Aral / Windsor / Mayfair / Top Ten

The Femine Look: Terry Dene, Aral 45, 1962

Regular listeners to Radio Luxembourg in June 1962 heard the deejays based in the Grand Duchy enthusing over a new label – Aral. Terry Dene’s The Feminine Look seemed like a strong contender for future chart glory, if anyone got a chance to hear it. Almost all the Luxembourg shows in those years were produced by the big competing record companies and little independents like Aral had no chance of a spin unless they could cough up enough for a 15-minute show of their own, as Oriole did. Failing that their only option was to get a play on one of the time-filling slots figuratively known as ‘Request’ shows. Quite who would request a record that no one had yet heard was open to question, but these Grand Duchy based request shows were a reliable source of otherwise unheard new music.

Fever: Terry Dene, Aral B-side 1962

Aral released up to a dozen singles with British artists from late June to August 1962. None were hits. Later in the year it released more new stuff on the Windsor label. None of these were hits either but the quality of all these recordings was high and with more airplay, they may have got somewhere.

Terry Dene was a bona-fide pop star, with a string of hits on Decca. Like the young Elvis, he got arrested (in his case for vandalism and drunkeness) but in his case it was while he was a pop star so he got the full News of The World outrage and prurient interest in details. Then like Elvis, he got conscripted into the army. As a “star” he was mercilessly hounded, and was discharged after two months and a nervous breakdown with maximum national publicity (white feathers; they don’t like it up ‘em; never in our day etc). He was unable to resurrect his career, and moved to Oriole then to Aral.

Aral gave him a then-rare picture sleeve and a pre-Photoshop sun-tan and an elaborate production.

Aral singles were ‘made in England’ but the sleeves for Terry Dene’s “latest and greatest,” The Feminine Look, have a threepenny import stamp. Aral had the same name as the German petrol station company. Perhaps, like the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family during World War One, they decided Windsor was a more marketable non-Teutonic name.

The label was owned by Peter Snell, who moved on to film production far more successfully from 1967. He produced the 1973 cult horror classic The Wicker Man, in a production career that spans forty years. He was Canadian, and born in 1938.

The label claims to be run by Peter Sterling (aka Peter Stirling, Daniel Boone and Peter Green (not that one). He was extremely young to be producing, directing and singing on a label he owned in 1962-1963 … he was born in 1942. Has anyone seen Peter Snell and Peter Sterling in the same room?

For a label with so few releases, they had a bewildering number of centre designs. Maybe they had issues using the same printer twice.

The English Jazz Scene Vol 1: Auriel Cranell, Aral EP 1962

Vic Robertson & His Jazzmen: Aral EP 1962
Do Me A Favour: Peter Kaye (not that one) Aral 45 Demo, 1962

Windsor

Whatcha Want: Jerry Dane, Windsor 45, 1962

The Windsor label saw a release by Jerry Dane whose name sounds suspiciously like Terry Dene. So does his voice, except that Dene’s voice sounds clean. Dane’s is drenched in echo. Whatcha Want also has the full orchestral treatment plus backing singers and these immortal lyrics.

Just how long will the kissing last?
Angel doll or devil, are you really on the level?

You Can’t Come Back: Julie Rayne, 1964 demo
Caravan: Rhet Stoller, Windsor 1962

Rhet Stoller had two highly rated instrumentals on Windsor; Caravan, and Ricochet. An intelligent guess would be that his fluid playing graces the Dean / Dane singles. Rhet Stoller was a bona fide hit artist with a long career. He had a Top 30 hit with Chariot on Decca in 1961 … UK #26, and in the chart for two months.

While all Windsor records are hard to find, more demos seem to turn up than standard releases.

Ricochet: Rhet Stoller 1964, in Radio London sleeve (Radio London started January 1965)

Ray Merrell, a collectable country singer had Battle of Waterloo on Aral.

Windsor Gold Seal LPs

Malcolm Mitchell & The Trio: Windsor LP WLPS 1001, 1963

Windsor seem to have stalled after their second (very) easy listening LP in 1963:

The rear of EP sleeves announce his LP 2 A.M. and describe Windsor as “this, his own Windsor label.” . Peter Sterling was  a singer / arranger with a neat trick of imitating Cliff Richard’s voice. An online forum preferred his Beatle Crazy to the American original.

Mayfair

This seems to be the LP branch of Aral (one of many labels with the name). They were early on in the budget album of cover versions, pre-dating the 1967-1975 explosion of budget covers LPs by five years, though budget cover EPs were popular.

Top Ten

Top Ten TPXS 100 The Mike Sammes Singers, 6 track EP

Top Ten Records (A Product of Aral Records) was a budget cover version EP label (like Top Six), and this one has the Mike Sammes Singers, (who must have appeared on hundreds of 60s discs), as themselves doing a Christmas medley. This series is also known as”Peter Sterling’s Top Ten Records” and the cover connects them to “Aral, Windsor and Mayfair.”

The Sound of The Beatles: Gordon Somers & His Group, Aral Top Ten EP, 1964

The Sound of The Beatles by Gordon Somers and His Group carries the Beatles-association premium, and has been seen at £10. That’s Gordon Somers, not Gordon Sumner (Sting) or Andy Somers (also in Police!). Maybe confused purchasers pushed the price up. It’s listed as 1964, which marks the end of the label.

Top Ten Record Club

“Produced and directed by Peter Sterling” on every one.

Like all these budget 6 track / 4 track covers series, Top Ten changed the sleeve colour every month to help stockists, your local sweet shop, know which one was current. They had three different centre labels and yet only lasted around a year. Unlike other budget covers labels, no one famous has come forward and claimed to play on them.

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