Saturday, 11 January 2014

78 rpm Shop Record Covers

A second look at 78 rpm record sleeves provided (sold!) by record shops. (If you missed the first one then it can be viewed here: Record Shops to 1960)

I have 78s from all over the place. Although I started out with a fair collection inherited from my parents, a few of which were bought with me and/or my brother in mind, I have bought quite a lot from collectors and antiques shops and warehouses and a very few by mail order. I have also been given some collections by people who knew they would be going to a good home.

So there's quite a few shops and towns represented on the sleeves of some of the records in my collection which is currently heading towards 700 in number. The above sleeve is an early thick cardboard sleeve, stitched on both sides and on the base. This method provided a very robust sleeve and although these tend to be quite early - 1930s-40s mainly - there are as many of these still surviving as the thinner card that was folded and then glued to form a sleeve. Many of these latter bear signs of wear and repair. This example was bought originally from Kenneth Gardner's shop on Penny Street, Lancaster.

In those early days records were sold by musical instruments shops, who diversified into selling gramophones. Specialist records shops would not come along until later. Even so most towns had a choice of establishments who sold records and in Lancaster, over on Rosemary Lane, Albert Shaw was in competition with Mr Gardner's business. This is another stitched thick cardboard sleeve which has survived well. A little bit of staining but no rips or tears as that is exactly what the stitching technique was designed to prevent.

We'll digress a little bit here, because it's interesting to look at some of the record label names listed down the left hand side. There's no way to prove that the record that the sleeve now contains is the one bought with it and it is probably very unlikely that it was anyway. The record is After The Ball Is Over with a B side on the reverse of Two Little Girls In Blue by Gerald Adams and The Variety Singers and it was released in 1930. Both songs are quite well remembered songs even today, especially the former. They are, in fact, so similar that you could be forgiven for thinking that they were written by the same person, but no - though both composers were named Charles, being Charles K. Harris and Charles Graham respectively.

Regal merged with Zonophone to become er... Regal Zonophone... Odeon must have merged with Parlophone and became Parlophone Odeon with the same design label as before.

Winner was an early label, appearing in 1911. It was owned by a syndicate and that may have inspired the name and label illustration perhaps. It lasted until 1933. No one wanted to buy it and most of the properties were taken over by Decca. The record illustrated - Old Tennessee and Me coupled with Palm Tree Island by The Elliotts - was released in 1919 and we can see from the stamp pasted onto the label that the proud new owner paid three farthings tax on it!

Carlisles shop on Darwen Street, Blackburn, sold a rather vivid colour don't you think? Most card sleeves were a plain brown colour - the colour of the card in fact, as to colour them would only cost money. So coloured sleeves are not as common as brown card, though there are a few to be found. The card here has started to fray and come apart where repeated insertions of the record have snagged it top centre. It is made of two pieces of card bound together by tape which must have at some point split and the repair is a somewhat rare technique - I'm glad to say... It's been sewn by hand by someone unused to wielding needle and thread by the looks of things!

It's probably fair to say that Crane's of Deansgate in Manchester were probably not first and foremost a record shop! Their head offices in Liverpool is described as having a concert hall attached and branches existed in Bangor, Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester, Seacombe, Sheffield and Wrexham. A well-established firm, they started in 1850 and the record sleeve does not mention all their branches! There's a nice 46-page catalogue dating from 1910 available to read for free from The Internet Archive which has many photos of their piano and organ models. They are of superb quality with even the upright pianos having little hinged candelabra sconces that swing out to illuminate the player's music score!

Incidentally, the record is from 1916 by the comedian and Music Hall artist Tom Foy. I listened to it for the first time last night - a sort of stage patter tale of the style adopted by many of today's self-proclaimed comedians. It's a bit like listening to George Formby telling an anecdote but right at the end it turns into what today can only be thought of as a racist joke which spoils it completely for anything other than a historical interest.

Now here's a sleeve dear to my heart. We used to live in Rochdale, I was born there and I well remember Shorrock and Shorrock's huge shop filled with pianos on Drake Street, just up from the Odeon cinema. My Dad used to go there to buy records and I have quite a number of these distinctive green sleeves containing both 10" and 12" 78 rpm records. I remember they used to display records in the window, hung on wires inserted into the holes in a hardboard stand.

Dad would ask which one we wanted and - not knowing one from the other at age 3 or 4 - I would point in the general direction and Dad would say "Good choice!" and go in to buy something he knew we would enjoy. Where's the joy in downloading something off the Internet and not having the bus ride home to anticipate listening to it? Music has become wallpaper. I find that incredibly sad. Go to a concert now and people stand watching their tiny phone screen that is busy turning the exciting performance into pap.

My final sleeve for this time is from the legendary Mazel's in Manchester. "Legendary" may be a bit of an exaggeration, but I have such memories of this shop that is certainly legendary in my mind. A quick search online will convince you lots of other people think the same. It wasn't just a record shop. Certainly by the 1970s when I was a teenage rocker in a local band, trying to get sophisticated sounds out of 6 and 12-string acoustic guitars and a basic electric guitar without the aid of FX pedals, Mazel's was the place to spend Saturday mornings. They sold second hand everything connected to the music business. Records, musical instruments, amps and microphones...

I remember drooling over a dirty great 15" speaker labelled "Victor" that my Dad owned the match to. Dad always used to say it had come out of a cinema from the sound system there... We had a very imbalanced stereo system during my early teens. The left channel came out of the afore-mentioned cinema speaker from a mono Stevns amp (there was no second 'e' before you write in to complain) and the right channel came out of Mum and Dad's 1950s wireless set...

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