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The greatest record label in the world

This site has been put together to present an affectionate tribute to the long-established EMI record label, PARLOPHONE. Here, we shall be taking an overview of their roster of artists, in particular during the label's enormously successful period under the stewardship of legendary record producer George Martin.

We shall also show various types of label and sleeve design beginning from the 7" era of the early 1950s and coming up to the near present. However the heyday of corporate identity for any record label is always going to be the 1970s and before, since the 1980s brought a sense of design freedom with it that swept away the idea of a company's records all being labelled with a standard, consistent design. From then until now, pretty much all vinyl records have label designs which are a continuation of the sleeve artwork, and the company logo (and Parlophone is no exception) appears as a mere afterthought in the small print.

"Parlophon", as it started out in 1896 was originally a gramophone manufacturing company. That is, they were in the business of music playing hardware. Rather like Sony several decades later, they realised after a few years had passed that the market in 'software', i.e. recordings to play on their equipment, was a much more lucrative market.

The company was founded by a Carl Lindström in Germany. The symbol for the company was a gothic, calligraphic rendition of the letter 'L' which in typical Germanic style was curly and included the familiar two horizontal slash marks across the middle. Now, many write-ups about this symbol enjoy pointing out that people think the logo is a 'pound sign' but that it isn't - that it's an L. Well, the symbol is a letter 'L' in Germanic style, but so is the British 'pound sign', because the latin for pound is 'libre'. This word, referring to 'pounds of weight' was abbreviated to 'lbs' and also, the singular word 'libre', for 'pound of money' was similarly abbreviated, this time to the Germanic L. So in fact, they are one and the same; indeed, in the 1930s/40s, Parlophone's slogan was, "for Sterling value".

Parlophone sent an ambassador to the UK to run its division there, Oscar Preuss. Under Preuss Parlophone licensed US jazz recordings from the Okeh label and also recorded its own. Their dominance in the jazz market continued even when the company merged with a rival record company, Columbia Graphophone. The two companies, along with another, The Gramophone Company, who traded as "His Master's Voice" merged to form a company called EMI (Electric & Musical Industries) in 1931.

It was Preuss who in 1950 recruited a young George Martin to assist him, and Martin's influence saw the label persuing an increasingly eclectic selection of talent and repetoire, leading the label to become known for spoken word, comedy, novelty and children's records.

Despite some pop successes, such as with The Vipers Skiffle Group (an early influence of the fledgling Beatles and who evolved into The Drifters and then The Shadows) and Adam Faith (singer turned actor who made a valiant attempt to replicate Cliff Richard's success for sister label Columbia) Parlophone was seen, within the wider EMI empire, as a rather erratic force in the sales stakes.

As is documented well enough however, that all changed late in 1962 once Martin signed up those four Liverpool lads. At that point they probably didn't feel that it would be better to be signed to Parlophone than to anyone else, and they probably wouldn't have been aware of any 'corporate loyalty', but many examples of their favourite early influences just happened to come out on Parlophone.

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