Foreign sleeves

Hey Baby Je Danse: Richard Anthony French Columbia, 1962

Foreign (i.e. non-UK) copies of singles are common. American singles were imported for enthusiasts and still are.  They were more common in ports, and The Beatles (Liverpool and Hamburg) and Van Morrison (Belfast) cite the influence of American imports on their music. 

Sometimes they re-used base designs. Parlophone and Odeon were related labels. Early on there were UK Parlophone-Odeon discs, then some countries used the Parlophone name, some Odeon. ForEMI, the design remained the same:

There were far more American labels and the designs lasted for shorter periods, so a thicker book would be needed to delve into the designs. The bigger holes are a nuisance, and pressings are not as good as the Decca group British versions in the early years. This covers the many labels distributed by London as well as RCA and Brunswick (i.e. American Decca). Phi;lips / Fontana used different designs forthe USA, as did Decca / London / Parrot.

International sleeves… click to enlarge

What is surprising is the lack of commonality of design. The logo remains the same(ish) but the international labels gave free play to local designers, so American RCA and British RCA worked independently. As did British-owned US Capitol and British Capitol. Canadian, Irish, Hong Kong, Malayan and South African singles all have different centre labels and sleeves (see also Group Sleeves). South African Buddah is a more elaborate design than either British or American. Australian RCA stuck to the parent colour scheme, but produced a radically different design.

There were constraints … RCA in the USA and HMV in the UK were unrelated companies by the 1950s, but both used the same Nipper logo dating back to a 1920s association. US Decca and British Decca were separate companies by 1946, but had the same name for use in different territories. US Decca became Brunswick in Europe, UK Decca became Parrot in America. Even when American labels secured their own British label from one of the big four distributors, they had the centres and sleeves redesigned in the UK. It’s a positive thing and runs counter to the corporate mentality of the big labels.

Southampton record fair often has large numbers of American singles, and also, South African and Southern Rhodesian singles. I imagined the latter two were from South Africans and Zimbabweans who had moved their worldly goods to England, but not so. Cruise ship stewards and other crew members brought in American and South African singles in quantity in the late 50s and 60s, avoiding purchase tax and providing a nice little earner on the side. South African records turn up all along the South Coast.  After about 1962 they don’t often have optional centres either.

Wild Colonial Boy: Billy Walker, CBS South Africa ‘Seven Single’

South African sleeves… click to enlarge

Irish and Canadian singles are also common. If you’re a reggae fan, a majority of singles are Jamaican imports. South African singles have “7 Single” or “45 Single Play” on the labels. Australian singles will have Pty. somewhere … the equivalent of Ltd (UK) or Inc (USA).

Foreign picture sleeves command decent prices IF they’re the predictable collectable artists, especially The Beatles, Prince, Michael Jackson, Madonna. Stock foreign sleeves will be valued at less than any British (or American) equivalent.

I Feel Good: The Artwoods, Decca Turkey 1967

Dealers have no way of assessing their value, as they can with both Britain and America. Take I Feel Good by The Artwoods on Turkish-pressed Decca. No one has the expertise to know whether it’s a 1967 original, or a reissue, or even whether it’s officially licensed. A British original copy would be £90 mint. Let’s say this is about ‘Good’ (though it plays at least ‘Very good.’) That would make it worth £25 to £30. Anyone asking more than a couple of quid for this would be optimistic. 

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