Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Top Hits of the Month - cover versions from 1955!

A couple of weeks ago I spotted the following on EBay for a modest sum, and had to have it:

It is, of course, an old 78 gramophone record, which goes by the name "Top Hits of the Month Record Club". It turns out that this "club" was a small-time label which sold records by mail-order, and although the original cover for this particular disc has been lost, it had the attraction of still having the outer box it was originally posted in. How many of them survive, I wonder? So this is what arrived with me:

The box is not in too bad a condition, considering its age. It still had the original postal label on it, addressed to someone living on Exmoor in Devon, and it was originally held shut by a length of gummed paper, with the following branding printed on it:

These are the record labels:

The six tracks are clearly chosen for their success in America, all charting there over the summer of 1955. (By contrast only two charted in Britain, both at the end of the year.) The tracks and original artists are as follows:

Side 1
Seventeen (Boyd Bennett)
Hummingbird (Frankie Laine)
Hey Mr Banjo (The Sunnysiders)

Side 2
Gumdrop (The Crew-Cuts)
Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing (The Four Aces)
Longest Walk (Jaye P Morgan)

Getting all six onto a 10-inch 78 meant that the tracks had to be shortened as compared to the original recordings, down to under two minutes each. Nevertheless, what can be heard of them beneath the considerable surface noise reveals that these are extremely close to the hit versions, such that you have to really focus to spot the difference.

The poor sound quality does not lend itself to MP3 samples, but I did take one track - "Love Is A Many Splendoured Thing" - and transfer it for comparison with The Four Aces' original. To do this I had to spin the disc at 45 and then use digital software to get it up to 78 - which hardly helps with the sonics - but you can still hear how faithful this version is to the original:

So what do we know about the Top Hits of the Month Record Club? Not a great deal, really. It seems it was set up by an American, Manuel Kopelman, who seemed to lose interest in this UK venture fairly quickly, transfering his attentions on the US and Canada instead. The following appeared in Billboard on September 3, 1955:

A contemporary report in NME names a few of the musicians, pictured below, as the Harry Leader Orchestra. Harry is in glasses, and with him are singers Cyril Shane, Elizabeth Batey and Denny Dennis:

In terms of the label's other UK releases, we have yet to find one which contains popular music like the one above (which was, after all, released before rock n roll took hold). We do know of EMO 15 and EMO 16, both by The Choristers, which contain religious and/or Christmas songs. Tantalisingly we also spotted the advert below on another website, which suggests that 12-track LPs might even have been released!

Note the company logo - a string of records, like the ones printed on the label above. Needless to say, we'd love to know more about these records. Please get in touch if you know any more about them or about the label...

There is more information available on this site, dedicated to Matt Monro.


  1. Hi, I don't know much about this label, but what I do know is listed here :- http://www.mattmonro.com/Spotlight_Strange%20Lady.html

    Which is where the photos you used appears to have come from!

  2. All the pictures in this post are my own with the exception of the newspaper cuttings (which obviously were not mine originally).

    The photo of the recording artists I did reproduce from that site (which I'm guessing is your site), and although I would have liked to include the whole newspaper report, I deliberately cropped out just the photo so as not to just duplicate your work, which is not a nice thing to do.

    I know how annoying that can be when people just help themselves to your hard work - I could give you links to at least two websites which have more of less just duplicated my own, across several pages, without any contact or acknowldgement. They have dozens of photos of my own record collection, which I took myself - and they have the cheeck to claim copyright on them too!

    One cutting I took direct from Billboard. The advert from the newpaper I did copy over - and I should have given you a mention, which I have now done.

  3. No problem - I don't mind you using the photos - They aren't my copyright or anything, sorry if it sounded that way, just thought you might have picked the pictures up from Google and not realized that there was some info on Top Hits on the Monro site.

    Should you be interested, Strange Lady is now available in fully remastered form on the EMI release, Matt Uncovered: The Rarer Monro.

    Richard Moore

  4. I've got 5 of these records, I just them on ebay, then I found this site.

  5. I was given six of these records for my birthday recently, found in Value Village in New Brunswick, Canada; mine are Nos. 61, 64, 67,68,69 and 70, so there are plenty of these things kicking around if someone hasn't played them to death and then just dumped them into the landfill. Except for a bit of dirt and minor scratches, these records play very well, so it depends on who owned them before as to the condition in they happen to turn up. New record players actually play them at 78 rpm and sound pretty good, especially if played on-line into a separate amp. I hope that this information helps someone.