When organ/piano player Col Nolan died this week we lost a great musician and bandleader. The news inspired an afternoon revisiting music in my collection that he helped create.
Reading through the credits on many of the records you notice that Nolan is usually found playing alongside names like John Sangster, George Golla, Don Burrows, Warren Daly, Sven Libaek, and Col Loughnan – some of the finest musicians of the 60s and 70s. It’s a reaffirmation that he was one of the most loved and respected keys players of his generation.
As a tribute then, here are five Col Nolan selections that feature his rock solid left hand, and his searching, imaginative right hand.
1. Crazy Crochet – Col Nolan Soul Syndicate (1966)
Crazy Crochet is all about dancing. The opening cut on the Soul Syndicate’s debut LP has Nolan’s organ right up front spitting melodic invention over a driving 12 bar blues courtesy of Peter Martin’s guitar, Stewart Speer’s drums and Johnny Allan’s electric bass. One aspect of garage sales that I love is the opportunity to speak with sellers about their musical tastes and where they bought their records. In this case, I mentioned to the woman selling the record that I appreciated Col Nolan and was really happy to find a copy. She told me she’d loved his music ever since seeing him play at a go-go fashion show at David Jones in Canberra in 1966. Apparently the idea followed successful events in London and the U.S where designs by the likes of Mary Quant had been featured. I noticed later that the liner notes to the LP actually mention the mod fashion shows and credit them with being the inspiration for the LP. Now, whenever I play this record it evokes images of go-go dancers in cutting edge fashion doing the frug and watusi down a catwalk.
2. Shades Of McSoul – Col Nolan Soul Syndicate (1968)
This song opens the second Soul Syndicate LP with a burst of high energy soul-jazz. Following time in Hong Kong with the In-People in 1967, Col Nolan returned to Sydney and his band became one of the most talked about on the Kings Cross scene. Troops on leave from the war in Vietnam were a big part of the audiences that flocked to see them play at the Cross. Nolan’s hammond is the heart of every cut on this record. This track, written by Col Loughnan, along with the album’s title cut Whatever It’s Worth are two of its best moments. Also found on the LP are top shelf cover versions of Sunny and Ode To Billie Joe.
3. Dark World – Sven Libaek (1973)
Sven Libaek’s evocative soundtrack for the TV series Inner Space has rightfully been praised as some of his finest work. Dark World takes you to the depths of the ocean, hinting at the surrounding perils, while communicating a sense of the wonder of submarine life. John Sangster’s vibes are the star of the first half of this song but then Nolan takes over, playing his organ through murky wah pedal effects that take you deeper toward the ocean floor. It’s not the flashy playing you hear on other cuts here but is gives a strong sense of his feel and the variety that he was capable of.
4. WD & HO Blues – Daly Wilson Big Band (1970)
When Warren Daly and Ed Wilson first started planning their big band in 1968, Col Nolan must have been an obvious choice. The first chart they drew up for the band was a song called WD & HO Blues which features Nolan’s chops throughout. He begins stealthily, feeling his way round the warm bass lines of Ford Ray. Then, as Daly’s drums snap to attention and the horns begin to swing, Nolan opens up and the track really starts to cook. It’s an erudite statement of what the Big Band was all about and appeared on their 1970 debut Live at the Cellblock. Warren Daly once told me that WD & HO had a double meaning. It could be read as Warren Daly & His Own Blues, but it could also be seen as a subtle message to the company WD & HO Wills who were the parent company to Benson & Hedges who later sponsored the band’s touring and recording activity. Col’s Dilemma is another killer worth mentioning from the Daly Wilson output. It features his playing stretched out over 5 minutes and appears on the 1972 album with Kerrie Biddell.
5. Buckingham Palace – Col Nolan Soul Syndicate (1973)
OK, so Col is actually playing a Fender Rhodes on this cut rather than a Hammond, but it still sizzles! It was recorded at Jason’s restaurant in Sydney which doubled as a jazz club on Sunday nights in the early 70s. The Soul Syndicate held a residency there for about 8 months before they decided to record a performance. It resulted in a live LP and a 7” with this track, and Johnny Nicol performing What’s The Use on the flip side. When I interviewed Horst Liepolt some years back he said that Live at Jason’s was the album that enabled him to start the legendary 44 Records label. He worked with Col Nolan to record and produce their set one week. Jason’s paid for the recording and Liepolt then licensed the tracks to the Avan-Guard label. Polygram indicated they would have liked the recordings and so Liepolt began talking to them about starting a label to promote Australian jazz. He then told them about Galapagos Duck and 44 Records was born. The Live at Jason’s LP can be tracked down, but the 7″ is much harder to find, though well worth it.
This is really the tip of the Col Nolan iceberg. If you’re not familiar with John Sangster’s Ahead of Hair from 1969 then I recommend checking that out as it is a great listen that features Nolan’s work. The Col Nolan Quartet album Arrangements from 1976 has some fine moments and is worth picking up. DJ Kinetic put together a very tidy list of Nolan tracks for his Aussie Funk blog a few years back that suggests other wonderful sides. Finally, he was part of The In People alongside Little Sammy Gaha and Janice Slater in the mid 60s and I wonder if it is his organ featured on their rare 7” releases When It Comes To The Crunch & Big Daddy’s Discotheque. I’d love to hear from you with other suggestions.
Thankyou for sharing your musical talents with us all Col Nolan. May your recordings provide good times for listeners for many years to come.
Most Australian collections will have an album made by Festival Records somewhere in amongst it. For more than 40 years the label was at the cutting edge of musical styles and technological innovation. It released some of the first rock ‘n roll records as well as some of the first stereo and microgroove recordings. This story attempts to map out a brief history of the Long Play albums (LPs) it released between 1952 and the 1980s. Apart from a few relevant departures during the early days, its focus is predominantly on Festival itself, rather than the many other labels that parent company Festival Records Pty Ltd also distributed over the years. Festival issued and then reissued many of its titles over the decades. This post looks at the changes in label design in the hope that it can help collectors identify which period their Festival albums were pressed in.
Microgroove LPs in the 1950s
Festival Records appeared in late 1952 at just the right time. Microgroove Long Play records were seen a big part of the bright future for the record industry in Australia but there were a few issues that needed to be sorted out. To combat inflation, the Menzies government had introduced tough import restrictions which had made it difficult to source new records which were usually shipped from the U.K. On top of that, if you did find them, there was a significant sales tax. That said, at that time some 8 million records were being sold annually in Australia. If local production could be done then it seemed the best way to make records easier to find at a good price.
In May 1952 the Sunday Herald reported that E.M.I Australia had announced it would be producing and distributing the new technology “from November 1st, or as soon afterwards as is practicable.” It went on to say that Sydney dealers had said this development was the most important in the trade for many years.
When treasurer Arthur Fadden handed down the 1952 budget in August there was good news – one of the big announcements was a drop in sales tax from 33 1/3% to 20%. Things were improving.
In his end of year wrap in December 1952, music critic Selwyn Speight observed that for record collectors, the year had been the most difficult and frustrating since the war, particularly for fans of classical music. However, looking forward to 1953 he said “the year’s outlook seems almost too good to be true”. His optimism was born of the fact that five companies would now be pressing LPs in Australia. Joining E.M.I would be Philips, the Australian Record Company, Radio Corporation, and Festival Records.
Festival’s First Release: Meet Mr Callaghan
The first recordings released by Festival were a single 78rpm disc on the Manhattan label featuring the song Meet Mr Callaghan played by Les Welch and his Orchestra. They hit the stores on 6th November 1952. Testament to the crowded market that Festival was entering is the fact that four versions of the same song were released on the same day. The B side featured Pamela Jopson, a vocalist Welch had met at a party, singing When I Fall In Love.
As a marketing ploy, even though it was the first release, the catalogue number printed on the label was FM-1019 to suggest there were other Festival releases out there. And indeed it wasn’t long before there were.
Several other single 78rpm sides from Welch were released in the coming weeks. By Christmas 1952 Meet Mr Callaghan had reportedly sold 10,000 copies and Festival was on its way.
The First Manhattan/Festival Long Play Microgroove Records
Following these initial debut releases Festival quickly began marketing its first 10” Microgroove LPs. The earliest of these are Ken Neville’s Tales of the Dreamtime Vol 1 (FM-3) and Vol 2 (FM-4) which are first mentioned as upcoming release on 6th November 1952 and then as a new release on 8th January 1953. These dramatized stories of Australian animals with orchestral accompaniment were recorded in a church in Sydney in 1952. The project was instigated by an American named Walter Hayum who intended to release the sides in his home country. However, Festival became involved and they arranged for an Australian release as well.
The liner notes claim “progressing with the ever-changing and improving field of recording technique, Les again makes Australian musical history with this release on MANHATTAN Long Playing Microgroove – being the first Australian artist to be presented on Microgroove throughout Australasia.”
Certainly this is the first Microgroove LP release for Les Welch. While it was possibly the first, if not one of the first few LPs released by Festival, the bigger claim seems to be either a very careful choice of words or creative copywriting. Cyril Stephens and his Spotlight label in Victoria had already produced microgroove LPs featuring Australian artists with the earliest example being Bruce Clarke and his Samballeros – Evergreen Rhythm (S.V.1) which had been available since at least August 1952. Spotlight only had distribution in selected cities (Melbourne and Sydney so far as I know) so Festival’s claim that it’s the first available in Australasia would be true if there were evidence that Festival had distribution agreements in New Zealand or other Pacific countries at this time. I haven’t found any to date.
Another possible explanation, though a little wild, is that by using a capital M when saying this is the first “presented on Microgroove throughout Australasia” they are not referring to the technology, but to Microgroove Australia Pty Ltd, the small record pressing company that had been merged with Caspar Precision Engineering to form Festival only three or four months earlier.
Whatever the truth might be there is no doubt that at this time in Festival’s life it needed to create a buzz with potential customers and radio broadcasters, and this kind of story makes for a great talking/selling point.
More microgroove LP titles appeared on Manhattan throughout 1953. The label varies with some showing the city skyline design while others used a simpler green and gold combination.
1953: Classical LPs and the First Appearance of the Festival Label
The Festival label is best known for its success in the pop market, however its earliest releases were classical LPs. Given the nature of the market in 1953 this should be no surprise. Microgroove LP technology made it possible to hear entire pieces on a single disc for the first time. The companies’ initial strategy seems to have been to release popular recordings on the Manhattan label and classical LPs on Festival. The Westminster agreement meant Festival pressed the LPs but continued using the Westminster label. Festival was active in the early months adding other catalogues to its books and announced agreements with Remington (Dec 1952), Vox (May 1953), and Regent (June 1953).
In its first year of operation Festival/Manhattan released roughly 170 records and 80 of those were microgroove LPs. Of those 80, two thirds were classical records with an increasing number of jazz and light popular sides becoming more common later on as Festival added other labels like Record Corporation of America to its roster.
1953 – 1954: Introducing the Black and Gold Lyre Label
The first significant change to the Festival label design seems to have happened in mid to late 1953. The new label is black and gold. Festival is written in black on top of a gold band that surrounds a black centre. At what would be 6 o’clock on the gold band is a lyre. Gold text on top of the black centre gives the recording information.
By June 1954 Festival had changed the colouring of the label. Instead of black and gold the labels were now black and yellow. One of the earliest examples is Hazel Scott – Piano Solos (CFR10-349). This release is significant because it was part of the original batch of records offered by Festival in June following an agreement to release recordings from the Decca, Coral and Brunswick labels in the U.S. This same arrangement allowed Festival to release the revolutionary 7” of Bill Haley’s Rock Around The Clock a year later which established the label as a leader in the emerging rock n roll market.
Early in 1956 Festival again changed its label design. This time it retained the black and yellow colour scheme but consolidated Festival into a banner that covered the top half of the label so it could be read more easily.
It is worth noting here the changing catalogue number system used by Festival. Between 1952 and early 1958 releases on Festival and Manhattan followed the same numbering sequence whether the release was an LP, EP or 7” single, it simply put a 12 or 10, EP or 45 before the number to indicate the format. One of the final releases using this system is Bobby Helms – My Special Angel (SP45-1668) which hit the charts on 25th January 1958. At this point Festival began separate numbering conventions for the different formats. 10” albums carried the FM prefix and begin at 6001, while 12” albums display the FL prefix and start at 7001. The first Festival 12” to use the new system is Andres Segovia – Guitar (FL-7001) which was out by June 1958. This continued until early 1961 when it changed to the FL 30,000 system which was used until the 70s.
1959 – 1963: Stereo LPs & The Blue Conductor Label
Also of note from this period is the short series of four LPs that were issued at the “fourth speed” of 16 2/3 rpm. Each were spoken word dramatical performances. Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman was the last of the run and came out mid 1960.
As mentioned above, the Festival catalogue number system changed again in 1961. From here all LPs whether stereo or mono are released using the same 30,000 numbering with the prefix indicating whether stereo (SFL) or mono (FL). Stereo LPs also have a 9 at the beginning of the number. Festival use this same numbering system for all their LP from this date too so it is not just Festival albums that carry this numbering but also all the labels that Festival had the Australian rights to release. At this time they included Coral, Command, Brunswick and Ampar.
1963 – 1970: Blue/Silver Festival
In the first half of 1963 Festival began issuing its LPs with a new label design. This time it retained the cursive presentation of the word Festival but moved it down so it sat in the middle of the label. The colour scheme became blue and silver.
The SDS All Stars – Electone Fortissimo In Movie Themes (SFL-930,942), issued in the first half of 1963, provides perhaps the earliest look at the change. This label stayed in place, with occasional variations, until 1970. One of the last examples I know of is Barry Crocker – Both Sides Now (SLF-934,076). By the late 1960s Festival were releasing most of their material on the many labels they had either started (like Infinity) or acquired the rights to manufacture (like Atlantic, A&M or Stax). Only a handful of local acts were still releasing regularly on the Festival label itself.
1966/67: Blue/White Festival
One notable short period of variation is when the label used the blue and white version during late 1966 and early 1967. This design replicated the one being used for Festival 7” during the mid 60s.
There are examples of LPs that had been issued earlier that were reissued during this short period on the blue/white label. One is this album, Ancient Voices of Papua New Guinea (FL-30,976), which seems to have been first released in 1963.
1971: Green/Silver Festival Variation
A second variation is the green/silver label which appears to have ben used by Festival in 1971 before their final label change.
Festival introduced what would be their final LP label design sometime in 1971. the colour scheme remained blue and silver though the blue is a lighter colour than the 1960s version. The word festival was also given a new font and raised above the spindle hole.
As I mentioned at the beginning this piece is an attempt to frame the evolution of the different variations of the Festival label so that it might be possible to date them more accurately. I’ve used records from my collection or those listed on online databases to inform my research. If you have discs that you think will help fill in gaps or make this more accurate please drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.
Recently I became interested in understanding the evolution of the Australian Warner Bros label during the 1960s and 70s. This post focusses on key releases that highlight changes in the label design and information over two decades. Warners issued and reissued many of their albums over the years and my aim is to help clarify which years/eras certain pressings come from.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
Michael De Looper has compiled an excellent discography of Australian Warner Bros. releases in the 1960s and the 1970s. It covers LPs, EPs, and 45s.
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.
Welcome to Sonic Archaeology. I’ve set this up to share knowledge I’ve acquired, research and interviews I’ve conducted, as well as writing, documentaries, and mixtapes I have created over the last two decades.
The plan is to share regular posts that will highlight stories and music that I love, and at the same time provide a glimpse into different aspects of cultural and social history from all corners of the world.
When I was younger, the Indiana Jones films convinced me archaeology was my calling. Unfortunately, I spent too much time talking music with my science teachers, failed their classes, and couldn’t enrol for the required university degree.
After filling my house with recorded artefacts over the last 30 years, I now realise that I’ve been an archaeologist all along. It’s just my focus has been the study of human history via excavations undertaken at markets, garage sales and church fetes rather than Thracian battlefields or Mayan temples. And so – Sonic Archaeology.
My tastes are diverse. I’ve been digging for records since I was a kid scouting second hand stores for obscure discs on my dads wants list. My dad has been buying them all his life as well. I quickly acquired his liking for raucous sax and guitar breaks, thumping rockabilly basslines, doo wop harmonies, lush exotica soundscapes, and anything else that stood out as being a bit different. Later I developed cravings that were satisfied by fatback drums, sassy horns, and sweeping strings. It seems there is an endless combination of instruments and styles that will move my soul in one way or another.
Along the way I learned that all the interesting sounds I heard were personal expressions of lives being lived. And the stories of those musicians, their recordings, and the circumstances they made them in became a great interest in my life.
I was lucky enough to get a job in radio. Work that allowed me to indulge my passion. Fortunately, my dad was also working in radio, and together we were able to devote a lot of professional time to researching and presenting programs and documentaries involving many of our favourite players. Our longest running project was called RareCollections and featured exclusively Australian musicians and stories going back as far as the 1930s. It ran as a podcast and weekly show on ABC Radio National for 4 years.
For much of the last decade I have been working and traveling around the Pacific region. Through Sonic Archaeology, I’m looking forward to sharing some of the recordings I’ve come across during those travels as well.
There’s always more to say, but this initial offering is really here to welcome you to the site and encourage you to explore what’s here (more to come soon). If something connects with you then please leave a comment or drop me a line. Meeting other sonic archaeologists and making new friends has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this whole journey.