From time to time, we like to focus on the packaging, especially when it is unique and pioneering in nature. Packaging has had a lot to do with the marketability of records over the years.
The 1960s were just underway and some record companies like Capitol were looking way beyond the modern age of the mid-century. A group of marketing folks, along with a special group of "boffins" (engineers!), were huddled together and they were working on an entirely new packaging concept for the higher end stereo albums produced by the large American record companies. The concept was simple, what new album packaging could be made from space age materials ? Moulded plastic was the answer. It was already being used in spacecraft, new cars, TV sets, radios, record players, and toys.
Above all, it was intended to be a packaging innovation. The moulded plastic case was designed to hold a vinyl album securely and there was a hinged plastic outer cover to protect the vinyl inside. The hinges were on the right hand side. The case had a small plastic spindle to hold the record and the Capitol dome logo was moulded into the plastic backing at the bottom right hand corner. The US patent numbers listed on the booklet inside are 2,848,106 and 2,785,797.
It is not known who actually created the plastic cases, but it is probable that they were proposed by an American supplier and not by Capitol's in-house personnel. Capitol may have come up with the design, but that background is not known at this time. In any event, the design was cool and was well suited to the contemporary designs found in the listening lounge of any North American Atomic ranch bungalow!
The designers came up with a novel plastic case and it was presented to management for approval. The green light for the new plastic packaging was duly given by the bosses at the Capitol tower in Los Angeles, and in the late fall of 1961, Capitol USA and Capitol of Canada introduced a series of specially recorded stereophonic albums for the growing market of "stereo buffs" who could afford high-end stereo equipment, and who wanted a thrilling "wide stereo" sound from their Hi-Fi investment. These new albums would be shipped in the new moulded plastic cases.
Four albums of specially recorded music were prepared for the series and one additional album was compiled from the series itself.
Capitol STAC-1635 - Van Alexander And His Orchestra - Swing! Staged For Stereo!
Capitol STAC-1636 - Henri Rose And Bobby Stevenson - Steinways! Staged For Stereo!
Capitol STAC-1637 - The Mallet Men - Percussion! Staged For Stereo!
Capitol STAC-1638 - Various Artists - Highlights! Staged For Stereo!
Capitol STAC-1639 - Norrie Paramor And His Orchestra - Strings! Staged For Stereo!
In the USA, monophonic versions of the albums were also produced and the album title wording was changed on each of these from "Staged For Stereo" to "Staged For Sound". They also used the T prefix instead of ST. Some promo copies were also produced with the PRO prefix and promo numbers. To date, no Canadian mono editions have surfaced but it is possible that some were pressed here in Canada by RCA. Not all stereo albums in the series in the USA used the plastic jewel cases. Perhaps Capitol was not fully committed to the project ?
The Canadian discs were pressed by RCA at Smiths Falls, Ontario in limited quantities. The specially prepared plastic cases were shipped up from the USA. The booklets were also printed in the USA. The booklets are very interesting because they have diagrams that show which instruments are used on each of the left and right channels. It is estimated that only 1000 of each album title were pressed in Canada. These deluxe LP packages would have been sold at the high end audio shops across Canada.
Starting in the late 1950s, Capitol USA was also selling their own line of high-end stereo record players. In 1961, the US retailers who were selling this equipment were probably also selling the “Staged For Stereo!” series of Capitol albums in their special grey plastic cases. These Capitol stereo record players were not available for sale in Canada.
The "jewel case" concept would be used again in the 1980s for Compact Discs. Now just imagine if Capitol had stayed the course with this type of packaging in 1961. The booklets were a great idea for sure, but perhaps the whole plastic case was just too heavy and bulky to be used for all Capitol album products. The case was much thicker and heavier than a regular LP jacket. Another drawback was that record buyers could not add written notes to the jacket, just the booklet.
These oddball plastic cases can be found in the usual second-hand, antique and junk shops that we all love to look in when we are searching for rare records. The fact that they carry the Capitol logo makes them interesting, and they can be used to display any 1960s Capitol LP by The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, The Beach Boys or even Al Martino ! But they were only ever originally issued for the Staged For Stereo series of LPs. So please don't be fooled if you see them offered for sale with other Capitol albums inside.
My personal favourite is the stereo LP by The Mallet Men. The stereo separation on this disc is awesome. The disc was pressed using Scranton metal parts and was packaged with the plastic case and booklet.
Above all, the effort taken with the graphics, sound and packaging make the albums in this cool series highly desirable artifacts indeed. So kudos to the unsung geniuses at Capitol USA who dreamed up the series way back in 1961. Any further information about the origins of these Capitol plastic LP cases would be very much appreciated. Just send us an email at "".