All posts filed under: Cover Story

Cover Story – Part V – Westminster Records

Westminster Records was an American classical music record label, issuing original recordings until 1965. It was co–founded in 1949 by Mischa Naida (who later founded Musical Heritage Society, the owner of the Westminster Record Shop in New York City, businessman James Grayson (1897–1980), conductor Henry Swoboda, and Henry Gage. Its trademark was Big Ben and its slogan was “natural balance”, referring to its single microphone technique in recording music, similar to Mercury Records’ Living Presence series. Early on, its recordings were technically superior to most others in the marketplace, and the label became popular among the growing community of audiophiles. In the late 1950s the company began issuing stereophonic recordings, including a rare disc of the music of Swedish composer Hugo Alfvén (1872-1960), conducted by the composer. The “Westminster Laboratory” (W-Lab) series of classical recordings were technically superior to other brands and sold at higher price than the regular Westminsters. The company was sold in the early 1960s to ABC-Paramount Records, which at first continued to issue new material (as well as reissuing old recordings …

Cover Story – Part IV – Decca Records

Decca Records began as a British record label established in 1929 by Edward Lewis. Its U.S. label was established in late 1934 by Lewis along with American Decca’s first president Jack Kapp and later American Decca president Milton Rackmil; however, owing to World War II, the link with the British company was broken for several decades. The British label was renowned for its development of recording methods, while the American company developed the concept of cast albums in the musical genre. Both wings are now part of the Universal Music Group which is owned by Vivendi, a media conglomerate headquartered in France. The American Decca label was the foundation label, which evolved into UMG. The name “Decca” dates back to a portable gramophone called the “Decca Dulcephone” patented in 1914 by musical instrument makers Barnett Samuel and Sons. That company was eventually renamed The Decca Gramophone Co. Ltd. and then sold to former stockbroker Edward Lewis in 1929. Within years, Decca Records Ltd. was the second largest record label in the world, calling itself “The …

Cover Story – Part III – Stiff Records

Stiff Records is a British independent record label formed in London,England, by Dave Robinson and Andrew Jakeman (aka Jake Riviera). Originally active from 1976 to 1985, the label was reactivated in 2007. Established at the outset of the punk rock boom, Stiff Records signed various punk and new wave acts such as Nick Lowe, the Damned,Lene Lovich, Wreckless Eric, Plummet Airlines, Elvis Costello, and Ian Dury. The label’s marketing and advertising was often provocative and witty billing itself as “The World’s Most Flexible Record Label”. Other slogans were “We came. We saw. We left”, “If It Ain’t Stiff, It Ain’t Worth a Fuck”, and “When You Kill Time, You Murder Success” (printed on promotional wall clocks). On the label of Stiff’s sampler compilation Heroes & Cowards was printed: “In ’78 everyone born in ’45 will be 33-1/3”. A very early Stiff sampler album, A Bunch of Stiff Records, introduced the slogan, “If they’re dead, we’ll sign them” and “Undertakers to the Industry”. Stiff also produced eccentric but highly effective promotional campaigns, such as the three package tours in 1977 (Live Stiffs), 1978 (Be Stiff) and 1980 (Son Of Stiff), Elvis Costello’s “busking outside CBS Records” arrest …

Cover Story – Part II – Command Records

Command Records (originally Command Performance Records) was a record label founded by Enoch Light in 1959 and later associated with ABC-Paramount Records. The company focused on producing records targeted at audiophiles. When ABC Records issued quadraphonic records in the 1970s, they were issued on the Command label. While the recording industry had made magnetic tape the standard for recording music for release on vinyl, Command’s albums were recorded optically onto 35mm film. Optical sound recording and playback had been developed in the 1920s and was still in use for playing the soundtrack for motion pictures in movie theaters, but Light was using the entire width of the film strip to create multitrack recordings, as opposed to the more limited two or three tracks offered by most recording studios at the time. This enabled Light to record more instruments individually and adjust their audio input levels, as well as their stereo position. Discography 1963 – The Year’s Most Popular Themes, RS 854 SD 1966–Magnificent Movie Themes (Bobby Bryne), RS 894 SD Age of Electronicus, The (Dick …

Cover Story – Part I – Tonpress Records

The first in a Fat Nancy series digging out album cover art from shut down or rare record labels. The first is Tonpress,  a polish label from 1980′s. Belonging to KAW – Krajowa Agencja Wydawnicza (The National Publishing Agency), their catalogue consisted of foreign albums, singles, audiobooks and Polish records. Tonpress was shutdown in 1990, due to the Polish government discontinuing most of the state-controlled publishing houses and agencies. Much of Tonpress’ collection was lost when it was split between two privately owned music labels. Tonpress records are still available at on-line auctions.