Pye – sleeves and centres

SEE ALSO PYE, the main article for the label

Pye early picture sleeves

GALLERIES (two or more pictures) … click to enlarge

Pye were unusual in their use of picture sleeves early on. Decca dipped a toe in the water, but Pye and Philips did more. Pye group, being owned by a TV company, especially liked picture sleeves on anything TV or film related … see the separate section. They went for thin, cheap paper and preferred black and white, or a single colour, , but they still managed to do a few. It is surprising how the UK avoided picture sleeves which were common in Europe.

Joan Regan even got full colour in 1961. Surprisin’ wasn’t a hit, and Joan Regan was a few years past her commercial peak. It makes me wonder what the criteria were for a precious picture sleeve. I am guessing that predictable sales numbers helped – predictable and reasonable, without the need to rush for extra copies with a sudden …er, surprisin’ … hit. Of the three black and white sleeves above, only one of them charted and then only at a lowly #34. Norman Vaughan was the host of ATV’s Sunday Night At The London Paladium. Then Swingin’ In The Rain was his theme song. ATV owned Pye and may have predicted a hit, but it was hardly likely – everyone of my generation loathed the song. Edmund Hockridge, like Regan, was a reliable stalwart from earlier days. The management probably liked them both. What a daft dance song was doing getting a picture sleeve (Golli Golli)I don’t know.

Surprisin’ Joan Regan 7N 15400, 1961

A picture sleeve is much more expensive because if the records don’t sell, you have a pile of printed and useless sleeves. A company sleeve can be used on anything, and Pye were unusual in the UK in going for group designs and putting any Pye label on any Pye-distributed record if dedicated sleeves ran out.

Sleeves and labels

When we started out on this project, we swore we would never get tied up with record catalogue numbers. With changing labels though, they are a useful reference point.

The Choice of The Record Buyer sleeve with black chequered border bridges Pye-Nixa and Pye.

Mr Froggy: Lonnie Donegan 1959. Dark blue, not black, and just Pye logo

Spin With The Stars

The purple chequered-edge sleeve is similar to the pink sleeve with chequered edges.

On A Slow Boat To China: Emile Ford & The Checkmates, 1960. Dated copy.

Music for ballroom dancing was a major area, and EMI had Joe Loss and Victor Silvester as their stars. But there were also half a dozen specialist strict tempo labels, who could put “Official tempo recognised by the Official Board of Ballroom Dancing” and Pye joined them, adding the note and a Strictempo logo.

I’ll Never Say Never Again (Cha Cha): John Warren Strictempo Orchestra, 1961
on Strictempo series label

The pink version is less common, and advertises Golden Guinea on one side and Nonesuch on the other.  Nonesuch was launched in May 1961 for spoken voice, but apparently released no singles. This was advertising, and applied to any Pye record. We have an accredited numbered Petula Clark My Friend The Sea from November 1962, and an accredited Jimmy Justice from March 1962 in this pink version sleeve.

The Party’s Over is a numbered, unplayed mint copy from July 1962. The Pye logo is smaller than on Sucu Sucu from earlier the same year.

Old Ned by Ron Grainer was the Steptoe & Son theme music. 7N 15411 and its till has the larger Pye logo. When My Litt;e Girl Is Smiling from Jimmy Justice is 7N 15421 and has the smaller logo. In the Spring of 1962, both logos were around. Mostly base labels were over-printed with the specific release text, so they probably changed to the small logo base label, but used up stock of the large logo base label.

The purple (or as Pye describe it “plum label Pye”) centre changes to pink in June 1962. The white box at the top could be user so shops could write in the cataogue number andis vertical one side, horizontal the other.

There would have been design meetings on the switch to the 1962 pink sleeves. I would say Pye were channeling the Pye radio idea (they were the best selling car radios) with the concentric circles radiating out from Pye. Then the choice of pink would be down to putting all the other company sleeves on the table and noting that none of them used pink. Oriole would have done the same in choosing yellow around the same time

I found a a copy of The Searchers Sugar & Spice (7N 15566), which was released in October 1963. It has a plum label and sleeve, a good fifteen months into Pye’s pink era. Experts can tell that it was an Oriole pressing. Oriole owned a large Oriole / Embassy pressing plant, which is why CBS bought them a year later. When a rival label needed extra stock, they would have it pressed at Oriole … some Beatles discs are Oriole pressed. Apparently Oriole held a stock of older Pye centre labels and sleeves. There are other plum Oriole-pressings around.

I Wanna Talk About My Baby: The Riot Squad demo, March 1965 in old sleeve
Everybody’s Gonna Be Happy: The Kinks, March 1965. It has the new black top centre label, was bought in the old sleeve/ The black bar goes right to the top of the label. Soon it had a pink section above it. Closed centre disc

The switch to the black bar at the top of the centre label had happened by the start of 1965. It’s difficult to pinpoint when it switched, though the oldest illustrated on 45cat’s near complete list is Nobody’s Child by The Alexander Brothers (7N 15738) from November 1964, but this must be a re-pressings from a later date than the initial release. The black bar starts appearing consistently from 7N 15750 Round and Round by Dixie Rock and The Miami Showband in January 1965. The older design has gone by then. The sleeves probably changed right away, but Pye would have used up old stock.

Catch The Wind: Donovan 1965 7N 15801
Black bar extends to the top of the label

Late sixties singles from Pye used one fuschia company sleeve for three labels: Pye, Pye International, Piccadilly.  The centre label was pink for the three. A black band at the top of the centre label carried the individual label logo from 1965 to 1967, and records with the black band centre match up with the pink “Pye group” sleeve, not the pink “Pye only” sleeve. Effectively, the individual labels were no more identifiable than the dozens of American labels which had their logos on London-American discs.

I’m surprised at the decision to change to a dull baby blue. It was far less distinctive – the fuschia sleeve had shouted at you. At the point of change in late 1967, they dropped the black bar for a few months, but soon reinstated it. They also switched the demo disc colour from white to yellow.

Let The Heartaches Begin: Long John Baldry, 7N 17385 1967, push out centre
Bon Soir Dame: Paul Arnold, 1968, 7N 17473 demo disc dated 20 something. It was released in July 1968

Hold Back The Daybreak: Long John Baldry 7N 17455, dated by buyer ’10 February 1968′ with push-out centre
Hold Back The Daybreak: Long John Baldry 7N 17455, later pressing with black top bar and closed centre, plus stronger blue

Lincoln County: Dave Davies 7N17514, 1968 push out centre
Ice In The Sun: Status Quo 7N 17581 1968 push out centre
Atlantis: Donovan 7N 17660, 1968 closed centre

Baby I Couldn’t See: The Foundations 7N 17849, 1969. The top bar is dark blue, not black. Push out centre
Mean Girl: Satus Quo 7N 45229, 1971 a much stronger blue, push out centre

Dawn joined the set.  Satril, a distributed label, followed in Pye blue sleeves, with a matching centre. There is a stronger blue version, still in the light blue sleeve which was used on (at least) some singles from Status Quo and Welsh band Man. It might indicate “prog”, but the variants in the blue are so wide over the years that it’s more likely printing variation. Picture sleeves were used on TV theme discs, distributed between the Pye and Piccadilly labels.

In 1971 to 1972, several singleswere issued with picture sleeves:

Lovin’ You Ain’tEasy: Pagliaro, 1971 7N 45111, reverse of sleeve, blue centre
Light Up The Fire: Parchment, 1972 &n 45178, blue centre

Next, Pye went for a transgender mix of pink and blue circa 1973.

Who Do You Think You’re Kidding, Mr Hitler? Bud Flanagan, Dad’s Army theme 7N 45530, recorded 1969, later pressing, push-out centre, sleeve front
I’m On Fire: The Troggs 1973, closed centre, sleeve reverse design 7N 45285

Ring Ding: The Vernons, demo disc design,1973, closed centre, 7N 45309
Goodbye Nothing To Say: The Javells, DDS 2003, 1973 DISCO DEMAND series

Life: Jimmy James 1977, 7N 45665, demo disc later design, closed centre.

Throughout the 70s there were a sprinkling of picture sleeves.

Do The Funky Conga: Jimmy James & The Vagabonds 1977 7N 45641. A Pye rule- if it was a dance disc, put it in a picture sleeve with the dance steps on the back.
Mirror Star: The Fabulous Poodles. A COLOUR sleeve and pink vinyl! 1978

We Got Love: Sandra Phillips 1976, demo. Right On! label

Pye started distributing the Right On! label, and it fits the group sleeve design particularly well.

You’ll Never Know What You’re Missing: Real Thing 7N 45662, 1976, push-out centre
Magic Fly: Space 7N 25746, 1977 Polygram pressing with plastic centre, reverse of sleeve

While most labels resorted to using Polygram’s plants and its vile plastic centre label pressings from time to time, Pye examples are rare. Magic Fly by Space was a surprise, no shock, #2 hit in August 1977 and they must have needed more copies fast. It was technically Pye International butby now the ‘International’ was virtually too tiny to read.

The white umbrella (in both ways) group sleeve came after the multi-coloured 70s sleeve, but both Real Thing records are annotated, so it looks as if they then went back to the multi-coloured sleeve (or used up stock).

Oh, Boy (The Mood I’m In): Brotherhood of Man, 7N 45656, 1977, push-out centre. Definite colour variation on the sleeve
Raining Through My Sunshine: Real Thing, 7N46113 1978, closed centre

Finally Pye settled on black for its last year in the business.

One Day At A Time: Lena Martell, 7N 46021, first released 1977, but a #1 hit in 1979 with this label
Lola: The Kinks, 7N 17961, very late 1979 reissue. RECORDS has been added in large letters

From The Real Thing to not the real thing … reproduction Pye singles

Circles: The Mod Box Set in 2013 reproduced replica single designs. If you’re going to make replicas for colectors, go the whole way and makereplicas of the even more valuable demo versions.
I Want To Know: The Koobas, 2013 replica of 1966 single
I Really Really Care, The Alan Bown Set, 2013 replica of 1967 single


For Record Store Day 2017, The Kinks reissued the Percy EP, or rather 33 1/3 Maxi-single as Pye called them in 1971 . Note the PYE border has been replaced with a KINKS border.

From The Kinks Arthur box set, 2019:

Shangri La / ThisMan He Weeps Tonight. Replica 45 in the Arthur box set. Not quite an actual Pye design, if you look back.