Thursday, January 10, 2013

Latest Avenue EP finds

Over the past few months, I've become increasingly interested in the 7-inch covers EPs which appeared (mostly) before the albums were in full swing (see here for my overview of these early releases).

The Avenue series is among the most interesting, not least because they were the first regular EP series to feature proper picture covers, some of which are uncannily like the familiar 1970s LP covers - a female model beside a list of song titles. Sounds simple, but in the day it was a design breakthrough for a record format which was still something of an experiment. Interestingly, they also used male cover models from time to time, as the standard template was being defined, something which is practically unknown on the LP releases.

And so to my three latest Avenue EPs... All three play a role of some sort in the development of the series itself, and there are some interesting points in the sleevenotes - clicking the images will enlarge them, so they can be read.

The disc below, AVE 39, was Avenue's first such release. The front cover is just a hodge-podge but it tells a little of the story on the back: 25 musicians assembled to record the EP at Wessex Sound Studios in North London, on 19 April, 1967. We also know that the Avenue series was created when the staff behind it became disillusioned with the perceived decline in standards on the Top Six EPs. Top Six appears to have ended with catalogue number 38 and here, Avenue start off with the catalogue number 39 - reinforcing the point by carrying on where Top Six left off! (To be pedantic, we should acknowledge a later Top Six EP numbered 41.)

AVE 39 - May 1967

This next one was given to me a while ago by blog regular Declan, a keen collector of Avenue and the associated Studio 33 label. Avenue had by now realised that a cover model looked the part on the front, and here they have gone for a male model, complete with flowers (well, it was 1967!) - so now you know where Morrissey got his ideas from. This was the first in a run of seven to be pressed on the Disc-A-Fran label, in an ill-fated commercial arrangement (see comments here).

D/AVE 43 - Sep 1967

The last one (for the moment, anyway), a 99p bargain from Ebay, features on the front the same photo as previously used on AVE 41 back in July 1967. It has a different coloured panel for the songs however, differentiating it at a glance - but one has to wonder why the photo was re-used. Surely photos of this nature can't have been so scarce? Maybe they just liked it! Once more the sleevenotes tell us a little about the chronology of the series, introducing for the first time, the Clive Allan Orchestra and Singers. This outfit would continue being credited until into 1969, when Alan Caddy was given top billing instead.

AVE 47 - Jan 1968

These are my latest three additions in this series - but I've still got plenty to go before I'm anywhere near completion. Expect another blog about Avenue EPs shortly - but from a completely different perspective!

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