Like many, my first encounter with a picture disc was the 1970 effort from Curved Air, which like nearly all such releases that followed, was a blatant attempt to generate sales. But long before this, cheap picture discs were a favourite of many advertising campaigns, and comprised a printed piece of card with a thin layer of clear plastic pressed over it.
I’ve been trying to put a date to this unusual picture disc which turned up in an antique centre recently. Someone had dumped (literally; a lot were broken) a couple of thousand 78rpm discs onto a rack of shelving, everything £1. This pic disc was amongst them, so I stuck it inside one of the small pile of card sleeves advertising local record stores (which I like to collect) and paid up.
According to most sources, picture disc records appeared in the 1920 and 30s, something of a rather inexact dateline. There is a book which details novelty pressings (Extraordinary Records published by Taschen) but it manages to be one of the dullest ever produced on vinyl art as well as being devoid of any real facts .
This double sided example is clearly an early promotional 10″ picture disc giveaway of some sort, containing physical culture exercises for children, set to music and specially prepared for the record. I’m guessing sort of around 1930/5 from the images, type styles, the hand-drawn lettering around the disc edge, but mostly because Major H J Selby (who appears to have been something of an expert on both physical education and outdoor activities for children) can be found as the author of a few books published between 1926 and 1935. Certainly United Dairies were at the address on the record by 1925. The musical accompaniment is arranged by by Noel Gay, who became a successful writer of popular songs and musicals in the late 20s (Me & My Girl is one even I have heard of), so that might indicate an earlier date (on the grounds that if you have four musicals running in the West End you probably don’t need to be doing jobs like this!).
The discs is manufactured by Plaston Records (patents pending throughout the world) but this name generates exactly zero hits on the web. United Dairies disappeared in 1959 in a merger with Cow & Gate to form Unigate. Unless of course you count the subversive record label of the same name (they even nicked the UD logo), whose 1990 debut record was The Ladies Home Tickler by Nurse With Wound…