This guide is informed by marginalia from records in my collection, online articles & discographies, as well as newspaper articles found using the amazing Trove database at the National Library of Australia. Others have written extensive accounts of the Warner Bros story both in Australia and elsewhere and I have provided links to a few favourites at the end. This is a work in progress and I appreciate any feedback or additional information that improves its accuracy.
Quick overview of the different Australian Warner Bros. Records labels
1960/61: Establishing An Australian presence
The Rogers Record Review column in the Canberra Times on the 15th August 1960 covered the ‘big news’ surrounding the premier release for Warner Bros Records in the Australian market. Twelve of the best selling LPs from the U.S catalogue were selected as an initial offering including titles by Pete Rugolo, Bing Crosby, George Greeley, Raoel Meynard, Paul Desmond, Roger Smith, Bill Haley & His Comets, The Bobby Havana Boys, Tab Hunter, Stan from the TV Show Hawaiian Eye, The Warner Bros Military Band, and Edd Byrnes.
As ‘Kookie’ in the successful TV show 77 Sunset Strip, Byrnes was one of the star actors on the WB books. The top right corner of the LP’s front sleeve shows the boxed Warner Bros logo which would increasingly appear exclusively on the rear of the sleeve in following years.
Although released in Australia in 1960, the licensing and manufacturing information at the bottom of the sleeve copies the U.S release and reads “© 1959 Warner Bros Records Inc. A subsidiary and licensee of Warner Bros Pictures Inc. Manufactured and Distributed by Australian Records Company Ltd.”
The rear sleeve advertises ‘Vitaphonic’ high fidelity. This continues to appear on WB releases until at least 1968.
The grey label features a black and yellow WB shield logo. Variations on this logo come and go over the following decades. For the first decade WB was manufactured by the Australian Record Company Limited. They’re credited in the third row of text from the bottom (just above Vitaphonic High Fidelity).
The Outriggers LP is an early stereo pressing from the 60/61 period. It was originally released in the U.S in 1958. Note the catalogue number 1224 is lower than 1309 for the Kookie LP above. For the next decade Australian releases were selected from the broader U.S WB catalogue and not always issued in the same order as the U.S.
The cover reproductions remain true to the U.S pressings. The © text on the rear of this sleeve reads 1958. Years can’t be relied upon exclusively to accurately date Australian pressings until local WB manufacturing begin printing the ℗ year on labels in 1972.
1963/64: Manufactured in Australia By The Australian Record Company Limited
In 1963/64 there is a shift in the way the Australian Record Company is credited on the labels. Previously the text reads “Australian Record Company Limited“. The updated text is smaller print and longer. It reads “Manufactured In Australia By The Australian Record Company Limited, Licensee All Rights Reserved.”
It is difficult to be certain about the exact date. The last release I can find with the original text is W 1490 -Let’s Go! With the Routers. This was advertised as an upcoming U.S release in Billboard magazine of January 1963 and so it’s highly likely that it was issued in Australia sometime later that same year.
The updated text was certainly in place by September 1964 when the Peter Paul And Mary In Concert LP was released and being reviewed in Australia.
1965/66: Warner Bros label goes gold
In June 1965, W 1589, Peter, Paul & Mary’s LP A Song Will Rise was a best seller in the U.S. The album was originally released on the grey WB label in Australia. Unfortunately I can’t find a primary source to confirm it, but it seems reasonable to say that WB would have wanted to get it out as soon as possible to capitalise on their popularity and therefore it was probably issued sometime in mid to late 1965.
By April 1966 the label had changed to gold. Ike & Tina Turner’s Live Show (W 1579) is an early example. The album was released in the U.S early in 1965 and the sleeve of the Australian pressing carries a © date of 1965. However, reviews don’t begin appearing in Australia until April 1966 suggesting WB delayed local release.
1967/68: Warner Bros. – Seven Arts Ltd.
In November 1966 Jack L Warner sold his share of the Warner Bros. Company to Seven Arts Ltd. In July 1967 shareholders of both companies approved the sale of WB to Seven Arts. The resulting merger was named Warner Bros. – Seven Arts Ltd.
The Association’s album Insight Out was packaged to capitalise on the success of their song Windy which was in the Australian charts in August/September of 1967.
Though the album was released in Australia after the merger took place, the text on the rear sleeve still reads This record published and © 1967 Warner Bros. Records Inc., A subsidiary of Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.
However, text at the bottom of the original Australian pressing, likely issued early in 1968, does not yet credit the merger and reads “This record published and © 1968 Warner Bros. Records Inc., A subsidiary of Warner Bros. Pictures Inc.”
The Grateful Dead’s self titled debut album was being reviewed in Australia in March/April 1968. The text at the bottom of the rear sleeve is the earliest reference I can find of an Australian pressing that credits Seven Arts. It reads “This record published and © 1968 Warner Bros. – Seven Arts, Inc., A subsidiary and licensee of Warner Bros. – Seven Arts Inc.”
Interestingly, the album was originally released in the U.S in March 1967. The fact that the Australian pressing has a © date of 1968, and the Harpers Bizarre LP also has a © 1968 date, despite being originally released in 1967, suggests that the © year printed on sleeves is becoming more reliable during this period.
The gold label was still being used in 1968 for this second WB album release from the Grateful Dead.
1968-69: W7 logo and the first green labels
Either later in 1968, or certainly by 1969, a new W7 logo had begun appearing on the front and rear sleeves – usually in the top right corner. The logo was introduced in 1967 in the U.S for films made by the company but it seems to have taken a little longer before it became a fixture on their recordings.
There is also another shift in the colour of the label – this time to green. Along with this change is new text that appears on the top of the label that reads Warner Bros. – Seven Arts Records. Underneath this text is the W7 logo.
Again, it’s difficult being too specific about when the changes occurred, but in this case the © date on the rear sleeve for Lalo Schifrin’s Bullit soundtrack (WS 1777) says 1969 and my copy has a radio station stamp showing May 1969 so it had certainly happened by then.
1970: Warner Bros begins Australian operations
In July 1969 the Kinney National Company acquired the entire Warner Bros. – Seven Arts company. This was a fascinating business move by Kinney who had previously run parking lots and a funeral home. By 1970 Seven Arts had been dropped from the name and the company was known again as Warner Bros. The label remained green but there was a return to the WB shield design, this time with blue text on an orange background.
Looking to expand further, Warner Bros. announced in July 1970 that it was opening Warner Bros. Records of Australia later that year. With Paul Turner as President of operations it launched officially on October 1st 1970. This launch marked the end of the Australian Record Company’s period as the licensee for WB in Australia, though it would still take care of distribution until late 1972 when WEA Records Pty Ltd. took over. Turner and his team were given full control of releases and promotional activities. They were empowered and encouraged to sign local acts and the WB companies in other markets, which now included Canada and the U.K along with the U.S, were to help market those acts to their own audiences.
The first local act to release an LP on the new label was Tamam Shud with Goolutionites And The Real People (WS-200001), which came out in late 1970. The label highlights the changes in design with Warner Bros. Records along the top and the WB shield logo featured below it.
The other change that takes place at this time is the manufacturing credit on the rear sleeve. From 1970 on it simply says “Manufactured and Distributed under license.” The example here is from the Brownsville Station LP from 1971.
1972: Year of release printed on label
The international corporate shuffling and negotiations continued and in the first half of 1972 Kinney Music International renamed itself WEA International. The WEA initials standing for Warner, Elektra and Atlantic -the three major labels that had been bought out by Kinney. WEA Records Pty. Ltd. took over sales and distribution from November with operations in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, and Brisbane. WEA Records Pty. Ltd. begins to appear on labels and sleeves as the distributor after this date.
Worth noting is that from 1972 onwards the Australian pressings of Warner Bros. Records begin to put the ℗ year on their labels just under the catalogue number and MX numbers. This makes it much easier to date pressings after this period.
Featuring G. Wayne Thomas, John J. Francis, Brian Cadd, and Tamam Shud, the Morning of the Earth was an early local success for the label becoming the first Australian film soundtrack to achieve gold sales status.
1973 – 1978: The ‘Burbank’ label design for international artists
In 1973 Warner Bros. began using a logo that reflected the surrounding of their headquarters in Burbank, California. This has since become known as the Burbank label. Most noticeably the text at the top now reads “Burbank, Home Of Warner Bros. Records”. The change seems to have occurred in mid 1973.
Eric Weissberg & Steve Mandell’s soundtrack for the film Deliverance would have been one of the final releases using the green WB label in 1973. It was being reviewed as a new release in Australian newspapers in June 1973.
The self titled album by English band Greenslade (BS-2698) was being reviewed in August 1973. The only copies I have come across are on the Burbank variation.
The Burbank label didn’t change significantly over the following four years. The only update that I’m aware of is the addition of the word ‘Records’ through the middle of the shield logo. While I can’t fix a date for the change, it doesn’t seem to appear on anything before 1976. Releases I have from 1976 & 1977 have both variations.
Only international artists appeared in the Burbank label. Australian acts continued releasing albums on the green WB label through until 1975. An example is the Stone soundtrack by Billy Green (600 002) which appeared in 1974. Local acts began appearing on other labels of the Warner stable, like Reprise, after 1975.
1978: First use of the cream/white label
The final variation considered in this blog is the cream or white label which began being used in 1978. An example is the the Champagne Charlie album from Leon Redbone (BSK-3165). This continued into the 1980s.
Other WB sources of information
The Global Dog site has a comprehensive discography for Warner Bros 45s released in Australia.
The Milesago website has an excellent writeup on the history of Warner in Australia.
Robert Lyons is a good source for info about the U.K Warner Bros operations and pressings.
As I said at the beginning, if you spot anything that you feel should be corrected, or have information that can help further develop the detail in this blog, please get in touch. I’d love to hear from you.