Sunday, September 20, 2015

Deram Records: United We Stand

It’s the fourth week of the month, and as we have in the past, we’ve featured independent and smaller subsidiary record labels. For the next few days, we’ll look at Deram Records a subsidiary of Decca Records, Ltd., a UK music concern now owned by Universal Music Group. In the US, Deram was managed under London Records (Decca Records, Ltd.’s US label) from 1966 to 1980. The Deram imprint in the UK is still active.

As a youngster, I thought the label was pronounced as Dee-Ram. As I grew older, I figured that couldn’t be correct and thought it might be pronounced as Deer-am. I was wrong on both accounts. A few years ago, I heard an interview with one of the label’s former artists who called it Deh-ram.

Deram was an abbreviation for Decca Panoramic Sound and the “Deh-ram” pronunciation sounds correct with this in mind. The idea was to provide a more natural sounding stereo mix in the recordings and several of the label’s offerings were mixed this way; however, not all releases were examples of the Deramic Sound. For example, Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” was a mono release in the UK and issued in fake stereo in the US.

In addition to Procol Harum, Deram had the distinction at one time of also having The Moody Blues, Ten Years After, David Bowie, The Move, and Cat Stevens on the label. Of those six, The Moody Blues and Ten Years After had a modicum of multi-year successes with Deram. Procol Harum and The Move left the label, as they were not officially signed to Deram per se. Their management company signed a contract with the label and eventually moved the two groups over to EMI’s subsidiary Regal Zonophone.

The Move recorded two singles (“Night of Fear” and “I Can Hear the Grass Grow”) and Procol Harum released an album (in the US) and single (“Whiter Shade of Pale”) for Deram. Of its other well known artists, both Cat Stevens and David Bowie failed to have hits with Deram in the US. The reason will become obvious after listening to some of these early recordings.

For our first look at the label, we turn to the British vocal group known as Brotherhood of Man. While the band released a number of records beginning in 1969, it did not have a fixed lineup until 1973. Like many other groups of the era, it was a studio creation without an actual identity. Their only Top 20 American hit, “United We Stand,” featured Tony Burrows, Sue Glover, Sunny Leslie, John Goodson, and Roger Greenway on vocals. The single was released in the US in March 1970 and its positive message resonated with youth on both continents.

Brotherhood of Man did much better on the UK charts than they did across the pond. While “United we Stand” only charted at #13 in the US on the Hot 100 at #15 on the A/C charts, it did slightly better at #10 in the UK. Their only other US hit, 1976’s “Save Your Kisses for Me” went to #1 in the UK and on the US A/C charts; however, it only peaked at #27 on the Hot 100.

Brotherhood of Man had two additional #1 records in the UK, but neither charted in the US. Like “Save Your Kisses for Me,” all were hits after they left Deram. Incidentally, all of their recordings on Deram listed the band as “The” Brotherhood of Man. After leaving the label, the definite article in their name was dropped.

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