Marble Arch

Marble Arch was Pye’s budget reissue LP label. Golden Guinea was mid-price (21 shillings) while Marble Arch came in later at 12/6d.

Marble Arch was right by Pye’s headquarters in ATV House, and the studios were known as Marble arch. By the late 60s, they were being used by all sorts of budget cover labels, like Avenue, as well as Pye. However, Marble Arch Records was a reissue label in the main. It had a vast number of releases, and this focusses on the rock and collectable rather than the charity shop bins full of musicals and classical.

1964 to 1965 saw a flurry of Marble Arch classical releases with a template front cover design. They were mainly Pye classical albums (classical was not Pye’s forte) from the late 1950s. They don’t generally have classical collector interest value.

Gallery (click to enlarge)

Often they would only issue Mono versions of previous albums with a shorter print run. Often they’d do a new compilation, as was the case with The Kinks, The Searchers and with Donovan.

The Searchers first LP from 1963 Meet The Searchers took the mid-price route, reissued on Golden Guinea in 1967, intact. Their second album Sugar and Spice eventually went to Marble Arch instead.

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They’re not identical. See Side One:

They simply clipped off track 6 on side one and track six on side two.

Then in 1967, Marble arch did two Searchers Smash Hits compilations, followed by It’s The Searchers in 1968. The Searchers had already gone well past their peak, and 1967 and 1968 issues were squeezing the remaining drops from the catalogue.

Gallery (click to enlarge)

Ray Davies was pissed off about the Marble Arch compilations. They are barely mentioned if at all in the various Music Guides to The Kinks. These are reasonably collectable. Well Respected Kinks was a ‘Greatest Hits’ in all but name. It compiled A and B sides and the Kwet Links EP, which had included A Well Respected Man which Pye had refused to issue as a single (it was a hit elsewhere). In Marble arch style, it only had ten tracks. It was a #5 UK hit album, and stayed in the charts for thirty-five weeks from September 1966. It outsold the Kinks current studio album Face To Face which reached #12 and only stayed on the charts for eleven weeks.

For many fans, Marble Arch albums like Well Respected Kinks were pocket money treasures from Woolworths, though not for the band, who found themselves competing against their own old records … “It’s amazing how Pye kept doing that every time we brought a new album out,’ reflected Ray Davies.
Neil Spencer, The Kinks. Uncut Ultimate Music Guide Series

Well Respected Kinks: The Kinks, Pye LP 1965
Well Respected KinksSource Material
A Well Respected ManKwyet Kinks EP
Where Have All The Good Times Gone?B-side of Till The End of The Day
LP Kink Kontroversy
Till The End of The DayUK #8 single 1965
LP Kink Kontorversy
Set Me FreeUK #9 single 1965
Tired of Waiting For YouUK #1 single 1965
Kinda Kinks LP
All Day & All of The NightUK #2 single 1964
Kinksize Hits EP
I Gotta MoveB-side of All Day & All of TherNight
Don’t You FretKwyet Kinks EP
Wait Till The Summer Comes AlongKwyet Kinks EP
You Really Got MeUK #1 single 1964
Kinks LP

In December 1969, Sunny Afternoon was another major Top Ten album, reaching UK #9 and sitting in the chart for eleven weeks. What was especially galling was that this was at the time that Village Green Preservation Society failed to chart.

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Sunny Afternoon: 1967
Kinda Kinks: 1969

Donovan’s Universal Soldier was a 1967 compilation that must have irritated the singer. A 12/6d LP royalty would have been a third of a 32/6d album royalty. In the case of Universal Soldier it was a chart hit, reaching #5 in the autumn of 1967 and staying on the chart for eighteen weeks.

Universal Soldier: Donovan LP 1967

This is how it was compiled. Ten tracks, not the normal twelve. It included three hits, B sides and all of the successful Universal Soldier EP, a major EP hit. It was a very good compilation, and because of the low price many of my friends bought it. The sequence seems a natural Donovam sequence now.

Universal SoldierSource material
Universal Soldier
(Buffy Ste. Marie)
Universal Soldier EP
To Sing For You
(Donovan Leitch)
What’s Been Did and What’s Been Hid LP 1965
Why Do You treat Me Like You Do
(Donovan Leitch)
B-side of Catch The Wind single
(Donovan Leitch)
UK single #30 November 1965
(Donovan Leitch)
UK single #4 March 1965
Fairy Tale LP 1965
Catch The Wind
(Donovan Leitch)
UK single #4 June 1965
What’s Been Did and What’s Been Hid LP 1965
Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness)
(Donovan Leitch)
B-side of Turquoise single
The Ballad of A Crystal Man
(Donovan Leitch)
Fairy Tale LP 1965
Universal Soldier EP
Do You Hear Me Now?
(Bert Jansch)
Universal Soldier EP
The War Drags On
(Mick Softley)
Universal Soldier EP

Pye then released the first two Pye albums, What’s Been Did and What’s Been Hid and Fairytale on Marble Arch in 1969 … having cut a couple of tracks.

The Ivy League’s Marble Arch releases are collected, but then so are The Ivy League in general.

With Sandie Shaw, they did the usual recycle the hits record first:

Then there’s The Sandie ShawSupplement from 1968.It was issued by Pye with a gatefold sleeve.

Pye version 1968

Marble Arch version 1969

Inexplicable. Why would they use the rear sleeve picture from Pye as the front sleeve on Marble Arch? As an addendum to this, I’ve seen the two versions in the same shop, and the Marble Arch was £12 and the Pye was £10.

Pye (mainly via the Piccadilly label) were strong on homegrown soul, with Jimmy James and The Vagabonds and Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band. In Jimmy James case, 1966’s New Religion went almost straight to Marble Arch. Left Piccadilly full price (7 tracks a side), right Marble Arch budget (6 tracks a side).

Geno Washington & The Ram Jam Band had a 1968 compilation which basically assembled the A and B sides of his singles without the live music stuff on the official Piccadilly label releases. It’s a good album, to have.

Most Pye artists eventually found their way on to Marble Arch, sometimes via Golden Guinea on the way. It had a particularly strong blues / R&B catalogue, mainly because they couldn’t sell it at full price.

Many of the Chess classic albums, released on Pye International in the UK, ended up on Marble Arch, and often the Marble Arch version had one track less per side, so that unlike later budget LPs, they did not suffer from cramming too much on one side.

Surfin’ With Bo Diddley: Bo Diddley, LP 1967

It wasn’t Marble Arch’s fault that Checker in the USA decided they might sell a few (allegedly) Bo Diddley LPs by relating them to the surf music area in 1963. Marble Arch then released the weakest Bo Diddley album up to that point four years later when punters would have said, ‘Surfing? Long gone.’ According to Discogs, Bo Diddley appears on only four tracks, two of which were over-dubbed. The main recordings are Billy Lee Riley & The Megatons. Of course Marble Arch clipped two tracks, even though the original was very short with several tracks shorter than two minutes.

Then Little Walter from 1968 is a record with history. The original The Best of Little Walter was a Chess release in 1957. Pye International reissued it in 1964 with the same title and tracks, then the Marble Arch version is 1968.

They weren’t immune from dubious licensing of deep back catalogue from artists from other labels too.

Stereo came to Marble Arch in 1967.

An atypical 1969 release was Mr and Mrs Music by Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch. Tony Hatch was Pye’s top producer for years, as well as a major pop composer. The album did not use the house style cover design. It was stereo and it wasn’t a ragbag collection of old material, but rather an album of well-known songs, though as they’d written several of them, it’s hard to define them as covers… I wonder if some were demos of their songs. Some are Jackie Trent. Some are duets. Some the Tony Hatch Sound. Some the Tony Hatch Orchestra, some the Tony Hatch Singers, so it is a compilation. In its style, it’s a classic of its genre.

From 1968, Marbe Arch did a series of boxed double albums.

In 1967 they went for compilation series. This was good – they were all originals by Pye artists.

Then they went to the dark side. The next albums in the Chartbusters series were anonymous cover versions. The first credits Avenue Records, who used Pye Marble Arch studios to record their anonymous cover version four and six track EPs. This may be the same material combined on LP, because Avenue was very much a 7 inch label, which suited its non-specialist outlets.

They followed by starting the Pye Chartbusters budget label with its own logo:

Hallmark Marble Arch

This was a joint venture between Pye Records and Pickwick Records, who specialized in ultra budget recording and distribution. Hallmark quality (or lack of it) is notorious.