It wasn’t until November 1966 that Polydor made its first successful foray into rock with “Hey Joe”, the debut single by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Jimi was quickly siphoned off to the affiliate Track label after just this one Polydor release but “Hey Joe” reached #6 in the UK singles charts, opening the floodgates for other rock/pop signings, including the Bee Gees who became Polydor’s biggest sellers of the late 60s. Many rock acts followed, either signed directly to Polydor, or via the myriad labels they distributed/licensed at the time, including Reaction, Track, Marmalade, Atlantic and Elektra.
The Strawbs were signed in late 1968, followed by the Flying Burrito Brothers (1969) and Leon Russell (1970). But rock was still thin on the ground at A&M until September 1970 when Humble Pie arrived from Immediate to become the label’s first major UK band.
Only 18 albums were released in the US, including the first two Soft Machine LPs and early titles by Rare Bird, Van der Graaf Generator and Zephyr (featuring Tommy Bolin), but little else of note. Probe UK assembled a stronger artist roster, issuing around 60 albums by Steppenwolf, Three Dog Night, B.B.King, The James Gang, Emitt Rhodes, Steely Dan etc .
Considering the label existed for only one year, the story of Peg Records is a long and convoluted one. Here’s the condensed version. It all began with B&C (Beat and Commercial), a company founded in 1963 by Lee Gopthal, the owner of Trojan Records and operator of the London record store chain Musicland. Early releases on the B&C label consisted mostly of US gospel, soul and R&B, before they moved into homegrown rock, prog and folk in the late 60s, scoring moderate hits with Atomic Rooster and Steeleye Span.
The sleeve notes were provided by esteemed Melody Maker folk writer Karl Dallas, who almost tied himself in knots insisting this was not, in fact, folk music but, rather, “soft rock”. Not too many were convinced by this argument, however, including, seemingly, the sleeve designers, if the Clogs poster insert proudly showing the sleeves of 14 folk LPs drawn from the B&C group of labels was any indication.
Featuring a disturbing (not to say somewhat creepy) image of a man wearing what can only be described as a bondage mask on the front cover, Charisma Disturbance marked the fourth anniversary of the label with a solid, if wildly eclectic, track listing. Here were 20 tracks by artists as diverse as Van der Graaf Generator, Clifford T. Ward, Lindisfarne and Monty Python. The sleeve notes were provided by label boss Tony Stratton-Smith himself and began with a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet before continuing, in part:
The first LPs to wear the green Chrysalis label with its red butterfly logo were Getting To This by Blodwyn Pig and the third Jethro Tull album Benefit, released simultaneously in April 1970, although both still carried Island “ILPS” catalogue numbers at this stage. Several more Chrysalis/Island hybrid releases by Tull, Mick Abrahams, Clouds, Tir Na Nog and Procol Harum followed before Chrysalis finally launched its own dedicated UK numbering series in August 1971.