Dawn (Pye). To achieve an aura of ''class'', the logo was adorned with Botticelli and the discs were protected by a jet-black inner sleeve. There were only 11 albums and 4 singles released in the UK, before the label folded. These do, however, include a wide array of styles (jazz, folk, hard-rock, prog-rock), and are all collectible as of now. In Italy the label survived a bit longer. The Italian branch released another 5 albums before closing down.

NEPENTHA

UK label established by record producer Larry Page in 1971 and distributed in the UK through Philips. Only five albums and a few singles were released on this label although all are now collectable.

BLUE NOTE

American record company established in New York in 1939 by German immigrants Alfred  Lion and Francis Wolff to record jazz. Its earliest sessions produced records now acknowledged as classics. In the 1940s, the company established an important catalogue  of traditional jazz and swing recordings and was among the earliest labels to record bop musicians in the 1950s. In 1965, Blue Note was purchased by Liberty and began recording more commercially-oriented music, including jazz-fusion (a trend lasting well into the following decade). In 1975, then-owners United Artists Records launched a systematic reissue program for the back catalog lasting until 1980. United Artists Records was purchased by EMI in 1979, acquiring Blue Note in the process.

TRACK

British independent label, originally active 1967-78 and revived in 1999. The label is rock-oriented but some of its acts have dabbled with electronics. The most famous artists on its roster have been The Who and Jimi Hendrix.

HARVEST

Harvest was a "progressive" label set up by EMI in 1969. Other labels in the EMI group assigned their acts to the label,amongst these being Pink Floyd who became its biggest seller. The label was used throughout the 1970s (including punk and post-punk acts like Wire) and into the 1980s around the world. It is no longer a standalone label but used from time to time by members of the EMI group for appropriate acts.

DECCA

US label originally set up by Sir Edward Lewis, the owner of Decca as a US branch. It was managed by Jack Kapp who was able to take over the label in 1943 when the US government insisted that UK companies sell US subsidiaries. Thereafter it had no relationship with UK Decca, or any other company of that name outside the US. In 1962 it merged with MCA Records, becoming Universal in the 1990s. In 1999 Universal bought PolyGram which had earlier bought UK Decca, and the ownership of both labels' catalogues was again combined, however the name is now only used for classical records, with the brand of the UK label, and this label is effectively defunct. In the 1960s, Decca most famously turned down the opportunity of signing The Beatles although they did secure The Rolling Stones and other legendary British acts such The Small Faces and John Mayall.

TROJAN

Although seemingly inconsequential at the time, July 28th 1967 proved to be a momentous date in the history of Jamaican music. For it was on that day that Chris Blackwell and Lee Gopthal from Island Records, one of the UK's leading record companies launched a label that would come to symbolise and forever be associated with the style that was to make Jamaica a musical superpower. The imprint was of course Trojan, a subsidiary created specifically to showcase the productions of one of Jamaica's most popular and successful producers, Arthur "Duke" Reid, who himself had acquired the moniker from the make of the British-built seven-ton truck he had used to transport his powerful sound system around the island since the fifties. The company just took its name from Reid's sound system, the Trojan. Over the coming years it would dominate the Jamaican records market in the UK. In the 60s and 70s Trojan did a major effort in spreading reggae over the UK, licensing Jamaican releases as well as pushing their own UK acts.

STUDIO ONE

Studio One is one of Jamaica's most renowned record labels and recording studios, having been described as "the Motown of Jamaica." The obvious common ingredient in all the classic songs that Studio One has released over the last thirty-five years is Clement “Coxsone” Dodd. From his earliest days as a producer he has understood the complexities of making a hit. Mr. Dodd values good singing, good songwriting, good horn lines and fierce bass lines. Studio One was involved with most of the major music movements in Jamaica during the 1960s and 1970s, including ska, rocksteady, reggae, dub and dancehall. The label was founded by Dodd in 1954, and the first recordings were cut in 1963 on Brentford Road in Kingston. Amongst its earliest records were "Easy Snappin'" by Theophilus Beckford, backed by Clue J & His Blues Blasters, and "This Man is Back" by trombonist Don Drummond. The label and studio were closed when Dodd relocated to New York City in the 1980s.

COXSONE

Coxsone was one of the lesser-known subsidiary labels of Island Records. In the latter part of it's life it was taken over by Trojan. The label was home to some of the most highly-regarded reggae acts of the time, including Jackie Mittoo. Nearly all Coxsone

singles are very scarce and very sought-after.

PARLOPHONE

Parlophone was founded in Germany in 1896 by the Carl Lindström Company as Parlophon. The British branch was formed in 1923 as "Parlophone" which developed a reputation in the 1920s as a leading jazz label. It was acquired in 1927 by the Columbia Graphophone Company which later became EMI. George Martin joined in 1950 as assistant label manager, taking over as manager in 1955. Martin produced and released a mix of product including comedy recordings of The Goons, the pianist Mrs Mills, and teen idol Adam Faith. In 1962 Martin signed rising new Liverpool band The Beatles. With Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer, the Fourmost, and The Hollies also signed to the label, Parlophone in the sixties became one of the world's most famous and prestigious record labels. For a long time Parlophone claimed the best selling UK single "She Loves You", and the best selling UK album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The label also achieved placement of seven singles at #1 during 1964, when it also claimed top spot in the album charts for 40 of the 52 weeks during that year.

SUB POP

Sub Pop Records of Seattle, Washington released it's first piece of vinyl in 1986 with the "Sub Pop 100" compilation. The label's founder, Bruce Pavitt, already had plenty of brand awareness as he had been releasing cassettes under the Sub Pop name since 1979. Many of the other early releases were for the "Sub Pop Singles Club" which was a subscription service for interested parties to receive regular releases from local Seattle bands. These included Nirvana, whose "Love Buzz" was issued by the label in November '88. Over the next few years Sub Pop was widely credited with popularizing the grunge scene, with other acts such as Mudhoney, Soundgarden and Afghan Whigs all finding some notoriety. In the 90's, Warners bought a 49% stake in the label, and it has known mostly good times with The Shins and The Postal Service recently selling in vast numbers.

APPLE

Apple Records was founded by the Beatles in 1968 as part of the "Apple Corps" project. Apple put out most of the subsequent recordings by the Beatles and their individual solo projects, as well as many other releases by an eclectic mix of artists including Mary Hopkin, Billy Preston and Hot Chocolate. The label was run for most of it's lifetime by Neil Aspinall, formerly the Beatles road manager. Other than the music releases, Apple's main notority has come from a series of high-profile court battles with Apple Computer over trademark infringement.

TRANSATLANTIC

Transatlantic Records was a British independent record label. It was established in 1961. It started began primarily as an importer of American folk, blues and jazz records by many of the artists who influenced the burgeoning British folk and blues boom. Within a couple of years, the company had started recording British artists. The company's philosophy was intentionally eclectic. With the advent of psychedelia and flower power the Transatlantic stable of artists achieved increasing popularity, culminating in the formation of the supergroup Pentangle. Meanwhile Transatlantic had been extending its eclecticism, recording such as the eccentric audio collageist Ron Geesin, and The Purple Gang, who's "Granny Takes A Trip" was banned by the BBC in 1967.

PICCADILLY

An offshoot of Pye named after Piccadilly Circus which was close to it's offices. Mainly releasing out and out pop from a variety of sources, ie. in house and independent UK producers. The first release was in April, 1961 finally bowing out in September 1967. Most successful artists were Joe Brown, Rockin' Berries and Ivy League although the label failed to disturb the charts with 90% of it's releases.

MOTOWN

First issued in the UK with it's own logo by EMI in March 1965. Previous material from Berry Gordy's stable of labels was released in the UK on London, Fontana, Oriole and Stateside. Seminal soul label noted for it's in house writers, musicians and stringent quality control. Roll call includes Supremes, Temptations, Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Martha & Vandellas, Four Tops - in fact too many to mention. In 1976 Tamla was dropped from the title and the label become solely Motown.

BLUE HORIZON

Blue Horizon was a British blues record label founded by Mike Vernon in the mid 1960s. After briefly forming the Outasite label, Vernon switched to Blue Horizon in 1966, issuing singles and a small number of now-unobtainable albums by U.S. blues artists, including Doctor Ross. A licensing and distribution deal with CBS heralded the glory years of the label. Starting with two 7" singles with combined CBS/Blue Horizon stamps featuring Fleetwood Mac and Aynsley Dunbar there followed a string of singles and albums by both British and U.S. blues artists. Some releases featured Mike Vernon-produced recordings of U.S. artists like Otis Spann and Champion Jack Dupree, backed by British Blues players such as Peter Green, Rory Gallagher, Paul Kossoff, Stan Webb, Pete Wingfield and Duster Bennett. The label produced chart hit singles for Fleetwood Mac and Chicken Shack and a string of albums in imaginative sleeves. The distinctive blue label singles eventually gave way to red and then no-centre white labels as the blues boom died away. The label ceased production around 1971, and all its titles are highly collectable today.

DERAM

Sub-label of Decca that existed from the late 1960s to the early 1980s. Initially set up to promote the ''Deramic Sound System'', a new recording technique, resulting in 24 orchestral easy listening albums with the Moody Blues as the only rock band amongst them. Later on, the label was moulded into a specialist label for British psychedelia, prog rock and Northern soul/mod sounds many of which are highly collectable today.

DAWN

Dawn Records was a subsidiary of Pye Records. Active from 1970 to 1975, it was set up largely as Pye's 'underground and progressive' label, a rival of the EMI and Phonogram equivalents, Harvest and Vertigo. The most successful act on the label was Mungo Jerry, whose first two singles reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart. The label was also notable for releasing the 1970 and 1971 Donovan albums, Open Road and HMS Donovan. It also released records by Paul Brett's Sage, Titus Groan, Mike Cooper, Heron, John Kongos (before he found greater success on the Fly label), Comus, Atlantic Bridge, Pluto, Atomic Rooster and the Mungo Jerry offshoot, the King Earl Boogie Band. Set up primarily to be the home of more progressive releases within the Pye sphere it was launched in September 1969 to compete with Deram (Decca), Harvest (EMI) and Vertigo (Philips), but achieved most commercial successs with the jugband Mungo Jerry. Other notable acts included Atomic Rooster, Stray, Prelude, Paul Brett, Donovan & David McWilliams. Having effectively failed to compete, Dawn ceased with the last original release in February 1976.

IMMEDIATE

Founded by Andrew Loog Oldham in August, 1965 and was the first independent to effectively compete in the UK with the majors. Nick Cohn says that Oldham was "without doubt the most flash personality that British pop has ever had, the most anarchic and obsessive and imaginative hustler of all". Initially the label used Jimmy Page on session/production work as well as Mick Jagger & Keith Richard in various ways. Most successful artists were Small Faces, Chris Farlowe, Amen Corner, Nice, Humble Pie etc. Renowned for it's profligacy the label finally went into voluntary liquidation in early 1970.

FONTANA

Fontana Records was started in the 1950s as a subsidiary of the Dutch Philips Records. When Philips restructured its music operations it dropped Fontana in favour of Vertigo Records. In the seventies PolyGram acquired the dormant label. In the UK and Europe, the Fontana label was largely dormant after 1974, although in 1980-81 it was used for releases by Sector 27 and Dennis Bovell. Fontana was revived in the late 1980s as an outlet for acts such as Tears for Fears, The Teardrop Explodes, Cocteau Twins and Swing Out Sister, and was active in the 1990s, releasing music for acts such as Gorky's Zygotic Mynci, Ocean Colour Scene and James. It is currently an active division of Universal Music Group as Fontana Distribution, using the same logo.

DANDELION

Set up by the late much lamented John Peel with his manager Clive Selwood. Initially instituted because of Peel's desire to record Bridget St John. First release was in 1969 and the label finally succumbed in 1972 after acting as a launching pad for Medicine Head, Clifford T Ward, Principal Edwards Magic Theatre etc as well as the swan song for Gene Vincent who died shortly afterwards.

FACTORY

Factory Records was founded by Granada TV presenter Tony WIlson and partner Alan Erasmus in January 1978. They started a club night in their home town of Manchester and featured local bands such as Durutti Column, Cabaret Voltaire and Joy Division, who Wilson signed to the label after famously writing a "non-contract" in his own blood. With seminal producer Martin Hannett and designer Peter Saville a team of no little talent came together and after a sampler EP featuring 4 acts and singles by others such as Orchestral Maneouvres in the Dark and A Certain Ratio, WIlson invested an inheritance from his grandmother in the production of the first Joy Division LP "Unknown Pleasures". After the suicide of Ian Curtis the myth around the label and it's acts grew to a remarkable degree and many started collecting all material on the label, a task made difficult by the complex Factory catalogue numbering system. Not just records were included, but also videos, posters, T-shirts, buildings, stationary etc.

TWO TONE

2 Tone Records was the brainchild of Jerry Dammers, driving force behind the label's mainstay act, The Specials. Formed in Coventry in 1978, The labels' acts created a national interest in the revival of Jamaican ska music from the early and mid-sixties. The only band who weren't from the Midlands, Madness, released their first single on the label, a tribute to Prince Buster fittingly called "The Prince". Whilst they and The Beat left the label after one single each, Dammers' Specials found considerable success culminating in two UK number ones with the classic singles "Too Much Too Young" and "Ghost Town".