So which is your Decca? British rock and roll of the late 50s? British beat groups of the 60s? The Rolling Stones? Or is it The Bachelors, Val Doonican, and Englebert Humperdink (see The Unwanted Ones)?

Decca has its roots in a gramophone manufacturer called Dulciphone, which started using the name Decca in 1914, when it introduced a portable gramophone which sold heavily to troops in World War One. Sir Edward Lewis, the man behind Decca’s success, became involved in 1928 and suggested they produce records as well as gramophones. Decca’s slogan was “Leading artists – lower price”.  

The first release on the Decca label in 1929, was ‘an album’ which meant a set of three 78 rpm 10″ shellac discs, totalling 24 minutes. It recorded baritone Roy Henderson singing Walt Whitman’s poem to Delius’s music. SEE the end of this article.

Mahatten Beach / Washington Post: The Westminster Military Band, Decca 78 rpm 1931

Darkie’s Patrol: George Morris 78 rpm, late 1930s

Lewis took the helm at the age of 31, and his major innovation was to move into the dance band music of the 1930s, which was then booming. He lured HMV’s two biggest band leaders, Ambrose and Jack Hylton to Decca, and imported American band leader Roy Fox to run the Decca house band.

In 1932, he obtained the rights of the US Brunswick label, adding Bing Crosby, The Mills Brothers and Guy Lombardo. At this point, British sales were more profitable than American, because the rapid spread of radio stations had hit record sales in the way the internet was to repeat seventy years later.

Lewis went to the States, launched American Decca, and undercut the market by selling discs at 35 cents instead of the normal 75 cents. The market followed.

When Are You Going To Take Me To The Altar, Walter: Randolph Sutton, 1933,
Panachord sublabel, “Manufactured by Warner-Brunswick, London
Decca catalogue August 1942

Record sales were decreasing again in the late thirties, and Lewis moved investment into military electronics.

During World War Two, Decca developed the Decca Navigation system and was a radar pioneer, its military connections forming the basis of its later position as a major defence contractor. A side effect was its research into detecting submarines. They had to distinguish British and German submarines by their sound from the air. Existing recording techniques were not capable of producing a wide enough frequency range for reference recordings, and Decca developed a new recording system, ffrr or full frequency range recording. This was about as wide a range as cassette tape thirty years later (80 cps to 15,000), and not as wide as compact disc’s 20-20,000.

It was a startling improvement on existing recording, and Decca and its subsidiary labels carried the ffrr logo through to the the 1970s.

In the late 50s, the logo ffss was added for stereophonic sound.

Decca monthly catalogues, July 1950, March 1954, October 1955

The superior sound quality enabled Decca to become a major exporter of discs to the USA under the London imprint from 1947, and London was very fast in adopting US Columbia’s new LP format in 1949.  Decca produced the first British LPs in 1950.

Decca advert, The Gramophone, July 1952
Price list, 1954

They had enough sense not to follow EMI into rush-releasing 45s in 1952, but held back until 1954 when enough players were on the market.

Lewis also pioneered low-price (or rather mid-price) LP labels with Decca Ace of Clubs and Ace of Hearts.

As the flagship label of its group, what Decca had in common with HMV, US Columbia and DGG was that it was a major classical label and continued to be so. The name is still used on classical music.

Silent Night: Kathleen Ferrier c.1954 classical, 7 number sequence 71036
O, Mein Papa: Lsy Assia recorded 1949. October 1954 release 10097

Early on Decca singles divided into red label, gold lettering (classical) and blue label, gold lettering (popular). The new seven inch popular singles started with the numbering sequence F10200, but about a dozen earlier 78s were released on the new format, retaining their pre-1954 78 rpm catalogue numbers.

O Mein Papa by Lys Assia was a major European hit and the enduring popularity sees this early Decca 7 inch version in 1954.

Even in 1959, Decca was advertising its stereophonic capabilities for mono recordings. ‘A triumph of British engineering and craftsmanship’ indeed

Decca stereo LPs of the era carry a warning on the inner sleeve:

When held at certain angles the surface of this FFSS record looks different than that of a monaural disc … it may even appear to be worn. Of course this only an illusion caused by the unusual way in which the grooves of this FFSS record are cut.

I’m amazed secondhand vinyl dealers haven’t leapt on this.

If this disc looks worn, it is an illusion.


Early Decca 10” Classical LP: Mono, ffrr, generic base sleeve with overprinting

Kathleen Ferrier EPs

classical cameos

The series was classed as singles. They seem to have stayed in print for five or more years.

There was a UK and European market for classical EPs. Deutsche Grammophon did many. Surprisingly, their mainstay, Herbert von Karajan is on a Decca classical EP of The Planets in 1962. It must have been a license deal at the point where Polydor / DGG’s UK distribution was weak.

Decca’s reputation for quality is demonstrated on the 2015 CD box set Decca Sound – The Mono Years 1955-1956 “Orchestral and Instrumental.” It consists of 53 CDs. so at £102. is something of a bargain. The box notes say:

Today we take high fidelity sound quality for granted, but how did it start? When was the moment when compressed and scratchy sound gave way to natural, realistic sound that captured the whole picture of a performance? Decca Sound ‘Mono Years’ seeks to answer that question and shows how, 70 years ago, amidst war-time privations, a small team at Decca made technological breakthroughs that brought hi-fi to the world.

This latest cube explores Decca’s earliest high-fidelity history, and restores critically acclaimed albums from ensembles such as the Trio di Trieste, Quintetto Chigiano and Griller Quartet which have not been available since their original LP release more than sixty years ago. An equally impressive array of soloists includes pianists Clifford Curzon, Julius Katchen, Friedrich Gulda and Moura Lypmany and violinists Ruggiero Ricci and Alfredo Campoli. Several generations of cellists are represented with recordings by Pierre Fournier, Maurice Gendron and Zara Nelsova

The box follows Decca Sound: The Analogue Years covering 54 CDs from 1954 to 1980 with the stereo classical LPs in Full Frequency Stereophonic Sound.

Classical specialists have told me that the valuable records are early Decca for mono, and the early HMV and EMI Columbia stereo releases. It’s a refined and specialist field which I would not venture into, but Decca’s sound reputation stayed.

Mantovani & The orchestral easy listening

Mantovani was an early Decca mainstay, bridging classical and sugary easy-listening. To his probable chagrin, Mantovani records have blue labels, never the red (singles) or green (EPs) classical labels.

These versions of Waltzing With Mantovani show how Decca used pre-printed colour generic sleeves, and overprinted the disc titles. Colour and design changed with each print pressing run.

Waltzing With Mantovani: three pressings, L to R: October 1954 / November 1954 / June 1956

He soldiered on:

Mantovani Plays Strauss Waltzes Vol. 2: 1954,  June 1955 pressing, DFE 6002

MantovaniWhite Christmas19536
MantovaniThe Song From Moulin Rouge19531
Billy Cotton & His BandIn A Golden Coach19533
Ted Heath & His OrchestraHot Toddy19536
MantovaniSwedish Rhapsody19532
Ted Heath & His OrchestraDragnet19536
Ted Heath & His OrchestraSkin Deep19549
Billy Cotton & His BandFriends & Neighbours19543
Ted Heath & His OrchestraSwinging Shepherd Blues19583
Ted Heath & His OrchestraTequila195821
Ted Heath & His OrchestraTom Hark195824
The Billy Cotton Band Show (LP): Decca Ace of Clubs series. Don’t even ask!
This is much later

Decca Popular

Over My Shoulder: Dickie Valentine, Decca 10″ LP 1956

Only For You: Dickie Valentine 1956 DFE 6363
Standards (EP): Dickie Valentine 1957 DFE 6429

As subsequent pictures will show, Decca were more keen on the 10″ LP format for “popular” music than any of the other majors. They were still doing 10″ LPs in 1961. Originally Decca called them MP (Medium Play) until someone pointed out that the initials had other connotations.

EPs are are a European speciality, and the UK EPs retain extra collectability because of the sleeves. For some artists France only issued EPs. The illustrations will be EP dominated here.

Decca –  early 45s

Instrumentals were popular.
George Shearing Trio Vol 2 (EP): DFE 6030 November 1954
Goodbye Hawaii: Roland Peachey & His Royal Hawaiians  DFE 6161 Sept
Robert Farnon and His Orchestra No. 3 (EP) 1955 DFE 6072
Gershwin for Moderns No. 1: Ted Heath  His Music DFE 6290 November 1955, generic sleeve
Quick March! (EP): Billy Cotton & His Band 1956 DFE 6365
Make It A Party (EP): Winifred Atwell 1959, DFE 3670

Vera Lynn’s Songs For Children (EP): March 1955 DFE 6248
Vera Lynn’s Party Sing-a-long (EP): Vera Lynn 1955, angular logo, but soft card 6512

Gallery – click to enlarge

David WhitfieldAnswer Me1953 1
Joan ReganRicochet19538
MantovaniThe Song From Moulin Rouge1953 1
The StargazersBroken Wings1953 1
The StargazersI See The Moon1954 1
David WhitfieldCara Mia1954 1
Joan ReganSomeone Else’s Roses19545
Vera LynnMy Son, My Son1954 1
Dickie Valentine & The StargazersFinger of Suspicion1954 1
Jimmy YoungUnchained Melody1955 1
Jimmy YoungThe Man from Laramie1955 1
Cyril StapletonBlue Star19552
Dickie ValentineChristmas Alphabet1955 1
The StargazersTwenty Tiny Fingers1955 4
Dave KingMemories Are Made Of This19565
Winifred AtwellThe Poor People of Paris1956 1
Ted Heath OrchestraSwinging shepherd Blues1958 3
Max BygravesYou Need Hands /Tulips from Amsterdam1958 3
The Beverley SistersLittle Drummer Boy1959 6

Most of the popular artists ended up doing an EP and / or LP with the Ted Heath Orchestra.

Decca Showcase Gallery: 10″ LPs Click to enlarge

The Decca Showcase series of 10″ LPs started in 1954, as an early compilation designed to sell other albums, and ran to six volumes. They give a good idea of Decca’s self-image as a mid-1950s popular label.

Charity EPs

These were EPs in thin paper sleeves in aid of The National Playing Fields Association, and sponsored by The Lords Taverners (cricket club). The examples are 1956 and 1958.

In the 1950s, popular British entertainers on Decca included Vera Lynn, Jimmy Young, Billy Cotton, Max Bygraves and Winifred Atwell. Mantovani was their biggest overall pop seller.  The Beverley Sisters became major stars, even having a major US success, capped off when Joy Beverley married England football captain Billy Wright in 1958, attended by twins Babs and Teddie as bridesmaids. They were the Posh and Becks of their day, which meant much, much lower key.

The Tops in Pops EPs ran from 1957 to 1959.

Stereo 45s

Decca were pioneers of stereo on 45 rpm EPs in the UK, mindful of their sound quality publicity.

Gallery: click to enlarge

Hits I Missed (EP): Ted Heath & His Music   1958, in early stereo, stereo logo STO 103
Swing Session (EP): Ted Heath 1958 STO 109
Hollywood Love Themes (EP): Stanley Black & Orchestra, 1958, new stereo logo STO 111
Tickle The Ivories(EP): Winifred Atwell, December 1958 STO 105

It’s all the easy listening stuff that ends up lying unwanted in charity shops for years. Stanley Black was a very good orchestrator, witness his work with Tommy Steele’s later musical tunes.

Novelty and comedy

Strictly For Grown Ups: Paddy Roberts, Decca 10″ LP, 1960

EPs and 45s

Six-Five Nothing Special (EP): Morris & Mitch 1958, comedy spoof on the TV series
The Specialist (EP): Wilfred Lawson 1960, spoken voice classic DFE 6662
Kenneth Williams (EP): Kenneth Williams 1961 comedy classic DFE 8548
The Goons (EP)  1959  DFE 6396 All the hits

The GoonsI’m Walking Backwards for Christmas19564
The GoonsBloodknock’s Rock ‘n’ Roll/ Ying Tong Song19563
Tommy SteeleThe Little White Bull19596
Max BygravesFings Ain’t What They Used To Be19605
Tommy SteeleWhat A Mouth19605
The GoonsYing Tong Song19739

EMI’s Parlophone is usually said to be the UK’s comedy / novelty specialist, but Decca had just as much comedy and novelty: The Goons (the offshoots were on other labels), Morris and Mitch, Kenneth Williams.

These have picture sleeves, rare for 45 singes in their era in the UK. They are thin paper:

Decca Jazz

1954 10” jazz LP: Back To The Delta: Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen
(with Alexis Korner, Acker Bilk etc)

Note how early Decca EPs kept changing sleeve design. The earliest were easy as they were overprinted on base sleeves, and they probably ran one base at a time for different titles. With early jazz, it doesn’t make a lot of difference, but people do seek rock ‘n’ roll variant designs. .

“- And Back to New Orleans” (EP): Ken Colyer ‘s Jazzmen 1955  DFE 6268
The third one came in red, brown, yellow or orange too

At The Royal Festival Hall (EP) Chris Barber 1954 recordings DFE 6252
Decca EPs have a pressing date on the rear sleeve, so:
L to R: December 1955 pressing / July 1956 pressing / September 1956 pressing
Then in 1956 they go photographic, but colour still varies.

Trad jazz

Barber’s Best (EP): Chris Barber 1955 DFE 6382 (glossy sleeve)
New Orleans Blues: Chris Barber’s Jazz Band 1959 issue of 1954 tracks DFE 6463
Ken Colyer’s Skiffle Group (EP) 1955 DFE 6286
Walking With The Blues (EP): Ken Colyer’s Jazzmen 1960, new rectangle logo

Decca’s jazz was firmly in the British trad style. Collector guides used to show highly optimistic prices for this sort of EP, but they sat unsold. This is not a popular area currently! The Ken Colyer’s Skiffle Group EP shows how skiffle started.

Some were ‘jazz’ without the ‘trad’:

Ray Ellington Quartet (EP): 1956 DFE 6331
Stephane & Django (EP): Stephane Grappelly & Django Reinhardt 1956 EP, this copy pressed in 1962 DFE6366
Our Kind of Jazz (EP): Ted Heath 1958 DFE 6500 square around logo

Skiffle, Rock ‘n’ Roll

The Lonnie Donegan Skiffle Group (7″ EP) 1956 DFE 6345

Lonnie Donegan’s first skiffle record with Chris Barber was on Decca (he switched to Pye very soon afterwards). The skiffle originated as an interlude on Chris Barber live shows with either Lonnie Donegan alone, or accompanied by Chris Barber (a trombonist) on double bass. Chris Barber was a Decca artist, so it was natural.


Singing The Blues (EP): Tommy Steele 1956 DFE 6389
The Tommy Steele Story No. 2 (EP): Tommy Steele 1957 DFE 6424 (2 EPs from one LP)
Tommy Steele (EP): Tommy Steele 1959 DFE 6551

Lonnie DoneganRock Island Line1956 8
Tommy SteeleSinging The Blues1956 1
Wee Willie HarrisRockin’ at the Two I’s1957
Terry DeneStairway of Love1958 16
The Most BrothersWhole Lotta Woman1958
Billy FuryColette1960 9
Joe BrownDark Town Strutters Ball1960 34
Screaming Lord SutchJack The Ripper1963

Both pop-exploitation film soundtracks:

The Golden Disc (EP): Terry Dene 1958 DFE 6459
Tommy The Toreador (EP): Tommy Steele DFE 6607

Decca boasts a large and collectable set of British rock artists, mainly doing cover versions of American hits: Tommy Steele, Anthony Newley, and Terry Dene. Terry Dene’s A White Sport Coat was the first record in our house, when my sister borrowed a friend’s record player and pile of discs. Tommy Steele’s A Little White Bull was my preference, but then again I was ten.

These early rock and roll efforts have been exhumed and carefully restored on a CD series (British Rock & Roll at Decca). Much of it is toe-curlingly coy, where the word “ain’t” is always sung in inverted commas in a polite accent. Anthony Newley sounds like an actor pretending to be a rock idol in the takes from the film  Idle on Parade. This was before he started singing in the Cockney (or rather Mockney) accent that David Bowie admired so much. The lyrics of his Saturday Night Rock-A-Boogie have the odour of ageing Tin Pan Alley hacks trying to be hip with mentions of skinny Jim ties and drainpipe trousers. Rip It Up it isn’t. The Four Jones Boys attempting Tutti Frutti in the style of the Ted Heath Orchestra have to be heard to be believed.

Something of Decca’s establishment attitude was revealed when they withdrew the death disc Tell Laura I Love Her by Ray Petersen (US #7), on the Decca-distributed RCA label. They had thousands of pressed copies destroyed. EMI’s cover version by Ricky Valence became a UK number one hit.

The Decca recording of The Band of The Grenadier Guards performing God Save The Queen / Rule Britannia was on catalogue from September 1959 till the company closed. The National Anthem appeared as Short Version, Complete Version – Outdoor and Complete Version – Indoor, and this was the disc played by every cinema and theatre in the country at the end of shows.

Decca – pop before The Beatles


Decca were fond of solo male singers.

Tony’s Hits (EP): Anthony Newley 1960 DFE 6629 old Decca logo
More Hits From Tony (EP): Anthony Newley 1960 new rectangle logo DFE 6655

Decca Boy Singers EPs (click to enlarge)

Anthony NewleyWhy?19601
Anthony NewleyDo You Mind19602
Mark WynterImage of A Girl196011
Billy FuryHalfway To Paradise19613
Billy FuryJealousy19612
Eden KaneWell I Ask You19611
Eden KaneForget Me Not19623
Billy FuryLast Night Was Made For Love19624
Doug SheldonYour Ma Said You Cried In Your Sleep196229
Billy FuryWhen Will You say I Love You?19633
Billy FuryIn Summer19635
The Sound of Fury copy
The Sound of Fury: Billy Fury, Decca 1960 10″ LP

In the pop interlude between rock and roll and Merseybeat, they had Eden Kane, The Tornados and most impressively, Billy Fury. Fury produced a classic 10 inch LP , The Sound of Fury, consisting entirely of original material. His management denied him the chance of building on it and sent him back to the day job covering American stuff and Tin Pan Alley offerings. He had the big Presleyesque voice which meant he was given a series of dramatic ballads like Halfway To Paradise, Jealousy, I’d Never Find Another You, Last Night Was Made For love, When Will You say I Love You.

Two of his LPs (above) were on the mid-price Decca Ace of Clubs imprint. You reduce the price by a third, you reduce the takings by a third. This shows their valuation of him. Billy in 1963 was full price at least.

Decca Beat instrumental

Honkin’ instrumentals were a field Decca cornered with Lord Rockingham’s XI, Nero & The Gladiators and Peter Jay & The Jaywalkers. They had major guitar instrumental success with The Tornados (independently produced by Joe Meek), then with Jet Harris & Tony Meehan, both ex-Shadows.

Telstar was named after the Telstar satellite and produced by Joe Meek. It was a UK #1 for five weeks, and in the chart for six months. It then became the first US #1 by a British group.

Telstar: The Tornados, 1962
Telstar (EP): The Tornados 1962 DFE 8511

Jack Good Presents Lord Rockingham’s XI From ‘Oh, Boy!‘ (EP) 1958 DFE 6555
Jet & Tony (EP): Jet Harris & Tony Meehan 1963 DFE 8528
Tornado Rock (EP): The Tornados 1963 DFE 8533


Lord Rockingham’s XIHoots Mon!19581
Lord Rockingham’s XIWee Tom195916
Nero & The GladiatorsEntry of The Gladiators195937
Nero & The GladiatorsIn The Hall of the Mountain King196148
Rhet StollerChariot196126
The TornadosTelstar19621
Peter Jay & The JaywalkersCan Can 62196231
The TornadosGlobetrotter19635
The TornadosRobot196317
Jet Harris / Tony MeehanDiamonds19631
Jet Harris / Tony MeehanScarlet O’Hara19632

The Tornados were put together as the backing group for Joe Meek’s productions, then to back Billy Fury, recruiting Clem Cattini and Alan Caddy from Johnny Kidd and The Pirates, because they were the most highly-rated drummer and guitarist at the time, with Heinz Burt on bass because he was blonde and Joe Meek fancied him.

Cattini went on to drum on more charting tracks than any other British drummer, while Caddy was the arranger behind dozens of late 60s / early 70s budget recordings on the Avenue label. The Tornados were considered the most serious rival to The Shadows.

We Want Billy! Billy Fury & The Tornados, Decca 12″ LP 1963

A rare live LP We Want Billy! was recorded before an invited audience of guaranteed screamers in Decca’s Studio 3 in 1963 with The Tornados backing Billy Fury. Live beat group recordings from that era are rare, so it’s a fascinating document, and the cheesey organ was unusual in a band at that time. That Shadows comparison is from EMI, Cliff Richard & The Shadows Live At The ABC Kingston, recorded in 1962, but not released until 2002. Listening to them side by side shows Fury as the more exciting singer, but The Shadows wipe the floor with The Tornados, and the difference is that Jet Harris was a way better bassist than Heinz Burt, and Marvin a more exciting lead guitarist. The screamers are about the same.

Decca –  beat group era

Decca rejected The Beatles so Brien Epstein said, because A&R chief Dick Rowe decided that guitar groups were finished. This doesn’t ring true for a company which was about to top both the British and American charts with The Tornados Telstar, and in a year, 1962, when The Shadows Wonderful Land (on direct rival Columbia) would break the record for number of consecutive weeks at number one. It’s been suggested that it was simply a polite let-down. Tony Meehan had produced the session, but attracts none of the notoriety that Dick Rowe had to live with. On Anthology 1 on Apple, five of the fifteen they recorded in a single day appear, and Mike Smith, the engineer gets the credit. Decca rejected The Beatles and promptly signed Brian Poole & The Tremeloes.

Big Big Hits of ’62: Brian Poole & The Tremeloes, 12″ LP, Decca Ace of Clubs mid-price label 1963

Their first release was an LP called Big, Big Hits of 62 consisting of rapid medleys of twenty-two cover versions. As both bands auditioned at the same time, and on their ability to perform lots of cover versions, no doubt Brian Poole & The Tremeloes’ ability to swing from Speedy Gonzales send-up to a rocking Let’s Dance, a soft romantic Roses Are Red and a yodelling Swiss Maid, won them the contract. They were also from the London area, requiring lower travel expenses. I figure that’s what Decca were after in the first place … a good band to compete with cover versions with Woolworths Embassy covers label, who were stealing lots of sales. Brian Poole & The Tremeloes never got credited on the front sleeve, but unusually for a covers LP., did get credited on the rear.

At The Cavern: The Big Three. 7″ Decca EP, 1963

The Big Three were Decca’s Liverpool group, and the label did moderately well with the second wave of British beat groups; Bern Elliot & The Fenmen, The Nashville Teens, The Marauders, The Chucks, Them (featuring Van Morrison), Unit 4 Plus 2, as well as Brian Poole and pals. They secured The Animals for their last couple of singles. But the greatest Decca signing was The Rolling Stones who gave them eight British and five American number one singles. George Harrison suggested The Rolling Stones to Dick Rowe, and no doubt still smarting from rejecting The Beatles, he took a Beatle’s advice. Andrew Loog Oldham negotiated an innovative contract, giving The Rolling Stones the right to use independent studios, full production control and ownership of the masters. They also got three times the standard “new act” rate.

Decca Beat Era EPs (click to enlarge)


Brian Poole & The TremeloesTwist & Shout19634
The ChucksLoo-be-loo196322
Brian Poole & The TremeloesDo You love Me? 19631
HeinzJust Like Eddie19633
The MaraudersThat’s What I Want196348
Bern Elliot & His FenmenMoney196314
The Big ThreeBy The Way196322
Brian Poole & The TremeloesCandy Man19646
Brian Poole & The TremeloesSomeone, Someone19642
Dave BerryThe Crying Game19645
The MojosEverything’s Alright19649
The PoetsNow We’re Thru196431
Nashville TeensTobacco Road19646
The Moody BluesGo Now19641
Nashville TeensGoogle Eye196410
Unit 4 + 2Concrete and Clay19651
Dave BerryLittle Things19655
The FortunesYou’ve Got Your Troubles19652
Pinkerton’s Assorted ColoursMirror Mirror19669
Crispian St PetersYou Were On My Mind19662
Dave BerryMama19665

The Nashville Teens were rated as one of the best live bands on the circuit, and their Star Club Hamburg recording with Jerry Lee Lewis is one of the best “American star + British backing guys” efforts ever. Tobacco Road was the big one, but I prefer I Like It like That (the B side) to the Chris Kenner original. Unit 4 Plus 2 are remembered for Concrete & Clay, but were a tight harmony group with their own material.

Decca – female vocals

EPs – click to enlarge


Lynn CornellNever On Sunday196030
Louise CordetI’m Just A Baby196213
Vernons GirlsLover Please196216
Billie DavisTell Him196310
The CaravellesYou Don’t Have To Be A Baby To Cry19636
Kathy KirbySecret Love19634
Kathy KirbyLet Me Go Lover196410
Lulu & The LuvversShout19647
Marianne FaithfulAs Tears Go By19646
Marianne FaithfulCome & Stay With Me19654
LuluLeave A Little Love19658
Marianne FaithfulThis Little Bird19654
Goldie & The GingerbreadsCan’t You Hear My Heart Beat196525
Marianne FaithfulSummer Nights196510

Decca’s female singers included Kathy Kirby, Twinkle, Marianne Faithful, and Billie Davis. It was a sexist old company. Kathy Kirby was introduced to the label by her ‘mentor’ the bandleader Ambrose, who was her manager and boyfriend, a mere forty-six years her senior. Perhaps that’s why she always looked like an elderly man’s dream, or memory of a dream. Marianne Faithful had the Rolling Stones connection. Sixteen year-old Twinkle, with her self-written death disc Terry, was brought to Decca by boyfriend Des McClusky of The Bachelors. Billie Davis was stepping out with Jet Harris, who had a series of Decca hits with Tony Meehan. Lulu was the exception, signed via her female manager at the age of fifteen. She had an unbelievably loud and mature voice which she put to good use on her cover of The Isley Brothers Shout. She could still give it the same power nearly fifty years later.

Decca – blues and R&B
Rolling Stones EPs
The first topped the EP chart for fourteen weeks and remained in the chart for a year. The Rolling Stones are divided between the R&B and rock sections. All arguable. EPs in the R&B section because teen bands could afford them. LPs in rock below.

R& B compilation LP, 1964: John Mayall, Alexis Korner, Dave Berry, Zoot Money, Graham Bond
The Rolling StonesCome On196321
Dave Berry & The CruisersMemphis Tennessee196319
The Rolling StonesNot Fade Away19643
The Rolling StonesIt’s All Over Now19641
The Rolling StonesLittle Red Rooster19641
Otis SpannKeep Your Hands Out My Pocket1964
John MayallCrawling Up A Hill1964
Zoot MoneyThe Uncle Willie1964
Graham Bond OrganizationLong Tall Shorty1964
ThemBaby Please Don’t Go196510
Alan Price SetI Put A Spell On You19669
Savoy BrownWalking By Myself1968

It’s easy to think of Decca as the big boring major compared to the instantly collectable labels like Immediate, Planet and Track. Decca produced a good deal of home-grown British blues and R&B … Alexis Korner, John Mayall, Zoot Money, Graham Bond, Dave Berry, Them, and later on Savoy Brown. The 1964 compilation Rhythm & Blues is an all-British line up of great R&B material. On the downside, a few (Zoot Money, Graham Bond, Alan Price) just did singles and went elsewhere to do albums.


The John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers with Paul Butterfield EP was one of the last Decca EPs in 1967. It was recorded in 1966, and Butterfield was under contract to Elektra who only allowed a British release. The Bluesbreakers line up was Peter Green, John McVie and Aynsley Dunbar making it collectable, but it is a pretty generic blues record.

Them didn’t last long before Van Morrison departed, but produced two heavily reissued LPs.

Them LPs

John Mayall was a Decca stalwart 1965 to 1968, but then he departed for Polydor.

Savoy Brown stayed with Decca right through from 1967 to 1974, recording eleven Decca albums. They stayed on Decca too, while (say) The Keef Hartley Band in a similar area were Deram.

Decca –  mainstream rock
The Best Rolling Stones Album?
Their Satanic Majesties Request

Disc, 22 August 1964
The Rolling StonesI Wanna Be Your Man196312
The Rolling StonesThe Last Time19651
ThemHere Comes The Night19652
The Moody BluesGo Now19651
The Rolling Stones(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction19651
The Rolling StonesGet Off My Cloud19651
The Rolling Stones19th Nervous Breakdown19662
The Rolling StonesPaint It Black19661
The AnimalsDon’t Bring Me Down19666
The Rolling StonesHave You Seen Your Mother, Standing in the Shadow19665
The AnimalsHelp Me Girl196614
The Rolling StonesLet’s Spend The Night Together19671
The Rolling StonesWe Love You / Dandelion19678
Alan Price SetSimon Smith & His Amazing Dancing Bear19674
The Rolling StonesJumping Jack Flash19681
The Rolling StonesHonky Tonk Women19691
Mick JaggerMemo From Turner197032

Decca was international with labels in many countries. EPs from France and Scandinavia from the main rock era are increasingly sought after, though always difficult to price for shops. France in particular avoided singles and put out 4 track EPs. The EPs rarely had titles so are known after the first track listed of the four.

I Put A Spell On You (EP): Alan Price Set, Decca, France 1966

Decca –  mod

The Small Faces LP, 1966
Art Gallery: The Artwoods, LP, 1966
Mods on 45

The ArtwoodsSweet Mary1964
Rockin’ VicarsI Go Ape1964
The Small FacesWatcha Gonna Do About It196514
The Small FacesSha-La-La-La-Lee19663
The Small FacesHey Girl196610
The Small FacesAll or Nothing19661
The ArtwoodsI  Feel Good1966
The Small FacesMy Mind’s Eye19664
Life ‘n’ SoulOde To Billie Joe1966

Likewise, mention of Mod calls to mind either the more exotic labels, or Pye, which signed lots of mod era bands (without much payback). But The Artwoods and The Small Faces were on Decca, as were Life ‘n’ Soul and The Rockin’ Vicars. Decca was so big that you can find a decent sample of tracks in any genre on the label.

The Hits EPs

These came out in 1966 to 1968, and are an oddity it’s that they were using originals to fight the burgeoning EP cover versions market from budget labels. They even echo the cover designs. They are the real thing, but the choice on any particular EP is wildly eclectic for most buyers, I guess. They give an overview of what Decca were pleased with as releases.


Decca did folk on LP, but were inclined to rely on the likes of Karl Denver and The Bachelors for anodyne chart versions. Even so, in 1963, they issued From A London Hootenanny on EP: supervised by Wally Whyton, arranged Karl Denver with Martin Carthy and Davy Graham on guitar. It was heading to be a folk supergroup, but it’s not an avenue Decca explored sufficiently. The Settlers was Liverpool local. Noel Harrison was folk songs on this EP. Probably, Marianne Faithful was as folky as they got.

Decca –  right in the middle of the road 45s

Karl Denver EPs

Bachelors EPS

Karl DenverMarcheta19618
Karl DenverMexicali Rose19618
Karl DenverWimoweh19624
Karl DenverNever Goodbye19629
The BachelorsCharmaine19636
Val DoonicanWalk Tall19643
The BachelorsDiane19641
The BachelorsI Believe19642
Tom JonesIt’s Not Unusual19651
Tom JonesThe Green Green Grass of Home19661
The BachelorsThe Sound of Silence19663
Val DoonicanWhat Would I Be?19662
Tom JonesDetroit City19676
Tom JonesI’ll Never Fall In Love Again19672
Englebert HumperdinkRelease Me19671
Tom JonesI’m Coming Home19672
Englebert HumperdinkThe Last Waltz19671
Tom JonesDelilah19682
Tom JonesHelp Yourself19685
Tom JonesDaughter of Darkness19705
Tom JonesTill19712
Tom JonesThe Young New Mexican Puppeteer19726

Lots of shades of Van Doonican (LPs):

Decca had phenomenal success with middle-of-the-road artists wearing cardigans in the mid 60s, with The Bachelors, Val Doonican, Englebert Humperdink and Tom Jones.

To be fair, Tom Jones was equally capable of being placed in the rock section  (and near the top) instead of MoR, witness the stuff on Tom Jones on Stage which includes Bama Lama Lama Loo, and Lucille. However, his management steered him towards Vegas, big ballads and pantie-throwing ladies. The Atomic Jones sleeve was another red flag for The Rolling Stones, forbidden to show a toilet on Beggars Banguet sleeve when Decca considered an atomic explosion acceptable.

Tom Jones Decca LPs (Click to enlarge)

Englebert Humperdink, dominated the 1967 charts with overblown ballads, Release Me and The Last Waltz, at the height of flower power and the summer of love. Englebert was truly the anti-Beatle. Some of us have never forgiven him.

I found the title Twelve Great Songs … plus Release Me amusing. It agreed with my opinion that his version of Release Me was awful, so possibly the other twelve were not as bad .

Decca became so identified with MoR that they felt the need to launch Deram in late 1966 in order to attract some modern bands to the stable. The Rolling Stones singles were starting to look incongruous in Decca sleeves.

On chart entries, Decca’s ten most popular artists are:

1 Billy Fury 2 Tom Jones 3 The Rolling Stones 4  David Whitfield 5  Tommy Steele
6  The Bachelors 7 Englebert Humperdink 8  Winifred Atwell 9  Dickie Valentine 10 Anthony Newley

The chart is on the basis of 20 points for #1, 19 points for #2 etc which is highly unscientific. A Top 20 hit in December probably outsells a Top Five hot in August. The chart still shows that Decca’s years of dominance were in the 1950s. The most successful Decca chart artist, Billy Fury, never had a number one hit.

The flow of Decca artists to other labels was stronger than the reverse direction. The Animals were a rare exception, moving EMI to Decca. Those with strong managers, like Lulu and later The Rolling Stones did not hang around. Lulu went to Columbia. The Tremeloes went to CBS. Both went to greater success.

Keith Richards took a great dislike to Sir Edward Lewis. He describes Allan Klein’s meeting over renegotiating contracts:

Keith Richards: We were just there as intimidation, basically. And it worked. Sir Edward Lewis, the chairman of Decca was behind the desk, and Sir Edward was actually drooling. I mean, not over us, he was just drooling. And then someone would come over and pat him with a handkerchief. He was on his last legs, let’s face it. We just stood there with shades on. It was really the old guard and the new. They crumbled and we walked out with a deal bigger than The Beatles … And Sir Edward Lewis, he might have been drooling and everything, but he wasn’t stupid. He made a lot of money off of that deal himself. It was an incredibly successful deal for both parties … I’m still getting paid off of it; it’s called the Decca balloon.
From Life by Keith Richards, p179

By 1970, cracks had appeared in the edifice. The Rolling Stones, isolated as the only rock band left on Decca (the rest had been shifted to Deram), left in anger, leaving their contractual obligation single behind: Cocksucker Blues. It was not released.

The Rolling Stones were particularly incensed by the discovery that Decca’s profits went into developing their radar branch.

Keith Richards: We found out that all the bread we were making for Decca was going into making little black boxes that go into American Air Force bombers to bomb fucking North Vietnam … That was it. Goddamn. You find out you’ve helped to kill God knows how many thousands of people without even knowing it.
A famous quote, here from ‘Jagger Unauthorized’ by Christopher Andersen

Sir Edward Lewis’s iron grip on the company left them ill-equipped to compete for US labels or younger bands. It was an ageing label, with ageing artists selling to an ageing public. In 1973, releases were switched to the MCA name.

Lewis resisted change and by 1979 the Navigator and Electronics divisions fell into loss, leaving them unable to prop up the ailing record labels any longer. 

In February 1980, three weeks after Lewis died, the record labels and name were sold to Polygram. In 1983, the name of the surviving sections was changed to London for popular music.

Decca digital recordings

Decca Digital: This is a vinyl LP sampler, released in 1980 … #DIG1

Decca had been at the forefront of digital recording of classical music. proclaiming ‘Digital Recording’ on LPs from 1979, then being used as a major classical brand by Polygram in the CD era. The early classical CDs seemed Decca dominated. I started collecting the Charles Dutoit / Orchestra Symphonique de Montréal recordings.

Piles of Decca classical CDs
Note that ‘DIGITAL RECORDING” flash top right on every CD.

In 1996 UMG (Universal Music Group) acquired Poygram.

In 1999, UMG combined Decca with Philips to form the Decca Music Group within UMG. At first Decca was classical, then new artists were given Decca labels. There are two Universal Music label groups now using the Decca name. The Decca Label Group is the US label whereas the London-based Decca Music Group runs the international classical and pop release.

Eventually Decca was the parent ‘name’ for Blue Note, Verve, Philips, Deutsche Grammophon.

Psycho / My Baby Left Me: Imelda May, Decca 45 single 2010

Imelda May CD sampler 2010

Decca has been revived as a prestige label in recent years with artists seeing it as a mark of quality: The Lumineers, Imelda May, Robert Plant, Rod Stewart, Rufus Wainwright, Russell Watson, Brian Wilson.

Sea Drift: 2019 replica reissue, one of three discs

In 2019, Decca issued a 90th Anniversary set of their first ever record, Roy Henderson’s Sea Drift.

From Amazon:

Recorded by baritone Roy Henderson, this 24-minute piece is Frederick Delius’ setting of Walt Whitman’s poetry to music, creating a shifting, gentle piece, that has always remained a firm favourite of fans of the composer. This recording is presented twice: a ‘needle drop’ flat transfer of the original 1929 recording on the A sides of the 3 discs, and then a cleaned up as much as possible version on the B sides. Both sides will be available digitally on a download card. ‘Sea Drift’ is housed in a beautiful, gold and black embossed 10-inch circular tin, which replicates the majesty of that early label – a bust of Beethoven presiding over the bold claim ‘The Supreme Record’.

It’s a fascinating exercise – with 33 rpm vinyl you can easily get both sides (and much more) of a 78 rpm shellac disc. You can hear what the original sounded like and how much clean-up is possible. I do think given the fascination with what can be done to the record, a download card may be superfluous.