United Artists Records: Wikis


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United Artists Records logo from 1971, when then owner Transamerica dropped the Liberty label, until new owner EMI changed the label's name to Liberty in 1980
United Artists Records logo used from 1968 to 1971 at the time when it was co-owned with Liberty Records.
An earlier version of the United Artists Records logo used from the late 1950s through 1968

United Artists Records was a record label founded by Max E. Youngstein of United Artists[1] in 1958 initially to distribute records of its movie soundtracks, though it soon branched out into recording music of a number of different genres.



In 1959, United Artists released Forest of the Amazons, a cantata by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos adapted from the music he composed for MGM's Green Mansions, with the composer conducting the Symphony of the Air. Brazilian soprano Bidu Sayao was the featured soloist on the unusual recording, which was released on both LP and reel-to-reel tape.

Besides the movie soundtracks and the few classical releases, UA had quite a few rock 'n roll and r&b hits from 1959 (and into the 1960's) with hits by The Clovers, Marv Johnson, The Falcons, The Exciters, Patty Duke, Bobby Goldsboro, and later Manfred Mann and The Easybeats.

The soundtracks from the James Bond and Beatles movies were very popular in the 1960s. United Artists released many other movie soundtrack albums, including those of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and The Greatest Story Ever Told, and of the film versions of the musicals A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Fiddler on the Roof and Man of La Mancha. However, the movie soundtrack album of United Artists' most critically acclaimed and financially successful film musical, West Side Story, was released by Columbia Records, which had also released the Broadway cast album (Leonard Bernstein, who wrote the music for West Side Story, was a Columbia recording artist). Many of these soundtracks have reverted back to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, who in turn have licensed them out to other labels for reissue; first Rykodisc, and more recently, Universal Music and EMI (the Fiddler on the Roof movie soundtrack). However, it is Sony, which now owns Columbia Records (and now a stake in MGM as well), that has released the West Side Story film soundtrack on CD.

United Artists also had a few subsidiary labels: Ascot Records, Musicor Records, (United Artists was half owner of the company from 1960–1964 before selling out in 1965[2]) Ultra Audio (an audiophile label)[3] and Veep Records. Unart was initially created in 1958 and was only in operation until 1959 producing some vocal group 45 singles; Unart was recreated in 1967 for budget albums. Other UA labelsUnited Artists Special Projects were budget records designed for product and movie tie-ins. Examples are The Incredible World of James Bond an album sold by Pepsi Cola and Frito Lay of cover version themes and original soundtrack music of the first three James Bond films and Music From Marlboro Country, various cover versions of the theme to The Magnificent Seven and original soundtrack music from Elmer Bernstein's Return of the Seven that was sold by the Marlboro (cigarette) company.

In addition to soundtracks and pop output, United Artists also produced a series of children's records under the "Tale Spinners For Children" name throughout the 1960s. These were album-length adaptations of classic fairy tales and children's stories done in an audio drama format.

Gordon Lightfoot recorded his first major label albums with United Artists from 1966–1969. In 1969, United Artists merged with co-owned Liberty Records and its subsidiary Imperial Records.

United Artists involvement with jazz was significant. The company recruited Alan Douglas in 1960 to run its new jazz department.[4] The company's jazz included albums by Duke Ellington and Art Farmer, although there were only a few jazz titles after about 1963. Around 1966 a subsidiary jazz label Solid State was founded, which lasted until 1969, on which recordings by the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra and Chick Corea, among others, were issued. Liberty's ownership of Blue Note resulted in Solid State's artists being transferred to the more prestigious label, and Solid State itself being wound up.

In 1961, designer and photographer Frank Gauna who worked with Alan Douglas joined the company as art director after Candid Records was wound up. Gauna photographed and designed a variety of album covers for the company.[5]

Mainstream pop acts were signed to the label, among them being Traffic, the Spencer Davis Group, Peter Sarstedt, Shirley Bassey, and War. The label also attempted, without success, to update the style of 1950s rock group Bill Haley & His Comets with a 1968 single. After UA bought the small Mediarts Records label, their roster grew to include Don McLean, Merrilee Rush, Paul Anka, Chris Rea, Dusty Springfield, Bill Conti, Ferrante & Teicher, Johnny Rivers, Ike & Tina Turner, Gerry Rafferty and Crystal Gayle. Later, through a distribution deal with Don Arden's Jet Records, Electric Light Orchestra was signed to UA in America. UA also distributed the otherwise-independent Grateful Dead Records in the early-to-mid 1970s.

In England, Andrew Lauder, who had been head of A&R at the UK branch of Liberty Records, transferred to UA when Liberty was shut down in 1971. His signings included Hawkwind, Brinsley Schwarz, Man (all originally Liberty artists), Help Yourself, Dr. Feelgood, The Buzzcocks, The Stranglers and 999. Lauder left UA in late 1977 to help found Radar Records.

The label's most successful artist was country artist Kenny Rogers who signed to UA in the mid-1970s, enjoying a long string of hit singles and albums.

In 1978, UA executives Artie Mogull and Jerry Rubinstein bought the record company from Transamerica with a loan from EMI. The name of the company was changed to Liberty/United Records and the UA Records name was retained. It suffered a big setback when Jet Records switched distribution to CBS Records with the Jet back catalogue transferring to CBS distribution as well. This meant that UA Records completely lost the Electric Light Orchestra. Unable to generate enough income to cover the loan, Liberty/United Records was sold to EMI in 1979 for $3 million and assumed liabilities of $32 million.[6] EMI changed the name of the label and company back to Liberty in 1980, returning the name of the record label to the film company. In a cost cutting move, EMI consolidated its labels, absorbing its artists into EMI's worldwide operations. Liberty Records operated between late 1980 and approximately 1986.

Many albums from the United Artists Records catalog were reissued on Liberty during these years. Two notable exceptions were a couple of Beatles albums not previously controlled by EMI in the United States: the A Hard Day's Night soundtrack album, and Let It Be. (Let It Be was actually released by Apple Records in both the UK and the US but because the movie had been distributed by United Artists Pictures, in America the album was distributed by United Artists Records rather than EMI.) Both Beatles albums were reissued on the Capitol label, which already controlled the rest of the Beatles' catalog.

When producer Jerry Weintraub was enlisted to revive the United Artists movie studio in 1986, he attempted to revive the United Artists Records label as well. However, they released only one album: the soundtrack for The Karate Kid Part II, a film which Weintraub had produced for Columbia Pictures before being hired at UA.

The EMI-owned United Artists Records catalogue is now controlled by Capitol Records.

United Artists Records and associated labels artists


  1. ^ Max Youngstein, 84; Helped Run United Artists - New York Times
  2. ^ The Musicor Records Story
  3. ^ http://bsnpubs.com/ua/uaultraaudio.html
  4. ^ Edwin Pouncey The Man Who Sold the Underworld, The Wire Magazine #161, July 1997, p27
  5. ^ http://www.discogs.com/search?type=all&q=frank+gauna&btn=Search
  6. ^ http://books.google.com/books?id=LSUEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PP1&dq=%22ua+acquisition+adds+clout+for+cap-emi%22&cd=1#v=onepage&q=%22ua%20acquisition%20adds%20clout%20for%20cap-emi%22&f=false

See also

External links

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