Rainbow window

Ritchie Blackmores Rainbow window display 1975

Further to my posting and the comments on the first Rainbow album (see below), here is a fabulous photograph.  It shows the in-store window display which the EMI reps put up to promote the release.  Such displays were very much reaching their zenith around this time as labels vied with each other for the most elaborate displays, many of which must have cost large sums of money to produce. Generally for major new releases, the label would agree a five figure promotion budget ahead of the game (it’s no exaggeration to say bands could record an album today on the budget), and then allocate chunks of this to advertising, radio promotion, DJs and point of sale material (which is what this would be under).
The displays were usually put up by the reps, who often had to take a snap to prove they’d done it, or by shop staff.  They would be in place for a few weeks, and when taken down were technically supposed to go back to the label.  As they were classed as promotional material, shops were not allowed to sell them so in practise many shops just binned these.  But if you knew someone in the shop they might save stuff.  You would write their name somewhere on the display while it was still on the wall and so ‘reserve’ it.  I do recall scuffles breaking out when a couple of people were after the same display!
I still have the poster which you can see on the floor of the window.  The large version of the cover art was curved card, with an acetate overlay across printed with the name of the band.  I’ve never seen the big Oyster cut-outs.
How many of these were ever made?  Hard to say.  There were around 700 record stores in the UK at this time, but not all would be deemed worth hosting a display – so maybe around 500?  I’d be surprised if more than a few dozen survive.
I must thank Christian Jones for letting me use the image.  He says he took it in the window of The Record Bar in Wakefield.  You can see a display for The Pretty Things on the right. I remember the shop, it was always well stocked and we went there on the bus sometimes in the late 70s as they had a good stock of the punk and new wave releases.  I’m pretty sure I bought my first Police single there.  The shop’s place in history is perhaps that they financed the pressing of local lad Bill Nelson’s first solo album. Here’s a grainy pic of Bill outside the very same shop in 1975 from the local Wakefield paper.
Today of course such displays are, like most record shops, a thing of the past.


Thanks also to Tonny Steenhagen.

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12 Responses to “Rainbow window”

  1. IanG Says:

    I worked in a Glasgow record shop from 1978-1983 and I have to disagree with the opinion that displays in stores are at their zenith around 1975. Although the record company reps would sometimes ask for space to put up a poster or small display most companies had dedicated display guys and they would have to incentivise me to allow them to put a display up, this usually meant extra posters or other promo stuff that I could sell or barter. I made more money from selling promo stuff to collectors than I got for a wage. I recall one particular display for ‘The Raven’ by The Stranglers bringing in a huge sum as it had a 3D panel as a centrepiece. Looking back it was all a bit corrupt but I got a regular supply of T Shirts, free albums, concert tickets and assorted other benefits so I’m not complaining.

    • simon robinson Says:

      Can’t say I blame you Ian! There was a lot of under the counter dealing around that time certainly, so many free copies if you bought a certain quantity, etc. Happily I never had to buy any of the posters and displays here, in fact quite often you could scrounge them from the back of the stores.

  2. Marco Says:

    40 year anniversary of Futurama as well. Feeling so old!!

  3. Steve Grover Says:

    Excellent stuff as usual.
    The internet and e-bay just can’t compete with the experience and that smell of rummaging through a good, preferably secondhand record shop.
    Back in the 80’s/90’s, there was a second hand record shop (long gone) in Newport Court, just off Charing X Road in London’s West End, Steve’s Sounds I recall, where they had a very large promotional card cut out display of the first Rainbow album cover behind the counter, must have been at least 4 – 5 feet tall. I did enquire about acquiring it, but was given short shift. Hopefully someone is enjoying it.
    Keep up the good work, Steve Grover

  4. IAN DOUGLAS Says:

    Marvellous Simon this kind of thing makes the DPAS site so worthwhile!

  5. Gary Critcher Says:

    Gosh, I never saw an in-store display like that down here in London. As an aside, what was the Bill Nelson LP financed by the record shop? I remember I had a copy of an early Nelson album, sold it at a record fair years ago now, can’t remember the title of it though. I remember the cover and label (both B+W) were all hand drawn (but then printed properly) it had a real ‘homemade’ feel to it.

    • simon robinson Says:

      It was called Northern Dream. The catch, which Bill later found out was that the shop kept copyright, so when he made big time they kept doing represses of what was by then a very collectable record. I did like Bill’s work and have some of the Be Bop albums, but this was a bit of a primitive offering as you might expect.

  6. Phil Says:

    I befriended the girl at my favourite record shop in York and walked away with the Down To Earth display, which then hung on my bedroom wall for years…

  7. Dave Stoddard Says:

    The curved card was in my local record shop called Disco1, but im sure it was the “poster” you mention that was housed inside it – long time ago so I could be wrong

  8. Danielz Says:

    Really interesting story and great pics!

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