Pye Command

Command was an American label owned by Enoch Light. It grew out of Grand Award, which had migrated from Top Rank to EMI to Pye.

Grand Award and Command were both labels owned and run by bandleader Enoch Light (1907-1978). Light was a violinist, producer and sound engineer as well. During the 1930s he ran a major dance band, then in the 1940s broadcast considerably in the USA. He founded Grand Award in 1955, sold it to ABC in 1959, and promptly started Command. They had a short-lived deal with Decca’s London label in 1960, for Mister Percussion. That deal was via United Artists who had released Mister Percussion in the USA under an ‘Ultra Audio’ brand.

US and UK versions

Light was insistent on the label’s own identity.

Pye signed the deal with Command in February 1965, at the same time as it cemented the deal with French Vogue and agreed to give Chess its own label presence. The arrangement was short-lived as within a year Command USA was sold on to ABC-Paramount. Pye then reissued the 1959 and 1960 Grand Award / Command releases,

Command was a self-appointed HiFi specialist, using their own Dimension 3 system, and moving on to record sound on 35 mm film soundtrack rather than tape.  Command, Everest and Mercury tried this out.  Miles Davis experimented with magnetic film for some albums too. Decades later, Mercury Rev tried the same 35 mm recording technique on Deserters’ Songs making me wonder about a connection between their name and Mercury’s Living Sound.

35 mm film base for magnetic tape had audio advantages over the 1/4 and 1/2 inch tape that was more widespread in use at the time, allowing for more space between the three tracks and a thicker material, reducing print-through. It also had no wow and flutter as the medium was held tightly on the film sprockets.

All the records are produced with Enoch Light’s input. Because he was fond of extensive explanatory notes on the music, Command was a pioneer of the gatefold sleeve – they needed the space. The cover designs are striking, abstract and gems of late 50s / early 60s design and their slogan was Great Music, Great Art . For once we know the designer’s name, Josef Albers. The design director, Charles E. Murphy, had been Albers’ pupil, and the cover art features in the Museum of Modern Art.

The most famous record on the Command label is Terry Snyder’s Persuasive Percussion, discussed in the section here on Stereo (linked). It is an Enoch Light production.

Persuassive Percussion: Command USA 1959

LEFT: US copy
RIGHT: Pye Command copy

Persuasive Percussion was an enormous hit; a Sergeant Pepper’s (before ever there was one) for the hi-fi crowd.
Greg Milner, Perfecting Sound Forever, 2009

Persuasive Percussion Vol 2: Terry Snyder & The All-Stars, US copy, 1972 reprint of 1959 Grad Award disc

It went on and on, so that the sleeve above is a 1972 repressing on ABC -Command in the USA, crediting the original 1959 Grand Award disc. ABC was releasing Command as well as Grand Award, and combined them under the Command logo.

Persuasive Percussion: Volume 3- US pressing 1960

The Enoch Light albums on Command (Pye Command in the UK) have been mined by samplers for sounds extensively in recent years. Some are by Enoch Light & His Orchestra, others by Enoch Light & The Light Brigade.

I discovered this in a shop where I marvelled at the prices they were attracting. They said this goes for any Command release … they really are stunning quality.

Discotheque- Dance Dance Dance: Enoch Light LP
Pye Command 1965

They ventured into classical albums too, boasting of the 35 mm sound on the sleeves. Enoch Light is credited as Producer. “Originated and Produced by Enoch Light” it says on the rear sleeve.

Beethovem Symphonies 1 &2: William Steinberg / Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra: Pye Command Classics LP 1965

William Steinberg was used for recording the classical list, as was Daniel Bahrenbom.

Command LP gallery … click to enlarge

They never released 45s under the Command name, but they did release The Ray Charles Singers via Pye International .

This Is My Prayer: The Ray Charles Singers 7N 25500 1965
‘A Command USA Recording’