Voice Record (1930s – early 1940s)

Voice Records were small aluminium phonograph discs, intended to be used to record a personal message.

They were introduced in the 1930s in the UK, to be recorded in automatic booths operated by the Amusement Equipment Co. Ltd. of Wembley. The booths were placed in places were people might want to record a message to family or friends, such as  tourist attractions.

The discs were 5-inches in diameter, span at 78rpm, and were double-sided with one side for recording up to one minute of a personal message and the other containing a pre-recorded advertisement (often for cigarettes, but sometimes promoting attractions local to the machine). The discs came with a mailing envelope for posting the recorded message and some wooden needles, since the steel needles used at the time on phonographs would damage the recording.

This most likely the system Graham Greene had in mind when writing Brighton Rock (1938) when Pinkie records his message to Rose.

The machines were withdrawn from service during World War II, when supplies of aluminium were needed for military use. It is probable that many Voice Records were donated as scrap for the war effort.

The Voice-O-Graph was a very similar later concept, but used laminated cardboard.

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Crown records (1935 – 1937)

The Crown name was used by several record labels, but around 1935 was used by the Crystalate company to produce a range of 9-inch (22.5 cm) 78rpm records for Woolworths in the UK.

Woolworths had been selling its Eclipse range of 8-inch records since 1929, but rising raw material costs forced them to try something new and they began selling the Crown range in 1935. Unusually, these were pressed on Bakelite, an early form of plastic, and as this was cheaper than shellac the size could be increased. The grooves could also be packed more closely, allowing more playing time, but Woolworths were still able to sell them for sixpence.

The music on Crown records produced by Crystalate was almost all from UK masters, and included popular bands and singers of the time, including Vera Lynn (though she was uncredited).

By 1937, costs had risen and selling records for sixpence was no longer profitable so Crown records were dropped.

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V-Disc (1943 – 1949)

V-Disc was a record label that produced music for US military forces between 1943 and 1949, pressed on 12-inch 78 rpm phonograph discs. Most V-Disc records were pressed on a mixture of Vinylite and Formvar, making it much easier to dispatch records without breakage (many of the brittle shellac records sent by relatives arrived in pieces) although Columbia, one of the companies that pressed V-Discs, continued to use shellac despite it being in short supply during World War II.

The V-Disc label came about as a way to boost morale among the forces. A strike by the American Federation of Musicians over royalty payments from the major record labels meant an agreement that the V-Disc records were not to be sold commercially, and the masters were disposed of.  The V-Disc project meant the forces could hear newly recorded music they would not otherwise hear due to the strike, and these included big band, swing, jazz and marches, often by famous performers who also put spoken greeting into the recordings.

Because of the larger disc size, and closer groove spacing, each side of the disc could hold up to 6 minutes, so performances could be longer and jams could be extended. Discs were sent in sets of 30, and included phonograph needles, lyric sheets and feedback forms to gauge which material was most popular.

After the war ended, the cost of producing V-Disc records meant that the project was gradually run down, with smaller consignments of discs, or longer intervals between them, though they continued to provide entertainment to forces stationed overseas as part of the Marshall Plan. The last consignment of 10 discs was sent in May 1949, and after this many masters and discs were destroyed as part of the agreement with the American Federation of Musicians.

Over 900 V-Disc record titles were issues, and over 8 million discs were produced.

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Kid Kord (1930s)

Kid Kord was a record label in the UK, that produced records for children around the 1930s.

The records themselves were shellac, played at 78rpm and were 8-inches in diameter. Each disc contained about 2¼ minutes per side, and form part of an album of six discs. The colourful centre labels depicted the contents of the record.

Most of the records contained nursery rhymes and children’s songs, though there is a series of zoological records with descriptions of animals, and pictures of them on the centre label.

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Filmophone Flexible Record (1930 – 1932)

Filmophone was an early type of flexible record, introduced by Filmophone Flexible Records Ltd for the UK market in 1930.

They were 10-inches in diameter, double-sided and played at 78rpm. Unlike contemporary 10-inch 78s which were made of heavy and brittle shellac, Filmophone records were made of cellulose, and were initially available in a range of colours. Priced at 2 shillings and sixpence, they were popular in the UK for a time, and many of the releases were by British musicians.

Due to their flexibility, they don’t always lay flat on a turntable, and they were designed to last perhaps a dozen plays.

Nearly 400 titles were released on Filmophone records, but they stopped being produced in 1932.

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Durium record (1932 – 1933)

Durium was the name of a UK record label, and also the name of the material used to make the records it issued, which was a synthetic brown resin invented in the US in 1929. Durium was also used by a US record label called ‘Hit Of The Week’ between 1930 and 1932 to make cardboard-backed flexi-discs, initially with one song, and later with two songs on one side of the disc.

The UK Durium label also used the durium material make inexpensive cardboard-backed flexi-discs containing two songs, and sold at newsstands. Sound quality was as good or even better than the usual shellac used for most phonograph records of the time. They could be played with standard steel needles and were as durable as shellac discs (and less fragile). Like shellac records, Durium records span at 78rpm, but had closer spaced grooves to enable five minutes of playing time (at the expense of bass response).

Most discs were 10-inches in diameter, and were contained in flimsy sleeves. They usually had plain cardboard backings, but some had pictures of the artist.

In the UK, the Durium label released around 40 title from April 1932 to January 1933 at the rate of one per week, on Fridays which was traditionally payday in the UK.

Durium records are still playable today, unless they are badly creased. If the records will not sit flat on the turntable, they can be weighted with a upturned mug or similar object.

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Gala Goldentone (1960 – 1964)

Gala Goldentone records were a series of 6-inch diameter orange vinyl records aimed at children and played at 78rpm. They were produced by Gala Records between around 1960 and 1964, and about 54 titles were available.

Gala Records was a division of Musical and Plastics Industries Limited, which also owned Selcol (who manufactured the records) and Selmer, famous for organs and amplifiers.

In 1968, Gala Records produced another series of records for children called Gala Nursery Records. These were more conventional, being 7-inches diameter and pressed on black vinyl, but they still played at 78rpm.

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The Bell records (1921 – 1926)

The Bell was a record label issued by the Edison Bell Consolidated Phonograph Co in the UK starting in 1921.

The Bell has previously been used as a label for disc records between 1908 and 1912, but this time it was used for childrens records. Initially, The Bell discs were 5⅜ of an inch in diameter, but this later changed to 6-inches.

By the end of production, some titles were released on the label for adults, including some dance band items recorded specially for The Bell.

The label was discontinued in 1926, but Edison Bell continued to release some 6-inch discs under the Crown label.

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Victory records (1928 – 1931)

Victory record were manufactured by the Crystalate Gramophone Record Manufacturing Company for sale in Woolworth stores in the UK.

They were 7-inch 78rpm shellac records, selling for just sixpence (2½p). As well as the latest popular songs, they also contained instrumentals, dances and music for children.

All Victory records were electrically recorded, and had a playing time similar to a standard 10-inch record of the time (hence the claim on the label of being a ‘Long Playing Record’).

They were replaced in Woolworth stores by the Eclipse 8-inch 78rpm, and were discontinued in 1931.

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Pygmy Gramophone (1923 – 1925)

Pygmy Gramophone was a record label owned by Crystalate (who also produced Kiddyphone records) that produced small records aimed at children between around 1923 and 1925.

The records were made for the toymakers Bing Brothers who produced the Bing Pygmyphone, a small tinplate phonograph for children.

The records themselves were 5½-inches in diameter. Catalogue numbers ran from 1 to about 80 and the recordings were a mix of early dance music and popular vocal and instrumental selections.

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