Shell Nature EPs

Moor & Heath Birds

Gallery – rear and centre. Click to enlarge

Shell are the petrol company. Between 1966 and 1969 they produced an elaborate series of EPs of bird song, published by Discourses from “Royal Tonbridge Wells” and these were “for Shell-Mex and BP Ltd.”

These are not names that usually bring up images of bird song and sylvan landscapes, but Shell invested large sums in books on nature, such as the Shell Nature Lover’s Atlas, The Shell Guide to Flowers of the Countryside and The Shell Bird Book.  The EPs, ten in all, included a Sounds of The Countryside children’s EP, which was narrated by Johnny Morris.

The aim was to create an image of environmental concern.

gallery: Dawn Chorus: front and rear … click to enlarge

The front sleeve paintings were mostly by John Leigh-Pemberton (1911-1997), and the fold-out sleeves contained detailed notes.  Pemberton illustrated the Shell Guides and also drew the pictures for the Ladybird children’s books dealing with natural history. Online they are credited to Lawrence Shove who narrated and recorded them. The British National Sound Archive has 243 reels of tape of his field recordings of wildlife.

They can sell for up to £10 each, and I’m sure this is based on artwork, not content.

Respighi’s The Pines of Rome and the works of Messiaen explored bird song with classical music. This is just the twitcher stuff. I originally saw a set of these at 50p each and chose just the one for this series on collecting records. Looking at the painting in detail when I got home, I realized I should have bought the lot. I got more later as I saw them. In 1967, no one would have made a joke about ‘Estuary birds.’

Gallery … click to enlarge

Field and Open Country Birds
Garden and Park Birds
Marsh and Riverside Birds
Mountain and Highland Birds
Estuary Birds
Woodland Birds
Sea Birds

Only Garden and Park Birds put the title band at the bottom of the sleeve, though those online have the band at the top. Not on my copy. This painting was by Maurice Wilson.


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