Friday, March 8, 2013

Rare Avenue compilation: Top 20 London W1

As collectors will know, budget albums are frequently described as cluttering the charity shops and boot sales of the land, such is their supposed abundance. If you're after Top of the Pops or Hot Hits from the early 1970s, that's true to an extent, but some covers albums are so rare they are effectively impossible to find nowadays. Unless, like me this week, you strike lucky with a one-off Ebay lot.

My record of the week/month/year is pictured below, and was secured with a top bid of £12.50. It's tatty, there's no denying. The once white cover is browned with marks (and unlaminated, so they are permanent), and has some writing on it. The record itself is scuffed and marked, and the seller very reasonably graded it as "Fair". But after a bit of a polish, the vinyl came up passably clean, and in fact the record plays much better than it looks. And the labels are good too, so all in all, it's not too bad a copy. But I don't care anyway - just having it in my collection is a buzz in itself.

So, what have we here? It's a record with a bizarre name for starters, which gives no clue as to its true nature. The sleeve gives the title, or maybe sub-title, London W1, but this doesn't appear on the label itself. And although it's on Avenue, this is in fact a compilation of 1968 recordings which were originally put out on Avenue's smaller Studio 33 imprint.

Studio 33 started issuing their covers LPs during 1968, without album titles, and this is basically a sampler from the first three, which were catalogue numbered 10-009, 10-010 and 10-011. The first, 10-009 (below left) is represented with four tracks, and 10-011 (below right) has some 10 of its 12 titles included.

The sleeve design on this LP (not to mention the Studio 33 albums too) looks somewhat unusual, but has to be seen in the context of the day. The "classic" design, a female model next to a list of songs, really only became the norm after Top of the Pops launched in late-1968 (after Pickwick's MD Monty Lewis gave a photo of the cover model to designer Bill Graham, who put together the iconic artwork and logo).

But the LPs pictured above were too early to cotton on to this winning formula, and like concurrent LP series by mfp and Fontana, used illustrations on the covers instead. And, on Top 20 London W1, the back of the sleeve is identical to the front - no song titles to be seen! Plus, of course, no mention anywhere of Studio 33, for whom this is effectively an annual best-of LP.

It's great to finally pin down a copy of this album. Like many collectors, my Avenue set has many holes in (not surprising, considering one LP from the series fetched well over £300 on Ebay this week), so filling this difficult one is really pleasing, and without having to take out a second mortgage.


UPDATE 11/03/13:

Amazingly, another copy of this LP has appeared on Ebay, and the seller has provided some fascinating information about it (my emphasis below):

"This extremely rare 20 track album was mastered using state-of-the-art technology on the new specification cutting lathes in West Germany. It was then returned to the U.K. for pressing by TRANCO (PYE RECORDS) in London and in turn delivered to AVENUE'S warehouse in London E4.

"The limited run of this particular disc was made for distribution in West Germany - the album could not be sold in the U.K. because of the extreme poor quality of the U.K. general public's down market playing equipment.  The micro grooving on this disc needed a top quality playback device - not the average clapped-out portable record player that was still in general use in England at that time... Thus this 20 track album concept from AVENUE was for the more affluent album buyers on the Continent. 

"Some very famous artists are performing on this disc including DAVID BYRON, PETER LEE STIRLING a.k.a. DANIEL BOONE and LOIS LANE."

So, it seems that this was not actually a UK release at all, but a West German one. This is a surprise to me, but one can't doubt this excellent background info. The copy which is currently on Ebay is a phenomenally rare guaranteed unplayed copy. Look for item number 310622525918.  


  1. Its on Ebay this week TOP 20 LONDON W.1.with some interesting details. A very good copy never been played after all those years.

  2. You're right - I spotted it too. I had never seen it in the flesh before I picked my copy up, and now a second one turns up on Ebay! Mind you, the seller is asking a few pence short of £100 for it.