Labels overview … 70s

See Labels Overview … The Early 60s

It’s hard to choose a point to repeat the exercise for the late 60s / early 70s. Too early and RCA  and Warner are still distributed by British groups. Too late and you miss some exciting but short-lived labels like Planet, Reaction and Immediate. Independents switched distributor every year or two. This is “circa 1969 to 1971” and ‘loose association’ rather than 100% ownership and is incomplete.

Follow colours across columns … MGM creeps onto a second page for Polygram.

Around 1970, there was both a proliferation of new labels, but also consolidation of older ones in terms of design.

Baby We Can’t Go Wrong: Cilla Black, EMI 1974

One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them.
One ring to bring them all, and in the darkness bind them.

J. R. R. Tolkien, Lord of The Rings

Within EMI, the HMV label had been closed for rock in 1967, but persisted for classical. Columbia, Parlophone and any surviving HMV artistes were combined as “EMI.” When the progressive Harvest label was introduced, EMI were back to three domestic labels operating as separate divisions. Stateside and Stateside-Dunhill’s days were numbered, as EMI followed Pye and started putting everything from manufacturing and distribution deals out under their own labels, so EMI distributed Sovereign, Rhino (reggae), RAK, T-Rex, MAM, Tamla-Motown, Rare Earth, MoWest,  Stax, Dot, Bell, Probe (ABC), Hot Wax, Invictus, Asylum, Neighborhood, Fantasy, Power Exchange, Ammo.

RAK, being Mickie Most’s own label, was closer into the EMI family than most distributed labels. In late 1972, they decided to kill off Columbia and move the artists to a new EMI imprint. Parlophone artists joined them in 1973. Parlophone was too iconic a name to lose, and was later revived. In 1974, EMI International and EMI Ireland were added.

Decca was going for more uniformity at the time, with one design in different colours uniting Decca, Deram, London, MCA and Emerald. Decca was also running out of puff.

Memo From Turner: Mick Jagger, Decca 1970

The two biggest US groups, CBS and RCA were surprisingly tardy in setting up UK operations. After all, RCA had invented the 45 and CBS the LP. CBS had put its material out under the Philips label until 1962, then spent another two years as Philips distributed before starting on its own in 1964.

Mother & Child Reunion: Paul Simon, CBS 1972

CBS gallery … click to enlarge

CBS had added the Direction label, initially as progressive and soul, but very soon it became a soul label. CBS also soon put Epic onto its own imprint, moving Direction artistes to Epic. Epic was to be the more successful in chart terms  with Abba and Michael Jackson, while CBS ploughed on as the Dylan / Simon / Cohen / Springsteen critically-acclaimed label. CBS distributed Blue Horizon, and several smaller labels, but for its own output was happy with three, then just two brand names.

St Peter: Mogul Thrash, RCA 1970

RCA had been content with its Decca distribution deal for twenty years, then by 1970,RCA was fully independent, and in the not too distant future, they were to tie up with BMG, bringing Bell, Arista, Ariola and Hansa into the conglomerate. RCA’s Neon was the least successful major label prog arm. Grunt was Jefferson Airplane’s label.

Island gallery … click to enlarge

Island was going from strength to strength, and Trojan and B&C were “associated” but not part of Island. Island also distributed three major new manager labels: Chrysalis, Charisma and Bronze, and were the one to watch.

Virgin, modelling itself on Island, was still a mail order company at the turn of the decade, and not averse to selling bootlegs either. In 1973, it became a label, soon becoming another grouping with sub-labels.

WEA, or Warner-Elektra-Atlantic were the new major, operating initially as Kinney, and gradually pulling its core labels back from other distribution deals, though in the early 70s the Asylum label continued locked into a distribution deal with EMI.

WEA gallery … clixk to enlaege

Polygram / Phonogram were well on their way to their eventual status as one of the three survivors. Vertigo was the prog label, and Mercury was now wholly part of the conglomerate. Large numbers of distribution deals included Track Record, MGM, Janus / Westbound and Chess. They also pressed discs for everyone.

. There were already over a hundred labels operating.