Parlophone: Wikis


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Parlophone Records
Parlophone logo.svg
Parent company EMI
Founded 1896
Founder Carl Lindström
Distributing label Parlophone Records (UK)
Genre jazz, pop, rock, novelty recordings, voice recordings
Country of origin UK
Official Website

Parlophone is a record label, founded in Germany in 1896 by the Carl Lindström Company. The trademark is a German L, for Lindström. (Coincidentally it also resembles the British pound sign, £, which itself is derived from the letter L for Libra, meaning pound in Latin.) Parlophone is best known for its association with The Beatles.


Early history

Lindstrom initially used the "Parlophon" brand on gramophones before it started making records. During the First World War, the Transoceanic Trading Company was set up in the Netherlands to look after its overseas assets. On August 8, 1923, the British branch of "Parlophone" (with the "e" added) was established, led by A&R manager Oscar Preuss. Parlophone established a master leasing arrangement with co-owned United States based Okeh Records, making Parlophone a leading jazz label in the UK. In 1927 the UK company Columbia Graphophone Company[1] acquired a controlling interest in the Carl Lindström Company and thereby in Parlophone. In 1931 Columbia merged with the Gramophone Company to form Electric & Musical Industries Ltd (EMI).

Rhythm-Style Series

Beginning in about 1929 or 1930, 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 label, artists like Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, Frank Trumbauer, 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 78's were popular and remained in print for years.

Even though these records were never licensed for sale in the U.S., 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 U.S. OKeh original records.

Besides releasing sides from OKeh, Parlophone also issued recordings from US Columbia, Brunswick as well as a few sessions produced at US Decca.

Okeh Records

In the U.S. in 1929 there was a short-lived Parlophone label made and distributed by OKeh [2]. OKeh also pressed other Parlophone recordings as the PNY-34000 series along with the Odeon ONY-36000 series were both discontinued in 1930. No one has been able to determine where these two labels were intended to be sold, since many surviving copies are in new condition. Speculation amongst record collectors is that that these records were found uncirculated in a warehouse. (Actually, starting early in 1929, selected OKeh records were issued on Parlophone, sometimes spelt "Parlophon", and Odeon using the regular OKeh catalog number, but with the PNY and ONY prefixes. These preceded the 34000 and 36000 series.)

As a subsidiary label

Under EMI the Parlophone company initially maintained its status as a jazz label. As time went on the label also released speciality recordings of voice and comedy recordings, such as the comedy recordings of The Goons. In 1950, Preuss hired 24-year-old George Martin as his assistant. In 1955, Preuss retired and Martin succeeded him. Leading Parlophone artists at the time included Germany's Obernkirchen Children's Choir and Scottish musician Jimmy Shand.

Beat Boom and The Beatles

At the dawn of the rock era, Parlophone artists such as Humphrey Lyttelton, the Vipers Skiffle Group, the pianist Mrs Mills, Jim Dale, Keith Kelly, Peter Sellers, Bernard Cribbins, the Temperance Seven, Laurie London and Shane Fenton would sporadically reach the British Top 20 chart. Their only consistent chart action until the "Beat Boom" was that of teen idol Adam Faith: Faith was assigned to the label in 1959 by Norman Newell, an EMI A&R man "without portfolio", and was not a discovery of label head George Martin; although a familiar face from TV pop shows such as Oh Boy!, Faith's previous releases, for EMI subsidiary HMV, had failed to chart. Treading a path similar to other British labels of the era, Parlophone released all manner of domestic and foreign licensed product, including James Brown, but had little success in comparison to EMI siblings HMV and Columbia.

The label's fortunes began to rise in 1962, when Martin signed rising new Liverpool band The Beatles. Along with fellow NEMS stablemates Cilla Black, Billy J. Kramer and the Fourmost, and contemporary Mancunian band The Hollies, The Beatles soon turned Parlophone into one of the world's most famous and prestigious record labels.

Absorbed onto EMI

After Martin became an independent producer in 1965, the Parlophone Company was absorbed into EMI's Gramophone Company unit (renamed EMI Records in 1973) with the Parlophone label maintaining its identity. 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. The label also achieved placement of seven singles at #1 during 1964, when it also claimed top spot in the album charts for 40 of the 52 weeks during that year.

Parlophone today

Parlophone is still an important pop label with artists such as Gorillaz and Kylie Minogue. 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 (it is now known as EMI Classics); 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.

Artists signed to Parlophone

Parlophone record labels

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.


  1. ^ Columbia Graphophone Company was owned by Columbia Phonograph at that time
  2. ^ The OKeh label used the prefix PNY

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