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US Decca LP Labels

The US branch of Decca Records began in 1934. Following Columbia (who introduced the LP), Decca quickly embraced the long play format and began issuing LP albums. This label guide covers album labels by Decca Records from 1949 until 1973, when MCA stopped using the Decca name on albums.

The first Decca label had gold print and featured "DECCA" along with "Long Play" and "33 1/3 RPM" at the top of the label. The words "Microgroove UNBREAKABLE" appear at the bottom. Along the label's sides are eight concentric bands.
Main line decca labels were dark brown (whether 10" LP's or soundtracks). Decca also introduced a 9000 series which sported maroon labels with the same design. There was also a gold label design (DL 9600 series) that was short-lived. All albums, except for gold label albums, that were released before the middle of 1955 had this label design on first pressings.
Note: Decca Records bought Universal Studios in 1952.

Decca's second label retained some circular banding along the sides but reduced the overall size of the label. Stars were added, "LONG PLAY 33 1/3 RPM" was moved to the bottom of the label, and the reference to the microgroove process was removed.
Main line labels were black, while the 9000 series was again a maroon or dark red.
Promotional labels from this period were pink, with the earliest promo labels having the banding along the sides of the label.
This Decca style began with approximately album DL 8100 in the 8000 series, 8319 in the 8300 series, and 9018 in the 9000 series. After the introduction of stereo in 1958, stereo labels were introduced. It was decided that stereo records would have the same catalog numbers as their mono counterparts but would begin with "7". Before long, a new label design was in the works....

In 1960, Decca followed other record companies in switching most of their line to a more colorful label. That style featured the letters of "DECCA" in five different colors across the middle of the label in a band of colors. The rest of the label was black. Underneath the color band, the printing indicated that the record was manufactured by "DECCA RECORDS INC NEW YORK USA." This same print had been on the earlier label style (above) without the color band. Decca soon adopted a new cover logo that was shaped like an arrow.
At the top of the label, the words "LONG PLAY 33" appear on mono albums; the word "STEREOPHONIC" appears at the top of stereo LP's. Promotional copies of this label style (and the ones that follow) were white with black print.
An apparent exception to this rule is the DL 9000/79000 series, which seems to have remained on the earlier red label style for first pressings in both mono and stereo. I have seen, for example, DL 79114 from 1964 on the red label.

In 1962, the Music Corporation of America (MCA) bought out Universal-International (which was owned by Decca). They did not immediately change their label styles. But by 1966, Decca Records began to proclaim on its labels their affiliation with MCA. Labels from this period look almost identical to labels from the early 60's. However, the words "A DIVISION OF MCA" were added to the printing underneath the color band on the label. Decca also updated its maroon label for DL 9000 series LP's with a production statement on the label indicating "A DIV. OF MCA, INC.".
After the creation of another new Decca logo in 1970, Decca was completely absorbed by MCA. Covers of albums originally issued during this last period list Decca's new address in Universal City, California. The fine print on the label now reads, "Mf'd by © MCA Records Inc., Calif. U.S.A." Around DL 79180, the 79000 series switched to the black label like other releases. Decca used this label style until 1973, when MCA switched all Decca albums and singles to its own (MCA) label. This same change happened too on other labels (e.g., Uni) which were also owned by MCA.

Footnote: MCA continued to grow, purchasing ABC-Paramount (including its subsidiaries, such as Dunhill), Chess, Dot, Command Records, and eventually Motown, Verve, GRP, Def Jam, and Geffen. In early 1991, the parent company of Panasonic -- Matsushita Electrical Industrial Co. -- bought MCA. In June, 1995, MCA was sold to the Seagram Company Ltd., makers of fine liquor and (by that time) a large, multinational company. Near the end of 1996, MCA formally became Universal Studios. After the purchase of PolyGram in 1998, the Universal Music Group became the largest in the recording industry. Seagram was bought by a French company, and the conglomerate became known as Vivendi Universal. Even with all of these changes, MCA Records still thrives...but without Decca/Coral/Brunswick.

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© 2003, 2011 Frank Daniels