Gramophone magazine: a history – the 1960s

James Jolly
Tuesday, January 16, 2024

A decade of colossal productivity and ambition as recorded music takes off

As the new decade dawned, The Gramophone’s reviewing panel stood at 19 (ten years earlier it was four), and additional staff were needed by the expanding company. Barry Irving, who joined in 1965 as Assistant Advertising Manager, would stay with the company until 1999, and Malcolm Walker (who died in January 2023) joined as Assistant Editor the same year; he would be appointed Editor in 1972, a post he retained until 1980. More space was clearly needed by the company as it grew, and in 1968, The Gramophone’s offices moved to 177 Kenton Road (where it was still located when I joined the magazine in 1985). The panel of technical experts saw a change too, with John Borwick joining the masthead as Associate Technical Editor (succeeding Percy Wilson), and he was assisted by John Gilbert as Technical Consultant.

There were changes, too, at the top of the company: Sir Compton Mackenzie and Christopher Stone were acknowledged as Founders, and Cecil and Anthony Pollard became joint Editors. (Sadly, only Mackenzie would survive the decade: Faith Mackenzie died in 1960, Christopher Stone in 1965, and – tragically – Cecil Pollard, who would die, far too young, at 65, in September 1965.)

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem had been released by Decca and within just over six months had achieved sales of over 200,000 recordings worldwide

The LP was ten years old and the June 1960 issue contained a feature gathering together reflections on the format by Sir Adrian Boult, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Louis Kentner, Tito Gobbi and Léon Goossens. The way it energised the market continued during the 1960s, raising circulation to in excess of 71,600 copies per issue.

The Gramophone had always covered music of other genres and contributors on the various non-classical musics included John Oakland (the pseudonym of the jazz critic Brian Rust), Charles Fox, Peter Clayton and Alexis Korner (all familiar names to BBC radio listeners of a certain age). In 1963, two very different recordings garnered editorial attention. Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem had been released by Decca and within just over six months had achieved sales of over 200,000 recordings worldwide.

At the same time, The Beatles were proving a global sensation. Of their single ‘She loves me’, The Gramophone’s critic wrote: ‘I didn’t like either the singing or accompaniment on The Beatles’s new single (Parlophone), but I thought I’d better mention its existence as there are several hundreds of thousands who apparently disagree with me.’ A year later the reviewer admitted to belonging ‘to the generation of utter squares who are physically unable to “dig” The Beatles’s message. I’ll give you that they have tremendous zest, relentless vitality, yes; but I need more than that for my thirty-odd bob’. However, when ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ was reviewed in July 1967, Peter Clayton had seen the light, commenting that this experimental album is ‘like nearly everything The Beatles do, bizarre, wonderful, perverse, beautiful, exciting, provocative, exasperating, compassionate and mocking’, concluding ‘It’s the combination of imagination, cheek and skill that make this such a rewarding LP’.

One of the great recording projects of the early stereo era reached its climax in 1965: Decca’s recording of Wagner’s Ring cycle with the Vienna Philharmonic and Georg Solti which culminated with the release of Die Walküre. The set’s producer John Culshaw – who’d documented the cycle’s progress in a series of articles in The Gramophone (subsequently included in his book Ring Resounding) – wrote about the final sessions concluding that ‘we like to think it has set the standard for years to come’. And history has probably proved him right. Having added immeasurably to Decca’s classical catalogue, Culshaw left the company in 1967 to join BBC TV; he was succeeded by Ray Minshull. With Walter Legge’s departure from EMI three years earlier, two Titans of the UK recording scene had stepped away.

The 1960s were a golden age for recording, many of the great conductors whose reputations were made before the war were still with us – Bruno Walter, George Szell, Otto Klemperer to name just three – but a new generation had appeared and captured the public’s attention – Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein and Georg Solti in particular. The record industry got behind them and recordings would be released with an astounding frequency. Karajan’s ground-breaking 1962 Beethoven symphony cycle for DG was one of the decade’s early milestones, and it was followed by a constant stream of studio orchestral albums, dozens of operas, as well as instrumental, chamber, choral and vocal releases (in the latter genre capturing in their prime Lieder singers of the calibre of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Gérard Souzay, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Christa Ludwig, not to mention opera singers like Maria Callas, Renata Tebaldi, Leontyne Price, Renata Scotto, Mario del Monaco, Franco Corelli and Tito Gobbi.

Another format was launched during the 1960s, the Compact Cassette, which had the so far unique feature of also being a recording format – something that would later cause much consternation with its potential for ‘bootleg’ issues. (The pre-recorded version was officially called the musicassette, though cassette was its popular name.) It took a while for this eventually hugely popular format to catch on (the launch in July 1979 of the Sony Walkman, as well as its in-car use were both major catalysts to its mass adoption. (It would find a champion in the pages of Gramophone in Ivan March, one of the three authors of the Penguin Guide, alongside Edward Greenfield and Robert Layton, both of whom joined Gramophone this decade.)

The reviewing panel of the 1960s was one of the vintage gatherings with many critics also writing for the daily press: writers included Andrew Porter (opera libretto translator, scholar and the critic of The Financial Times and editor of The Musical Times), William Mann (The Times), Deryck Cooke (of Mahler’s Tenth fame, musicologist, broadcaster, BBC), Philip Hope-Wallace (The Guardian), Denis Stevens (early-music scholar, BBC producer and later Professor at Columbia University and Goldsmith’s College, London), Trevor Harvey (conductor), Stephen Plaistow (BBC producer), John Warrack (The Daily and then Sunday Telegraph, Director of the Leeds Festival and later a lecturer at Oxford University), Stanley Sadie (Editor of Grove), Felix Aprahamian (French music specialist, and The Sunday Times) and Joan Chissell (The Times, scholar and biographer of Robert and Clara Schumann). It is a tribute to Anthony Pollard – invariably guided by Lionel Salter – that he was able to build such a stellar reviewing panel of experts.

With the June 1969 issue, with Herbert von Karajan on its cover, the magazine dropped its The and became simply Gramophone, and the cover took on a clear, direct design.

Gramophone in the 1960s: Timeline

January 1960 First releases on the Lyrita label

July 1960 Lady Faith Mackenzie dies at the age of 82

1961 First classical LP to sell in excess of one million copies worldwide: Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto with Van Cliburn on RCA

June 1961 The Gramophone’s masthead shows Sir Compton Mackenzie and Christopher Stone as Founders, and Cecil Pollard and Anthony Pollard as joint Editors

February 1962 Decca introduces the Phase-4 label

March 1962 Deletion of last EMI 78s

May 1962 Philips Records introduces the CBS label in the UK

June 1962 Siemens and Philips combine their music businesses, Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft and Philips Phonographic Industries, to form DGG/PPI. Both companies remain legally independent and each controls its own A&R policies

February 1963 DG releases Karajan’s set of the Beethoven symphonies, the first time the nine were planned and packaged as a set

June 1963 Philips introduces new Compact Cassette recorder at the Berlin International Audio Fair

February 1964 Nonesuch Records founded in New York by Jac Holzman

December 1964 John Borwick appointed Associate Technical Editor of The Gramophone (becomes Audio Editor in 1966)

March 1965 CBS commences independent operation in the UK

May 1965 Christopher Stone dies aged 82

September 1965 Cecil Pollard dies aged 65

September 1965 Music for Pleasure launched by Paul Hamlyn in association with EMI

November 1965 Decca completes the first studio recording in stereo of Wagner’s Ring, conducted by Solti

May 1966 Decca adopts Dolby-A noise reduction system. The first sessions to use it are for Mahler’s Second with the LSO and Solti in Kingsway Hall, London

July 1966 BBC radio commences regular stereo transmissions

October 1966 Musicassettes introduced in UK by Philips and EMI

July 1967 EMI ceases releasing LPs in mono

August 1967 The Cleveland Orchestra, under George Szell, becomes the first US orchestra to record in the UK while on tour (Mozart Symphony No 40 at EMI’s Abbey Road Studios for CBS)

July 1968 Freehold of 177-179 Kenton Road purchased by The Gramophone

June 1969 The Gramophone becomes Gramophone

August 1969 John Goldsmith launches the Unicorn label

November 1969 Manfred Eicher founds ECM in Germany

Gramophone's Digital archive

As a subscriber to the digital edition, you will also receive free access to Gramophone's digital archive, which includes every page of every issue of Gramophone since April 1923.

You can search the archive by composer, ensemble, artist – or in fact any keyword. We are sure that you will be struck by the sheer breadth and depth of the articles, interviews, reviews, photographs, illustrations and evocative advertisements, covering almost the entire history of classical music recording. 

Never miss an issue of the world's leading classical music magazine – subscribe to Gramophone today

Gramophone Print

  • Print Edition

From £6.87 / month


Gramophone Digital Club

  • Digital Edition
  • Digital Archive
  • Reviews Database
  • Events & Offers

From £9.20 / month


Gramophone Reviews

  • Reviews Database

From £6.87 / month


Gramophone Digital Edition

  • Digital Edition
  • Digital Archive

From £6.87 / month



If you are a library, university or other organisation that would be interested in an institutional subscription to Gramophone please click here for further information.