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RSO Records was a record label formed by rock and roll and musical theatre impresario Robert Stigwood in 1973. The "RSO" stands for the Robert Stigwood Organisation. The company's main headquarters were at 67 Brook Street, in London's Mayfair. It underwent four distribution stages: by Atlantic Records from March 1973 to December 1975, by Polydor Records from January 1976 to December 1977, as an independent label from January 1978 to around October 1981, and finally by PolyGram Records from around November 1981 until the label's end in 1983.
RSO managed the careers of several superstars (Bee Gees, Yvonne Elliman, Eric Clapton, Andy Gibb), and, as a record label, released the soundtracks to Fame, Sparkle, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Times Square, Grease (over 25 million copies sold worldwide), and Saturday Night Fever (over 30 million copies sold worldwide). The release of the latter two albums made RSO one of the most financially successful labels of the 1970s.
As successful as the label was financially, the independent label produced successes on the pop charts never before seen by the recording industry. By one point in 1978, the label boasted an unprecedented sixth consecutive number-one single on the Billboard (US) pop charts, holding the top spot for 21 consecutive weeks. With singles releases from the Grease album ("You're the One That I Want", and the title track) and another huge Andy Gibb smash ("Shadow Dancing"), RSO would log a further 10 weeks at the number 1 position, giving the label a record nine in one calendar year. This feat remains unduplicated by any record label to date. It also released a one-off single that summer by Paul Jones, featuring orchestrated ballad-style versions of two punk classics, Pretty Vacant, and Sheena is a Punk Rocker.
As well as the label was operating in 1978, the disastrous commercial and critical failure of RSO's movie version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band crippled the company. The woes of this failure were only somewhat offset by the middle of 1979, as the Bee Gees album Spirits Having Flown went on to eventually sell nearly 20 million copies (with the album producing three further number 1 singles that each sold more than one million copies in their own right).
In 1980, the label's most famous act, the Bee Gees, filed a $200 million lawsuit against both RSO and Stigwood, claiming mismanagement. The lawsuit was subsequently settled for an undisclosed amount, and after a public reconciliation, the band remained with the label until its dissolution.
By 1981, Stigwood had ended his involvement with the label, which was absorbed into PolyGram a few years later. All previous RSO releases were later re-released under Polydor's label. The Star Wars soundtracks would pass through several hands before ultimately ending up with Sony Classical in the 90s, and the Bee Gees catalog reverted to the Gibb family, who set up a new distribution arrangement with Warner Music's Rhino Records division, who has reissued their albums and the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack on the Reprise label.
|“||I was in Japan with the Who and decided to set up RSO as an independent label. I has designers working on a logo, but I didn’t like any of them. Some Japanese friends gave me a papier-mâché cow, which is a symbol of good health and good fortune. It was on the mantelpiece in my office, and I thought, “Good health and good fortune”, that’s appropriate. Just write RSO on it."'||”|
- Atlantic-owned label: Tan label with small logo
- Polydor-owned label: Tan label with large logo, Polydor logo at bottom perimeter of label
- Independently owned label: Tan label with larger logo
- Polygram-owned label: Silver label with large logo
- RSO Top Line reissue label: White label with gold or silver star, very small logo at top of label between TOP and LINE