|Earliest Columbia LP cover design, 1948|
(image borrowed from Collecting Record Covers)
From the earliest days of the long-playing record as introduced by Columbia in 1948, three elements were present on all cover designs of the new records: the brand name "Columbia" (with "Masterworks" added for classical releases), the company's Magic Notes logo (introduced in 1908, and modified with the addition of a CBS microphone in 1939), and the new "Lp"-in-a-circle logo to identify the new records. The placement of these elements may have varied from year to year but the presence of them was constant over the next six years. Here is a cross-section of a typical example from 1954, with the Notes appearing to the left of the catalog number:
But by then, the Eye had been introduced in Columbia's advertising; in fact, it appears at the bottom of the back cover of this album:
By the beginning of 1955, the Notes have disappeared from the cover, as on this cross-section of an LP reviewed in the Feb. 5, 1955, issue of Billboard:
Beginning with issues reviewed in the March 12, 1955, issue of Billboard, a curious symbol appears underneath the "Lp" logo, resembling nothing so much as a tape reel:
This seems to be designed to assure the buyer that this is a "high fidelity" recording, a catchphrase that was all the rage in the 1950s. Columbia must have decided that this assurance could be granted much less wordily by the summer of 1955, for by then the tape reel and its associated verbiage had been deleted, and the "Lp" logo reconfigured like this (snipped from the upper right corner of ML 5035):
(Incidentally, this branding coincides with the introduction of the "6-eyes" label. I've seen copies of issues having "tape reel" covers with the old Magic Notes blue labels, but I've never seen the above branding with old labels, at least on American pressings. Canadian pressings are another story.)
This simple, elegant branding lasted for almost a year. With the releases of May, 1956, or thereabouts, the Eye finally appears on Columbia front covers, albeit in this curious configuration with the "Lp" logo forming its "pupil" and used in tandem with a similar eye-like device advertising "360 Sound" (a phrase first used in 1952 in connection with Columbia's phonograph line):
By the fall of 1956, the "360 Sound" part of this logo had morphed into this circles-within-squares arrangement:
...which is a bit confusing to behold, but at least has the virtue of contrast with the Eye portion of the logo.
The third version of this vertical logo, which first appeared around the beginning of 1957, is the simplest, for it dispenses with the "360 Sound" component and restores the "Lp" to its rightful place as a separate entity (I've included the fine-print portion underneath because it shows that the Eye has finally reached the status of Marcas Reg., i. e., a registered trademark):
This didn't last long either. By the spring of 1957, the information contained in this last vertical version - the label name, the Eye, the "Lp" and Guaranteed High Fidelity - had been reworked into this easier-to-manage, (mostly) horizontal arrangement:
This was the definitive version, and would remain in place for the next four to five years, with minor variations.