B.O.A.C and airline discs

Earlier travellers were not so lucky and got free EP discs, but didn’t get music:

BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) produced desirable freebies thematically related to routes. Note that they’re “Not for resale.” They came in the airline goodie bag with the toothbrush, boiled sweet (for the ears on descent) and pen (for the landing card). They evoke an era when long-haul travel was exotic and expensive and you ate off china plates with metal cutlery and drank from glasses made of glass. Friends who did travel long-haul in that era say there is no comparison.

The 1968 EP, Let’s Not Say Sayonara, by Kyu Sakamoto and Jun Mayuzumi was given away free on planes to celebrate the opening of polar route (or ‘Polaroute’) to Japan via Anchorage, Alaska. They’re pieces of the era and elaborately-designed, with no expense spared. They tap into the airline memorabilia collector too.

The polar route resulted in building a vast airport at Anchorage. Twice a day (once in each direction), Jumbo Jets would land at five minute intervals and the airport would be packed solid for an hour. Then the dozen Jumbos would leave at five minute intervals, destined for Tokyo, Osaka or Seoul and it would be deserted for another eleven hours until the return flights. That was the luxury expensive 16 hour route. My first trips to Japan were the cheaper, longer Cathay Pacific marathon … London – Bahrein- Hong Kong-Taipei – Tokyo. I did the Anchorage route much later with both British Airways (successor to B.O.A.C.) and JAL (Japan Air Lines). I flew a couple of times, staring down at sheer white ice (then). Then the Boeing 747 range was extended and planes could fly direct to Japan over Siberia.

The 1968 disc was in a box of mixed singles from Australia, South Africa, Kenya, Malaysia and Hong Kong and sounds unplayed. A guess would be a BOAC air crew member’s collection. The Australia route is #8, and the Japanese route #20, so there are several more of them. They don’t get listed in price guides, but these first two cost £8 and £10 respectively. I’ve seen the Sakamoto at £15 too.

I find the map art and the centre label art more visually interesting than the front sleeves. It’s a lovely map too.

Thus they employed Rolf Harris to compose and perform songs when they opened the Pacific route to Australia in 1967. Maybe they paid him in first class tickets to his homeland. Unfortunately, since his arrest his collectability has fallen through the floor. I say this having most of his singles and EPs. I used to to play Rolf taking my kids to school, then my grandkids. I’m word perfect on Sun Arise, Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Jake The Peg, My Word You Do Look Queer, I Lost My Mummy, The Court of King Caractacus and Six White Boomers. Somehow, you don’t want to play them anymore. Once we were walking along Piccadilly and saw Rolf Harris stuck in traffic in the passenger seat of a Rolls. My wife said ‘There’s Rolf Harris!’ and he waved at us. We walked another couple of hundred yards, and heard the toot of a horn, and the Rolls had caught up, and he’d wound down the window, waved, and shouted ‘Have a great day!’ to us. So I was doubly disappointed (and shocked) at his downfall.

Cy Grant did Islands in the Sun for the Caribbean- they had no problem in getting celebrities to do specials for B.O.A.C. I’d think free flights might be part of it- retired pilots used to get one first class and two business class free flights to any destination a year (a friend’s dad was a VC10 pilot). As they have empty seats usually, it doesn’t cost the airline much to be generous with tickets.

They didn’t all have the maps on the rear, though The Seychelles did in 1970 for Wild and Beautiful. That had a prominent EMI on the centre. The others didn’t name a label.

GALLERIES … click to enlarge images

In 1970, B.O.A.C did its own special edition of The England Football Squad’s Back Home:

British Caledonian were less elaborate with the launch of their Gatwick-New York service, giving away standard Reprise copies of the appropriate Frank Sinatra record in a modest custom sleeve.

The oldest one here is TCA (Trans Canada Air Lines) celebrating the launch of the DC8, ‘newest of the giant jets’ in 1960. The songs (or ‘airs’, geddit?) had one per province resulting in a 10 track EP. Ontario got Black Fly, British Columbia Acres of Clams and Newfoundland got Squid Jiggin’ Ground.

Air Canada were meaner, preferring flexi-discs to proper vinyl.

If you have any more, do send them in. Surely other airlines must have done the same.


1 thought on “B.O.A.C and airline discs

  1. Mention of British Caledonian reminds me of their commercial which used a parody of California Girls. It’s on YouTube, and rather entertaining, though definitely, as they say, of its time.


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