Demo sleeves

Demo sleeves

HMV had two special demo sleeves. The British one is readily available as a replica.

The “Sure Shot From The States” sleeve is rarer. 

To Be Loved: Malcolm Vaughan, HMV demo, 1957

The worn (i.e. real) copies of EMI demo sleeves I’ve found have been on early singles, from 1958 to 1959. The replicas turn up on all sorts of demos, going into the mid 60s. But authenticated demos from the mid 60s are in either plain white, or the appropriate stock company sleeves. The Malcolm Vaughan HMV demo of To Be Loved illustrated dates from March 1958. Malcolm Vaughan was a popular Welsh tenor, known for covers of Oh, My Papa, My Special Angel and Chapel of The Roses. This big middle-of-the-road ballad was a #14 British hit. It was a cover of the Jackie Wilson American 1957 hit, which was written by Berry Gordy Jnr, before he founded Tamla Motown. In Britain, the Jackie Wilson original trailed behind at #23. The song was so dear to Berry Gordy’s heart that he titled his autobiography after it.        

Guitar Boogie Shuffle: The Virtues, HMV
Guitar in Orbit: The Virtues, HMV, B-side, sleeve reverse

Guitar Boogie Shuffle was a UK #10 hit for Bert Weedon in May 1959. The tune may date as far back as 1929. Arthur Smith recorded his version in 1945, and gets the composer credit. The Virtues had the American hit (US #5) in 1958. Bert “Play In A Day” Weedon was popular enough to take the UK hit.

The blue Rush Copy sleeve is a replica of an EMI demo sleeve which could be used on Columbia or Parlophone singles. Here’s the most sought after example:

Love Me Do: The Beatles, released 5 October 1962
P.S. I Love You: The Beatles, B-side of Love Me Do

250 copies were pressed of the demo which suggests a number for EMI demos of the time. The demo misspells Paul’s name as McArtney. There is never-ending controversy about which version was which, but sources suggest Ringo drummed on a 4 September session, and Andy White on an 11 September session. The enhanced value is said to be that Ringo’s version was on the demo, and Andy White’s version on the sell-through single. In 2013, a copy sold for $10,000. In 2019, a charity shop in Midhurst UK found another copy had been handed in, and the press announced it was worth £20,000.

The image they placed online is without the sleeve. To me, the sleeve adds value. Though you could always get a replica:

Kiss Me: Marty Wilde, Columbia 1964

I suspect this one is wrongly-applied to Kiss Me by Marty Wilde which was released in 1964. I think the sleeve was only in use earlier. The replica blue is paler than Love Me Do‘s sleeve, but I have seen genuine sleeves this colour on expensive demos in shops and I haven’t seen them in such a rich a blue as the illustrated copy, but then they fade fast as do the HMV sleeves.

Decca group

You’re So Square (Baby I Don’t Care): Buddy Holly, Coral demo (Decca group)
Dream Baby: Roy Orbison, London American demo (Decca group)

The Method:Irving Davies & The Method Men, Decca 1962

Most demos came either in plain white or the current company sleeve. Decca group demos from the early 60s (Decca, London American, RCA, Brunswick, Coral) turn up often enough in plain brown paper sleeves as used on Coral releases to make it likely that they were deliberately applied to all Decca demos at one time.

Capitol rush copies

Capitol had an  informative individualized rush copy sleeve after they switched to EMI which was used between 1956 and at least 1959. Their slogan was Another Worthwhile Spin. They’re worth doing full size rather than presenting in a gallery here.

In Old Lisbon: Nelson Riddle Orchestra, Capitol rush copy 1956

On the Nelson Riddle disc In Old Lisbon, they say If you need an unusual instrumental for your programme you simply cannot afford to miss this. The back has a section entitled “Record notes” for DJs to write in their spiel. Note “Programme” these are EMI UK copies, though EMI never picked up on the idea of individually printed rush copy sleeves.

The Tijuana Jail: The Kingston Trio, Capitol rush copy 1959

For The Kingston Trio in 1959 they tell the basic story of the ballad, and note that Oh, Cindy, the B-side appears in the film Rio Bravo.

Choo Choo Cha Cha: The Rinky Dinks, March 1959 Capitol rush copy

Choo Choo Cha Cha is by The Rinky Dinks, which annoys me because I was in a teenage youth club band called The Rinky Dinks. If you look at the two 1959 rush copies you can see that like the EPs of the 1950s, they had a base colour sleeve with B&W overprinting. The Kingston Trio merited a photo, but the space is standard.


Life Is Getting Better: The Hendrys Pye 1972 promo sleeve

Pye had a quiet “Hitmakers” promo sleeve, which only appears on demos. It was unusual in being a side opening sleeve rather than top opening (if you assume the wording is straight and horizontal).

Ballad of The Superstar: Peter Franc 1973 Pye Dawn promo

The (Pye) Dawn demo illustrated is in a matching yellow Electratone sleeve. Whether Electratone was the studio, the pressing plant, the plugging company or the printer is obscure.


A&M had a base sleeve design for A&M, Ode, Shelter and Sussex. They could then stick a label specific paragraph of notes on the rear.

A&M standard promo sleeve, with promo phone number
Anello (Where Are You): Shawn Phillips, A&M 1973 demo

Note that the typed information was hand stuck on (and isn’t straight). Also the amended release date is written in over the crossed out one.


RCA used common “RCA” promotional sleeves on all the labels they distributed. Most 70s ones were yellow with CHART BOUND emblazoned on them. For John Denver in 1975, they tried giving more detail, stating that both sides were hits, so A-sides in the USA (but they had clearly marked Calypso as A on the centre label inside). They state that a double A-side hadn’t happened since Elvis and The Beatles. The strategy failed. Neither side charted in the UK.  

RCA also used a base promo sleeve with overprinted information:

Calypso: John Denver, RCA promo 1975

John Denver’s Calypso promotes a B-side. See the text. The A-side, I’m Sorry, was a US #1. The idea of this promo was to sell the B-side as a further hit.

I Ain’t No Mountain: Surprise Sisters, Good Earth 1976, RCA distributed

This is still the base sleeve, with a Good Earth logo (they distributed Good Earth). There is no release-specific information, so these probably went on any Good Earth release.

By 1980, RCA was less colourful, but still retained a promo sleeve:

Paint By Numbers: Al Stewart, RCA demo 1980


DJM were the next label to take trouble over demos, with special sleeves which were informative. It’s surprising that other  labels  never followed.

Every Beat of My Heart: Gladys Knight & The Pips 1976 informative DJM demo sleeve
In The Morning: Oscar 1977, demo sleeves switched to yellow

Make My Day: Chas O’Brien, DJM, 1978
Easy As Pie: Purify Bros. featuring Ben Moore 1978. Demo versions are common

Black sleeves

A Whole Pot of Jelly: Pete Wingfield 1975 DJ Copy Only, black promo company sleeve

They tried white. They tried yellow. From the mid 70s, many promo records turn up in plain black sleeves, often with the promotion company sticker affixed. I suspect the promotion companies added these black sleeves themselves.

Written on The Subway Wall: Dion DiMucci, Arista 1989, promo sleeve with plugger sticker

EMI Finest Cuta

Finest Cuts: EMI demo box, October 1974 with six current singles

In 1974, EMI issued Finest Cuts boxes with six recent releases.

Schoolgirls: The Cruisers 1974, one of the EMI Finest Cuts demos (no demo wording

They had Finest Cuts printed on a white sleeve, but no demo wording on the actual record.

Love Walked In: David McWilliams EMI, 1977 sleeve mocked up as demo “letter” 

The David McWilliams 1977 EMI demo comes in a sleeve with a purported promo letter printed on it. It’s hard to guess whether this is the general design, or a special for the demo. It is a labelled demo disc inside it (DEMO RECORD NOT FOR RESALE). It mentions “using a shot for the DJ bag” for the single, which reinforces the idea that until the late 70s, picture sleeves were produced in very limited runs for some singles … “DJ bags”. But I’m suspicious. I Googled and found all seven for sale were “promos”. I think this is just an eye-catching design for the main release … a fake demo.

In the late 70s, EMI produced some promo EPs. There was a Tamla Motown set of medleys, and a Beach Boys with extracts from songs and interview clips. Later US Radio Shows (on LPs, then CDs) often produced interview clips. Some were arranged as a series of answers so the DJ in Butthole, Kansas could appear to be conducting the interview there and then with, say Bruce Springsteen, by reading the questions.

Private Stock

Extracts from the Four Seasons Story. Private Stock demo EP 33 rpm

Private Stock produced a demo EP for “The Four Seasons Story” double album, which had six complete songs on and played at 33 rpm.

Epic (CBS)

Epic did an economic demo in 1977, squeezing three new bands onto one promo record under the slogan “Heat On The Streets”.  Trouble is, many DJs thought Boxer, Crawler, Moon, rather than three separate groups, were all song titles, or the names if a three piece band like Emerson., Lake & Palmer.


Blame It All on Eve: Chris Neal, Fly, 1971. Not a sleeve, but folded paper with reviews inside

insert 1971Fly demo

In 1971, Fly Records did a folded paper, 7” by 14” on demos with the slogan ‘Fly Never Gives Up’. On the inside it gave information about the artist and press reviews. The disc itself has no demo A or marking, it’s a standard copy.


Pinnacle launched itself as a distributor, and in 1978 had an outer 7.5” sleeve over the actual record sleeve, which had a silver Have A Laugh on Pinnacle flexidisc on top of the record to be promoted.


Reggae: Various Artists 6 track promo EP, Island 1979, inside left side of gatefold sleeve 

Island followed the EP route with six track demo EPs,While these are marked,  Promo – not for resale, they are promoting six LPs with leading tracks, and the gatefold EP sleeve illustrated all six albums.

Most demos come in standard company sleeves, which is less exciting. A selection: