Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A peek at the original Avenue / Marble Arch tapes

I recently ran a post mentioning the different stereo/mono editions of the Marble Arch albums, and in response, Colin Richardson of Artistry fame kindly sent me some photos of some of the original studio master tapes for these albums. Fascinating they are too, and we learn that some of the stereo tapes were prepared but never pressed to vinyl.

Here's a shot of some of the tape spines:

These are all Avenue tapes, but constitute master recordings for the Marble Arch LPs, whose catalogue numbers are showing. As will be apparent, there are different tapes prepared for mono and stereo pressings, for instance one tape for MALS 848 (stereo), another for MAL 848 (mono) - which should come as no real surprise.

The tops of the tape boxes show the track listings, and here are a couple of examples. First, the stereo and mono tapes for MAL/S 760:

These are accompanied by typed information for the record labels, which details the track listing and also gives the exact release date: 17 November, 1967.

Mono copies of the album, Big Hits of 1967, were duly pressed by Marble Arch. I am not aware that stereo copies ever appeared, despite the proof above that the album was supplied to the label in both mono and stereo formats. Here is the commercial record sleeve and the labels for the mono release:

Next, we have the same items for MAL/S 848:

The label info gives the release date as 13 September, 1968:

This time we know that both mono and stereo editions were manufactured, and here are some images of the commercial mono pressing, Autumn Chartbusters:

Returning to the original image, there are in fact four pairs of stereo/mono tapes pictured. Besides Big Hits of 1967 and Autumn Chartbusters (shown above) there are also tapes for MAL/S 776 and MAL/S 788. The albums in question are Chart Busters, the very first in the series, and More Chart Busters, the second. Again, these are only known to have been pressed up in mono, but thanks to the tape boxes we know they were mixed/mastered for stereo as well:

Returning to the full set in the photo, besides these Marble Arch albums, there are some other tapes shown next to them. Here is the image in full:

Notice that these additional boxes show catalogue numbers starting STR. These belong to later (1970s) albums on Avenue's sub-label, Stereo Plus 3. Discographies are hard to find, but with a little help from Google we have managed to identify every album in the frame.

STR 003: 22 Smash Hits of the 60's
STR 004: A Tribute to Michael, David and Donny
STR 005: Goodbye Beatles
STR 010: Three Stars Featuring the Songs of...
STR 011: The Best of Atlanta (Original Artists)
STR 012: Stay Later (Eric Winstone & His Orchestra)
STR 013: TV Stage & Movie Themes

Here are the covers of the commercial LPs (excuse the poor quality of some of the images):

Thanks to Colin for sending us the tape photos, and thereby enlightening us that it was, in fact, down to Marble Arch (and the parent company, Pye) that stereo continued to be shunned until the second half of 1968. It seems amazing nowadays that mono was preferred, but in truth, stereo never really became the dominant format until the end of the 1960s. Marble Arch were, so far as I know, the only one of the budget cover version labels to issue albums in both formats, until they finally abandoned mono at the start of 1970.


  1. How great it would be if all these albums were issued as either CD or preferably as digital downloads. :-D

  2. I just love the tacky artwork on those albums, that pink and orange day glo and the Helvetica lettering of the late 60s and into the 70s. The music must have been bad.