23 August 2003
Handed down through degenerations
Mercury, as a record label, dates back to 1945. Based in Chicago, it quickly became a major player, scoring hits with pop, jazz, country, rock, and classical releases. (The Living Presence classical series, begun in the Fifties, enjoys a colossal reputation among audiophiles to this day.) Acquired by Philips in the Sixties, Mercury became part of the giant Polygram combine, which itself was absorbed by Universal a couple years ago.
Given the sheer enormity of its back catalog, it's hard for me to grasp the idea that Mercury, as a record company, simply doesn't exist anymore; a few things still slip out of Nashville under its imprint the last one I bought was Shania Twain's Up! but basically, it's just another Universal brand name. This point was hammered home while I was perusing the fine print on Hard to Find Orchestral Instrumentals II, another in a series of nifty reissues from the Eric label, and discovered this note on Sil Austin's version of "Danny Boy", released in 1959 on Mercury 71442:
Courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group under license from Universal Music Enterprises
Island? Def Jam? A couple of tails wagging the family dog? Ain't that a kick in the London derrière?