company sleeves from the 50's to the 80's
In a effort to actually have some content on this site, here is
(what I hope will become) a useful resource for anyone who is interested
in collecting UK 7" (seven inch, metric fans) singles. There
are plenty of resources on the web that tell you about the records
and the music themselves, so here is my own twist on things...
On this page, you can find links to (evenutally) hundreds of scans
of generic record company sleeves. Just below the links, you can find a bit of history
about all of this, and also a request for more information. Please do get in touch if you spot mistakes!
Sleeve Photos (by label group)
There are currently 74 record sleeves on these pages, featuring designs from
44 record labels. There are notes on each label to give some background (when the label started, the major
artists, who owns the label now and so on), then the sleeve designs are shown, with dates of use where known. Here's the list of labels:
They're in alphabetical order at the moment, although I might change
that to groupings by parent label company, as interesting parallels
in design can be seen (compare Columbia and Parlophone, for instance).
(Note - The sleeve design copyright rests with respective
copyright holders; I do not wish to impinge on that in any way.
If you wish a label to be removed, please contact me (address below),
but I would hope this will not be necessary; I am making no profit
from these pages.)
But why have I done this? Well, when 7" 45rpm records
first became available in the UK, the sleeves that they came in
were just as interesting as the records themselves. Rather than
individual sleeves for each song, as seen on singles (vinyl &
CD) today, every record released by a record company would come
in the same sleeve. The name of the record label was given top priority,
just like a brand. After all, if you like some artists on a particular
label, you may like others...
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, these generic sleeves were found
on nearly every single single. Designing and printing individual
covers and labels for each record was prohibitively expensive, especially
as less money was spent on marketing and promotion of songs. A few
records had their own individual 'picture sleeves' (usually with
a photo of the artist or band), but these were exceptions. The music
was the most important thing, so why spend money on design?
However, as the 70s drew to a close, and the days of punk and new
wave began, artists and record companies began to look for a more
individual approach. Singles started appearing with covers tailored
to each individual song. At first, records were available in both
the special and the generic sleeve, but by the early 80s, fewer
and fewer company covers were seen, until practically all records
came in picture sleeves. The design of the record label (in the
middle of the disc) changed, too - from a generic company design
to a custom label for each song as seen today. With more cash available
for marketing and promotion, it was the obvious step to take
Company sleeves are interesting today because they symbolise very
neatly the designs and fashions of their time. Some were very short
lived, whilst others lasted for over ten years. Collectors of records
today like to see these sleeves intact; if the record is in an original
sleeve in good condition, then the chances are that the disc itself
has been well looked after.
Because most of these designs are in good supply, records in their
own picture sleeves are almost always worth more than the corresponding
generic sleeve (compare Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights"
- in mint condition, it's worth a couple of pounds in the standard
EMI sleeve, but £25 in its own custom casing). Here, collectors
are often paying for the sleeve and not the record. There are one
or two exceptions, however, where a particular company sleeve is
scarce. And of course, for completists and collectors who want their
records 'just right', they have to be in the correct sleeve.
If you like the sound of all of this, and have any information you
think would be useful, do let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
(e-mail contact only, and please do not send any adverts, for sale/wanted).
I'd particularly welcome corrections to my comments, start/end dates
for particular designs, and any other suggestions you have. I may
end up giving a page to each record company itself, with details
of artists, and complete listings - perhaps you want to help?