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The Capitol Of Canada Record Club

Developed by Piers Hemmingsen

The Capitol Of Canada Record Club and The Columbia Record Club

There were two major record clubs operating in Canada during the 1960s; The Capitol Of Canada Record Club and The Columbia Record Club. Both companies offered a very generous sign-on promotion such as seven records for one cent provided the applicant agreed to purchase a number of records (eg six albums in the next twelve months). The CAPITOL RECORD CLUB OF CANADA, LTD. was incorporated in Canada on January 31, 1958.

Our family joined the Columbia Record Club Of Canada in December 1963 and our first order included The Ventures «Telstar» LP (Dolton), Johnny Cash «Ring Of Fire» LP (Columbia), «Tom Jones» Soundtrack LP (United Artists), «The Versatile Henri Mancini» (Liberty) as well as a number of classical releases on Columbia. We soon joined the Capitol Record Club (Canada) when we discovered that Beatles LPs could not be purchased through the Columbia Record Club (with the exception of A Hard Day’s Night)!

Each club produced a glossy magazine on a monthly/bi-monthly basis that was roughly the size of a letter-sized sheet folded in half. These featured colour covers and included small-sized pictures of the current selections. As an example, a summer 1965 Capitol Of Canada Record Club magazine, Keynotes, featured a full page colour shot of the Beatles «Something New» LP. This monthly/bi-monthly Capitol magazine was printed in Montreal by the Art Bell Press and then mailed out to members across Canada, coast to coast.

A Capitol Record Club mailing card stamped from 1967

Capitol Record Club Of Canada Keynotes Magazines

(note that on the rear page of each keynotes magazine there appears a 4-digit code that may be used as a guideline to the month and year that the magazine was issued - I have ten of these as well as three of the special Christmas catalogues):

Serial Number Artist Title
4126 12 64 Snowflake design cover
T-6068, Dave Clark Five «Bits & Pieces LP» issued May 11,1964 is featured selection
5016 01 65 Winter scene cover
T-6075, The Esquires LP issued August 10, 1964 is featured selection
5056 05 65 Girl with LP records
T-6094 Mrs. Mills «It’s Party Time», issued November 2, 1964 is featured selection
5076 07 65 Nancy Wilson
Back cover has the «Something New» Beatles LP and a featured selection is T-6115, Jack London & The Sparrows, issued April 12, 1965
5116 11 65 Nat King Cole
New Beatles VI is a selection of the month with Beatles cutting a cake and caption «Happy Birthday Beatles»
6016 01 66 The Impressions
6017 02 66 The Beach Boys
Beach Boys Party Lp advert from the February 1966
6036 03 66 Dean Martin
Beatles new Rubber Soul LP is featured selection – we ordered this!
6056 05 66 Buck Owens
6066 06 66 Peter And Gordon
6116 11 66 Girl in raincoat in the rain (close up from a Jonah Jones LP)
Beach Boys new Pet Sounds LP is a featured selection – we ordered this!
6017 01 67 Jackie Gleason
Article on Herman’s Hermits
6027 02 67 Al Martino
Article on Sonny James
6037 03 67 Dean Martin
1 page on the Beatles' Revolver album.
6047 04 67 Nat King Cole
Articles on Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison.
6057 05 67 Righteous Brothers
Al Martino article.
6097 09 67 Eric Burdon
Same artwork as Hits Vol. 2
6107 10 67 Nancy Wilson
Article on the Lovin Spoonful.
6127 12 67 Righteous Brothers
Article on Ray Charles.
TBD 02 68 TBD
The Beatles LP catalogue includes Meet The Beatles, Second Album, Twist And Shout, A Hard Days Night and also Beatles Story only in mono.
TBD 08 68 TBD
Beach Boys new Wild Honey LP
TBD 12 68 TBD
Beach Boys new Friends LP

Special Christmas catalogues were also issued and these would have been sent out with the regular catalogues.
I have three of these:

Christmas 1964 Holiday cover
(includes Beach Boys Christmas LP as well as Rich Little T-6049 «Scrooge & The Stars» issued November 25, 1963)
Christmas 1965 Red cover with cartoon Santa Claus
(includes Beach Boys Christmas LP again as well as Beatles 65)
Christmas 1967 Larger format with Santa Claus cover

The record club: a great promotional tool

A teenager would spend hours poring over the record club magazine to make sure that whatever was ordered was the best choice from the proliferation of LPs on offer. Remember, these were the days when artists competed head to head for a top ten LP position. It was not unusual for several Capitol artists to compete for the attention of a single teenager who could only afford one selection. As an example, Beatles LPs competed with the Beach Boys and Dave Clark Five LPs for the monthly selection.

The Capitol Of Canada Record Club played an important role in the story of Capitol Records of Canada during the 1960s. Firstly, the population of Canada in the early 1960s was less than 20 million and was well dispersed across a huge geographic area. Few consumers had direct access to a record shop that would stock a wide variety of releases; this was a luxury that was confined to the major cities. Catalogue shopping had been popular with consumers in the rural areas who were used to catalogue shopping from Eatons, Hudsons Bay, Simpsons, Sears, and Canadian Tire. Products were shipped «second class» through the Royal Mail Of Canada. The Book Of The Month Club and Readers Digest were other popular forms of mail-order culture in Canada at that time.

Most record shops of the day stocked the top fourty 45RPM records but LP albums were relatively expensive (eg $4.20 for a MONO disc and $5.20 for a STEREO disc circa 1964) and these record shops generally only stocked an LP upon its release and re-ordering was usually not done unless the LP was a huge seller.

Record selections were ordered from the catalogue via an 80-column (computer) punch-card and then the consumer waited for weeks until the disc arrived in a special record club mailing box. I well remember waiting for weeks at the end of 1966 for my copy of Yesterday And Today which would have been a featured selection in the club’s magazine.

In general, the record club would have been responsible for making LPs accessible to the wider public and it would have been doubtful if Capitol in Canada would have been able to achieve the economies of scale in terms of sales to be in the position to afford the production and distribution of unique products such as the 6000 LP releases and 72000 45 RPM releases. The Capitol Of Canada Record Club operated from a modern distribution centre at 41 Bertal Road (off Trethewey Drive, near the Black Creek) in Toronto’s west end industrial area. The building still stands today and appears largely unchanged from the 1960s.

A box in which records were packed and sent to homes across Canada (1965-1966)

Capitol Record Club Anecdotes:

A few years ago, I bumped into a fellow who had worked as a student at the Capitol of Canada Record Club warehouse during the holidays. When I mentioned The Beatles and their Canadian Capitol records, he immediately laughed as he recalled the chaos of getting the new Beatles albums out in the mail; he and his colleagues would physically jump on the piles of cardboard mailing boxes destined for club members so that they could get them into the already-jammed mail bags. Did this physically-intense activity damage the albums ? Not at all ! Secondly, Capitol albums ordered via the Capitol Record Club of Canada would not have been issued with paper inner sleeves owing to the need to keep postage costs, which depended on overall package weight, down to a minumum.

Most albums for the teen market were mono. Few teens had the expensive stereo systems to play stereo records. As well, stereo records were priced $1.00 more than their mono counterparts and few teens would have had the extra «free funds» for a stereo issue.

The list of Canadian albums that we ordered from the Capitol and the Columbia Record Clubs

(* = club election of the month):

Serial Number Artist Title
The Animals On Tour Quality / MGM
The Animals Animal Tracks Quality / MGM
The Animals Greatest Hits Quality / MGM
The Beach Boys Summer Days And Summer Nights Capitol stereo
*The Beach Boys Pet Sounds Capitol stereo
The Beatles Something New Capitol mono
The Beatles Help! Capitol stereo
The Beatles Beatles VI Capitol mono
The Beatles Rubber Soul Capitol mono
The Beatles Yesterday And Today Capitol mono
This took ages to get in the summer of 66!
The Beatles Revolver Capitol mono
The Rolling Stones December’s Children London mono
The Rolling Stones Aftermath London mono
The Shadows Sounds Of The Shadows Capitol 6000 stereo
The Yardbirds Having A Rave Up Capitol 6000 stereo
The Yardbirds Over, Under, Sideways, Down Capitol 6000 stereo
*Peter And Gordon Woman Capitol stereo
Pink Floyd Piper At The Gates Of Dawn Capitol 6000 stereo
Gordon Lightfoot Lightfoot Compo / United Artists
Lovin Spoonful Daydream Quality / Kama Sutra
Sopwith Camel Same Quality / Kama Sutra

Some time during 1967, the Capitol Record Club moved to 6260 Viscount Road in Malton (a northern suburb of Toronto) and began to issue a larger format colour catalogue. I have the Christmas 1967 colour catalogue which includes some The Beatles, Beach Boys, Traffic, etc. The pop section had been expanded significantly by this time.

In late 1967, we began purchasing pop records from these clubs on a less frequent basis as there was probably just too much happening in the world of stereo Lp recordings to bother waiting weeks for a record to arrive from a club ! We had access to the great record stores in Ottawa (Treble Clef, Sherman’s, etc.). Large department stores were also retailing records as well (Sears, Towers, Simpsons, Freimans, Miracle Mart, etc.).

Some of the albums we purchased in Ottawa at the end of 1967:

The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour
mono - USA Capitol copy
The Rolling Stones Their Satanic Majesties Request
Stereo - USA London copy
The Jimi Hendrix Experience Are You Experienced?
Stereo - Canadian Reprise copy

The record clubs in Canada went «underground» in the late 1960s and early 1970s and offered great sign-up deals on «album rock» to the teen market. Groups like Led Zeppelin, Three Dog Night, Steppenwolf, Deep Purple, Cream, etc. were the flavour of the day in the «post Beatles» era.

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Piers A. Hemmingsen & Serge Pelletier. All Rights Reserved.