The unbreakable 7"

For the first 13 years of the 7" record's existence (1950-1962), the EMI group of labels all introduced a common and consistent label style. Whereas the design of their 78 labels varied wildly, all 45 labels featured the name of the label in concentric lettering following the curve along the top-half of the label. Each label's name had a different font chosen for it. Parlophone's was a jaunty, angular lettering style, as opposed to Columbia which was a plain straight-sided sans-serif, and HMV's which was a fairly plain and dour serif style. A set of tramlines enclosed the company logo and song publishing company's information.

The rest of the details (title, artist, composer, catalogue number, etc.) were presented in a fairly static fashion. For the first 3 years or so (1950-c.1953), all 45 labels from the EMI group were printed in silver ink on a black background as can be seen in the example below.

01 S F 1950s EP Olga Coelho
01 S R 1950s EP Olga Coelho

Parlophone's German roots manifested themselves in the 1950s with a clear link to Odeon Records, a German label that had also been merged into the EMI empire. This had been founded by Max Strauss and Heinrich Zunz and in 1904 was acquired by Carl Lindström, owner of Parlophone. The two labels clearly had some sort of reciprocal agreement with regard to marketing their recordings in each other's respective countries. To this end, a great many Parlophone records in the early-to-mid 1950s were branded "Parlophone-Odeon" and for a while were more common than plain and simple Parlophone releases.

On the reverse of the sleeve above can be seen some notes explaining the benefits to customers of buying the new, compact, 'unbreakable' 45rpm record versus the infinitely more common 78.

Although the design of the label's graphics was not to change anytime soon, the COLOURS were to change a number of times throughout the 1950s.

Around 1953, instead of silver on black, all EMI labels switched to gold on black, and this included Parlophone. We don't have any examples to show in our collection (but we have seen them elsewhere) but what we can show you is the NEXT colour combination, as seen on the right - gold ink on a regal purple background.

Around this time each EMI label also introduced a purple company sleeve featuring line art illustrations of musicians or dancers. The gold-on-purple labels seem to originate from around 1953-1956.

03 S F 1955c Single Eve Boswell
04 S F 1957 Single Top Ten Special

It would appear that sometime in 1956 the label colours were changed again - back to silver ink, and a slight change to the purple - from this era the colour could be more accurately described as magenta or indeed pink, with a much colder hue than the regal purple of the previous incarnation. This isn't just down to variations in inks and conditions - multiple records from the two periods are very consistent in their colours, and the difference can be consistently observed.

It was in 1957 that records first started making reference to the year of "RECORDING FIRST PUBLISHED". As with all record labels around this time, the introduction and use of this was not entirely uniform to begin with, and it took till late 1963 for this tag to be included unerringly as a matter of policy.

Possibly around the time that either of the two purple labels were introduced for singles, EPs became decorated with this delightful(?) turquoise label variant. The graphics and typography were identical to those on the earlier silver-on-black EP labels however.

Why not check out our copy of the 1957/58 Parlophone/Columbia/MGM Record Catalogue,
which can be viewed by clicking

1958/59, and still with silver ink, the background colour for Parlophone label singles is changed to red.

However, there is more to it than that. Whereas all the previous colour schemes were applied to ALL EMI group labels, this time around DIFFERENT background colours were chosen for each label.

So for this era, '58/59 until early '63, the other EMI labels were -

Columbia: Green
HMV: Blue
MGM: Yellow

This silver and red label was the design on which The Beatles' first single, "Love Me Do", was released on 5 October 1962. Early pressings of their follow-up single, "Please Please Me", also appeared on this label but latterly switched to the more familiar black '45' design.

You may continue your tour of Parlophone labels and sleeves by clicking

05 S F 1960 Single Adam Faith

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