Monday, August 15, 2011


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".

Neat Records

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...


  1. I recently blogged about B-Sides - forgot about this one though: Phil Lewis and Co. dropping a gear and finding that a bit of cod-reggae never did anyone any harm

  2. What was that the B side of? The B sides of Hollywood Tease were brilliant: a filthy version of You Really Got Me that's way better than the Van Halen one and My Number, which was one of the best songs to come out of the NWOBHM. I think it was originally an A side too? Anyway, brilliant song.

  3. Old Dogs. I saw Girl at The Marquee perform this live for the first time. Phil Lewis was seated on the drum riser throughout.

  4. I remember them doing Hollywood Tease on TOTP. Phil Lewis stood behind the drummer, if memory serves. I also remember that it went down the next week, which was an impressive achievement in those days. I bought it, mind.

    I'd love to have seen a NWOBHM band at the Marquee.

  5. I always associated the Vertigo Swirl on singles (albums) with Sabbath. Talking of Neat Records I recently came by The Seven Gates of Hell which celebrates Venom's raw single releases for the Neat label.

    Jet Records was a nice label

    Talking of Bronze, the Motorhead Golden Years EP was a break with was/is a favourite

  6. Yup, I thought about the Vertigo, but it, along with the Purple and Swansong labels belonged to a different time. By the time the 80s dawned, even Vertigo singles were being pressed on clickey clackety moulded vinyl. Sigh.

    I downloaded the 12" version of Warhead from that Venom singles compilation off of iTunes. It is bloody brilliant. I especially love the explosion at the first chorus. They were terrific really, their ideas and ambition usually went beyond their musical ability, but they could make a great racket.