Formed in late 1954 (according to an editorial in the April/May 1959 edition of the WRC magazine "Record Review") as a mail order record label releasing all styles of music, from Pop through Spoken Word to the Operatic works of Gilbert & Sullivan, and issued on 78s, 45s and LPs. Branches of the World Record Club operated separately in UK, Australia and New Zealand. A particular recording could have a different catalog number in each country. Australian releases typically had different sleeve designs to UK releases. For the company, please see The World Record Club Limited (UK) or The World Record Club Pty. Ltd. (Australia).
The label was taken over by EMI in 1965.
EMI (Australia) bought World Record Club Pty Ltd from EMI of Britain in March 1969, with a share issue putting its value at A$200 000.
In 1973 the name was abridged to World Records (6)
UK World Record Club
The first LP labels were "World Record Treasure" up to about number T58 (middle of 1959) and then changed to the second WRC label either in red or green which lasted until 1965 (T500). The third label was the stroboscopic label, also in either red or green, which lasted until 1971 (ST1000). The fourth and last design was issued in two-tone orange and black although a plum and black one has been seen.
The Stereo recordings were first issued in 1959, although recordings had been made in both stereo and mono in 1958; a "stereo" sticker being fixed to both the label and the sleeve.
The first true stereo release seems to have been T26 with Anthony Collins and the Sinfonia of London. Later issues were shown as "World Stereo" on the label design.
All the releases were under licence and were sent as far a field as Australia and New Zealand. The label was taken over by EMI in 1965. The label continued to run until sometime in the late 70s when EMI merged with Thorn. The name of the WRC was changed to World Records on 26th October 1973
By late October 1978 it had become the Retrospect Collectors Society.
By late August 1979 the HMV catalogue was listing World Records but only as historical re-issues on the SH series of numbers.
Australian World Record Club
In Australia, the World Record Club was formed in 1957, and soon established its own design studio for production of distinctive sleeves which formed part of a strategy to differentiate their offerings from the major record companies. The club was already boasting of "tens of thousands" of members by late 1962. A select range of premium items were also offered under the label of The Record Society (Aust.) Pty. Ltd. As was the case in the UK, in the mid 1970s the World Record Club was taken over by EMI. From this time, a focus on cost reduction resulted in less effort being put into original design work and some titles were released with the recording company design stamped with a small World Record Club logo, or just a sticker on the back of the sleeve.
The initial label design followed the UK 'globe' design, except with the South Pole in the centre. In September 1958, the 'strobe' design was introduced, in beige for mono releases and (from April 1960 when it was introduced) light green for stereo. In 1971, the blue 'herald' design was introduced (a variant of this, in brown, had been used for releases by Record Society from the late 1960s, and in gold for the WRC 'Retrospect' Series). This design changed slightly in c1980, with the text spread over the whole label, rather than being aligned to the right of the N-S axis. It changed again to a buff-coloured design in ~1983, although already in the late 1970s, many releases appeared with the original label's design.
Australian World Record Club releases on the strobe label can be dated approximately by the address/es given on the rear sleeve. Prior to 1961, only the Melbourne address was given - 330 Flinders Lane. Until 1972, a combination of Australian capital city addresses was given, which changed every year or so. From 1972 to 1974, a single address was used once more - 365 Camberwell Road, Hartwell, Victoria 3124. From 1974 to ~1982, it was 605 Camberwell Road, Hartwell, Victoria 3124. Very late pressings have 301 Castlereagh St Sydney (which just happened to be the address of EMI), and finally, 22 or 222 Botany Bay Road. The Record Society address was originally 330 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, but this too changed over the years (see label info for more details). However, from 1972, reissues tended to not update the address combinations.
Deutsche Grammphon only allowed WRC to release its LPs if they retained the original design - the only difference being the WRC catalogue number appearing on the label and on the back of the sleeve at top right, with the address on the bottom right. A few labels did the same with the label design (e.g. Capitol with Sinatra LPs, and Vanguard), even in the 1960s, but it became much more common, for both sleeve and label design, from the late 1970s onwards.
In December 1984, the club was sold to a company, Electronic Enterprises Ltd., which saw more profit selling in the addresses/demographics of the membership lists (claimed at the time to number 200 000) - and which also claimed to be developing AIDS testing kits. This company folded in ignominious circumstances, with the director, Ken Wright, disappearing, and the company in substantial debt.
New Zealand World Record Club
The New Zealand Club was established in March 1960, opening three branches in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch at the same time.
Releases in New Zealand often used the same artwork as Australian editions, but used a different system of catalogue numbers. The label maintained its viability longer than the Australian branch, with many NZ releases being issued in Australia with the NZ cover, and only a sticker on the back to indicate the Australian club's involvement. The New Zealand division ceased operations after being sold to Time-Life in January 1990.