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Parlophone Limited (also known as Parlophone Records) is a German-British record label that was founded in Germany in 1896 by the Carl Lindström Company as Parlophon. The British branch of the company was formed in 8 August 1923 as The Parlophone Co. Ltd., which developed a reputation in the 1920s as a leading jazz record label. In 5 October 1926, the Columbia Graphophone Company acquired Parlophone's business, name and releases. Columbia Graphophone later merged with the Gramophone Company in 31 March 1931 to become Electric & Musical Industries Limited (EMI). George Martin joined EMI in 1950 as assistant label manager, taking over as manager in 1955. Martin produced and released a mix of product including comedy recordings of the Goons, the pianist Mrs Mills, and teen idol Adam Faith.
In 1962, Martin signed the Liverpool band The Beatles, and during the 1960s, with artists such as Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer, The Fourmost and contemporary Manchester band The Hollies also signed to the label, Parlophone became one of the world's most famous and prestigious record labels. For a long time Parlophone claimed the best-selling UK single "She Loves You", and the best-selling UK album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, both by The Beatles. The label also achieved placement of seven singles at No. 1 during 1964, when it also claimed top spot on the UK Album Charts for 40 weeks. Parlophone continued as a division of EMI until it was merged into the Gramophone Co. Ltd. on 1 July 1965. On 1 July 1973, the Gramophone Co. Ltd. was renamed EMI Records Limited.
On 28 September 2012, regulators officially approved Universal Music Group (UMG)'s planned acquisition of EMI, on condition that its EMI Records Ltd. group would be divested from the combined group. EMI Records Ltd. included Parlophone and other labels to be divested and were for a short time operated in a single entity known as the Parlophone Label Group (PLG), while UMG pended their sale. Warner Music Group (WMG) later acquired Parlophone and PLG in 7 February 2013, making Parlophone their new third flagship label, alongside Warner Bros. Records and Atlantic Records. PLG was renamed as the Parlophone Records Limited group (PRL) in May 2013. Parlophone is now the oldest of WMG's three flagship record labels.
Parlophone was founded in Germany in 1896 by the Carl Lindström Company as "Parlophon". The name Parlophon had been initially used for gramophones before the company began making records of their own. The label's ₤ trademark is a German L that stands for its original founder Lindström. It has coincidentally been said to resemble the British pound sign (£), which itself is derived from the letter L for the Ancient Roman unit of measurement Libra, which means pound in Latin. During World War I, the Transoceanic Trading Company was set up in the Netherlands to look after its overseas assets.
On 8 August 1923, the British branch of "Parlophone" (with the "e" added) was established, led by artists and repertoire manager Oscar Preuss. Parlophone established a master leasing arrangement with the co-owned United States-based record label Okeh Records, making Parlophone a leading jazz label in the UK. The CLPGS has published a list of Parlophone titles issued between the years of 1923 and 1956.
In 1927, the Columbia Graphophone Company acquired a controlling interest in the Carl Lindström Company and in Parlophone. In 31 March 1931, Columbia Graphophone merged with the Gramophone Company to form Electric & Musical Industries Ltd (EMI), and thus Parlophone became a subsidiary of EMI. Under EMI, Parlophone initially maintained its status as a jazz label. In about 1929 or 1930, the "Rhythm Style Series" started, and jazz records culled from the Okeh Records label. Besides the Okeh recordings, Parlophone also issued recordings from Columbia Records (US) and Brunswick Records, as well as a few sessions produced at Decca Records (US). As time went on, the label also released speciality recordings of spoken word and comedy recordings, including the comedy recordings of the Goons and Flanders and Swann.
In 1950, Preuss hired George Martin as his assistant. When Preuss retired in 1955, Martin succeeded him as Parlophone's manager. Leading Parlophone artists in the 1950s included Germany's Obernkirchen Children's Choir and Scottish musician Jimmy Shand. At the dawn of the rock era, Parlophone signed artists such as Humphrey Lyttelton, the Vipers Skiffle Group, pianist Mrs Mills, Jim Dale, Keith Kelly, Peter Sellers, Bernard Cribbins, the Temperance Seven, Laurie London and Shane Fenton, who would sporadically reach the British Top 20 chart. Their only consistently successful act until the "Beat Boom" was that of teen idol Adam Faith, who was signed to the label in 1959 by Norman Newell, an EMI A&R manager "without portfolio".
Treading a path similar to other British record labels of the era, Parlophone released all manner of domestic and foreign licensed products including that of James Brown, but had little success in comparison to that of EMI's sibling companies HMV and Columbia Graphophone Company.
The label's fortunes began to rise in 1962, when Martin signed the Liverpool band The Beatles. Along with NEMS stablemates Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer and the Fourmost, and contemporary Manchester band The Hollies, The Beatles brought Parlophone to worldwide attention, and it became one of the world's most prestigious record labels.
After Martin left to form the Associated Independent Recording (AIR) Studios in 1965, Parlophone was absorbed into EMI's Gramophone Company group, which was renamed as EMI Records Ltd. in 1973, with Parlophone maintaining its identity. Parlophone became dormant in 1973 when most of EMI's heritage labels were phased out in favour of the new EMI Records label. Parlophone was later revived in 1980, and over the next three decades, Parlophone went on to sign popular artists such as Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, Roxette, Radiohead, Supergrass, Guy Berryman, The Chemical Brothers, Blur, Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, Damon Albarn, Conor Maynard, Gabrielle Aplin, and Gorillaz.
On 28 September 2012, regulators officially approved Universal Music Group's planned acquisition of Parlophone's parent group EMI for £1.2 billion, subject to conditions imposed by the European Commission requiring that UMG sell off a number of labels, including the European and UK operations and copyrights of EMI Records Ltd, including Parlophone itself (aside from the Beatles' catalogue, which was kept by UMG and moved to the newly formed Capitol Records UK) and a number of others. Parlophone, along with other labels and music catalogs that were to be sold, were operated independently from the rest of UMG as Parlophone Label Group in preparation for a possible transaction early in 2013. UMG received several offers for PLG, including those from a Sony/BMG consortium, Warner Music Group, and MacAndrews & Forbes.
In 7 February 2013, it was confirmed that Warner Music Group would acquire Parlophone Label Group for US$765 million. The deal was approved in May 2013 by the European Union, who saw no concerns around the deal because of WMG's relatively smaller reach in comparison to the merged UMG and Sony. Parlophone Label Group was actually the old EMI Records Ltd company that included both the Parlophone and the eponymous EMI labels. The EMI name was retained by Universal (as Virgin EMI Records) whilst the old EMI Records company was legally renamed Parlophone Records. WMG also announced in a joint presentation with IMPALA (a group who had opposed the EMI/Universal deal) and the Merlin Network that it intends to sell a "significant portion" of the assets acquired from Parlophone Label Group to smaller, independent companies in order to help offset the consolidation triggered by the merger. Warner Music auctioned the rights for 11,000 of its artists to over 140 different labels. In April 2016, the back catalogue of British rock band Radiohead was sold to XL Recordings, the label that released Radiohead's last two albums, In Rainbows and The King of Limbs.
WMG treats Parlophone as its third "frontline" label group, alongside Atlantic Records and Warner Bros. Records. In the US, most of Parlophone's artists are now distributed under Warner Bros. Records. Coldplay and Tinie Tempah are distributed under Atlantic Records, and David Guetta is distributed under Atlantic's electronic music imprint Big Beat.
In addition to the occasional release of US material from OKeh and Columbia, in about 1929, Parlophone started a series of American jazz records on their "Rhythm Style Series". Edgar Jackson was the director of this series, which was issued within the existing R- series (the first issue was R-448). Culled from the American OKeh, artists like Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, Joe Venuti, Duke Ellington, Miff Mole and other major artists who recorded for OKeh. These records were usually "split-coupled" (the top and bottom side of each record was usually by different artists and did not correspond with the original American coupling). The "Second New Rhythm-Style" series replaced the first series in about 1931, and there was a separate series for each year from 1934 through 1941, as well as some miscellany series. These 78s were popular and remained in print for years. A select number of American Columbia and Brunswick recordings also populated these series with artists like Fletcher Henderson, Chocolate Dandies, Jack Teagarden, Eddie Condon and others.
Even though these records were never licensed for sale in the US, they were heavily imported through jazz shops like Commodore and Liberty in the late 1930s and were sold through the 1940s and into the early 1950s. They are treasured by collectors because they are pressed from the original stampers and usually sound much better than the worn and usually rare US OKeh original records.
In America in 1929 there was a short-lived Parlophone label made and distributed by OKeh. Initially, certain OKeh records were issued using the Parlophone label and using the OKeh catalog number. An example – Miff Mole's "Birmingham Bertha" b/w "Moanin' Low" – has been found on Parlophone PNY-41273 and Odeon ONY-41273 (issued as by "Eddie Gordon's Band") as well as the standard OKeh 41273 (issued as by "Miff Mole and his Molers"). OKeh then started the PNY-34000 series (along with the Odeon ONY-36000 series) lasting until late 1930 or early 1931. No one has been able to determine for whom these two labels were intended, since many surviving copies are in new condition. A number of noted record collectors and researchers (George Blacker, Carl Kenziora, Len Kunstadt, among other members of the New York Record Research Associates) had long speculated that since these records were found in a west coast warehouse uncirculated, they were possibly intended for offshore sales in US possessions (Guam, Marianas, etc.) or possibly at military offshore bases, but this has never been proven. One of the reasons for this speculation is because OKeh specifically recorded quite a number of sides without vocals and issued them only on Parlophone and Odeon (in addition to the standard vocal versions). These non-vocal version are especially prized by collectors. Regardless, this series (along with OKeh's Odeon ONY- series) appears to not have been available for sale in the United States.
Parlophone released The Beatles' albums up to Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Subsequent releases – The Beatles (the White Album), Yellow Submarine, Abbey Road and Let It Be – were issued on the Beatles' own Apple label, distributed by EMI and bearing Parlophone catalogue numbers.
The Beatles deal is said to be one of the cheapest made by Parlophone Records. Companies used and abused the Beatles' name, producing everything from T-shirts to hairspray. Their early songs were used in many commercials without permission from the Beatles. The Beatles were only allowed to own 49% of the company shares, therefore only owning 49% of their songs, which was not enough to buy back the songs from the company.
Despite the separation of Parlophone from EMI as a condition of EMI's acquisition by UMG, UMG was allowed to keep the Beatles' recorded music catalogue, which UMG assigned to a new Capitol Records UK entity.
Parlophone is still an important pop label with artists such as The Beatles, Pet Shop Boys, Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, Gabrielle Aplin, Conor Maynard, David Guetta, Gorillaz and Kraftwerk, among others. It has recently signed indie rock band Two Door Cinema Club and electrofunk duo Chromeo, along with up-and-coming American, indie dream pop band, Saint Motel, who recently topped European charts with their My Type EP. It is also EMI's oldest active label: its contemporary HMV was always more of a classical music label and ceased issuing popular music recordings in 1967; later known as EMI Classics, it was absorbed into Warner Classics in 2013; English Columbia has been replaced by the EMI pop label. Parlophone also operates the imprint Regal Recordings, a contemporary revival of the historic Columbia Graphophone budget/reissue label founded in 1914.
Parlophone is Warner Music Group's oldest record label.
Parlophone's 45 rpm releases continue, as of 2013, to be numbered using the same "R xxxx" catalogue number series that it has used continuously since 1956 (starting around R 4200 and currently up to the R 6800 range). The R series is actually carried over from the 78 rpm era, the earliest numbers dating back to at least 1930.
Because Parlophone Records Ltd. has absorbed the catalogues of EMI Records, Columbia Graphophone Company, His Master's Voice and other sublabels the former EMI Records company owned with new reissues bearing the Parlophone label, only artists whose recordings were originally issued on the Parlophone label are listed here.
With the Beatles (side 1) – Parlophone yellow and black label
The labels shown here include those used for 78s and LPs. The label design for 7" singles had the same standard template as several other EMI labels, with the large "45" insignia to the right. In recent years, design uniformity has relaxed from release to release.