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Metro Records

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Metro Records

MGM Records
Parent company Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Founded 1946
Status Defunct (fate: absorbed into Polydor Records in 1976)
Distributor(s) Self-distributed
Genre Various
Country of origin United States

MGM Records was a record label started by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio in 1946 for the purpose of releasing soundtrack albums of their musical films. It transitioned to a pop music label which continued into the 1970s. The company also released soundtrack albums of the music for some of their non-musical films as well, and on rare occasions, cast albums of off-Broadway musicals such as The Fantasticks and the 1954 revival of The Threepenny Opera. In one instance, it even released the highly successful soundtrack album of a film made by a rival studio, Columbia Pictures's Born Free (1966).[1]


Soundtrack albums

Their first soundtrack was of Till the Clouds Roll By, a 1946 film based on the life of composer Jerome Kern. It was the first soundtrack album of a live-action film. The album was originally issued as a set of four 10-inch 78-rpm records. As in many early MGM soundtrack albums, only eight selections from the film were included on the original version of the album. In order to fit the songs onto the record sides the musical material needed editing and manipulation. This was before tape existed, so the record producer needed to copy segments from the playback discs used on set, then copy and re-copy them from one disc to another, adding transitions and cross-fades until the final master was created. Needless to say, it was several generations removed from the original and the sound quality suffered for it. Also, the playback recordings were purposely recorded very "dry" (without reverberation) otherwise it would come across as too hollow sounding in large movie theatres. This made these albums sound flat and boxy.

MGM Records called these "original cast albums" in the style of Decca's Broadway show cast albums. They also coined the phrase "recorded directly from the soundtrack." Over the years the term "soundtrack" began to be commonly applied to any recording from a film, whether taken from the actual film soundtrack or re-recorded in studio. The phrase is also sometimes incorrectly used for Broadway cast recordings. While it is correct to call a "soundtrack" a "cast recording" (since it represents the film cast) it is never correct to call a "cast recording" a "soundtrack."

Among MGM's most successful soundtrack albums were those of the films Good News (the 1947 version), Easter Parade, Annie Get Your Gun, Singin' in the Rain, Show Boat (the 1951 version), The Band Wagon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and Gigi. When the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz was first shown on television in 1956 (by CBS), the label issued a soundtrack album of songs and dialogue excerpts recorded directly from the film, as they had done with their LP of music and dialogue from Quo Vadis in 1951. [2]

By 1950, magnetic tape had been perfected for recording use, and this markedly improved the sound quality on the albums, beginning about 1951.

MGM Records also issued albums of film scores, including Ben-Hur, King of Kings, Doctor Zhivago, How the West Was Won, the 1967 fake-stereo 70mm re-release of Gone With the Wind, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. The Ben-Hur and King of Kings albums were studio recreations of the scores, but done with the original orchestrations; the How the West Was Won, Gone With the Wind, 2001, and Doctor Zhivago albums were the genuine soundtracks. MGM Records also released a second soundtrack album of Quo Vadis, this one containing only music from the film.

Beginning in the 1990s, authentic soundtrack albums of the musical scores to Ben-Hur and King of Kings became available. The Rhino Records editions of these albums featured literally the entire scores, including outtakes. Rhino also released a full-length two-disc album of the score of Gone With the Wind, recorded from the soundtrack in the original mono.

As in the case of the non-musical films, Rhino Records, which obtained the rights to the MGM soundtracks (owned by Turner Entertainment) in the 1990s, issued longer versions of their movie musical albums, containing virtually all of the songs and music. Rhino's license expired at the end of 2011 and the albums Rhino issued are now out of print.[3]

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Records

There was also a short-lived Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Records of 1928, which produced recordings of music featured in MGM movies, not sold to the general public but made to be played in movie theater lobbies. These Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer records were manufactured under contract with the studio by Columbia Records.

As a pop label


In the early 1950s, MGM Records was considered one of the "major" record companies (besides Columbia, RCA, Decca/Coral, Capitol and Mercury). Subsidiary Cub Records was launched in the late 1950s and Verve Records was acquired from Norman Granz in December 1960.[4] Other MGM subsidiaries and distributed labels included: Kama Sutra (from 1965 until Kama Sutra's sister label Buddah Records took over distribution in 1969), Ava, Heritage, Metro (for budget albums), Hickory, MGM South, L&R, and Lionel.

MGM also distributed Cameo-Parkway Records briefly in 1967. Four albums and two singles were released under this arrangement before Allen Klein bought the Cameo-Parkway catalog and renamed the label ABKCO.

Another label distributed by MGM was American International Records, the record label division of American International Pictures - whose film library is now owned by MGM.

Verve Records

Main article: Verve Records

In 1961, MGM Records acquired the noted jazz label Verve Records and later added a sublabel Verve Forecast Records.

Country music

MGM Records' first president Frank Walker discovered and signed Hank Williams who became the lynchpin of MGM Records' country music operations.[5] Other notable MGM artists of this genre include Hank Williams, Jr., Sheb Wooley, Conway Twitty, Sandy Posey, Mel Tillis, Marie Osmond, Jim Stafford and C.W. McCall.[6]

Classical music

MGM Records issued music of a variety of musical genres, but used the same set of catalogue numbers. The label also offered a modest catalogue of classical recordings beginning in 1951;[7] among among them was catalogue number E3711, an account of two sonatas by Franz Schubert, billed as the first in a complete cycle, recorded by pianist Beveridge Webster. In 1962, MGM Records picked up American distribution of the prestigious German classical music label Deutsche Grammophon Records.[8] The arrangement lasted until 1969 when Polydor Records established its American office.[9]

Sale to PolyGram and phase out

MGM Records was sold to PolyGram in 1972. As part of the deal, PolyGram received perpetual rights to the "MGM Records" name and a ten year license to use the MGM trademark and logo.[10] In 1976, MGM Records, including its artists, was absorbed into PolyGram's Polydor Records. However, PolyGram continued releasing MGM soundtrack albums and reissues using the MGM Records imprint until 1982.[11]

With PolyGram's abandonment of the MGM Records trademark, MGM was able to reclaim its rights to that trademark in 1997.[12]

The MGM Records catalogue is now split. Although the first three entities remain under the Universal Music Group banner, the pop music catalogue is managed by Universal Music Enterprises and bear the Polydor imprint, the musical theater cast albums are now released by Decca Broadway, originally an imprint of MCA Records and the country music catalogue is managed by Universal Music Group Nashville with reissues bearing the Mercury Records Nashville imprint.

The MGM soundtracks catalogue however is managed by Warner Bros. Entertainment through its WaterTower Music unit[13] and the catalogs of a few other artists also have new owners. Frank Zappa for example regained control of his MGM/Verve recordings (including those with his group The Mothers of Invention) in the early 1980s. These recordings were later sold to Rykodisc following Zappa's death in 1993.

MGM Music

Main article: MGM Music

In 1986, MGM formed MGM Music for the licensing of music of which MGM owns the rights. It focuses on licensing soundtracks. It manages the music and music publishing rights of MGM films from 1986 and beyond (Time Warner's Turner Entertainment unit owns the pre-1986 MGM soundtracks) as well as the music and music publishing rights of United Artists and Orion films.[14]

MGM Records artists


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