Columbia Eye

Columbia-Bonus-album

The Columbia ‘eye’ logo is a great piece of graphic design from 1955 when it first appeared on Columbia album labels, repeated six times around the edge of the label. Label collectors use the name ‘eye’ though I suspect the concept was of the letter R with an oval shape on top, usually with a small circular disc inside with a tiny centre hole.
The logo lasted into 1962 when it was made fussier by repeating the oval shape smaller and smaller inside the outline. There is a design credit for this, to S. Neil Fujita. I do not know if he did the 1955 original but it seems possible; he had been hired by Columbia in 1954 as a chief designer, and worked on many sleeves of that era as well.
The particular Columbia sleeve here looked like a sampler when I picked it up, but is actually a Bonus Record, available only to members of the Columbia Records Club. It’s a full album by Harry James & His Orchestra, rather than a sampler.
The Columbia Records Club was in operation by 1955. Once people joined and had bought four or five albums (conditions varied over the years) they then got one bonus album for every two more they purchased (with a minimum order of 4 discs a year). Some were issued in proper sleeves, others in this generic design. The club was still going in 1965 and advertised in aspirational magazines like Life in the US.

Columbia-Records-Club-1955

I would imagine the same sleeve was used for a number of these bonus releases (this has the number CB10 on the label but discographies go up to CB16). Maybe at the time it was a disappointment not to get a proper cover, but to me it’s a great piece of work. The sleeve is credited to Graber-Mann Associates but I cannot find anything out about this agency.
It is printed in solid gold with black (and in black and red on the back.) It is undated but by tracking the LP titles on the back, they were all issued in 1955 so it looks to me to date from the launch of the club.  The advert shown here also dates from 1955 and introduces potential buyers to the benefits of joining (you should be able to read the text if you click on the image.)

Columbia-bonus-LP-back

There were a few record clubs in the UK in the Sixties, but America being so much bigger they flourished there. I recall Warners in the U.S. having similar offers on their inner sleeves well into the Seventies, where you could send off for exclusive compilations not available in stores.
Today of course you can go and listen to just about anything on YouTube and not have to pay anyone a bean!

There are a number of posts on ST33 relating to Columbia sleeves, just use the search button.  A piece about an early Columbia shipping box is also on the site.

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About simon robinson

Having worked as a designer mostly in the music industry, and mainly in the reissue sector, I now concentrate on the design and publication of books about popular culture - and even write some of them.
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