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Thursday, August 09, 2012

RCA Colour Record Labels of The '70s

In 1968, RCA Records made some radical changes to the then 70 year old record label/electronics manufacturer.

His Master's Voice, the iconic dog and gramophone image that appeared on every RCA record and phonograph since 1900 was retired. In it's place were the letters "RCA" in modern block lettering.

This outraged many collectors. Nipper was being replaced by an ugly bland orange label! How could RCA do this?

Next to the even bigger howl from music fans when RCA's infamous Dynaflex vinyl was unveiled in 1971 (a super thin lightweight vinyl record which RCA claimed to be "the record of tomorrow"), RCA was constantly criticized for their corporate-heavy cheapness and questionable product.

To me, Dynaflex had it's good and bad. It WAS quieter. Even after 40 years, many of my old Dynaflex albums still have very little surface noise. But sonically, it was also quieter too, so you had to turn up the volume. And the ugly by-product of that; Because it was so thin, it tended to pick up any rumble from older turntable motors more acutely. Many automatic record changers some people used often dropped two Dynaflex records if they were played on them

But I consider this period to be RCA's most unique. RCA had established a series of sub-labels, all with different colours. I want to create a rainbow mosaic of all of them because they simply look cool when you put them all together.

Here's a small sample of these '70s colour labels from the US and from around the world.

The US:

Beginning in 1968, this label replaced the iconic black "Nipper" label. This was used for RCA's main rock/pop and country line

Silver: To my knowledge, this metallic silver label was only used for this album.
RCA Red Seal was their Classical/Opera label
RCA Camden was used mostly for non-rock back catalog releases. It was ended in 1974 when RCA briefly transferred it's Camden line for distribution through Pickwick Records briefly until 1977.
RCA Victrola was used for back catalog classical and opera reissues
RCA Pure Gold was another reissue label for special low budget compilations
RCA Quardradisc was used for special Quadraphonic albums
RCA Educational was used for schools and music education. It's actually one of the harder to find labels of this era
RCA Special Products was used for TV-offer albums and special releases

White RCA Promo labels were used for radio stations
Tan RCA Victor labels were used initially for their Special Products line, but in 1975-76 they were a "transitional" label they used before returning to a modernized black label with Nipper. Which they would use until 1988.

From Around The World:

RCA Lineatre was used in Europe for special releases

RCA Lineatres: From Portugal
RCA Vik labels have been seen from many countries around the world, but none from the US. I've usually seen these labels on Mexican and Australian releases
RCA Italiana: Label for the Italian market. Mostly of Italian artists with a few international stars
This was a single label used for international releases in some countries

RCA Australia: For Australian recording artists
RCA Arc: Another Italian subsidiary

RCA International: European imprint, similar to Camden

German Black label
British RCA Gold Seal
I've seen other colours, including purple, maroon and dark brown (from Asia), but I can't find any either in my own collection or online to add here. But here's one more

I used to be curious about the Musicor's '70s label almost creepy similarity to the RCA label of the time. It reminded me of another little copycat label

But as it turned out, RCA DID manufacture Musicor during the '70s until 1977......


  1. This was a fun article to read, you should keep posting more articles like this one.

  2. You WILL see MORE of them.....There's a LOT of this old school crap I still got in my brain. And I'm always good at questions. So feel free to ask...

  3. The most appalling thing about RCA during the Dynaflex era: they were actually withdrawing low-selling albums to press more John Denver and Hall & Oates LPs. It’s for this reason, some of the lesser-known RCA albums are so rare. It’s for this reason I cherish my copies of Labelle’s Pressure Cookin’ and Annette Peacock’s I’m the One.

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  5. Wow, As I heard it, they had Dynaflex vinyl stock up the wazoo and even after Dynaflex was no longer mentioned on the label (about mid-'70s) they were still pressing on Dynaflex until the early '80s. But Dynaflex made a return in 1988 when RCA began pressing even THINNER records than the original Dynaflex! I have a copy of House of Lords debut album and the vinyl thickness is just barely above an Eva-Tone Soundsheet. I'm not making this up.

  6. I always hated the thin vinyls. There must be a reaseo why most audiophile albums are released as 180 gram LP. On the other hand I read some articles were it's said that the dynaflex copies are thin and not really liked much BUT that thin vinyl RCA used was more clean and sober than thicker vinyl which was made by parts of old vinyl, crushed, melted and used again. That led to noise and made bad records. As I know dynaflex used good virgin vinyl and it even convinced me (as hater of thin vinyl) that there are very good dynaflex out there. Especially the first 2 Lou Reed and some Bowie vinyls sound very good. That may have to to that they were taken from the original masters. Anyway they are better than I always thought.

  7. Nipper was being replaced by an ugly bland orange label! How could RCA do this? Maybe, RCA changed its label to export more easily American-made records to Europe and European countries' territories, in which Nipper belonged to EMI. But I hate that orange label since my childhood.


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