Australian Decca G&S Recordings — A Summary

Reported by Robert Morrison

While H.M.V. and Columbia had established local record manufacturing plants in Australia since, at least, 1925 — the Decca Record company never did; no doubt because it entered the marketplace mid-way through the Depression in 1934 and evidently considered it a cheaper alternative to contract the local E.M.I. factories to manufacture its recordings rather than to set up its own Australian facilities. Thus Australian pressings of Decca recordings released in the 78 rpm era carried the notation "Manufactured by the Columbia Graphaphone Company, Sydney, N.S.W." on the label.

After the introduction of Monaural LPs in Australia in the early 1950s, local pressings of Decca recordings were noted as being "Made in Australia for The Decca Record Company Ltd., London, by E.M.I. (Australia) Pty. Limited, Sydney, N.S.W.", which implies that the Decca company was at least responsible for their local distribution. However by the early 1960s, local Decca issues carried the additional note that they were "Manufactured and Distributed by E.M.I. (Australia) Limited, Sydney, N.S.W.", which implies that these recordings were now being licensed to E.M.I. Australia by Decca; a decidedly Gilbertian situation given that they are essentially rival record companies whose respective catalogues are generally in direct competition with each other, (the H.M.V. Sargent/EMI and the Decca D'Oyly Carte G&S recordings to give the most relevant example.) Although E.M.I. Australia continued to manufacture and distribute Classical and Popular recordings from the Decca catalogue during the 1970s, some of the Decca 'Second Generation' Stereo G&S recordings seem to have been available only as British Decca imports. At the same time E.M.I. Australia also reissued the earlier Monaural G&S recordings on the Decca 'Ace of Clubs' label during the mid-to-late 70s.

In early 1980, after PolyGram International took over the world-wide distribution of British Decca Record's Classical catalogue, the company released the reprocessed 'Simulated Stereo' versions of the 1950s D'Oyly Carte recordings, together with the original mono recordings of the 1949 Pinafore and Pirates, the 1979 Stereo Yeomen coupled with the Victoria and Merrie England Ballet Suite and the1964 Trial and Utopia, Limited highlights coupled with the 1978 Cox & Box and The Zoo, on the budget Decca 'viva!' label. (I do not know whether these were Australian pressings or British pressings made exclusively for the Australasian market. The record cover notation — 'Sound recording made by The Decca Record Company Limited. First published in England. Marketed in Australasia by PolyGram Records under exclusive license' — is not explicit in this regard.) These were available from Australian music outlets until about 1985 when they were deleted from the catalogue in favour of the Decca Stereo D'Oyly Carte LP reissues with the 'proscenium arch' artwork on the front cover, imported from Britain and distributed by PolyGram. The current CD copies of the same Stereo G&S recordings are available in Australia only as imports of the British Decca or London editions, (which are in fact manufactured in West Germany, according to their labels.)

The only Decca D'Oyly Carte recordings that I have come across on Australian manufactured CDs are those originally issued on The World of W.S. Gilbert & A. Sullivan compilations, A Gilbert & Sullivan Spectacular and extracts from the 'Simulated Stereo' versions of the 1955 Princess Ida (Act I) and the 1951 Patience (Act II), which were licensed from PolyGram by Vogue Music in the early 1990s.