Every Canadian record collector is familiar with the Capitol 45s of the 1960s; the glossy yellow and orange swirl, the Capitol logo on the left and the white "made in Canada" notice at the bottom. Whatever the artist or the song, the iconic Canadian Capitol singles are easily recognizable, and we collectors, scrutinize these records and labels to date and identify the origin of every pressing we find, figuring out whether they are pressed, for example, by the Compo pressing plant, or by RCA in Smiths Falls. In the past few years, collectors have been very good at laying the ground rules helping to identify these pressings, but sometimes, oddball items surface, puzzling everyone, fueling discussions for years over something as simple as the hue of a label that seems a little off, or the typeface used to print the titles; a detail unapparent to most oblivious eyes, but that sticks out for the observing record experts. This is precisely what happened with a curious series of 6 consecutive 45 RPM records from the 72000 series in late 1966.
Indeed, records 72426 to 72431 all bear a different typeface than the classic one used on all records from 1962 through the early 1970s. These records have a thinner, narrower, pointy font not seen on any other Capitol swirl pressings. Why would a change of font mean anything important, yet interesting, you might say? Well, that might be true for a one-off pressing, and Capitol has made such special pressings in the past, from custom labels to band logos like the Staccatos 45s for example. The difference here, is that not one, but six records have the same alternate typeface, and these six records all follow each other in the order of their catalog numbers. This then, becomes interesting because it means two things: these differences happened over a short period of time, possibly a few days, and therefore, they are not an accident.
The 6 records with a different typeface:
|Capitol 72426||Gilbert Becaud||What Now My Love / Nathalie|
|Capitol 72427||Andy Stewart||Soldier Boy (The Sunset Call) / Scotland Yet|
|Capitol 72428||Yemm And The Yemen||Black Is The Night / Do Blondes Really Have More Fun ?|
|Capitol 72429||Ian Whitcomb||Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday On Saturday Night ? / Poor Little Bird|
|Capitol 72430||Barry Allen||Armful Of Teddy Bears / Sad Souvenirs|
|Capitol 72431||Davie Allen And The Arrows||Theme From The Wild Angels / U.F.O.|
The question is then, what happened during this week in the fall of 1966 that could have caused a temporary label change? Maybe they subcontracted pressings to another company, maybe machines broke down at the pressing plant, maybe a power outage, who knows… Unfortunately, nothing of the kind was reported in the local newspapers of the time. The answer may lie elsewhere, originating from a decision taken somewhere in the process between the headquarters' record selection of the week and the pressing of the actual records (or a little of both).
To figure out the secret of these mysterious pressings, we must first understand how they were manufactured. Records are pressed in a… pressing plant of course, but labels are printed blank beforehand (without black text, but only the swirl and the manufacturing notice) by a subcontractor (like Parr's and Ever Reddy printers for example) and then shipped to the different pressing plants hired by Capitol to press their records. Once they have been delivered to the plant, a precise order of a specific record is placed, and the equivalent number of labels is prepared accordingly with the proper text reprinted on the blanks. This step is done at the pressing plant itself. These prepared labels are finally pressed directly onto the hot vinyl biscuit that becomes a record a few seconds later.
Each plant had their different printing equipment and masters, which is why pressings from different plants vary on small details. On Capitol singles for example, the "L" on the company logo is full on RCA pressings, while it is an open loop on Compo pressings. All very technical you might say but this gives us very important information on how to investigate the origins of the odd pressings. All the thin print singles have the open loop logo and therefore all come from the Compo plant. This undoubtedly places the typeface hiccup at the level of the pressing plant, ruling out Capitol headquarters. Moreover, this means the change happened at the Compo pressing plant and not RCA!
That is all very interesting, but does it explain anything? Not just quite yet. So the question now becomes "do these odd records come from another pressing plant?" Most likely not, because they have all the characteristics of Compo pressings, and if Compo would have needed the help of another plant, supplying them with the blueprints for the labels, they would certainly have given them the typeface at the same time as the logo since they are printed together as one single blueprint master on the label. Maybe Capitol was experimenting on a new look then? We figured this could not be the case since this type of experiment and decision would not result from the initiative of one single pressing plant hired by Capitol, but from a decision taken by the head office itself.
This means we can establish that the differences occurred at the Compo plant, and was most likely not the result of a decision from Capitol headquarters. The idea that since one of the titles was so long, a different typeface could have been used instead was suggested, but this would be inconsistent with printing methods, in the sense that the use of a smaller version of the same font would have been favoured to a new typeface all together. If it was the case, this would have happened before on other records from the Capitol catalog as well. Furthermore, smaller versions of the usual font existed, one can simply compare the Beach Boys singles "Help Me Rhonda" and "Barbara Ann", one with the large usual Capitol font, and one with a small version of the same font.
Where did this "new" font come from then? As it turns out, this font was not really new, not to Compo at least. Another EMI subsidiary, Pathé, used the aforementioned thin font on their mid sixties pressings, notably some of the red labels, but mostly on their blue and white target pressings, like the Régine's 45 number 77795 pictured below. Incidentally, Pathé records were printed by Compo as well. Even though the font has been identified, the question remains: why the mix up?
The answer lies in the different facilities used to press records. Compo had moved its operations to its new Cornwall plant in 1964, and having newer equipment allowed larger quantities of records to be pressed on state of the art machines. All the big sellers, like the Beatles, the Beach Boys and so on, were almost exclusively pressed at their new factory in Ontario. The Lachine plant near Montreal was much smaller, but still in use for other labels with limited runs of records, like Pathé that was very popular in Québec with its French catalog, but not as much in English Canada. It is suspected then, that these six records, the selection prepared by headquarters for the week's release, would have been ordered at the Lachine plant instead of its usual Cornwall facilities. This partially explains the label change - "partially", because we might never know why they used the Pathé typeface; maybe a mistake, maybe a forgotten blueprint, maybe a defective machine… but it would make a lot of sense for Compo to decide to use their other plant in order to manage the production volumes by shifting some pressing jobs to Quebec. Keep in mind that deciding to move production between its own facilities to balance production and meet deadlines would have been in the hands of Compo, and not Capitol.
If we take a step back even further and look at the Capitol catalog and Sizzle Sheets from late 1966, the shift makes a lot of sense when one realizes that pressing plants were over-booked all around to meet their deadlines in time. First, November is the time where production is at its busiest to meet demands for the holiday season, and with all the huge sellers issued in late 1966, Capitol used all the pressing time and equipment preparing records like Yellow Submarine or Good Vibrations, so lower charting records obviously were second in line and were sometimes relegated to other pressing plants. On top of this, Capitol was also launching the Studio Two LP label, and pressing large quantities of Star Line oldies singles on the green swirl. Clearly, during October and November of 1966 Capitol just had too many new releases that were big sellers, and these would tie up both the RCA and Compo's main Cornwall pressing plant. So, add this to all the orders Compo was receiving from other record companies, and one can imagine its manufacturing calendar filling up quite rapidly before Christmas, requiring full production from both its facilities and finding the need for quick solutions to little problems in the turmoil of the holidays.
Here are excerpts of Sizzle Sheets' announcing releases for the fall of 1966 (while there were already hits on the charts by Peter And Gordon, The Hollies, The Dave Clark Five, not to mention Al Martino, Wayne Newton, and Lou Rawls - all with new singles):
The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations (huge seller in Canada)
Ian Whitcomb - Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go With Friday On Saturday Night (thin print)
The Seekers - Georgy Girl
The Yardbirds - Happenings Ten Years Time Ago
Davie Allan - Theme From The Wild Angels (thin print)
Peggy Lee - So What's New
Barry Allen - Armful Of Teddy Bears (thin print)
We might never know for sure who or what is precisely responsible for the short typeface change on these cool Capitol swirl labels, but the differences remain in synch with the extremely high volumes of records ordered at the end of 1966 by Capitol and other labels at Compo. These few singles are not necessarily huge sellers, but they nonetheless become collectibles, as they are a witness to the inside gears of a record business constantly switching to meet the increasing demands of a booming industry at its busiest time of the year.