Sunday, 9 February 2014

The EMI Record Sleeves - The 78rpm Years Part 1

There have been a couple of articles on this blog showing 78rpm record sleeves that were store bought to replace the rather fragile paper sleeves that came from the record companies. But now it's time to start off a series looking at some of the surviving examples of those record sleeves.

I can only show such sleeves as I have in my collection. I imagine some are missing and I also imagine some that I have contain records that were not originally issued in that design of sleeve!

Of all the many labels and record companies that emerged in those early days of recorded music, a number were to loom large and enjoy long life. Right through the 78rpm era and on into and beyond the days of 45rpm singles and 33⅓rpm Long Player (LP) records. I'm focussing in today on three of those labels who were destined to merge under the auspices of a new company: Electric and Music Industries, or EMI as it became known. Formed by a merger of The Gramophone Company, whose main label was His Master's Voice and Columbia which already had both the Columbia and Parlophone labels in its portfolio, EMI would survive records discs themselves and would eventually subsume even the three instantly recogniseable label names to release records in the 1970s under a new EMI label.

This article is about the 78rpm era though and even at that I have called it "Part 1". So let's have a look at just some of the labels of the 1930s that I have in my collection, that already demonstrate a family connection.

I know that there are earlier labels than these - some of them will be featured in due course. Others I don't have, but I suspect that there may have been both colours of paper used for each label. I only have both for the Parlophone label. Other labels, it is true, also had similar twin column designs. The central hole in the sleeve allowing the record label to be viewed made it almost inevitable that sleeve designs would take this form. Brunswick and Philips are just two of the labels that had similar designs on record sleeves. I'll save those for a future article, as I will the many different record label designs.

These labels were used in the 1930s in what I always think of as the "Dance Band" era. Yet at least His Master's Voice and Parlophone had special sleeves for that kind of record.

When I'm looking for 78rpm records I always like to try to buy them in their original sleeves if I can. Many of them are somewhat tatty now, after 70 or 80 years of being handled, rubbed by the record being taken out and reinserted, rubbed against other records, sat on, ripped by pets or children, torn by the sharp edges of broken records or stained by spillages or just simply being drawn on. I'm as guilty as any at having defaced them by scrawling my name on them or by adding sticky labels to denote which box and position they come from etc. Finding a sleeve in good condition and with a record of the same label in it is a bonus. And we'll have a look at a few more in the next article!

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