PRT / Precision

PRT’s biggest hit: The Birdie Song: The Tweets, 1981

Lola: The Kinks. PRT re-issue, circa 1981
Lola: later pressing with Precision label
Both reissues retain the original 1970 Pye catalogue number: 7N 17961

Let’s not be rock snobs … oh, bugger, alright, let’s be rock snobs … there’s a major quality difference between Waterloo Sunset on Pye, Lola on Pye and then reissued on PRT, and The Birdie Song on PRT. But both are the same label.

PRT stands for Precision Records and Tapes. The “and tapes” bit was obligatory on 1980 startups. Just two years before CD appeared, the betting was on the humble cassette to dominate the future.

ATV had bought a 50% stake in Pye records in 1959, and bought out the remainder in 1966. They retained the right to use the Pye name from the original Pye radio and TV manufacturer, which was subsequently sold to Philips, who were part of rival record conglomerate Polygram.  

The right to use the name expired in 1980, whereupon the name was changed from Pye to PRT. The story is that Philips wanted a mere £2000 to continue to license the name Pye to ATV, but Lew Grade threw a wobbly and refused to pay.

This must have been planned in advance as some (but not all) 1979 to 1980 Pye and Pye International singles carry a smaller PRT logo. Getting the logo imposed was some priority. On some 1980 Casablanca singles there’s a silver square PRT badge which barely conceals the printed Pye beneath.

It’s surprising that PRT didn’t sail out under the Piccadilly or Dawn banners altogether when they foolishly abandoned the rights to the Pye name. Either would have been better than a new name that was so easily confused with PMT.  

PRT was the distributor for several labels, as well as establishing the PRT name in its own right. They continued with Pye’s Calibre as a separate label, and also pressed and distributed BBC Records, Jive, Casablanca, Sugar Hill and Buddah. Other distributed labels included Monarch, Fanfare, Lamborghini, Nightmare, Other End. Some were tiny labels and PRT’s only input was pressing and distribution.

They had several distinctive centre labels, but apparently no company sleeves.  

PRT designs gallery … click to enlarge

Talk Too Much: 50/50, PRT 1983, plain black sleeve
You To Me Are Everything 76-86 Remix: The Real Thing, 1986 later PRT centre design, picture sleeve
I Won’t Dance: Robin Sarstedt, October 1980. A reissue?
Downtown ’88: Petula Clark 1988 main third PRT

Mini Monster Series: The Foundations, 4 tracks

PRT was the basic label with the red and green centre on most of the run-of-the-mill releases. Kinks re-releases tended to more interesting designs, picture discs etc. Black sleeves are the norm and work well.

There was a desperate desire to recover a bit of old and tarnished gold from the likes of Acker Bilk, Chris Barber, The Searchers, Colin Blunstone, Lena Martell, Max Bygraves, George Melly. All doomed to fail. The brightest spot was The Real Thing who recycled their glories of ten years earlier.  Petula Clark did the same with the glories of twenty years earlier (Downtown ’88).

The Birdie Song by The Tweets was PRT’s first big hit, which was hardly an auspicious start.

The overall impression is that no one was interested in investing much effort in new material, but they had a great pile of important Pye copyrights to re-issue and wanted to squeeze the very last bit of toothpaste out of the tube.

The Main Theme From Thunderbirds: Barry Gray Orchestra, 1981 reissue of 1966 disc

Mexico / Let The Heartaches Begin: Long John Baldry, reissue of Pye 1968 hits in 1986

That early 80s period saw several Golden Oldies labels, and an interest in ‘Two Hits on One’ releases and PRT joined the gold(en) rush.

PRT Extended Play

Puppet On A String: Sandie Shaw, EP, PRT 1981
PRT on rear sleeve, Pye on centre label
Bubble Gum Goodies: Various Artists, PRT EP 1980-81

The Bubble Gum Biggies EP is bizarre. If the main market for Simon Says and Yummy Yummy Yummy was children’s parties, what possessed them to design this cover? It must have been issued right at the switchover,  because it says PRT on the sleeve, and Pye on the label. Later Flashbacks releases economized to B&W picture sleeves with one colour, yellow. They were drawn from various Pye / PRT distributed labels, so that Lou Christie and Kassenetz-Katz shared a single with ex-Buddah releases, and Buffy Ste. Marie’s releases were originally on Vanguard.

The Flashbacks Golden Oldies label revived the Pye imprint on the covers. Some said Pye on the labels, most said PRT. Presumably Pye is pre-1980, PRT post-1980. There were two series Double-Hits (2 tracks) and EPs (4 tracks).   

It was most important for them to list both the year and the chart placing. When they got to one hit wonders, they shoved two artists on one disc.

You Really Got Me / All Day & All of The Night : The Kinks PRT Flashbacks Double Hits series reissue.
Some exist with Pye on the inner label

Flashbacks gallery- click to enlarge

Clarence Frogman Henry: But I Do No 3 1961 / You Always Hurt The One You Love No 6 1961
Lou Christie: I’m Gonna Make You Mine No 2 1969 / Kassenatz-Katz: Quick Joey Small No 19, 1968
Buffy Ste. Marie: Soldier Blue No 7, 1971 / I’m Gona Be A Country Girl Again No 34 1972

Clarence Frogman Henry had been on Pye International, Lou Christie and Kassenatz-Katz had both been on Buddah, and Buffy Ste. Marie had been on Vanguard. So what? PRT had the rights.

PRT Rebound introduced a company sleeve at last, in black card too, not paper. But this was right before the label was sold.

Kung Fu Fighting Remixed 1989 Version: Carl Douglas , PRT Rebound 1989

Albums

As to PRT itself, they largely stuck to oldies. LPs were from distributed labels rather than PRT. Around the switch some LPs migrated briefly from Pye to PRT, e.g. The Rockin’ compilation by Ronnie Hawkins was Pye International, but later re-pressed with PRT labels.

Rockin’ : Ronnie Hawkins, Pye International 1978, PRT later pressing

The SPOTLIGHT series of double albums at a budget price started in 1979 as Pye, but mostly originated as PRT between 1980 and 1983. Recycling (regurgitating?) back catalogue. Looking at the compilations, they were licensing some songs in. At least they used two LPs, six tracks a side in reasonable quality. K-Tel would have forced the lot onto one.

Precision was used on several reissues (The Kinks, The Marcels, Big Dee Irwin) as well as on new releases. The Precision 12” Shattered Glass, by Ellie Warren came out in 1983, and they are usually in Pye 12” sleeves:

Shattered Glass: Ellie Warren, Precision 12″ 45 rpm single 1983

The CD era was soon under way, and PRT appears on CD reissues of classic Pye albums. They were a tad slow at getting stuff onto CD – most Pye classics I have on CD waited until the label became Castle Communications.

Meet The Searchers: The Searchers, 1987 PRT CD issue of 1963 classic album

PRT singles

Lena MartellWhy Me1980
Ellie WarrenFalling in Love With Yourself1980
Magna CartaHighway to Spain1980
TweetsThe Birdie Song (Birdie Dance)19812
TweetsLet’s All Sing like The Birdies Sing198144
Techno TwinsFalling In Love Again198270
Colin BlunstoneTracks of My Tears198260
Mick JacksonThis Is The Real Thing1982
George MellyMaking Whoopee1983
The KlaxonsThe Clap Clap Sound198345
The KinksYou Really Got Me (reissue)198347
Neil InnesHumanoid Boogie1984
JetsRockin’ Around The Christmas Tree198362
VikkiLove Is …198549
The Real ThingYou To Me Are Everything (Decade remix)19865
The Real ThingCan’t Get By Without You (2nd Decade Remix)19866
The Real ThingCan You Feel The Force (86 Remix)198624
Petula ClarkDowntown 88 (remix)198810
Scott FitzgeraldGo198852
PRT singles

The Piccadilly name, abandoned when Pye had started Dawn, was relaunched as a PRT label in 1980 (with a far more interesting design). Rather like the original Piccadilly label and Pye, the line between the 1980s Piccadilly and PRT was extremely fuzzy. Acker Bilk and Max Bygraves both appeared on PRT and Piccadilly, separately and for the dreadful I Like Beer, together. Don MacLean is spelled differently to Don “American Pie” McLean. All the releases are 1980.

Give A Little More: Georgie Fame: PRT- Piccadilly 1980

PRT Piccadilly singles

Georgie FameGive A Little More1980
Max Bygraves & Acker BilkI Like Beer1980
Don MacLeanCalifornia Gold1980
PRT-Piccadilly singles

Castle Communications label

PRT was sold in its entirety to Castle Communications in 1989 after nine years of entropy. Castle Communications is a very familiar logo on the backs of CDs, but they did release a few vinyl records under their own banner up to 1997.

 Gil Scott-HeronSpace Shuttle1990
The BuzzcocksInnocent1993
The KinksYou Still Want Me1997
Castle singles