Decca's Errors Through the Years

This page, provided by Chris Webster, chronicles Decca's errors through the years in their issues and re-issues of the D'Oyly Carte G&S recordings.

  1. Green Pirates Ace of Clubs Reissue
    When the Martyn Green Pirates was eventually reissued on Ace of Clubs (Decca budget label) in 1973, the sleeve was printed with the cast list of the Pratt recording. Rather than reprinting the sleeve the correct cast was printed on sticky labels and stuck over the erroneous list. This looked very tacky.
  2. Pratt Ida Stereo Reissue
    On the first batch of 'steoreoised' DPA reissues, the Pratt Ida somehow 'lost' Gama's Act Three song!! This error was spotted and the song was reinstated. I got my copy of this, after it had been deleted, from a dealer who knew someone at Decca who sent a copy from the Decca 'leftovers library', and it is the original misprinted version. I imagine the corrected version would have a different matrix number for side 4.
  3. Reed Patience LP Reissue
    The mid 80s LP reissue of the Reed Patience, in what I refer to as the 'pros arch' series (i.e. the cover depicting a proscenium arch with many drawings of the characters on stage, which is now the standard Decca G & S cover), had one side totally mispressed. I can't remember which side this was, but, rather then a recording of the appropriate section of Patience the side featured some sort of atonal dirge. I don't know what it was, but it was returned to the shop. A corrected version of Patience was issued soon after.

    Ian Bond adds:

    Regarding Chris Webster's list of Decca errors. In the case of Patience, I have a copy of the issue which I bought the day it was released. All four sides are correct, so I have to assume that the bad batch came with a later pressing.

    This problem was not uncommon during the LP age. I have had a number of similar experiences with releases from DECCA, DG, Phillips and EMI. Most notable was side two of a Massenet opera which contained part of Act One of The Barber of Seville.

    Another problem, certainly in later years, and only as far as I remember with Polygram, was paper stuck in the grooves. This was usually because the company had melted down a batch of bad discs and had not got all the labels out. Then then used this second-hand material to press new LP.

    Chris returns:

    I definitely bought my copy on the first day of issue. I remember having it on order and rushing to collect it as soon as the call came to tell me it was in. I remember I was particularly keen to get this as it had my friend Beti Lloyd-Jones in the cast and she was producing my amateur group at the time. It would appear from Ian's comments that some issues were recalled in time and others were not. Or perhaps our two respective shops received their copies on different dates.

    The bit about melting down LPs is interesting. I have only heard of this happening to 78s and this was during the war. I have on video some wartime footage when old 'unwanted' records would be collected in using a similar system to the 'bottle banks' of today. These would then be melted down to make 'new' records. I shudder to think what gems may have been discarged at the time. I believe some record dealers also used to have a system of a return fees for old records - this is also like a system that seems to dying off now where you could get a refund for returning glass bottles to the shop. During the war many 78s were pressed on inferior materials. Some labels even reduced the size of their logos and type to save ink.

  4. Reed Iolanthe CD
    The CD reissue of Reed's Iolanthe had a cut in the act one opening 'fairy' music. I haven't got my score here at the moment to tell you which bars were cut, but there is a short section of about four bars that repeats the previous four bars (about 12 bars in, I think). The second (or maybe first!) four bars were cut for some unknown reason. This was later corrected.
  5. Ruddigore/Cox CD
    The original CD coupling of Ruddigore and the '61 Cox and Box, featured the '77 Cox and Box. This was a great error to make, as I don't expect the '77 recording is likely to be released on CD for a very long time. I wrote to Decca to point out this error and to beg that they were going to correct the disc and not just reprint the liner notes. I said if it was the disc that was corrected I did not want to return the '77 Cox to the shop, so could I just purchase the '61 Cox disc. I also informed them of the Iolanthe cut in the same letter. Within a few days I received FREE corrected sets (not just the particular discs) of Iolanthe and Ruddigore/Cox. I gave the original Iolanthe to a friend and also the Ruddigore box minus CD 2 which now sits comfortably in my Ruddigore box opposite the divine '61 recording.

    (Incidentally, some of the Decca CDs were issued again with a different catalog number--certainly Mikado and Pirates. I only have the second issues but comparison with a friend's first issues show his to be AAD and mine to be ADD.)

  6. Songs and Snatches CD
    The reissue of Songs and Snatches includes five Mikado items attributed to "Sargent/1964" (almost the same selection as Spectacular but Mikado's song exchanged for "Little List"). The items were in fact taken from the '73 recording — Colin Wright Ughh!! I do not think this disc was ever corrected.
  7. 1957 Mikado Highlights on Belart
    Around August last year, I saw an advert of new Belart releases. What interested me was Mikado – Godfrey. "This must be the '58 version," thinks I. The release date was for September so I called nearly every major shop in London for three weeks thoughout that month to see if their copies had arrived. After several calls to Belart, they finally confirmed that the release of this disc had been put back a few weeks. "How annoying," thinks I! When the new release date came round the CD still did not appear for a few days, but I eventually traced copies to Tower records in Central London. So I made the 10 mile journey into town to collect the disc at 11pm after I had finished work that evening (they're open 'til midnight).

    At this juncture I should point out that Belart's only venture into reissuing highlights from a complete recording was excellent — the '61 Gondoliers with a running time of 69 minutes. Well when I saw this disc I could not believe what they had done. Yes, it was the '58 version, but the running time was only 49 minutes, and that included an overture of nearly 8 minutes. Now, what is the point of cutting so much out!! Even 'Here's A How De Do' was cut, and that is usually over in the time it takes to place the stylus on the LP and reach the armchair.

    I already had ideas forming of what I was going to say in a letter to Belart about this butchering. However, at least Pratt's Little List, Round's Wandering Minstrel, and most importantly, Donald Adams Mikado's Song were included. I resisted the temptation to play the disc in the car on the way home. I had waited a long time to get these numbers on CD and was going to enjoy these at home with a gin and tonic, and the surround speakers, et al.

    Now you would not wanted to have witnessed the scene that followed. Suffice to say I was a little upset!!! After getting myself comfortable I went straight to 'Wandering Minstrel' and could not believe what I was hearing. I 'remoted' to 'Mikado's Song' but . . . could this be possible? Yes, it was the 73 recording, again!!

    After several faxes to Belart I was told that the disc would be corrected, the bad disc withdrawn, and I would receive a replacement copy as soon as it was ready. Unfortunately, over the next few months, copies of the bad pressing were still appearing in the shops. Ironically, this is the only G&S disc from Belart to include a full cast list, and I have to say that it upsets me to think that a number of people may associate the voices of Colin Wright and John Ayldon with the names of Thomas Round and Donald Adams (and indeed the 'breathy' Peter Pratt with the 'crisp' John Reed). I think Belart must have forgotten me, as I had to chase them up about my replacement, but I eventually received the corrected disc. I only hope that by issuing a disc of highlights of this recording, it will not deter any possible future reissue of this Mikado in its complete form.

Editor's Note: There should be an honorable mention for the 1979 Yeomen, which on the original LP Described Wilfred Shadbolt as "Head Sailor and Assistant Tormentor."