I was reading this post about an artist who does paintings of 7" singles in their paper sleeves. He doesn't do picture sleeves, just the old-fashioned paper sleeves with a cut-out where you can see the record label. It got me thinking about the artwork on record labels. Sometimes the label design was a form of guarantee - the Atco Stax and RAK labels gave the potential purchaser an idea of what type of music was contained inside. And some record labels just become associated with a particular artist - I can't see the red Polydor label without hearing Noddy Holder going "Baby baby baaaaaaaaby!!!!"
So what were the record labels from the NWOBHM days that stick in the mind? Well, I'd put forward the following four for starters.
The Iron Maiden EMI Label
There is surely a case for saying that Iron Maiden may be the best-managed band around. What I find most impressive about their early EMI label was the fact that they did it at all. Such a vanity was rare in those days but surely someone on the management team twigged that if they did have their own label it would make people think they were a major band, even if at the time, they definitely weren't. Looks good too.
I'm not sure what to make of Bronze as a label. On the one hand, it had Motorhead, Girlschool and Angel Witch on it, but on the other, I can't help thinking that all three of these bands (especially the last two) would have done a lot better if they were on a proper label with real marketing moolah. Still, it was a memorable label; just by looking at it you hear a gruff voice say "...just in case".
We can't let the majors have all the fun. The thing about the Neat Records label is that you know what it looks like even if you don't actually own any records on it. I don't have any records on Neat, and even back in the day the only thing I had on Neat was an awful sampler cassette I ordered from Sounds, but I still know what the label looks like.
Horrible Clickety Clackety Moulded Plastic
Sadly, the golden years of Metal coincided with record labels realising that they could cut costs by doing away with paper labels and just stamping a design onto the plastic. I hated these cheap, thin, brittle buggers. And they scratched and scuffed much more easily than their counterparts with the paper labels. I still have my original copies of Since You Been Gone and All Night Long and they have so much surface noise they sound like they were pressed the same day as one of Louis Armstrong's Hot Five recordings. Still, there's no denying that a lot of great singles ended up being pressed like this, especially by members of the old guard like Thin Lizzy, Rainbow, Rush and Dio Sabbath, so they need to take their place at the table.
So, what have I missed? Should the horrible pink of Carrere's label be there? Or the rather fetching Jet Records label that the Girl and Randy Rhoads Ozzy singles came out on? I'm sure there's something that triggers some of your memories...