The brainchild of record shop owner Richard Branson and business partners Simon Draper and Nik Powell. The partnership launched a new record label in 1972, primarily to release UK editions of various ‘krautrock’ imports they had been selling in their shop.
The label design, originally in black and white for the first few issues, was designed by Roger Dean, famous for several fantasy record sleeves for the prog rock band Yes. Dean also later designed the relaunched Vertigo label, known as the ‘spaceship’ label, replacing the iconic ‘swirl design.
Famously launching with Mike Oldfield’s “Tubular Bells”, its success was pretty much guaranteed by the use of the music as part of the soundtrack to the film “The Exorcist”. Virgin went on to sign a diverse range of avant-garde, generally obscure artists, not really capitalising on this earlier ‘exorcist notoriety’ until picking up the contract of The Sex Pistols in 1977, who’d been dropped by EMI and A&M due to ‘adverse public reaction’ to their initial releases, thereby eradicating its outdated ‘hippy’ image and reinventing itself as a new-wave label.
The ‘two virgins/dragon’ label design was dropped by 1975 and replaced with a simple graphic lettering label until being finally replaced by the now familiar Virgin ‘scrawl’ logo which has been subsequently adopted by all Virgin brands within the group.